9 Things To Know Before Your First Holiday With A Baby
By Lucy Webb
Despite my worries:
Where’s kid friendly? What if my baby’s routine is ruined? What about all that extra packing?
I recently decided to go on our first holiday with a baby.
Pre-baby, the mere thought of a holiday, whether a sun-soaked beach getaway or a city retreat, would excite.
However, since becoming a new mum, the prospect of taking my five-month old anywhere on an extended break has been petrifying.
In a bid to help other first-time travelling mums and families out there, below are some tips I learnt along the way.
When to go on your first holiday with baby?
Technically, you could go on your first holiday with baby before their due date! Babymoons during pregnancy are all the rage at the moment, but it’s equally fine to wait until you’ve had your baby to travel as a family.
Although there’s no perfect age to take a baby on holiday, I had heard from other mums that, when it comes to travelling with babies or children, one of the best times to go is when they’re immobile (generally 6 months or less).
This seemed especially true if you’re flying.
The reasoning they gave was that if your little one can’t crawl, walk, or run, they should be quite content to sit on your lap or catch up on some baby sleep in a bassinet for the duration of the flight.
Compare this to toddlers, who are much more active and can be more difficult to keep quiet and/or entertained as you travel.
However, you don’t get off lightly if you decide to travel by car instead, as I found out. Expect frequent stops if you take the car – whether it’s to give a newborn a feed, or let the toddler stretch their legs.
That’s why I think how easy travelling with a baby will be depends on how your child is – you might have a three-month old that’s fussier and harder to settle than a two-year old toddler.
So, plan your trip for whenever you most feel comfortable travelling with your little one.
For me, that was at five months, but it could be much older for you, there’s no right answer!
Where to go on your first holiday?
When we decided on a location for our first trip away with baby, we opted for something low-key, spending three days in a small town an hour and a half away from our home.
It worked for us – the hotel was easy to drive to, there were plenty of baby-friendly activities we could do, and it was a short enough break to recoup and recharge.
The sheer variety of holiday destinations in my mother’s group goes to show you definitely aren’t limited to where you can travel with a baby.
While a hotel right next to Pacha in Ibiza admittedly might not be the best idea, you can still have a baby-friendly holiday in most places.
Take baby out on a winter adventure? Why not – we’re actually heading off to the snow for our next family break!
Wherever you do decide to head to, there are a few things it’s worth keeping in mind.
If you’re not bringing a portable cot with you, double check that the hotel or Airbnb that you’re staying at has a travel cot that’s available – the stress of having to find somewhere for the little one to sleep at short notice isn’t worth it.
You don’t have to, but it might be helpful to check if your accommodation advertises itself as baby or child friendly. The hotel that we stayed at didn’t have a lift, meaning that we had to lug our pram up two flights of stairs every time we came and went.
Was the hotel lovely all the same? Yes, but it would have been even nicer with a pram-friendly lift!
What to pack for your first holiday with baby?
I’ll admit, I went overboard when packing for my first family holiday with baby. My partner came out to our lounge to see a whole suitcase packed to the brim with baby clothes, toys, and blankets – for three days, while his clothes consisted of a couple of tops, trousers and pants shoved into a backpack!
After that, I quickly came to my senses and realised that – while you do need to pack more when you have a baby in tow – you really don’t need the kitchen sink.
I found the following packing guide worked for me:
- Two changes of clothes per day away given the almost inevitable food / sick / poop stains
- Baby’s sleepwear, whether that’s a blanket, sleeping bag, or pyjamas
- A mixture of clothes to account for changes in weather (so, for a summer holiday, a selection of thicker clothes just in case the sun disappears)
- Baby’s nappy bag
- Formula / expressing equipment / baby food as required
- A couple of favourite toys or comforters
- Sun hat, sunscreen, and swim nappies for summer holidays; and
- Baby’s passport (if you’re going abroad)
In terms of the bigger items, a lightweight stroller and a baby sling are also worth packing, especially if you’re going somewhere busy.
Thankfully, even if you forget something on holiday (we actually ended up needing another sun hat on our trip) there’s almost certainly a shop somewhere that will sell baby clothes, nappies, wipes, or anything else you may need, so you can leave the extra pack of nappies at home if you need to save space.
Parenting expert at The Baby Show and The Sleep Nanny® Lucy Shrimpton has listed her best tips when travelling with a baby:
No rules apply! Often, we’re up at the crack of dawn to catch that early flight or travelling at odd times of the day. The idea of sticking to your normal routine is impossible so don’t stress too much.
Try to eat at the correct times but when it comes to sleep, the general motion of travel – whether on a boat, a plane or a car – will naturally lull you to sleep. During your journeys make sure you all keep hydrated, well-fed and rested.
If you or your little one feels the need for a nap and it’s not technically ‘nap-time’ don’t stop it, travelling is tiring business!
Adapt to local time straight away. Try your best to adapt to your destination’s time-zone as quick as possible.
By getting into the rhythm of the day with correct meal-times and bedtimes routines, your little one will adjust more quickly.
Don’t be afraid to travel with your new-borns if they’re ready. Babies under three months can be relatively easy to fly with as they sleep so much.
It’s when they’re one year and above that it can become tricky as they want to walk around the cabin and need lots of entertainment! With a new-born, try feeding your baby during both take-off and landing as it’s a good way to ease earache and distract them.
You may also want to use a baby sling, as it is an easy way to carry a baby and keeps your hands free, which is ideal for holding passports and tickets.
Create a familiar environment. Your little one might take longer to get to sleep as they’re out of their comfort zones.
Try bringing things from home with a familiar scent, such as a pillowcase or sheet. There are lots of things you can bring with you to help, such as a black-out blind, a nightlight and a sleep clock.
Adopt a Holiday ‘Routine’. Don’t fret if you can’t do your normal routine when you’re on holiday, especially if you’re with family and friends.
However, babies are very sensitive so it’s important to keep their usual bedtime routine if possible, even if that means settling them in the pushchair when you’re out for dinner.
Be sure they get their required amount of sleep each day. You can easily fall back into your home routine when you get back.
Prepare for warmer or colder weather! Wherever you go it will probably be a slightly different climate from the UK (most likely warmer!)
Your little one might find this challenging at first so make sure you pack well when it comes to their clothing. Think about what you’re feeding them too; the right foods and drinks can help regulate body temperature and energy levels.
Although having a baby can make planning a holiday a little bit trickier, family travel can be a wonderful experience.
The key seems to be picking somewhere that you’re comfortable to take your little one, opting for accommodation that’s child-friendly, and packing the essentials so your baby is calm and comfortable as you play and explore a new place together!