You’re just starting to crack this baby thing. You’ve got a semblance of a routine, you’re getting a bit more sleep, and you’re even managing to keep your hair vomit-free for most of the day. And out of the blue, the invitation to go overseas arrives. It’s a mate’s wedding, or a work opportunity for your partner, or a group holiday. And you’re torn. So here’s the advice: go. Go because, just like before you had your baby, you have to live your life.
When my husband and I decided to go to Europe for a month when our daughter was ten months old, I was so stressed out in the lead up that there were nights I couldn’t sleep. And I’m not going to lie – it was hard. The jetlag was a killer.
We bickered. And we certainly didn’t have the adventure that we would have sans baby. But looking back on it now, I’m so glad we went. It was a break from the repetition of my days. We made memories as a family, and I’ll never forget what my daughter was doing (starting to stand, calling me Baba, blowing kisses) when she was ten months old. And you know what? When you’re breastfeeding while taking in an ancient skyline or ocean horizon or wall of Picassos, you’ll be filled with a profound sense of wonder and achievement.
So now we’ve decided to take the leap, here are some tips for traveling with a baby.
Read more about travel:
- When mummy’s away and bub needs to stay: My first time away from my baby
- Nap spas are the big new thing in wellness, so sign us up
- 8 foolproof tips for the perfect babymoon
Organising the trip
Take some of the stress out of this process and delegate. It might feel weird but use a travel agent. Tell them you’d like to reserve a bassinet on the plane (even if you don’t know if you’ll need it, hopefully, you’ll end up in bulkhead seats), and leave the itinerary to them. Instead of spending your nights trawling the internet for cheap flights, hit the couch with a glass of wine.
Regarding accommodation, I recommend renting a place with a service like Airbnb, rather than staying in a hotel. Here’s why: eating room service in silence on the bed is *depressing*. Having your own place means not only being able to cook (and depending on where you’re going, your food options may be limited), you can put your kiddo to bed, close the door and have some time with your favourite travel buddy.
Give yourself the best possible start by taking off with the right tools. As always, I bought most of these things second-hand on the internet.
- A lightweight, portable cot. We used a Baby Bjorn, and since our Europe trip, we’ve used it at Grandma’s house, on weekends away and on a cruise. Would recommend.
- While we’re talking about sleeping, take a dark piece of material and some masking tape to fashion a curtain on the plane and over the cot in hotels. Make it a black scarf, and it can double as a breastfeeding cover.
- A travel pram – preferably one that folds down to the regulation size for carry-on. You’ll be glad you brought it as you’re sailing through airports. We used a Mountain Buggy Nano.
- Baby carrier – goes without saying. I’ve always loved my Ergo but each to their own.
- A versatile fabric high chair – not all accommodation and restaurants will have one. We took a Minimonkey.
- A travel backpack designed for flying with a baby – bottom opening, bottle holders and compartments galore. It will keep you organised (bah!) on the plane. We bought a Kooshy Kids backpack along with an inflatable cushion. Not essential but you may want to investigate these gizmos, which you pump up between your seat and the one in front and can be used as a bed or footrest.
On the plane
Okay, you’ve made it. You’re in your seats waiting to zoom down the runway. Now what? Well, lower your expectations right down. Lower. A bit lower. Yep, that’s about right. Expect delays. Expect no-one to sleep. And I’m sorry to break it to you, but it’s highly unlikely you’ll be watching the latest teen dystopia or rom-com guilty pleasure.
Here’s what you can do to make it as easy as possible. Swap with your partner every hour or so, so that one of you is getting some rest. Take a baby carrier so you can bop down the aisles. If your baby is under 10 kilograms, try using the bassinet. And finally, let the babe have everything she wants. We learnt this lesson on our final leg back to Australia. Apparently, what our daughter wanted was to sleep with my breast in her mouth for ten hours. I got virtually no sleep, but it was a far more relaxed journey for everyone.
It’s not easy, but it’s temporary. You’ll realise why you did all of this when you’re standing on foreign soil. And who knows, since your expectations are so low you may even end up having some good flights.
Jetlag and sleep
Once you’ve arrived at your fabulous destination, you will have a hazy couple of days where the routine you’ve established at home will go out the window. Wave it all goodbye and feed on demand, let bub sleep and be there for her. And as soon as it feels reasonable, reinstate your routine. As long as our daughter had her regular dinner-bath-bed schedule, her beloved blankie and the consistency of the same cot, she was happy, and we did quite a bit of moving around during our holiday. And get this – she actually started sleeping through the night while we were away. It’s not all bad.
Jetlag is a bitch; be kind to yourself, and you’ll potter through it. If you’re anything like us, the little one will adjust faster than you!
Go. These opportunities are fleeting, and if you don’t, you’ll always wonder what it would have been like if you’d taken on the challenge. And guess what? This is something for you, for once. It will open your eyes and ears to the world again, and inspire you. You’ll treat yourself to fancy cocktails and delicious food, you’ll share baby life with your partner in a way you might not be able to at home, and you’ll discover beauty on every corner. Brace yourself and go.