Wednesday, 13 February 2013

How to travel with a baby whilst keeping your lip gloss on

Anyone who has a baby/ toddler knows too well that travelling might become a somewhat, how shall I put it...a challenging experience. Around this time last year we booked our first holiday with Little Miss S and I remember feeling quite panicky. We were flying to Portugal and all I did after booking a holiday ... No, not shop for bikinis!:) I 'googled' pretty much every available article about what it's like to get on a plane with a baby. Is it safe? Will she scream or sleep? What do I pack? How do I pack everything. Am I being completely selfish by 'dragging' my 6 month bundle of joy to another country (after all it's only us adults who need a holiday whilst she is happy at home). What's wrong with holidaying in UK (erm, weather to start with!!!!!). The list could go on forever. I must have sent about ten emails to the airline just double checking all the allowances for the little one and contacted the owners of the villa where we were staying asking about baby products in their local super-markets. I even 'googled' the content of sodium in Portuguese bottled water(!!) because I have been told that the local tap water is not safe to drink and that some bottled water might contain high levels of sodium which is not good for babies (it's like dreaded Chemistry lesson all over again). Apparently, Evian is your 'safest' choice so I had to triple check that whatever was to become our 'local' super-market for ten days, did have a sufficient supply of Evian!

Anyway, here is my list of advice:

1. Yep, it is absolutely safe for small children to fly. Same as adults, some babies might get an earache, so it's basically 'pot luck'. My Little Miss S luckily avoided earache (touch wood) but I always make sure that she is drinking water/milk during take-off and landing or chewing on some fruit/biscuits (just in case). When she was smaller I found Nuby Nibbler to be a great 'travel companion'. Just fill it in with fruit and let your little one nibble away!
2. Pack wisely. Majority of 'decent' airlines give small children their separate baggage allowance (mostly 10kg) but it's amazing how quickly you fill your suitcases up. Obviously, all depends on your child's age. If they are small and you are breastfeeding then all you really need are nappies, wipes and clothes. When we first travelled, Little Miss S was 6 months and we just started weaning, but I wasn't too keen on taking a blender on holiday!! I did some research and found a villa where they had all the necessary baby equipment, and if they didn't, then the owners were more than happy to get you whatever you need! Check Toca do Mocho. I did pack quite a few Ella's Kitchen pouches just in case:). So my advice is try and go somewhere where it is really baby friendly if it's your first time (Safari in Kenya might not be such a good idea... although I'm sure some people do!). Once you 'made through' your first holiday with your little one, second time is much easier (live and learn).
3. In my pre-baby days I never used to notice small children at the airports/planes unless they were sitting within a close proximity to me and crying uncontrollably (luckily not that often at all). To be honest, I find that it is older children that tend to make a lot of noise rather than small babies. Most of the time, babies tend to fall asleep (great, just be prepared for a 'dead arm' at some stage) whereas toddlers just, well, toddle around. Last time we went on a plane (few months ago) Little Miss S has just entered 'toddlerhood' so she played a little, had some food and fell asleep. Well, we see what happens next time!
4. Anyway, if your little one does decide to have cry - Don't Worry! Just ignore everyone and concentrate on your child. Majority of people are understanding and if they are not ...well, that's their problem and not yours. I, luckily (or luckily for them) never encountered any 'child haters' when flying.
5. I know it sounds pretty obvious but leave your house for the airport in plenty of time. In our pre-baby days Hubby and I would most certainly leave at a very last minute, but trust me you don't want to be running around with a pram and three suitcases. Once at the airport, take your time. You do not want to be hyperventilating. Most of the airports do have Family or Priority lanes for security checks so use them and take your time (you do not want to loose your passport whilst rushing or worst - your child). Also, note that you will be asked to taste all the liquids that you are taking for your baby into a cabin, which can take time at a busy periods.
6. If financially possible, try to book extra leg-room seats or special seats (or a private jet if you are extremely fortunate!). Check that they are not emergency exit seats as under 16's are not allowed to sit there. I normally go for the ones at the front of the plane (get served first!) and obviously all the extra space is 'heaven' when you have a baby sitting on you.
6. Don't be afraid to ask! Babies do not understand "wait just a few minutes, darling". If you need your bottle or food heated up (or anything else) just ask a member of a crew. I know that certain (won't mention names this time) airlines are inclined to sell you food, drink and duty free, and this comes above everything else, but even then don't be afraid to 'pester' because at the end of the day it's your child that needs something (and your sanity together with a sanity of all the passengers). Also, don't be scarred to ask other people for help. For example, my Hubby was carrying 'ten thousand cases' and a pram, and I was carrying Little Miss S and attempting to carry our hand luggage. Quite difficult, but a nice man helped us. If there are no 'nice men about' (most of the time, trust me, there are) then just ask anyone. You would be surprised how helpful other people could be and actually want to be (not all is lost in humanity).
7. Our second holiday with Little Miss S was to Greece when she was abound 9 months. It was in July. Peak season and extremely hot! I was worrying yet again. Heat and babies apparently don't go (although babies do live in Greece, and Africa, and Australia...basically everywhere). She was absolutely fine, but obviously, as a parent, you do need to be very careful in a hot weather. We brought with us a UV tent and it was great. Little Miss S had her naps in there whilst on the beach (although do avoid going there between 11-3 when it is extremely hot). Pack factor 50+, dehydration tablets, UV swimsuit and make sure your little one drinks plenty of fluids. Ah, and mosquito net for the evenings if your child is still at the stage where he/she can sleep in the pram whilst you are having your dinner.

Enjoy yourself! As long as you are being sensible, these first family holidays make some fantastic memories! It will be different from when it was just the two of you, but seeing your little one going into the sea for the first time is absolutely worth it. First few days might not feel like a holiday at all if you are in a unfamiliar place, but once you got your routine established, it should be absolutely amazing!

Little Miss S has now acquired plenty of air-miles and we got some precious memories and hopefully many more to come.

And trust me there is always time for a glass of wine;)

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