I was the kind of ‘mum to be’ who loved to travel, and thought that having a child would not stop me doing this. I know a lot of friends didn’t fall into the same category and the thought of travelling with a young child (or 2) filled them with terror. I actually found travelling with Jamie pretty easy once I got into the routine of it, and my little boy is now, at the tender age of 2, as much of a jet setter as his mum and dad, having been to at least 10 different countries and on too many flights to start to count (well over 100!).
So if you do fancy taking your little one abroad, why not. In my experience, a change of scene is often exciting for a little one, and they adapt amazingly well to time changes, and changes in routine for a holiday.
Here are my top 12 tips for travelling with a little one;
1. Deciding on where to go
Do you enjoy flying? If so, the world really is your oyster in terms of where to go. If not, I would recommend travelling on a short haul flight to minimise the extra stress on you from the flight. Young babies (those that can’t crawl) are pretty easy to take on a plane. Make sure you have something to give them for take off and landing – a breastfeed or a bottle, or some water to sip at and they will take the rest in their stride. You can carry any necessary feeds on the plane with you through security, just make sure you take an extra few in case of delays. Take a couple of toys, but most of the time other passengers, air crew or looking out the window will be enough to keep them happy through the flight. We took Jamie to Australia when he was 19 months old. The flight was actually not too bad, we had a number of toys, requested a bulk head seat so he had some room to play, had enough snacks and kept him napping when needed. It passed remarkably uneventfully, despite the worried looks of our fellow passengers when we first got on!
2. Flight timings
Think about the timing of your flights as best you can. Try not to have unnecessarily long layovers if you do not need them. Early morning flights might not be best for a toddler if you have to wake them at 3am to get them to the airport (but would be ok with a baby as they are likely to fall back asleep easier). Also consider your landing time. I try and time it so we can get to the hotel before bedtime (local time). Jamie often needs at least an hour to explore a new place before he will even consider going to bed. So if I have a choice, I will time it to land around 4pm local time to allow us to get our luggage and in the car to get to the hotel in time for bed at 7ish.
3. Take some familiar things
Take some familiar things from home to help your little one settle into a new place. We always take a duvet and pillow from Jamie’s cot, as well as him comforters when we travel. Especially if we are going to more than one place. The familiar smells and feel of home comforts may help them settle in an unfamiliar surrounding
4. Take things for the plane
Take a small backpack, or trunki, for your little one for the plane, whatever their age. For older children, squirrel away a toy somewhere they won’t find it before holidays, or buy them a new one, and some sticker books or aqua doodle and bring this out once the plane is in the air. The novelty will keep them entertained for a good while. An iPad has been our savior on long haul flights, loaded up with toddler friendly games and downloaded cartoons. Also pack lots of snacks, great for keeping little ones occupied in that annoying time when you are sat on the ground waiting to take off and nothing is happening. Raisins take time to eat but are small to pack, easy to hand and great to have a few stashed away for emergencies!
5. Which hotel to pick
Does the hotel you are staying in cater for young children? Do they have a bath in the room? Do they have a separate early dining option for younger guests? Can they provide high chairs? Some hotels are absolutely amazing at catering for babies, toddlers and children. This makes a huge difference to your holiday. I will never forget staying at The Four Seasons hotel in Boston when Jamie was 5 months old. I was expressing milk and needed somewhere to store it among other things. When we checked in, they offered us an upgrade so we could have more space for the cot in the room, the cot was already in the room with appropriate bedding and a welcome pack for Jamie that included baby bathing products, a few nappies, wipes, a book and a cuddly toy for him, a really nice touch. Minutes later, without even asking, the porter had brought up a fridge to the room. They didn’t know I needed this, but as the mini bar wasn’t a fridge, they had thought I might need one with a baby. It made the whole stay very memorable and very easy. Compare this with the Marriot in Sharm El Sheik, who put us in a room on the second floor with no lift access with Jamie at 4 months old. I had to bump Jamie up and down in the buggy every day to get anywhere, which wasn’t so easy (although if staff were around they were very helpful), but they didn’t have any available accessible rooms, despite knowing we had a baby with us. A travel agent will know the best hotels for small children, and often this can be worth it’s weight in gold to ask and recommend to you to make your holiday easy and stress free.
6. Enquire about hotel room configurations
If you are staying as a larger family in a hotel, what are the room configurations? Can you have interconnecting rooms, or rooms next to one another, or would a suite be better value for your family with some roll out beds?
7. Car Seats
Does your transfer from the airport offer a car seat appropriate for your child? When Jamie was a baby we often took his maxi-cosi seat with us, and the pram base. This provided his transport whilst we were on holiday, was pretty easy to carry around, but also safely mean we could take him in any car. Once he was in his toddler seat, this became more of a problem. But there are companies that offer transfers with toddlers or children who can supply car seats, it is worth looking these out as carrying a toddler seat as part of your luggage can be a pain as it is bulky and unwieldy to manage. If you do prefer to take your own however, there are car seat covers on wheels that can be used and are definitely a life saver for trying to get them through an airport with the rest of your luggage!
