There will come a time when you’ll feel physically, emotionally and financially ready to go on holiday with your baby. Ignore the miserable naysayers who reckon it’s not really a holiday if you have to take your kids. They have a point, but IGNORE THEM. Or you’ll never go. Instead, follow these tips to guarantee* a stress-free** trip.
*this is not legally binding.
** OK, not stress-free, but hopefully the fun bits will outweigh the absolutely bloody unbearable bits.
Pick a sensible destination
For the love of God, make your first trip short-haul. If you know you’ve got to take your little one to Australia in the near future to visit the damned in-laws/go to a free-spirited pal’s wedding/tour the Neighbours set, then consider a shorter trip first. Spain is great. So is Skegness.
Also choose the time of your flight carefully – it’s worth paying £20 more for a bit more convenience. Lunchtime flights are good for babies on solids (because stuffing them with food fills at least half an hour) but some people prefer late night/early morning flights because sleep is more likely. In theory.
Don’t book a hotel
Mmm, hotels, so chic, so sexy, so utterly impractical with a small person. You need your own catering facilities and you need somewhere separate for the baby to sleep so you don’t all have to go to bed at the same time.
AirBnB really need a facility where you can narrow your search to properties that are REALLY baby-friendly – and we’re not just talking highchairs and lifts. It’s only when you become a parent that you realise the importance of king-size or at least reasonably-sized beds in holiday accommodation – because even if you don’t normally co-sleep, you might find yourself with an unexpected bed invader due to the familiar environment. Baths, rather than showers, are also handy, but surprisingly hard to come by around the world, in which case you can improvise with a big sink, bucket, or by taking along an inflatable paddling pool. If in doubt, just ask LOADS of annoying questions before you go.
Prep your passport referee
You know how you have to put someone’s name down on the passport form in the event that they want to confirm your identity? Well, when it comes to baby passports THEY ACTUALLY BOTHER TO CONTACT SAID PERSON. So, if time is of the essence, make sure yours isn’t trekking around Cambodia in the middle of the process.
Leave the Jumperoo at home
Sometimes when you just nip to the shops with a baby it feels like you’ve packed for an eight-week cruise, but try really hard to take the opposite approach to your actual holiday. Because you’ve been sensible and booked self-catering accommodation as we demanded above, you should be able to wash clothes while you’re there. When it comes to other essential baby paraphernalia, just take enough for the first 24 hours and then hit the local supermarket (because it turns out foreign babies wear nappies too – who knew?). You don’t need more than a couple of small toys either – your baby will much prefer breaking your sunglasses anyway.
One thing you will probably want to take is a car seat, as the ones that car hire companies or cab firms offer are often a bit battered. As for wheels, car seat on pram base is a good space-saving solution or, if your baby’s old enough, get a cheapo stroller instead of lugging the monster buggy, then you won’t be worrying about it getting trashed on the plane. Better still, just take a sling or back carrier. Woo, free hands!
Don’t fret about the airport
Taking a baby through an airport is like taking Kim Kardashian through an airport – your baby will be treated like the beautiful but slightly obnoxious VIP that you’ve always known he or she is, and you’ll get whisked through special family lanes at every stage (although if it’s the school holidays everybody’s in the bloody family lane, so watch out for that).
Most airlines allow you to bring two big baby items at no extra cost (pram/car seat/travel cot). You have to get tags for these at bag drop and then drag them to the oversized luggage bit. Sneaky tip: get a special bag to stash them in (there are tons of generic buggy bags online) and you can slip in a few extra bits and bobs (nappies/bedding/more frocks for you) without anyone noticing.
Arm yourself on the plane (not literally. Definitely definitely not literally)
Having a wriggly baby on your lap for a whole plane journey, even a short one, is going to be the worst bit of your holiday. Sorry about that.
Some things to make it more pleasant include aisle seats (so you can get up and down if your wriggler demands to be jiggled) boobs/bottles (milk for baby, wine for mummy), snacks if baby is of a snacking age, eight previously downloaded episodes of your CBeebies fix of choice (now is not the time to implement a screen ban), some small innocuous toys and a positive mental attitude. Also, and this is important, get one of those cute chilled-out babies that just smiles at everyone. If this is not yours, consider swapping with a friend. Just for the duration of the holiday, mind – we’re not monsters.
Adjust your baby’s body clock
This is easier said than done, but trying to tweak your baby’s usual habits so that they turn into a dream Mediterranean baby called Stavros is worth doing. If you’re somewhere hot, they’ll likely have a long nap in the afternoon anyway so take the opportunity to keep them up later so you can all enjoy dinner together.
Massive generalisation: foreign people adore babies and are much less rude than Brits, so they won’t even mind if little Stavros chucks regurgitated bread all over the patio of their charming taverna.
Have a good time
The way you holiday has changed forever (well, for the next 15 years at least) but that doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy it. Will you finally get round to devouring the pile of books that’s been on your bedside table since you were 8 months pregnant and thought you’d do loads of reading on maternity leave? Probably not, but seeing the amazement on your baby’s face as they dip their cute little tootsies into the sea for the first time is better than any book. Enjoy every moment and Instagram the hell out of it.