Prior to having Evelyn, our holidays involved squeezing out as much as possible from our annual leave. We would leave very little time between finishing work to going away and then again between returning home and back to work. We would catch the earliest flight out and the latest flight back home. We were the type of people who packed for holidays at the last opportunity and arrived at the airport at the last minute, there’s even been a few occasions where we’d needed to run to the gate in order to make the flight! So saying that we needed to adjust our travelling style when Evelyn came along is a slight understatement. A lot more planning, prepping and a whole lot more extra time is now required. Travelling with a baby can be daunting, off-putting and overwhelming – where do you even start when you need everything but the kitchen sink for them?
We’ve been abroad four times before Evelyn was 1 years old and although we are still fairly relaxed and confident about flying, travelling with a baby definitely ups the stress ante. We’ve been to the French Alps in the summer when Evelyn was 4 months old, Ibiza when she was 6 months old and skiing to the French/Swiss Alps when she was 10 months and 12 months old. We’ve been to the French Alps so many times as my parents have a place there which means that it’s a home from home making it easy and convenient. We have also been to Plymouth for a weekend away when Evelyn was 6 months old and we have a trip to Cornwall planned this week, she’s currently 14 months old.
Although we haven’t been away loads with Evelyn and the flights that we have been on are only been short haul, from these holidays we have realised quite a few things that help make travelling with a baby/toddler easier and definitely a few things that made it a harder experience. I remember feeling pretty nervous in the lead up to our first holiday abroad with Evelyn so I’ve complied this blog of what we’ve learnt over the past 14 months. Also I’d recommend having a read of the Travel Mad Mum blog for further tips and inspiration for holidaying with kids.
- In the airport
- On the plane
- On holiday
- Flight times – It may seem obvious but this can make or break the whole travelling day experience. Booking a convenient flight time, ideally coinciding with their nap time, will certainly make the travel day run smoother and help you retain your sanity. Although you may be ‘writing off’ a whole day by booking daytime flights, by not taking the first or the last flight of the day (and definitely not an early morning flight) you are at least starting off on the right foot. With 2 of our 4 holidays involving an early morning flight, I can definitely say that starting the day with a baby whom you have interrupted their sleep and woken at 3am is not a good idea! Travelling is tiring in itself so definitely try to ensure that baby gets a good nights sleep in too as you can’t bank on them sleeping well during the travelling. There’s too much going on for them to sleep afterwards and then it’s so hard to get back on track. The overtiredness just gets worse as the day goes on and you’re contending with a crying, grumpy, unsettled baby all day long! In addition, with an early morning flight you may end up arriving at the hotel so early that you can’t check in for a few hours. It’s rubbish enough not being able to settle in as soon as you arrive at the hotel, but then when you have a baby with you, it really does becomes a nightmare. This was the case when we went to Ibiza, we’d all been up since 3am, Evelyn had barely slept all day and was so overtired by the time we got to the hotel. We couldn’t check in to our room for hours and she resisted our multiple attempts to get her to sleep around the resort. We’d even thought that she’d burst her ear drum from all the screaming she did in the stroller! Like wise, not arriving too late so that you can put them down to bed at a reasonable time and avoid an unsettled night due to overtiredness.
- Flight seats – if possible book aisle seats at the front of the plane with extra leg room. This helps as theres less turbulence at the front of the plane and theres easier access to getting up for a nappy change or for when fussiness starts and you need to pace up and down the aisle to settle them. However you’re a bit more on show with an aisle seat when breastfeeding. When baby’s more mobile, extra leg room is great as space for them to sit/stand/cruise around your feet.
- Administrative prep – Passport! Get baby’s done a few extra weeks early so to avoid any last minuet stress. Fortunately babies don’t need to be either looking at the camera or even have their eyes open. I did attempt Evelyn’s passport photoshoot myself with her propped up on a pillow covered in a white sheet, however I couldn’t figure out how to eliminate the shadows created by the sheet which meant that it didn’t fit in with the passport photo rules. We ended up going to a local photographer to get it done which was a bit pricey but it was quick, easy and hassle free. Although the mobile flight tickets are great, I’d recommend printing off the flight tickets as well as a back up as when you’re stressed and have your hands full wrestling a crying baby, a good old fashioned paper ticket is actually easier and quicker. Also remember to print off the travel insurance documents and bring baby’s red book just in case.
