Whether you’re preparing for a day trip or heading off on an epic holiday, travelling with your baby presents some unique challenges. A few simple tips can help you and your baby to stay safe and happy when you’re out and about.
Don’t be too ambitious
That cultural tour of European cities will have to wait a few years. Babies and toddlers do not like lots of changes and will struggle to adapt, settle, or sleep if you keep moving around on holiday. Choose one destination and the simplest way of getting there.
If you are flying, try to avoid transferring via multiple flights rather than going by a direct flight. It may be cheaper, but by the time you arrive you and your baby will be tired and stressed.
Pick a family-friendly destination
Choose a relaxing destination that’s family-friendly. Go for a child-friendly beach retreat, family campsite, family holiday park, or a similar child-friendly place. If you rent a house, check beforehand that the pool is fenced off securely, the garden is enclosed, and that safety equipment, like stair gates, is provided.
Skip crowded and over-stimulating tourist destinations, places without any shade, and city breaks. Look for hotels that let children stay free of charge in their parents’ rooms. Many also provide free meals for children or have buffet-style breakfasts. Ask about babysitting services, creches, and facilities for children, too.
If you are visiting a city, make sure you have an up-to-date travel guide. Many of them are aimed specifically at parents with young children. They have lots of invaluable advice about the location of parks, gardens, and child-friendly destinations, such as zoos. There’s nothing like half an hour’s toddle or run in a park to restore the spirits of the most bored or over-stimulated preschooler. Carrying your toddler in a backpack will also help keep him out of trouble, as he can see what is going on around him. If you need to visit somewhere that you know is not particularly child-friendly, choose a time when your little one is due his nap.
Get your documents in order
Even babies need passports to travel abroad. Depending on where you’re going, you and your child may also need visas for your trip.
It’s also important to make sure that you and your child are both covered by travel insurance. That way, you won’t be left out of pocket if anything unexpected happens while you’re away.
If you and your child have different surnames, you may also need to bring proof that you are related. For example, this could be a birth certificate and a signed letter from your child’s other parent. For more information on travelling with a child who has a different surname, see official travel advice from the UK government.
Take your time
Do not put yourself under pressure by trying to do too much. Before you had children, you may have been able to speed up the motorway and drive 400 miles in five hours, but this won’t be possible now.
Your baby and toddler will need regular breaks, snacks, fresh air, and a change of scene on a long journey. Pack a ball for a quick game of catch and books for quiet times. Tablets and personal DVD players also come into their own when travelling long distances.
If there are two of you driving and one is a bit of a night owl, consider driving through the night to get to your destination. Provided you are both well-rested before you start your journey, you plan your route and take regular breaks, this could be the best way to have a peaceful journey.
Less is more
Travelling with children can be a wonderful experience – provided you go with the flow. Too many new sights and sounds can over-stimulate your baby, and toddlers get bored having to sit still or be strapped in the buggy for long periods. Keep your itinerary simple and only plan one major activity per day. That way you can adapt your plans to suit your toddler and make last-minute adjustments if he gets tired or fed up.
Be aware that being in a new environment can be tiring for small children, even if you are relaxing on the beach. Why not go to the seaside early in the morning before it gets too busy and hot? You can then return to your room or go for a drive in the afternoon, so your little one can have a nap. Just making a few simple changes and putting your child’s needs first will help you all to have a relaxing time.
Bring water and plenty of snacks
A bag of snacks and a water bottle are vital components of any trip. Children can get dehydrated during a flight and toddlers can’t always wait for mealtimes. Best bets include treats such as halved grapes, bananas, breadsticks, rice biscuits, small juice cartons, dried fruit, and small boxes of dry cereal. Bring along baby wipes for cleaning up. Give your child something to look forward to by dispensing snacks at pre-announced intervals, for example, once you reach the airport or after you reach the next town.
Bring along a basic child-proofing kit to use at your destination.
If you are travelling by car, make sure your baby’s car seat is properly installed. Use removable window shades to keep the sun off him. And don’t smoke, even if you have the window open. It’s illegal and dangerous for your baby’s health.
You may want to dress your child in brightly coloured clothes so he’s easy to spot in a crowd. In case you are separated, put a small card in one of his pockets with your mobile number on.
Pack a goodie bag
A good way to keep kids content on a trip is to take along a goody bag with plenty of toys, snacks, and drinks. Include favourite toys, games, books, and some surprises. Wrap each individually and present your child with a surprise every once in a while. For toddlers, try puzzles, dolls, action figures, puppets, brightly coloured paper for drawing, non-toxic crayons, stickers for the car windows, story CDs, and books. For babies, possibilities include shiny new objects, baby-proof mirrors, rattles, musical toys, soft animals, pop-up toys, plastic keys, or teething rings. Start building your toy stash a few weeks before the trip.
Take practice trips
If your child is old enough, a little preparation will help him to enjoy his trip. Show him pictures of your destination and talk about who you’ll see and what you’ll be doing there. Your child will take his cue from you: if you convey excitement and positive feelings about your upcoming adventure, chances are he will approach the trip the same way.
Go with the flow
Stay relaxed. If you aren’t too specific about what you want to do on your holiday, you are much more likely to have a good time. You may not get to walk along the cliff tops as you’d planned, but you may have lots of fun splashing in rock pools with your toddler instead. You may not get to drink cocktails in the bar, but you can still have a sundowner on your balcony when your baby’s gone to sleep. Keep an open mind, make the most of opportunities when they arise, and put your child’s needs first, and you are all more likely to have a wonderful holiday to remember.