Remember those pre-children days when you could hop in the car and get away for the weekend? Or score some cheap plane tickets at the last minute? Those impulsive trips may be a thing of the past, but having a baby doesn’t mean you are confined to your own backyard.
While travelling with children of any age requires a degree of planning, babies are in a league of their own. If you’re thinking of taking your baby on a trip, there are some ways to make the ride a bit easier.
A bassinet needs to be requested well in advance.
While my husband and I have taken our daughter Olivia on several unavoidable, last-minute trips, I do prefer to plan ahead by making a list of everything I need and things to do, such as booking family-friendly hotels and a rental car with a baby seat. This helps avoid forgetting things and having to buy expensive or difficult to source items while away, such as specific brands of baby formula.
Having a plan is one thing, but pulling it off is another. I’ve packed enough bibs for just about every meal of our journey, then realised as we were sitting on the plane, that I’d put them every single one of them in the checked baggage. Oops.
Being prepared by having everything you need in a separate bag close by, such as bottles, dummies and toys, will help reduce the stress of trying to find something that has been packed at the very back of the car boot or into checked baggage.
Check the car seat before you go to make sure baby will be comfortable, and that you don't need to make any adjustments to the seat to suit their growing body (a baby will soon let you know if they are uncomfortable!) Make frequent stops for feeding and nappy changes, and take your time. Everything slows down with children, and travel is no exception.
Check bub is comfortable in the car seat and prepared for a long journey.
Before my first flight with Olivia, I was extremely anxious – would she cry the whole way? My local child health nurse gave me a valuable piece of advice before we left – feed during take-off and landing. It will help bub swallow during the atmospheric pressure changes and prevent those little ears from ‘popping’, which can be painful. Try not to be anxious during your trip – it will only get baby more worked up and difficult to calm if they are already stressed. Stay calm, and take your time to calm baby down too.
You can request a bassinet through the airline for some flights, but they do need to be requested well in advance. They are usually fitted to the partition walls and are handy for a sleeping bub or if you are travelling by yourself. A spare seat is also a godsend for a sleeping baby – the airline may be nice enough to block out an empty seat in your row for you if the flight is not too full.
A spare seat sure comes in handy.
One of the best items I’ve bought for travel is the portacot – it folds up to a compact size for the car boot and can be taken on a flight as part of your checked baggage. Take baby’s blanket or a comforter so they have a familiar item to sleep with, and try putting your baby to sleep in it for an afternoon nap or night before you travel so they can get used to sleeping somewhere other than their usual cot.
The portacot can provide a bit of familiarity for bub when away from home.
Although travel can mess up your daily schedule, try and stick to your usual bedtime routine as much as you can, whether it is a lullaby before bedtime and a night-time feed, your baby will love the familiarity. My baby falls asleep to lullaby renditions of Pearl Jam, so I have downloaded the CD to my iPhone and she can nod off to her music wherever we are in the world.
You can also buy a travel pram that folds up to the size of a handbag and conveniently fits into the overhead locker. Alternatively, the baby carrier has been a great addition to our family holidays. It’s easy to pack and can be used just about anywhere.
So get planning your next trip with baby in tow, and give yourself a well-deserved break.