Gone are the days of actually feeling excited about stepping on that plane when you’re off on holiday, sinking back in that seat to have a little read, binge watching your favourite tv-series or podcast, and maybe even do a little face mask. Yep, when you’re travelling with a baby (older kids too, I can imagine), it definitely won’t be the same. For me, I always get that niggling feeling inside of my stomach, in the weeks and days leading up to our travel day; will he behave on the flight, how can I entertain him, what snacks shall I pack, what can keep him amused (if he gets bored with the screen), will the car hire firm have the right car seat when we arrive, etc… The list goes on and on. I’m definitely more of a worrier, but I’m also perpetuous planner – hence the need to be incredibly organised, prepared and researched before we embark on our travels.
We’ve travelled quite a bit with Rio – both long, and short haul, from a very young age. Which for us, has definitely been a good thing, as he’s very much used to the procedure now, and (most of the time), thinks being on a plane is quite fun. The downside of flying when he was so young, was the various viruses and infections he picked up (tonsillitis at 5 months was so not fun). But hey, you gotta live; life shouldn’t stop when you have children, so if you’re able to, continue to travel and explore the world with your little ones (but obviously no pressure if you want to wait a few years and take it easy – do whatever works for you). Here are the travel tips & tricks which I have found work for us.
1. THE YOUNGER, THE BETTER
I never understood this, before we had a baby. And to be honest, even when he was still just under 6 months, I still didn’t get it. He’s now nearly 2 years old, and I get it. It gets harder the older they are. The more they want to move, explore, kick, play, talk (scream)… As soon as they start crawling, walking and getting their own will, they will most likely not be loving the confined space of a plane. Fortunately, Rio is a typical boy, and is obsessed with planes (anything with a motor, basically), so we usually make take-off and landing into quite a fun thing. Be imaginative, and try to stay as calm as you can, reminding yourself it will be over soon (especially if you’re in the midst of a crying attack). Sure, others might think it’s annoying listening to your little one, but in the end of the day, WHO CARES. The likelihood is you will never see those people again. Focus on you and your family, and just try to make the best out of the situation. Babies pick up on your energy, so although it’s easier said than done, try to stay relaxed and positive (and when it get’s really bad – you just gotta laugh!).
2. BABY CARRIER
A baby carrier is an absolute life-saver when you’re travelling, especially when they’re really young and lighter to carry (it started to become it a bit too heavy towards the end when Rio weighed 13-14kgs). When they’re smaller, travelling with a baby carrier or a sling, is a no-brainer. It means you’re hands-free and can hold other bags if need be. It’s also a lot easier to pass through security (some airports don’t even require you to take the baby out of the carrier), but either way, passing through security with just a sling, is a lot easier than emptying and folding up the stroller to put it through the x-ray machine. A carrier is also great for the flight, especially if your baby isn’t sleeping and prefers to nap in the carrier (this goes for any time on the holiday when you need your baby to nap-on-the-go). Or if your baby prefers to be in movement, it’s easier to have them in the sling, while you’re walking up and down the aisle. I used the Ergobaby Omni 360 Mesh Baby Carrier – and it was absolutely brilliant. Super lightweight, breathable, great support and can be used from newborn stage.
3. TRAVEL STROLLER
During the first 1-2 years, I would personally travel with both the baby carrier and travel buggy. It gives you the ultimate flexibility depending on the day and what your plans are. When Rio was under 6 months old, I used to wear the baby carrier, and then pack our main pram and ship it through – but when he was a bit older, and he could go in any normal pram, we moved over to a more lightweight fold-up stroller. We’ve been using the Babyzen Yoyo+ Pushchair, and it’s been absolutely brilliant. Super lightweight, easy to use, folds up into the hand luggage compartment within the plane, and (fortunately), he likes to sleep in it too! We also have a second stroller, from Icklebubba, which we’ve used a lot the last year, and is equally as good and easy to use as the Babyzen (and nearly half the price). The important thing is to research and find a stroller that works for you and your needs, and one that your baba is happy in of course (especially if you’re going away for a long time). If you’re going away for a while, I would suggest investing in a universal sheepskin liner, to make the stroller extra soft and comfortable (especially for sleeping). The best thing about 100% sheepskin, is that it adjusts to the temperature – cool during summer and warm during winter.
