You’re all set for a week in the sun with visions of a long lunches, a good book and chilled rose at the ready.
The only problem is, you’ve got a baby now and a sneaking suspicion this holiday might not be as relaxing as they used to be.
Well, you’re right. But, you can have a great time on holiday with a little bit of planning and a lot of lowered expectations.
We took our baby to a friend’s wedding in Mykonos when he was three months old, leading to some frantic googling on how to fly with a little one. Since then, we’ve taken him on everything from long-haul flights to New Zealand to train trips through Eastern Europe.
So in the hope a little nugget of information might prove useful, here are some tried and tested tips for travelling with a baby.
LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS
Gone are the days when you can jump off a flight, charge around a new city and settle in for a boozy lunch in your new linen dress. Don’t try and pack it all in, just hit your key spots and be happy with that.
You might not get to enjoy a three course Parisian meal, or a relaxed gondola ride through Venice, but you will get other surprising perks. Seeing everything at 8am before the crowds arrive, letting your baby loose in the piazza with the locals come 5pm when you need a wine. It might sound defeatist, but if you keep expectations low, you’ll be happy with what you do get to see.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
If possible, book a flight that arrives and departs at a reasonable hour and phone the airline to request the bassinet.
Horror of horrors, but this is not automatically given to those with young babies, so phone first, then check in damn early to maximise your chance of getting it.
Leave plenty of time to get to the airport and once there, use all the family perks you can. There is often a kids’ room for feeding and changing. Some airports allow priority boarding or let families skip the customs queue.
We also tried to mirror a normal day’s routine as much as possible, even if that means being judged for letting your baby crawl all over a grubby airport floor when they need to stretch their little legs.
WHERE TO STAY
Somewhere with at least one bedroom is the only way to go here. We made the mistake of booking a hotel in Paris thinking it would save us bringing a cot. In reality, it meant sitting in darkness and speaking in whispers come 8pm while the baby slept.
It’s also worth taking into account the distance between the airport/station and your accommodation. European budget airlines tend to land an hour or more outside a city. If you can, train is a great option as it’s low stress, convenient and means you don’t have to contain a wriggling baby on your lap for hours.
WHAT TO BRING
Write a packing list and keep it for all your holidays so you don’t have to write it out each time. Here are the things we have used and found really useful — no sponsorship!
Travel pram — The Babyzen YoYo folds up to cabin size so it doesn’t need to be checked and is narrow enough to fit in city buses, in small restaurants and on Europe’s cobbled streets.
Travel cot — We used the Phil and Ted’s travel cot, which along with the Baby Bjorn one, are really the only two options for actual travel. It weighs around 3kg and can be carried over the shoulder unlike the other ‘travel cots’ which are about 11kg and not really portable at all.
Travel highchair — We used the Mountain Buggy Pod portable high chair which is amazing and very easy to take out for the day. It also means you don’t have to stay confined to restaurants with high chairs.
Luggage dividers — I’ve reluctantly sacrificed having my own suitcase in favour of sharing one and having hands free for all the extra stuff you will have. These Kathmandu ones are great for separating things and making them easy to find at short notice.
Sling or frontpack — great for airports when the pram won’t cut it.
Snoozeshade — Good for blacking out prams for naps on the go.
Medicine — If it’s your first time on a plane with baby, you can probably assume they will get sick so take some baby paracetamol and a thermometer to save you having to rush to a foreign pharmacy when you arrive.
Toys — Don’t go overboard as there is plenty of stuff along the way you can use and then ditch. Drink bottles, disposable cups, amenable bystanders, other kids, friendly cabin crew and the apartment pots and pans are all likely more interesting than what you can schlep around.
YOU WILL HAVE A MELTDOWN
At some point, you/your partner/the baby will lose the plot. Ours happened the first night we arrived in Mykonos when we tried to go out for dinner and ended up with me drinking wine and trying to feed a screaming baby on a windy cliff.
One friend breastfed her baby to sleep on a plane, passed him off to her husband and stood up for a good stretch, only to realise her boob was still hanging out. Another new mum heard a tell-tale noise on take off and saw the “pumpkin soup” seeping onto her dress so had to dash to the loos for a lightning quick change while the plane was taxiing.
When everyone is rushed, tired, stressed and someone has put the wipes in the wrong bag, the time is ripe for a bust up. Go easy on each other and remember they’re all doing their best — even if their best is rubbish.
• Add your baby’s name to ticket and book the bassinet before you travel.
• Check the airlines baggage allowance for babies — most allow cot, pram, high chair and a bag.
• Leave plenty of extra time, for everything
• Take the sling as it helps to keep your hands free
• Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Friendly crew and passengers are worth their weight in gold.
• Take it easy and don’t try and see everything
• Relax and have fun!