My tried and tested tips for travelling with a baby

Travelling with a baby or a toddler or both can be a daunting prospect, but it really doesn’t have to be stressful. Over the years I have travelled a lot with my now 13-year-old son Diego. Recently I have calculated that he has already been on at least 150 flights in the last 13 years. As a family, we have travelled all over the world and I am finally sharing some of my own tips for travelling with a baby. Once the baby phase is over, it gets easier and children who get used to travel from an early age, become excellent travel companions.

Location, location, location

First of all, it’s always vital to do some planning ahead when you have a baby. The choice of destination and accommodation is important to determine whether you are going to have fun or not. Apartments and villas are a lot more practical than hotels with little ones. There you can warm bottles when you want to and have more space to spread your stuff. If there’s a garden or a pool, then it’s even better. Make sure that the pool is fenced or gated.

Many rental homes have cleaners, baby sitters and even cooks on request so you don’t have to be cleaning and cooking all day long. Try and find a company that specialises in family travel because that will ensure that you’ll find toys, highchairs, cots, sterilisers, among other things. Having a dishwasher and washing machine on site can be quite good too. If the owner of the place is a local person, that can be useful to quickly figure where to go and what to do upon your arrival or any other information in case of an emergency. My best experience of this kind of location and accommodation has been with www.mum-and-baby-experience.co.ukat Villa Radicata. Check out My week at Villa Radicata in Tuscany

PG-24-25 of the London Mums magazine Winter 2017-2018

KODAK Digital Still Camera

A home swap can be a nice idea, but only if you swap with a family with children of the same age of your own ones.

 

Flying with babies

Early flights are much better than late ones when travelling with a baby. If you plan carefully, you can make the baby have nap times for the duration of the flight. Diego was always a great napper on flights. Sometimes people asked me whether he was ok because he looked unconscious from his deep sleeping. It always made me laugh. But holding a sleeping baby for a few hours can be quite daunting too. Still better than a crying baby, though.

When checking in for flight ask at check in if flight is full often airline will give you extra seat in middle so you have more space and privacy if you are breast-feeding, for example. I used to breast-feed Diego all the time especially at take-off and landing so that the air pressure did not affect his ears. Alternatively, small sachets of Calpol or Nurofen can help soothe them if the air pressure hurts their ears. Chewing, sipping water, or sucking on a dummy during take-off can also help to relieve ear pressure. Pack toys and books to keep them occupied during the journey and a special toy or blanket to encourage them to sleep. Have a good supply of snacks in case they won’t eat the food on the plane. If a child is potty trained, it is probably better to put a nappy on during the flight.

 

Involve kids every step of the way 

Always allow plenty of extra time. Get on plane first and off last. Stewards can help you more if you get off last. Get toddlers to participate as much as possible to make the journey fun. My son Diego is now very knowledgeable about planes and airports and I once bought him a picture book about the whole process of checking in, flying and travelling safely to keep him engaged. He enjoys so much our travelling together that he has developed a passion for aircraft engineering.

But I have to say that despite the hassle (sometimes), I have always tried to get him to hand in his passport at security, to weight the luggage and check the boarding cards. I have always given him a small rucksack to put on his back with snacks, small toys (typically planes and cars), a book and wet wipes. Now that he is 13 he packs his own case with iPads, laptops and music. It is essential to explain everything to children including the reason for being asked to take shoes off because they might get upset if they don’t understand. But even in the event of screaming, keep your cool and smile.

 

Packing

Your little bundle can cost you big. To avoid blowing your budget before even reaching your destination, make sure you don’t overspend when buying baby essentials. I have learnt at my expenses not to take too much stuff. I am not exactly minimalistic when it comes of preparing my luggage so you can only guess the mess. Try and bring only one favourite toy, a couple of books, pens, pencils and paper for toddlers, a change of clothes (maybe more than one if the flight is long), a drink, snacks, disposable bibs, nappies and wipes. You can take drinks for babies through to the departure lounge, but sometimes you will need to taste them.

Trunki suitcases are great for toddlers (2 to 4-year-old), they are the right size for all their bits and pieces and toddlers love pulling them along or sitting on them. We still have the very first one because despite the pushing and pulling, it never got damaged. For mums, I suggest to travel with a jacket with lots of pockets. Although you can take the pram to the airport door, in most cases it will turn up with the luggage on arrival, so you need to carry the baby for a while before you get your pram. A sling is perfect if the baby is still light. The sling has always been more convenient than a pram when flying for me personally. Reins for a toddler are good, although my son was never the kind of child who would run away from me.

When travelling to hot destinations, buy things like sun protection lotions, shampoo there. Often, they are cheaper than in the UK and it saves you from carrying them. It depends  where you are going, though. In Italy sun lotion is much more expensive, so stocking up the various bottles from Asda is most convenient at £7 on average than buying them there for £20 each.

In terms of medicines, take only the basics such as Calpol or Nurofen with you. You may want to consider swim nappies as they are often hard to find. If your child has a specific allergy take a card with the condition written in the language of the country you are visiting.

Don’t forget to bring a good supply of snacks in case they won’t eat the food on the plane. It is usually possible to pre-order baby food and ready to drink formula through Boots airside and take enough for the flight and to acclimatise once abroad (order at least 7 days prior to departure).

Take a change of clothes; both for you and your child – just in case! Planes can be cold, so adjust the air-conditioning to avoid drafts and take an extra jacket or cardigan and socks. For an overnight flight, take toothbrushes, pyjamas and something to snuggle up under and try and make everything as normal as possible to encourage the sleep routine.

Keeping everyone well hydrated is important in hot climates; particularly for nursing mothers, babies and small children. Treat the sun with respect; cover up with hats, sun glasses and sun cream, drink plenty and keep out of the midday sun. If you are swimming or sailing remember that reflections from water increase the potency of the sun and regularly apply additional sunscreen accordingly. Remember that small children have sensitive skin which is far more likely to burn.

 

Routines

I am not a fan of routines but my son – like most babies – has always reacted well to regular activities. However, don’t stress  too much about keeping usual nap times and bed times. In Southern European countries, as in Asia or South America , children are out until late and restaurants are full of families with children. In Italy, where my family is from, babies and toddlers have the same meals as adults – in mashed or reduced versions.  During the Summer, families go out in the evening for a stroll on the high street – the so-called ‘passeggiata’.

Just blend in and make the most of it. For your evening walks, choose a child-friendly mosquito-repellent and wear long, loose clothing to avoid being bitten. Be particularly careful at dusk.

 

Italian culture is much more child-focused than the British one so for me Italy is the perfect place for travelling with a baby (I know I am totally biased!).

About Monica Costa

Monica Costa founded London Mums in September 2006 after her son Diego’s birth together with a group of mothers who felt the need of meeting up regularly to share the challenges and joys of motherhood in metropolitan and multicultural London. London Mums is the FREE and independent peer support group for mums and mumpreneurs based in London https://londonmumsmagazine.com and you can connect on Twitter @londonmums

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