Pre-child I used to arrive at the check-in for a flight and scan the departure lounge identifying the people I didn’t want to be sat in my vicinity – stag-dos, hen-dos and anyone that looked like they couldn’t maintain an Olympic power-walking pace when it came to disembarking were high on the ‘best avoided’ list.
However, the ultimate persona non-grata was a baby.
Nothing personal, but if I had a choice, the noise, mess, and constant toilet trips were something best witnessed from afar, if at all. A very selfish attitude, I accept. I also looked at the flustered parents and wondered, is it really worth it?
Dragging a polar expedition quantity of equipment through an airport. Keeping the baby topped up with the correct quantity of food, sleep, and clean nappies while every other traveler curses you under their breath.
As for the act of flying itself, nothing short of being informed by the pilot that there was a suicide bomber on the plane looked worse than having your baby screaming at 30,000ft.
Isn’t the point of a holiday to relax? The experience looked like the exact opposite of relaxing. And what was it like when you arrived at the destination? Do you just write-off holidays until they’re older?
Well, 2018 saw me take three holidays with a child and one without. Here are my five survival tips learned through bitter experience, and many happy ones too:
Manage Your Expectations
You have to remember the families on the travel adverts are all actors – yes, even the kids. If your expectations are set by these, you’re going to be disappointed. Holidaying with a baby, as in day-to-day life, can be a bit of a battle – just with nicer weather and scenery.
In terms of destination, again, pick one with your baby in mind. Oliver James one of the UK’s leading child psychologists believes “home-based holidays are what most children really want,” he says. By that, he means one familiar, unadventurous place to which you return year after year.
“We went on holiday to Cornwall every August for nine years while my children were small,” he explains. “We would sit on the beach being stoic and saying: ‘Well, alright, so it’s raining. But look on the bright side, at least it’s not very windy…’”
Keep to Your Routine
Babies, and by extension yourself, thrive under routine. Maintaining a semblance of routine while on holiday is difficult.
Most people go on holiday to escape the humdrum of the routine at home. However, try and keep your baby’s bath and bedtime routine, and if you’re able to, bring the toy or comforter they sleep with too. We’ve even managed to get our child used to going to sleep in the same travel cot, wherever we happen to be.
Allow them time to play with their toys, and try and keep meal times consistent.
Forget Packing Lightly
I too used to look at traveling parents aghast at the amount of ‘stuff’ they had wedged into their car. It’s all needed. Every single item.
There’s a stage – circa 10 months – when it feels as though you take more stuff with you than you leave at home. Travel cot, buggy, formula milk machine, toys, multiple changes of clothes per day, medical supplies etc etc etc.
If you’re looking for a travel cot, this one is excellent:-
Taking what you need with you, rather than hacking your way around unfamiliar shops and products is just easier.
Don’t Forget a Passport
Remember when you used to travel on your parent’s passport as a youngster?
This is no longer the case. From birth baby’s need their own passport to travel abroad. It takes a few weeks for your baby to be issued with a passport, so plan ahead.
Finally, Be Forgiving – Particularly Towards other Parents
In summary, holidaying with kids is rewarding, but hard work.
I was lucky to travel to Greece on a solo mission for a friend’s wedding in September. I had a new found respect for the bedraggled parents on my flight. Instead of cursing them under my breath, I laid back, put my headphones in and thanked the Lord it wasn’t me, this time, taking my kids abroad.