- Nap planning – we’ve found that by booking a fight which coincides with Evelyn’s naps, allows us to roughly keep to her routine. We stick to awake times and work out when she needs to wake and sleep along with when she is likely to sleep, i.e. in the car/plane and not in the airport when she would be too distracted/stimulated to sleep and actually is now useful to help tire her out. I often asked for advice from the Little Ones Village App if I was struggling to figure out how we should approach the day to fit in with the travel.
Prior to Evelyn, I was the type of traveller to always pack way too much. As you never know when you’ll need that extra pair of shoes, dress, jacket etc! I’d try and cram it all into a pull along case as hand luggage, wearing said extra ‘essential’ items that I couldn’t fit into the bag. On Rob and mine’s first holiday together as a couple, despite only booking hand luggage for our 4 day Paris trip, I took 2 coats (1 being a thick fur coat), a jacket and a handbag in addition to my pull along case. Rob ended up having to carry all of my extra ‘just in case’ items which he said was fine but lead to him getting trapped in the metro door as it closed on my second handbag! He was left at the metro station whilst I went off in the carriage with my broken bag. He often reminds me how this must have been a test of his commitment to me! Needless to say I’ve become a bit more of a minimalist now that I’m travelling with Evelyn, although Rob does still beg to differ!
Being hands free with a baby in the airport is a must. There is already so much that you need for a baby that anything that is not necessary has to be eliminated. I use our Skip hop large changing backpack as my hand luggage (I barely take anything myself now anyway) and Rob uses his rucksack. No more carry on cases. Compartmentalising everything is the second big must for packing. In addition to the multiple pockets and compartments that changing bags come with, we further compartmentalising with smaller drawstring bags and clear zip bags (note 2 spare ready for baby’s toiletries and milk/food). Compartmentalising makes it much easier and less stressful to find things when you’re rushing with a full bag and a fussy/crying baby. I also used to buy my toiletries in the airport when travelling without kids, but now I don’t factor buying anything in the airport. You need all the time you can get to allow for emergency nappy changes, meltdowns, feeding and anything else that a baby/toddler may throw your way in a busy airport. All the necessities are sorted beforehand. Plus theres no point in buying a magazine anymore either!
Hand luggage list:
- Changing – wipes, nappies, nappy sacks (can be used for further compartmentalising and as bagging up rubbish and dirty clothes), Bepanthen nappy cream, Sudocrem and changing mat. I haven’t bought one but the JoJo Maman Bebe Deluxe Portable Changing Mat bag seems like a must for holidays.
- Clothes – a full change of clothes/bib/socks, potentially clothes for arriving at the destination is change in climate (swimsuit, hat/gloves).
- Sleep – a travel gro romper (may be useful if cold on the plane), muslin, white noise teddy and comforter.
- Medicines – calpol/ibuprofen/bongela, any prescribed medication and suntan lotion for when you arrive so that you don’t get caught out. Also put the red book with them.
- Food – take enough for the whole travel day plus extra easy snacks, its amazing how much snacks can delay a meltdown by. \May be able to buy fresh snacks like banana in the airport. I also ensure that I have at least a 1L bottle of water just for me as the breastfeeding and flying makes men extra thirsty.
- Weaning stuff – 1x sippy cup, 1x bowl 2x spoons, 1x catch all feeding bib and 1x all in one bib. Tommee tippee flask.
- Toys – small ‘long lasting’ toys which you know they already love. For Evelyn this is usually a ‘touch and feel’ book, Sophie the giraffe teething toy and a jingle skittle animal toy. Plus the Lamaze ones are great for hanging off the changing bag. When I was researching for this blog I came across the ‘Keep Em Quiet’ activity bags. They are travel entertainment packs to help keep children occupied when travelling and holidaying. They have different packs depending on their age, if they are a girl or boy and different sized packs depending on the travel duration (short/medium/long). I’ve ordered one and look forward to trying it out for our next trip to Cornwall!
