With summer approaching, you're probably planning your first holiday away with your baby. This can be quite daunting as you need to pre-plan everything more so than usual. You need to think about all of the things you may need over the duration of the trip, particularly if the journey takes longer than planned.
Here's some tips, tricks and a checklist which should make your planning a little less stressful.
Planning & booking:
When planning your holiday, you may wonder if you're crazy travelling with a baby, but unlike toddlers and children who can come with many challenges, babies are portable and don't usually mind being taken out and about in their prams or slings, or sleeping in a travel cot. Especially smaller babies that aren't yet crawling, you'll know that they're still in the same spot you left them.
Firstly when planning your holiday, make sure you've organised your little ones' passport in plenty of time as they can sometimes take a lot longer than expected, especially in summer. If you have an older child too, make sure it's still in date in regards to how many months are left on the passport, some say 3, some say 6. If your baby has a different surname to you and you're travelling without the person who they are named after, make sure you take the extra documents you need.
As adults we don't tend to be too concerned about holiday insurance, but with a baby it's vital. If they react to some food, or develop a horrible heat rash for example, you want to be covered!! You can also apply for a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) for each member of your family. Make sure you check if your destination requires certain vaccinations and immunisations too, and do your research on them, weigh up the risks for the recommended ones.
If you do have older children then you may not have a choice, but if you can help it, try and book outside of the school holidays. It will not only be cheaper, but less crowded which you will be grateful for with a little tot. If you're using public transport to get to and from the airport, I'd avoid rush hour whenever possible too.
When looking at accommodation, make sure it caters for babies before booking. See what facilities they have available and if they provide things such as travel cots. This means you'll only have to pack what you need. Make sure you double check and confirm this before travelling too!
It's a big job trying to remember everything for yourself, let alone for a baby too! You not only have to make sure you don't forget anything, but you also have to make sure you have enough of everything! Pack everything you usually would in your suitcase and daily changing bag, but lots more of it. It's up to you what you take, and how much you take. As a parent you'll know best but here's a checklist of the things you may not have thought about:
- Nappies. This one seems pretty obvious, but you will need to work out how many you use a day multiplied by the number of days. Then add on at least a days worth, just in case. (Remember to pack some swim nappies/pants if swimming is on the agenda).
- Nappy cream. With the warmer weather and time spent by the pool and on the beach, make sure you have plenty of nappy cream to help your baby adjust to the changes.
- Wipes. Take lots, more than you think you'll need! Since they can double up as hand wipes too. They're also great for a quick 'cool down' not only for your baby, but for you too!
- Hand sanitiser. When you’re exploring lots of new places, you’ll be feeding and changing your baby in a number of different environments, so this’ll come in very handy.
- Wipeable or disposable bibs. You'll want to avoid having to do much, if any, laundry while you’re on holiday, so having wipeable or disposable bibs to manage any spills will save a lot of washing.
- Sling/ carrier. Even if you will be using a pushchair, it’s still worth packing one of these as they can be a lifesaver when having to carry little ones and all your bags around on holiday.
- Sun hat. Your babies sensitive skin won’t be used to the sunny weather with the heat and humidity you'll experience, so make sure they're protected. I'd advise on one that fastens around their chin, hot country's can be windy and you may find it has blown away.
- Suncream. Make sure you use really strong sun cream on your little ones. Preferable above SPF50 and one's that are specifically for children. Never underestimate how quickly a baby will burn, even if you don't feel it's that hot.
- First aid kit. Hopefully you won't have to use it, but make sure you have a basic kit on hand just incase! Calpol is also a must have!
- Dummies. These are so easy to lose, especially when you’re on the move a lot, so pack plenty of spares if your baby uses one.
- Lightweight toys. I'm sure you won't forget to take your baby's favourite toy, but you're going to need a few over the duration of the holiday as they might get bored of the same thing. Make sure they're lightweight so you can easily carry them around in your hand luggage or beach bag.
- Cool clothes. Don't necessarily pack their usual outfits as it's likely to be much hotter than you and your baby are used to. Lightweight clothes will keep them cool and not weigh your case down too much either. Make sure to pack lots of spare clothes too, I'm sure you know all too well that babies are messy. Allow for a couple of outfit changes a day.
- Blanket. Not only for comfort and warmth on your journey, but if it smells of home it might help sooth your baby.
- Baby wash and lotion. Sometimes hotels provide this sort of thing for adults, but it's unlikely they'll have baby specific lotions so make sure you pack some small bottles of whatever it is that you use on your baby at bath time.
- Universal bath plug. This can turn a hotel sink into the perfect bath tub for your baby.
- Nightlight. Make feeding time and nappy changes easier during the night by not having to turn on your bright hotel room light. A baby nightlight can also be useful for settling her back to sleep in an unfamiliar room. You’ll need a plug adaptor too if you’re going abroad remember.
- Hand fan. This is great for adults too, but your baby might not enjoy the sudden heat when stepping off the plane, so having a little battery powered hand fan could be a great little gadget to help cool your baby, especially if you have transfers to and from the airport, we all know how horrible they can be.
Wherever you go on holiday, there are bound to be shops, supermarkets and pharmacies selling all the essentials you'll need. So if you forget anything, or simply can’t fit it in your suitcase, you can always pick it up when you reach your destination.