4. SLEEP GADGETS
Oh yes. These things are real, and they work. For us, we’ve had three things which have been absolute life-savers in terms of sleep during travelling (and whilst on holiday). The most important sleep gadget for us, is a white noise sound machine, to promote sleep and mask external noise. I had no idea what this even was, before having a baby, but it’s been an absolute game-changer for us. We got the Marpac Hushh, and it’s been one of our best buys. With three options of deep or light white noise, or a gentle surf sound, we just pop it in the buggy (or by his cot), and it cancels out all external noise, and helps him fall asleep so much quicker and deeper. We don’t always use it, as we want him to get used to sleeping around noise too, but it’s certainly helped on many occasions when we’ve been on holiday (especially when we’re out for dinner, etc.). The second sleep gadget, is the SnoozeShade – which is a universal fit pram and stroller sun shade. It not only blocks out light, it also protects against 99% of UV rays. Another great buy, and an absolute must-buy for your holidays. The third, and final sleep gadget which we love, is a Stroller Fan, which you’ll especially need if you’re going somewhere hot! It’s been an life-saver for us, and just ensures that your baby isn’t overheating whilst sleeping in the pram, as well as promoting longer and uninterrupted sleep.
5. AN ORGANISED CHANGING BAG
I’m sure a changing bag is something you would always bring with you anyways, but it definitely took me several flights, to realise what we actually need (and don’t need) to pack with us. Firstly, you can never have enough nappies. I’m not talking 20 nappies, but definitely double the number of what you think (especially in the younger months). You just never know, and I for one have never regretted over-packing nappies (even just for the sake of your own peace of mind!). The second thing I always pack in our travel nappy bag, is at least one spare change of clothes (in the younger months, 2 or 3 sets). We definitely learnt this the hard way on our first holiday, when we only packed one sleep suit (oops). Again, it might way you down a bit, but it’s worth it – just in case. Other key nappy bag essentials for travelling: nappy rash cream, nappy disposal bags, portable changing mat, a big pack of wipes, hand sanitiser, water bottle (milk bottle if needed), bib, muslin (one small and one large, which can double up as a blanket), a dummy (if you use it), snacks, a small bowl and spoon (if they’re 6 months+) and a small selection of toys. My favourite changing bags have been this Jem & Bea tote bag, and this Tiba+Marl backpack.
6. BREASTFEED (IF YOU CAN)
If you’re breastfeeding a mum, then personally, this was an absolute life-saver for us. It really helped settle Rio (especially on a plane with lots of unusual sounds and distractions, noises and people). I also found it really great during take-off and landing, as the suction and swallowing helped with the ear pressure, and just generally when I wanted him to sleep or keep him calm. As you might recall, I never really fed Rio on demand (except for the first 6/7 weeks), but during flights, I always fed him on demand – whatever helped him settle basically. I used this nursing cover for feeding in public (but it’s totally your choice whether you choose to cover up or not!). If you’re not breastfeeding mum (I stopped at 14 months), I have found that giving him a bottle on the plane has been a great way to settle him too. It’s obviously not that same ‘on-demand’ action to instantly calm the baby, but it’s still a great way to keep them happy, or when you want to get them to sleep.
7. DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK
If you like me, feel a lot more vulnerable since having kids – especially when travelling with them (I still don’t really do public transport with Rio – unless I really have too), it’s totally understandable to feel quite nervous with the whole ordeal of flying; getting to and from the airport, the wait at the airport, being in a confined space of a plane… But now that Rio is a lot older, and I have a lot more experience with flying with a baby, I have definitely learnt (the hard way); if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Use it to your advantage that you have a baby. We always book the window seat and aisle seat, crossing our fingers that no one will be seated in the middle. If they do? Then so many times, that person has moved to give us more space, or worst case scenario, we just move to the middle seat. But when you’re checking in, you can always request for a row which has an empty seat next to you on the plane, or if you’ve upgraded then always ask for the first row – so much more space. In almost all flight situations, people with small children are allowed to board the first, and belong to the ‘priority boarding’ group (even before First and Business customers). A lot of times this isn’t mentioned on the loud speaker, but we always go up anyways, and have always been pre-boarded. Use this to your advantage, so you can get on the plane earlier, get settled and actually have space for all your stuff in the overhead compartment. The same goes for security lines. Even if there’s not a designated family priority lane at the airport you’re at, find a security agent who can help you to the front, or to a priority lane (this doesn’t always work – but don’t be afraid to ask).
8. SNACKS & FOOD
If you like me have a baby who likes his food, then make sure you snack it up and pre-prepare some different meals that you know your baby likes – I’m not talking anything fancy, but go for easy to eat, as mess-free as possible and good, solid foods that will fill your baby up, such as avocado or sweet potato cubes. Or bring lots of different pouches (I love Little Freddie and Babease), which is definitely the easier option. Bread is always a winner, some fruit (apples, pears and bananas work for us), and then lots of snacks. Ella’s Kitchen and Organix do some great ones, which always go down a treat. If you haven’t had time to pack anything, then most airports will have some options. Worst case, most cafés will be able to make you just a plane baguette with butter and cheese, which is always a safe bet.