- Travel – carrier or sling depending on age +/- stroller
Hold luggage list:
- Changing & bathing – enough Nappies (6-8/day) for the whole holiday plus if needed additional Swim nappies (2/day), wet wipes (x4 packs for a week), nappy sacks, Bepanthen barrier cream, emollient/bath wash, baby shampoo, temperature bath duck (which doubles up as bath toy), flannel, gro towel/robe.
- Clothes – enough clothes for 2 outfits each day (daytime and evening) + 1 or 2 extra days worth of clothes (a combination of dresses, tops & leggings, rompers). Enough vests for 2 a day (sleeveless/short/long) +/- pjs/baby grows to sleep in. For a week we tend to take x2 Cardis/jumpers, x3 Swimming costumes or x2 snowsuits.
- Accessories – bibs (we take loads as Evelyn dibbles so much), x2 hats, bows, x2 pairs of sandals/shoes/boots.
- Sleep – X2 grobags (in case of an overnight nappy leak), Cot bedding (for familiarity), White noise teddy (don’t forget the batteries & charger), Comforter, Monitor and thermometer, bedtime book and gro black out blind.
- Medicines – important ones in the hand luggage.
- Travel – Stroller parasol, snoozeshade for the pram, snoozeshade for the cot, pram fan (batteries & charger).
- Food – you need loads. Pack enough for each day plus 1 extra day (I was relieved that I packed the xtra day as during our Ibiza holiday, Evelyn’s appetite increased and we would have run out of food otherwise). I usually take porridge oats sachets and Ella’s kitchen baby brekkie sachets for breakfast, Ella’s meal sachets for lunch/dinner, plus snack sachets if available (smoothies/yogurts). Also dessert pots, waffers, biscottis, rusks, Melty puffs, veggie crisps.
- Weaning stuff – X2 sippy cups, spoons & sachet spoons, bowls, Flask, feeding bib, all in one bibs. Plus mini washing up liquid and sponge if staying in a hotel. Note if you are staying in a child friendly hotel they may have smaller bowls/plates for them which we did use a bit but Evelyn would usually throw that so our suction plates were easier and safer!
- Toys – just a few extra ‘long lasting’ toys as we found being out and about in a new environment plus the use of baby TV was enough entertainment for Evelyn.
Additional baby/toddler gear (more likely to take if holidaying in the UK)
- High chair
- Travel cot and don’t forget the travel mattress as we did in Plymouth and ended up needing to pad out the cot with cushions! Needless to say Evelyn refused to sleep in the travel cot all night.
In the Airport
- Extra time and space – Two priceless commodities when travelling with a baby/toddler. Here are a few things which help with this: Opting for fast track security. Less queuing and less pressure to get everything sorted quickly. Note with security and babies, you don’t have fluid restrictions with their milk or food, but you do need need put them into the clear plastic bags. An empty refillable water bottle is also allowed with a baby, which is great especially if you are breastfeeding as you’ll need to keep extra hydrated when flying. Also if you are using a carrier as opposed to a sling you need to take it off to go through the metal detector. If possible booking into the first class lounge is useful with a baby, fortunately we get unlimited access with our bank Natwest platinum account (also provides worldwide travel insurance). In the first class lounges they are generally quieter, theres more space to allow a mobile baby to roam safely and the complimentary food it helps when weaning. We’ve found that the staff are happy to warm up babies food/milk too. Usually families with small children are able to board first, but speedy boarding may be helpful. However when baby becomes mobile, it may be better not to board straight away so to minimise the time that baby is restrained when they get onto the plane.
- Carrier vs Stroller for the airport – If you don’t need a stroller out on holiday then just using the carrier in the airport can be so much easier. We used the sling when Evelyn was smaller then the carrier as she got too big for it. They are a godsend and free up your hands up plus you don’t need to keep searching for a lift for the stroller or carrying the stroller up/down stairs. Also no stressful folding down of the stroller in a rush. We’d bought our Silvercross stroller new for our Ibiza holiday and we were using it for the first time in the airport, needless to say that it took us a good few embarrassing minutes at security to figure out how to fold it down! But even if you’re taking the stroller still take the carrier in the airport aswell as with Evelyn we usually found that she would get fed up in the stroller after a bit so we’d end up putting her in the carrier and using the stroller as a luggage trolley!
