We went on our first long haul holiday to America recently, we stayed for ten days and visited two states Texas and Louisiana. I had some reservations about this trip for many reasons we, an unmarried mixed race couple with our mixed race baby were going to the South, the bible belt, a place known for its intolerance, racism and violence and where it is legal to carry a gun on your person. After speaking to some Americans about the area all of them said be careful as people can get crazy around there, advised against staying in an Airbnb and to keep to the tourists spots. This obviously didn’t fill me with confidence so I read up on Austin and New Orleans and the results were positive. Austin is seen as the anti-Texas a place to be creative, eat great food and drink until you can’t drink no more. New Orleans was described the same without the Anti-Texas part being as it’s in Louisiana. I remained open minded as I wanted to take each place as it came and form my own opinions. I’m so glad I did as both places were brilliant and unique in their own way, friendly, welcoming, creative and worth a return trip.
Here is what I learnt from our first long haul family holiday.
1. Plan the holiday together
My partner booked this holiday and I took a step back so he could organise it all, this is because it’s usually me organising things. He did good but learnt some big lessons of how family travel differs from Lads on tour travel. I feel if we had planned together certain aspects of the holiday would have gone smoother plus I would have known what was happening. It’s also important to try and keep to whatever your routine is at home while away as this will help your baby adjust to the time difference and make being away a bit easier. If your baby naps everyday at 1pm for an hour or so try not to book any excursions around this time to save the tears and tantrums. I found keeping the baby topped up with snacks worked well for me but you know what works best for your own child and adapting it for travel. Try to prepare for what you may do on the flight, if you know your partner falls asleep as soon as they sit on the plane and don’t usually wake up until landing think will they realistically help on the flight? Can you share the duties so you both get rest? Can you express some milk before hand so at least a couple of feeds can be done by someone else on board while you rest? Mange your expectations if like me your partner is an instant sleeper it’s pointless getting angry about it just concentrate on you and your little one and wake them a couple of hours before so you can have some kind of a break. Keep a positive mindset as much as possibke and try to think about wjat your little one may be experiencing and hiw best to accommodate them. Make friends with the cabin crew they can honestly be your savior for the flight.
2. Check your seating on the plane
On the way out we were not sat together so we got to the airport early so that we could attempt to sort this. The check in staff were very helpful and ensured we were together. We were sat at a window seat and because there were spaces on the plane we had a spare seat, the extra space really came in handy. On the way home the same thing happened so we had to ask to be seated together this time we were put at the front of the middle row. There is more legroom here and we were provided with a car seat style setup for the baby on a drop-down table. This was perfect as he slept most of the flight I only had to take him out if the seatbelt sign went on which it did once. If in the future we could afford an extra seat then that would be the way to go as we didn’t have that luxury on the flight back.
3. Keep documentation close to hand
This will save you time at check in points. I had a small backpack (pictured below) that I kept our passports, travel insurance documents, flight details, accommodation info, along with a few snacks, a pen, paper, my camera and a folded up tote bag. This saved us hunting around for passports or booking info, we could just whip out our info and get gone which is what you want with a baby.
4. Pack snacks and toys and downloads for the flight
I used the changing bag as my carry on its an insulated rucksack. It can carry so much stuff. I packed nappies, spare set of clothes for baby and me, a textured book, teething toys, a few packets of Kiddylicious melts, Ellas kitchen pouches which I bought from Sainsbury’s and a bottle of water.
On my phone I have Netflix so before we left home I downloaded Bubble guppies and Dora the explorer for Bubba to watch on the plan as you don’t need the internet to watch downloaded content. This made the plan so easy as I was prepared for anything. In a way it was easier for me as my little man is breastfed so on ascension and descent in the plane I breastfed him to help with the pressure in his ears and it worked a treat. You could also use a dummy or a bottle if you do not breastfeed anything that encourages that suckling motion.
5. Don’t be scared of the changing facilities on-board the plane as they are great
We flew with BA and the staff and facilities were great. Everyone was so helpful. I was worried about changing nappies in the crampped toilets but actually I found they had great space and the usually wiggly baby was actually still on the changing table which folded down from the wall. It may be more difficult when he’s a bit older bit the size he is now he fitted perfectly on the changing table.
6. Always book accommodation with laundry facilities
We lucked out with the apartment we rented via Airbnb it was close to everything and had laundry facilities. This meant we could wash the babies clothes with ease rather than in the bath or sink. There was also a dryer which meant clothes were dry that same day instead of hanging them around the place. It means that we can pack less making traveling a lot easier on future trips. Unfortunately our little one picked up a bug from the plane and was ill for the first few days of the trip, he mainly slept which isn’t like him at all as he rarely naps. He also had a runny bum so we had to wash the bed sheets a couple of times too. This will be high up on our list next time we travel with the baby.
7. Bring compact travel solutions
While pregnant we went to The Baby Show at the Excel in London and my gosh it was great we pretty much got everything we needed for baby there and at a discounted pr ice. At the show we saw this amazing travel buggy that was due to be released later that year, it folded up so easily and so small I wanted to get it there and then.
Now we were going away and needed a travel buggy I went to Mothercare where it is now stocked and was highly disappointed as the buggy wasn’t as sturdy as I remember and with the baby in it, it became hard to push and felt flimsy, the sunshade was insufficient and there wasn’t a reclinable option. The XSS would be great for toddlers possibly just for if they get tired while out and about but not for prolonged all day use. The staff showed me two alternatives a Chicco one and a Mothercare one they were practically the same the own brand was £30 cheaper so I got that. This is the rider it reclines, comes with rain cover, good size basket, very sturdy, light and folds down fast and small using one button. I love this buggy it really did make our holiday so easy especially with Bus tours as it was easy to store away without taking up masses of space. We didn’t hold anyone up as it was quick to unfold and fold away. I’d highly recommend this buggy if travelling with a little one. Click Here for the Rider.
We also took a carrier with us so we could zip in and out of crowds. We went for the Bykay carrier the band around the bottom and the straps are great, comfortable and secure. I usually use it during the day when I walk the dogs.
8. Do your research and Just have fun you are on holiday
Going away is no different to being at home try to research places to see if they are baby friendly. As we were in Amercia it was easy as I could ask locals about changing facilities etc but if in a non English speaking country I would have used the portable changing mat more and changed him wherever we were. I like to look as though I live wherever I am so I will walk with purpose and try not to look as though I’m lost even if I am. It helps me feel more comfortable in new places. I like having a list of places that I want to see and things I want to-do while there and hopefully get as much if not all of it done before we return home. We don’t have a set itinery anything couldn’t fit in just rolls over to the next day until we get it done, I like making the most of my time somewhere as I never know when I’ll be back there again.
9. Ask for what you want
When out for meals with the baby we would ask the chef to make mash or steamed veg for the baby and every place we went to were very accommodating I think everyone would prefer a happy baby to a screaming one.
10. Buy items out there then donate them at the end of your holiday
Sometimes the cost of hiring is more than buying so it might work out better to buy certain items where you are going. Things like playpen, Moses basket, car seat and even clothes. Some hotels and accommodations may already have these items so you won’t need to bother but some may have them but charge extra to use them or not have them at all. Going to Wal-Mart or somewhere similar buy these items then donating them to a local hospital, community centre or good will so they can be used again. You get to have a great holiday while also helping those in need.
With a little planning, clever packing and thought about what type of family holiday you want to have I’m sure travelling with your baby will also be a pleasurable experience. Having children doesn’t mean the end of adventures, having fun and travel it just means doing those things but in a different way. It’s all about perspective.