Top Tip: If you are taking more than one suitcase, share out the baby bits between both suitcases. It's not very likely your luggage will be lost (hopefully) but on the rare occasion it does, you will still have some essentials
The airport & plane journey:
Fingers crossed there won't be any delays for you, it's bad enough when you're delayed anyway but with a baby on tow it's going to seem 10 times worse. So make sure you have got enough drinks, snacks and favourite toys, as well as the essentials such as nappies, wipes and a change of clothes.
Top Tip: For easy nappy changing en-route, pre-prepare several nappy sacks with a single nappy, small packet of wipes and cream. It'll save you rummaging around in your changing bag.
Many airports cater for travelling infants, some have designates children areas, so you can feel more relaxed if your baby is groggy, or if you wish to breastfeed in private. Some will also provide buggies for you to use, and many airlines will actually allow you to keep your own pushchair with you right up to the boarding gate.
Top Tip: Get a cheap lightweight folding pushchair for your holiday, it'll be quick to pop up and down when you're rushing around. Also bare in mind that they're not gentle when handling our luggage, so it's likely to be tossed into the aircraft with no concern for damages. When you're travelling out and about, especially in sandy areas, pushchairs are likely to get dirty too. Take all of this into consideration when you're thinking about taking your gorgeous expensive pram with you. If you’re travelling somewhere hot, make sure your pushchair has a sun umbrella or UV screen.
Make sure you check the weight limit for your airline before departure, you may be better off buying your usual formula and nappies at your final destination to save space and weight. However, do a bit of research first because you may find them more expensive, of a poorer quality and not available in the size you need. So it can just be less hassle to take what you need with you. You'll be allowed to take as much milk and baby food as you need for your journey and it's not subject to the same maximum restrictions as other liquids in cabin baggage. Staff can provide hot water, as well as warming baby food for you too. If you're breastfeeding you don’t have to worry about security regulations for taking fluids in your cabin baggage.
Top Tip: In the UK, you can pre-order your milk and other baby essentials from the Boots in departures (I think you have to pre-order with at least 5 days notice). Then you collect it after airport security so there's no restrictions.. very handy!!
The thought of flying with a little one may fill you with dread. We've all been on a plane before where there's been a screaming baby none-stop for 3 hours. It's happened to me many times and I see the poor parents sink lower and lower into their seats, looking more and more upset at everyone scowling, tutting, huffing and puffing at them. So mentally prepare yourself for these kinds of people and try not to worry.. Have they never seen a crying baby before!? Just remember, we all hate travelling, especially long haul! So your baby probably does too, yet they don't understand what's going on. It doesn't make you a bad parent so sod what anyone else thinks, a couple of hours later and you'll never have to see them again.
Top Tip: Children under 2 usually have to sit on your lap, so taking a little blanket or cushion can help make the journey more comfortable. If your airline allows you to stand during the flight, a baby carrier or sling can help if you need to walk up and down the aisle to comfort your little one.
The aeroplane environment may mean your child will want more milk than usual, so cartons can be convenient, or take a made up bottle in an insulated bag.
Top tip: If you're breastfeeding, you can breastfeed whilst taking off and landing. Which will also help alleviate ear-popping. Plan a back up if your baby doesn't want a feed, such as a dummy or a clean finger to suck.
Depending on the age of your baby, you might want to download some baby friendly apps to your phone or tablet to distract them where possible.
When you're there:
If you're planning on hiring a car, they may advertise that they offer car seats too, but please do your research as I've heard so many negative things about them being dangerous. So although it's a faff, consider taking your own!
If you are using formula, you'll need to sterilise bottles. More so than usual because of the heat and other potential contaminates. You can either boil the bottles in a pan of water if you have a villa, use the hotel travel kettle. Or get a portable travel steriliser.
No doubt you'll be going for a dip to cool down, there's some very cute baby swimsuits and waterproof hats you can get for the pool. Although these are actually harder to source abroad so you're probably best getting these in the UK before you travel. The NHS advise getting full body suits to protect your baby's sensitive skin to the sunlight. The pool water reflects the sun even more so you're twice as likely to burn in water.
If you're going somewhere hot, make sure to keep your baby in the shade wherever possible. If you're on the beach, a pop up baby sun pod will keep your little one shielded from the sun and wind.
Top Tip: You can make your own shaded comfy corner using umbrella's stuck in the sand! A fitted sheet is a great way of keeping sand from blowing onto your baby too, as it lifts up at the side creating a shield!
It may be the most obvious thing to say, but keep your baby (and yourself) well hydrated. Babies feel the heat a lot more than we do, so it's important they keep cool and hydrated. Why not give them their first taste of ice cream?
I was on holiday last year and I saw a parent blow up a little paddling pool, fill it with water and have it by her sun lounger in the shade. I thought this was a great idea as then the baby can sit and play whilst staying cool. The main pools in hotels are usually in the sun so you have to limit your time in them. This is a brilliant, simple cheap idea to entertain your baby. You can even dip your toes in yourself to cool off.
Most importantly, enjoy yourselves! Relax, soak up some sun, and create some special family memories. Don't forget to take LOTS of photographs. They're amazing keepsakes.
Special thanks to my lovely clients and followers who gave me permission to use their personal holiday snaps :)