- Plan for awake time in the airport – Airports are such loud, bright and noisy places which provide a lot of stimulation for a baby. Although this provides distraction and occupied them, I doubt that many babies are able to sleep in the airport and Evelyn definitely hasn’t been able to. Knowing this, we would always try and plan for her to be awake in the airport and for her to sleep on the way to the airport in the car and then on the plane. This would usually fit in with her ‘awake window’ anyway and so help to reduce the risk of overtiredness.
- Just before take off – if possible try to change the nappy at the gate, just before getting onto the plane. However if you do end up needing to change a nappy during the flight, the toilets are so small and you’re only allowed one person in with them, so either go prepared with everything ready or have your partner right outside passing you things. Also getting what you need for the flight ready at the top of your bag whilst you’re waiting at the gate will help reduce the stress when you’re at your seat.
On the plane
I came across the statement that you shouldn’t panic when travelling with a baby as you are ‘taking a baby not a bomb’. Although a bit below the belt, its ture, there are generally lots of other babies/children on flights and people expect it to be noisy and chaotic and are generally relatively tolerant and happy to see a baby on the plane. And at the end of the day its a lot more stressful for you as the parent as opposed to the other passengers. I heard of one parent who was struggling with their crying baby offering a judgmental passenger the opportunity to try and settle her baby, needless to say the passenger stopped being judgemental then!
- Feeding on the plane – definitely hold off if you can and give milk/breastfeed for the take off and landing as it will help their ears adjust to the changing pressures of the flight. Plus it may be an easy way of getting them off to sleep for the flight. A thin muslin is useful for covering up when breastfeeding as you can easily get hot/sweaty feeding on the plane, I usually have all the little fans pointing towards me when I’m feeding. Also the muslin can provide extra warmth if its a bit chilly as planes can also get quite cold. Note make sure you wear easy access clothes if you are breastfeeding. When Evelyn was weaning we would just fed Evelyn on our laps directly from the sachets using the Ella’s weaning spoon tips, if the contents were still puree. Once she was mobile we’d let her cruise whilst we passed her snacks and would feed her meal in the airport. Note the cabin crew have always been happy to heat her food up too.
- Napping on the plane – On a travel day do whatever you can to get them to sleep, forget about the risk of developing sleep associations, preventing overtiredness is key. I’d usually put Evelyn in the sling or carrier during the flight, even if she’d fall asleep feeding I’d prefer not to just hold her in my arms so that I could move around myself and so to minimise the amount she would be moved. I’d usually have to pace around if she was stirring and cover her up a bit with a Muslin to stop her from looking at all the well meaning but distracting other passengers. Note usually the background noise on the plane provides a good bit of ‘white noise’.
- Distraction – Stagger the toys/distraction methods and use the ‘non toy’ things such as the take off instructions and infight magazine for as long as possible. Walking them up and down the aisle is a good way to settle a frustrated toddler as usually trying to contain them on your lap is harder than simply letting them stretch their legs. Plus people prefer to see a happy child zooming past them instead of a contained trantruming toddler in the seat behind them.
- Routine – It’s easier and less unsettling for baby if you try and keep their routine as close as possible to that at home. I’m definitely more relaxed about the routine on holiday however but we do try to keep to Evelyn’s awake times so to avoid over tiredness. Although you may hope for a break from the usual routine of at home, we’ve realised that on the whole, expectations need to be adjusted for when you are holidaying with a baby. Those relaxing pre-baby holidays are a thing of the past, as at the end of the day being a parent is a 24/7 job! I remember a friend saying to me that holidaying with a baby is just like being at home with a baby, everything is the same but you’re just in a different setting! A ‘pool/ski day’ expectation may need to be adjusted to a ‘pool/ski hour or 2’ and an evening of a nice relaxing meal out with a drink and entertainment changed to an early busy mealtime followed by early retreat back to the room for the night. Once you get over that fact then you can adjust to a new type of holiday and a different kind of relaxing. Small things like keeping on UK time can be nice if you’re an hour ahead as it allows you a bit of a lie in and more time at the evening meal, and bathing baby before the evening meal as opposed to after helps delay the need to get back to the room earlier.
