“How did you get here? You’re traveling alone with the little one?”
“How did you manage the journey alone with all your luggage and the baby?”
“Long flight and baby – you are brave”
” You have travelled so much with the little one- how do you do it”
My husband and I love travelling, meeting new people, and exploring new places. When we found out we were having a baby, we knew a million things are about to change. But both of us were set on one thing we can’t allow to be changed – our love for travelling. The honest agreement between us was, the little one needs to fit into this love for travelling with us and one day hopefully share this love with us.
We welcomed the little one in the world in September and in November we were off on our first adventure – a drive to British south-west countryside town of Bridport in Devon (tiny steps – more local destination from our residence in London we thought). Like every parent, we had certain doubts and needed some guidance on do’s and don’ts for our hopeful adventures of future. And we completely overdid it – we took the whole house with us! Everything we knew our son needs was packed in our car.
The second trip followed over Christmas and New Year vacation (3 months old baby) with our family friends to St. Remy de Provence, France. This time the number things we took with us for the little one were nearly half of our first trip. (With every trip, the list of items has reduced). Since then, we have made at least a dozen trip with our little one. Here’s a compilation of my learnings so far.
- Medication: We always consult our doctor for any recommendations. Also, we check the areas we are travelling to and consult our physician if it is a high-risk area for any specific illnesses. You need to be aware of these before travel or get a special vaccination for yourself and the little one before travel if need be. Also, any medication you need to take, if you run out of it please check what the local alternatives are in case it is a regular dose your little one needs and how you can get it. Finally, one thing to always remember is to check your and your little one’s medical insurance before travelling and if the insurance covers you all for the country you are travelling to.
- Travel Bag: The travel bag for the little one has to be packed immaculately, in the order of things you will need the most. High priority like nappy changing items on top, food next & rest at the bottom, last being spare change of clothes. I normally carry a rucksack as a cabin baggage for the little one (leaving the hands free).
Packing list for the rucksack:
- Passport for both baby and you, visas travel tickets,
- Nappies, wet wipes (in abundance),
- a couple of muslins,
- dummy, couple of toys,
- change of clothes,
- packed juices, fruits, milk (in bottle),
- bib, a small blanket, hat sunnies,
- nasal saline drops (I give a drop in each passage before the flight to avoid ear pressure), calpol (nurofen/paracetamol) for emergencies.
- Baby carrier vs. Buggy: The next thing I learnt was a baby carrier(sling)was absolutely essential for travel (for solo or couple/group travel). I cannot imagine my life without the carrier. Once the little one is on the carrier, I have my hands free to tackle all the other challenges thrown out way. My aim in all the travels so far has been to check in all the luggage (yes, all the bags including my cabin allowance) to be left with the baby, baby carrier and baby’s rucksack. If travelling by train of course life is a lot easier. My toddler son prefers sitting in the carrier facing outwards to enjoy all the sights and tell me about everything he sees.
- Baggage – Check baggage allowance for yourself and the little one before you travel. Again, train/road travel is easier on this front. I travel with a cot and a folding mattress. My son has always preferred sleeping independently and if the hotel/Airbnb are not providing, it is a potential problem for us. Hence, I always call the management/owner and let them know that I need a cot. If you are co- sleeping, it’s not something you need to think of. Think in advance if you will carry your baby buggy/pram/stroller. Do you really need it? In some places/countries it’s easier and better to have kids on a baby carrier.
The stroller, cot and the mattress can be dropped at the check in bag drop counter and picked up on the other end on the belt or oversize luggage corner. It depends on the destination airport and authorities there. If you plan to take the stroller/buggy to the plane, please make sure you have all the items in the buggy in one bag (avoid loose items) so when you have to hand the buggy at the plane entrance it’s easy to slip the baby out of the bag and fold the buggy to be picked up. It also helps at the security checks.
One important learning for me is to remember to take your car seat. Especially if you intend to hire a car on the trips. A lot of countries have strict rules for infant travel in cars and hiring car seats through car hire can sometimes be more expensive than hiring the car. One of the guidance on car seat use is, not to keep the baby in the car seat for longer than 1 1/2 hours. Take regular breaks for longer journeys. A rear facing car seat for an infant is a must. We use a Maxicosi car seat.
- Air-travel:If you are flying with an under 2 year old – make sure you call the airline to book a bassinet seat well in advance. They are like hot cakes, gone before you blink twice. Carry a dummy to help soothe the little one during take-off and landing if they won’t take a feed. I always carried a muslin to lay on the bassinet and a nice warm blanket for the little ones when they sleep it can get cold. I normally put the little one in the bassinet after the meal serving when the lights would be dimmed as he would sleep longer after this. If it’s a bumpy ride, you are expected to take he baby out of the bassinet and seat belt them with you. Generally, on any public transport kids are well entertained and stimulated as there is so much happening which means hopefully you have less work to do on the entertaining and keeping them busy front.
- Transport on arrival – the key to stress free travel with a little one is transport availability as soon as you are out of a train/plane journey. Make sure you have planned for this in advance. You can swing the whole trip but this one thing can give you energy and life to last the holiday in a happy relaxed sort of way…
- Size of room:We very quickly learnt that the size of the room matters if you have a baby keen on moving or a toddler climbing and jumping off things. Once you walk in that room with your bags and unpack suddenly they seems smaller and being stuck in a small room with this little energetic bundle bouncing off the walls can be challenging. We have had great holidays with Airbnb bookings and it gave us the freedom of space, kitchen to make meals for the little one and a lounge to relax when the little sleeps. I always carry a gro- blind with me, which can be used for any window to allow create a perfect dark room for a perfect sleep for the little one, just in case the rooms are light and curtains not adequate. We have always call the hotel/air Bnb owner to let them know we have a toddler and prefer all the show pieces and pretty things are removed from our room. It helps to be relaxed and not worry of what will be broken next!
- Food– If you are feeding the baby bottled milk- keep in mind how you will sterilize the bottles – sterilizing sachets are really good for this. If staying in a hotel – check if they can provide you pasteurized milk for the little one if you have weaned him off the formula. If your little one is weaning, make sure you take the right spoons, cups and plates with you to avoid unsettling them too much with changes. Food in pouches can be a very quick solution to carry to avoid stressing on what hotels offer. But if you have rented your own place with a kitchen, cook away all the deliciousness for your bubba! Make sure not to feed open cut fruit or uncooked veggies- you don’t know how they are washed which makes them unsafe- period. Remember to Carry snacks with you in your bag wherever you go and a bottle of water.
- Keeping it simple–
You can’t do it all! Try to base yourselves in one place for at least 4-5days. Day trips out and then back to the base has always been the best option so far. This has allowed our son to relax and settle in one place and enjoy and in turn allows us to relax and actually enjoy the holiday.