Do you want somewhere with a kids club? A lot of hotels now offer kids clubs, although hours for this may vary. They are often run by British staff and will provide a great place for children to meet and play with others whilst giving you the time and space to relax completely on holiday as well. Bigger hotel chains, such as Radisson Blu often offer their own clubs, and family orientated holidays such as Mark Warner offer both summer and ski holidays with childcare options.
9. Babysitting services
If you don’t need a kids club during the day, do you want somewhere with a babysitting service for the evening. How will you eat dinner if you put your toddler to bed. Most of us don’t want to spend all of a 2 week holiday eating room service whilst our little ones sleep, with the lights and TV down low. It might be ok for 1 night stopover, but probably not relaxing for a 1-2 week holiday. Again big hotels will often have a link with an external agency they use for babysitters. These often need to be booked in advance so worth thinking about before the day you need them. Others have staff onsite who can babysit. When we stayed in Vanuatu, it was the women from the village over the road who babysat for us. They loved children, and were always waving and smiling at Jamie during the day. The hotel arranged them for us, and I had no worries about how they would cope should they need to do anything. When I looked like I was trying to explain what to do if Jamie woke up, they looked at me to say, we have lots and lots of children in the village and are very happy with them so please don’t worry. And I really didn’t. If you are going on holiday with a baby, you know them best. Do they sleep well in a buggy, through noise? If so the above might not matter. Jamie, once he got to sleep, stayed asleep through everything. We took him on a diving trip to Sharm at 4 months old, and the rest of the club thought we must have drugged him (we honestly didn’t!) as he was always asleep when they saw him. We took him out with us in the evening to the restaurants, we knew he would stay asleep and when he would likely wake for a feed, so could time dinner and drinks around this, allowing us both to go out and meet with our friends. We carried this on when we took him to the loudest Japanese restaurant I have ever been in in New York, the fellow diners did look at us as though we were crazy bringing a sleeping baby into the place, but when he slept through the entire meal and didn’t disturb anyone, they were much more accepting of our policy of bringing Jamie with us when he was younger!
10. Taking someone with you
Can you travel with family or friends who can give you a helping hand with the extra bits of luggage, or offer to help out for a few hours a day? Or if finances stretch, why not think about employing a nanny to take on holiday with you? This may seem like an unnecessary luxury, but this is your holiday as well. Having someone you trust and who is very happy with children can mean you can also do a few adult things on holiday as well. My husband and I enjoy scuba diving, and having someone with us allows us the flexibility to go to places we might not go otherwise, and do things together that we wouldn’t without someone else around. We have had holidays with parents, which can also allow you some flexibility to do these things, some by ourselves (we dived on separate days, which was fine but we didn’t have much time during the day together), and with a nanny. All can work really well, and means we can take Jamie to places that do not offer fixed childcare. There are specific agencies that cater just for holiday nannies, which we tend to use, so that you know you have someone who is used to travelling and also who is happy caring for your children in a foreign environment. We use www.mytravellingnanny.co.uk
11. Think apartments.
Some resorts offer apartment style accommodation as well as hotel rooms or otherwise look into short term apartment lets. We travelled for 6 weeks around Australia with Jamie when he was 19 months old. We travelled with another couple, so for us it was also more cost effective to book 2 bedroom apartments than stay in hotels. Even just having a small kitchenette means that you can have breakfast or other meals in your room more easily with a little one, and have a little bit more space rather than being all in one small bedroom for your whole holiday.
12. Do not overpack!
Ok, you do need to take more when taking a little one on holiday, and it doesn’t seem to matter if you are going for a weekend or a 6 week trip, the amount of luggage still seems to be the same (clothes take up very little space!). Although you don’t want to have to traipse to find the shops every day, most places have somewhere you can buy nappies, swim nappies, wipes, sunscreen and food for babies and toddlers. Ask your travel agent or hotel before you go as this can save a lot of room and weight on packing. Do you have access to a washing machine? This can save on packing enough clothes for a baby for 2 weeks….. Invest in some Milton sterilising tablets if you are taking baby bottles, you can usually ask for an ice bucket, or sterilise in your hotel room sink and therefore need to take a lot less bottes (which take up a lot of room in hand luggage!). Most places stock baby food/pouches so there is no need to take any more than you might need for the flight. Some hotels also offer a kids concierge service, that can provide you with all the bits and pieces you need waiting for you in your room when you arrive, it really is worth asking.
I hope you will find these helpful. A lot of the information has been gained from my personal experiences of travelling to many different places with Jamie, from 1st world hotels to remote beach huts and both long and short haul destinations. If you would like to talk through any more tips and advice or to book a special family holiday, whether it be on or off the beaten track, why not give me a call on 0131 2370970 or drop me an email at [email protected], I’d be only too pleased to help.