- Sleep – Like with the travel day our approach for sleep on holiday is just to get Evelyn to sleep by any means so to avoid over tiredness and for us have a relax ourselves. When Evelyn was 4 months old she still wasn’t able to self settle to sleep, the feeding to sleep and several hours spent each evening trying to get her down for the night (well for a few hours) was the same on holiday as it was when we were at home. When Evelyn was 6 months old, although she could self settle to sleep at home, that all went out the window on holiday. She required feeding to sleep for naps and bedtime and then again multiple times during the night. She refused to sleep in the stroller despite using a snoozeshade and fan and refused to sleep in the travel cot at night, so we ended up co-sleeping for the week instead. In Ibiza, so not to feel like we spent all day going back and forth to her room for her 3 naps, she took her short morning nap in the carrier (on Rob much to his dismay) whilst we walked along the beach. Although it was cooler in the mornings it was still boiling and he ended up getting very sweaty by the end of the walk! She needed to do her long lunchtime nap in the room both to ensure she slept long enough to have her restorative sleep as less distractions and cooler in the room. Usually just the one of us would stay back in the room with her whilst she napped, and we sat sunbathing on the balcony with a book. Also don’t make the same mistake as us and book a family suite/accommodation which has a separate bedroom so that baby can sleep in the other room. This allows you to spend the rest of the evening relaxing/watching TV/chatting instead of having to whisper in the dark from 8pm whilst they sleep in the same room as you! On that note, we’ve not been able to take Evelyn out for an evening meal with us, maybe if she was <8 weeks old but she’s way too alert and distractible to sleep in a restaurant.
- Feeding – As I breastfed it made things easier on holiday in regards to milk feeds. I’d stick to the usual times of feeding but sometimes offered more if it was hot and she wasn’t drinking water well. During our first holiday we had been trying to push the bottle so we took cartons of ready made Aptamil milk and travel sterilising bags for the bottles. When Evelyn was weaning/eating solids the child-friendly restaurants were great and we actually found the distraction and interest of being around lots of other people helped with her feeding. Also it was nice in Ibiza not having to do all the cleaning after each meal! Although we took most of her food from at home we still gave her some fresh foods from the all-inclusive hotel restaurants/supermarket like fruit/veg/cheese/yoghurts.
- Keeping cool – We aimed to keep sun time brief for Evelyn on the holidays, especially between 12-3 which fitted in with her lunch/naptime anyway. We used the Dreambaby clip on stroller fan, a great little inexpensive item have which helps reduce the risk of overheating. It clamps onto the side of the stroller, rotates to any angle and is safe if they put their hand into the foam blades, unfortunately though as Evelyn got a bit older she saw this as a game and ripped off the blades!
- Staying organised – We found it best to just take the whole changing bag down to the pool even though we weren’t leaving the resort so we didn’t have to go back up to the room for anything. We haven’t bought them but the Dreambaby stroller organiser and stroller hooks look really handy for holidays.
- Having a break – In Ibiza we used the hotel resort’s creche facilities. I did find it hard leaving her as I hadn’t left her many times before then and if it was then it was with family/close friends, and especially as she hadn’t been to nursery in the UK yet. But those few hours were a great break and although she was upset for the first session she actually did well and enjoyed her few times there. They do so many fun activities there that its a nice change for them. We planned for Evelyn to only be in creche around her naps as we knew she wouldn’t sleep there. We also took it in turns to go up to the room with her for her nap whilst the other had a break and chance to tan/swim/gym. We’re always 50/50 in terms of looking after Evelyn (nappies/changing/solids/fussiness). We were very fortunate to have help from my parents in France which allowed us both to have a break and the opportunity to have a good ski.
- Transport – In France we took our British car seat which was packaged into a massive bright yellow backpack that Rob could carry through the airport. The car seat made it easy to get to/from the airport and out and about whilst on holiday. In Ibiza we chose a resort with everything we needed there which meant we didn’t ‘need’ to leave the resort. It terms of transport to/from the airport Evelyn was in the carrier on the coach.
- Activities – On the whole just being somewhere new with lots of exciting things to see and do has been enough to occupy Evelyn on holiday. In addition to the creche our hotel had a ‘stay and play’ drop in sessions which were a good option and in France the ski schools had little ‘play grounds’ on the snow which was a nice change for her along with some sledging.