Travelling with a baby, especially your first, can be one of the most daunting tasks as a parent. I envisioned angry passengers glaring at our screaming baby and explosive diapers stinking up the entire plane. Not to mention embarrassing experiences with public breastfeeding and selecting the ideal baby friendly restaurants. We went through all of this and more on our recent three week excursion to Europe and although it wasn’t as bad as we had feared we managed to learn a few invaluable lessons along the way.
Airplanes, Trains, Cars, and more.
Not only do you have to board the outbound flight and spend the rest of your trip worrying about the return journey, chances are you will also have many other modes of transport that will be mandatory on any vacation. This was my biggest fear, how to keep a baby occupied for 12 hours on a plane,and on every subsequent bus or train journey after that.
-Make sure the baby has her own carry on and it’s very organized. We always had a travel change mat, full pack of wipes, one diaper for every two hours including five extra in case of delays, anti bacterial gel in case we have to clean dirty changing stations, two of her favourite toys, extra clothes for both us and baby, plenty of muslin cloths, and two blankets.
-If you don’t have an airport lounge you can use then it’s worth it to go into one of the ones you can pay to use. We used Plaza Premium Lounge at HK Airport. This means helpful staff, bigger couches and private corners for nursing, and larger cleaner bathrooms for changing. Plus you will have plenty of drinks and snacks to keep you going…you won’t be getting much sleep during the flight.
-If you are breastfeeding, nurse during take off and landing. This made Ever fall asleep during every take off and helped with her ears. At least I was able to get two hours of peace, since her first nap was right at the beginning of the flight.
-Sleeping on a plane is hard, and Ever basically refused to sleep in the provided bassinet. We used it as a place to put all her things and she hung out in it for a little bit, but mainly she slept on my chest. I found night flights to be amazing. She slept most of the way, and the back of the plane has the most white noise if your baby needs to be rocked to sleep.
-Bring your sling (we use the ErgoBaby) in case you have to walk the baby up and down the aisles. Makes it much easier on your back and safer in case of turbulence.
-Book a taxi in advance to pick you up from airport and make sure you specify the car seat you will be needing. This made getting to our hotel or apartment infinitely easier, and private car services tend to have a variety of car seats so you don’t have to crate around your own. You also have someone in arrivals all ready to help you with luggage.
Naps, Accommodation and Baby Friendly Dining
-In between travelling we found nap times to be essential. If she was tired our lunch, beach, drinks, shopping excursions would be nightmares, so we ended up being far more strict with her schedule. For her afternoon nap we would walk her in the stroller until she slept and then head to lunch once she was snoozing. This meant we could have a quiet and enjoyable meal without any baby interruptions. It was also essential for us to stay in apartments rather than hotels, as we needed a kitchen and more space. It was pretty impossible to take Ever out at night, but she went to bed each night at 7pm so we made sure to have a nice dining space where we were staying and indulge in a romantic dinner at home instead of going out.
-Baby friendly venues were essential as I needed to breastfeed her and we didn’t want her laughing, squealing or maybe even crying to disturb any patrons. We would generally peer into any pub or restaurant before entering and search for other strollers. Certain areas such as Notting Hill and Marylebone in London were amazing for baby friendly venues. These venues are also more likely to have changing tables and high chairs and are more understanding about noise.
-Bring walking shoes and be prepared to walk…a lot. Public transport is just plain inconvenient with a stroller and baby in tow so we loved staying in the centre of town and walking to all our destinations. This also kept Ever occupied and she generally fell asleep in the stroller which gave us a good amount of quiet time.
Hope all of this helps. Although our three weeks without a nanny were some of the hardest during parenthood I would not give up our family vacation for anything. Looking back at Ever’s first swim in the Mediterranean Sea, walking and dining in our old neighbourhood, and just general bonding with her are memories we will always have. Planning for another trip soon, so stay tuned for more 😉