9. TOYS, BOOKS & SCREEN TIME
Everyone who has a baby, knows that this part is so important to get through pre-flight, during flight and on any car journey. When he was younger, we didn’t give him any screen time, so we had various teething toys, activity cubes, rattles, textured balls, soft books, etc., to keep him entertained. When he got a bit older, he wanted more interactive toys, as well as proper picture books to look through. I would say to always pack the select ones that he really loves, but also try him out with some brand new ones that he’s yet to have played with. As well as toys, it’s often the simplest things that can keep them entertained, such as an empty water bottle! Now that he’s that bit older, we’ve moved over to crayons and drawing books, wooden puzzles, sticker books, magnetic drawing boards, and even play-doh. One great tip I was given, for more long-haul flights, is to wrap up all the small items (such as the play-doh, crayons and books), so your baby can actually enjoy the act of opening a “present”, while also using it during the flight. The screen for us has been absolute life-saver. We try to save screen-time for flights and car journeys, and it’s the one time we’re happy with him watching it however long he wants (as long as it keeps him and calm and quiet). Of course, if he’s in a good mood, we always interject with other activities too, variation is definitely key. We have the Amazon Fire Kids Edition Tablet, which has been great. It comes with a kids proof case, parental control, kid-safe browser, and lots of interactive and fun things to watch and engage with. I recently got these Kids Headphones too, which have been great, as they help to cancel out the external noise and other plane distractions. One last thing that I would recommend for when they’re old enough to go on one (Rio started from 18 months), is the Scuttlebug. It’s a super lightweight 3-wheel bicycle, which is foldable, meaning it’s super easy to bring with your on your travels, and a great way to keep them entertained at the airport!
10. NIGHT FLIGHTS (LONG-HAUL)
I’m a terrible flyer. I get really nervous and worked up before the flight, and I’m generally just really uncomfortable throughout. Fortunately, my fear of flying has slightly subsided since having Rio, as my focus is now 100% shifted on him (I no longer have the time or energy to worry about every small bump in the air!). Our first long-haul flight when Rio was 5 months old, we flew day-time, as I much prefer flying when it’s light outside (much to my husband’s annoyance). I definitely realised that a night-time flight would have been easier for sleeping. So the next time we flew long-haul, when he was around 15 months old, we did it at night, and it was so much easier. Unless you struggle to get your baby to sleep on a flight – in which case, you might be stressing about your baby screaming when everyone else is sleeping – I would generally recommend night time flights overall. It’s dark, it’s quiet, less distractions, and an easier setting to calm your baby.
11. DON’T BOTHER WITH THE CAR SEAT
We’ve only flown with our car seat one time (and never again since). It’s just that one extra thing to think about, and as it always has to be sent through ‘special luggage’, you’ll have to queue up again separately to send it through, which is super annoying. When you’re already overloaded with baby stuff, a car seat is just that extra hassle. When that said, I know so many people who do travel with them, and I totally get it. But for us, renting a car seat on the other end, has always worked well. There’s been a few times when the car hire company has messed up the seat, and given us a booster seat, but it’s always been sorted in the end. Pre arrival, we now triple confirm it with the care hire/travel company, to ensure as little hassle upon arrival. Overall, no car seat has always worked for us, and as mentioned, it’s that one less thing to carry and check in. If you do decide to bring it, there’s lots of good protective covers for your car seat, which I would definitely recommend investing in.
12. TRAVEL LIGHT
I know I’ve been talking a lot about all the different things to bring with you, and if you’ve travelled before with your little one(s), you’ll know the struggle; there’s just so much the little ones need! Then there’s all the extras (just in case), and then there’s more on top of that. The packing list is long. But where possible, and especially if you’ve travelled a few times by now – try to travel as light as possible. For us? We’ve started limiting our own luggage, and started packing so much smarter. We’ve also managed to better identify how much clothes he actually goes through (if it’s hot weather, he just lives in rompers and baby-grows). If you’re going to a villa, then there’s most likely a washing machine there, so utilise that. If you’ve forgotten something, then you can always just grab it at the airport or when you’re at the destination. Get all your nappies and extra food bits when you’re there as well. Travelling can be so stressful, but I find when travelling lighter, it’s so much more enjoyable.
13. BABY JET LAG
Last but not least, just a little note on how to tackle baby jet lag. Of course, all babies and situations are different; you might not have a routine, or you’re regiment with one. If you’re the latter, my advice and what has always worked for us, is to jump straight into your same routine, on the time zone you’re at. So if you land at night (but it’s still day-time where you’ve come from), try your best to get your baby down again for bed. The likelihood is that your baby hasn’t slept all that much on the flight anyways, so they’ll probably be ready to snooze. Do your usual routine, be it a bath and some milk, and get them down. Then come morning, start your day as usual. If you land during the day (but it’s night time where you’ve came from), try your best to extend and push bed time, as much as your baby can manage of course. Your usual routine might take some days to move into, but aim for your usual set-up, and your babies will quickly adapt. I have always found (and heard) that babies are much easier with jet-lag then us adults, so try not to stress about it!
…and that’s it from me. SAFE TRAVELS and ENJOY!