“Get your travel done now, because once that baby comes…” bleary-eyed parents tell prospective parents ominously. But it needn’t be so dreadful, writes Kate Gibbs. The trick is in the planning...
Just as the savvy traveller thinks she has jet setting down pat, along comes a certain person that throws all her pack-light, no-fuss, all-luxury routine into complete disarray. Or so it was with me.
There’s nothing like a having a baby on board to challenge the simplest travel itinerary, the most finely-tuned adventure. But that doesn’t mean travel plus bub can’t be a breeze. The trick is in the planning.
With a brand new bouncing babe in (my) arms, I have a whole new set of travel must-haves and must-dos for when the tyke and I take flight. So here are my tips on how to travel with a baby - stylishly and stress-free.
1. Face fears
Preparing a young child of any age for their first flight can be a worry for parents. One friend’s three-year-old daughter is terrified of blenders, so how will she react to the plane engine?
Another is more than disconcerted by heights, while one Instagram friend says the whirring sound of the engine puts her one-year-old boy straight to sleep. There’s no knowing how baby will respond to the flight, until those doors are locked and it’s too late to change your mind.
Prepare yourself and baby. Try soothing tricks at home pre-flight, from getting used to a pacifier or finding a favourite string of beads or, for toddlers and younger children, finding a snack that always lifts the spirit.
Book seats with a window view for children who don’t like being stuck in one place, and centre-aisle seats for those who are scared of flying. Have loads of distractions ready to suit and negate any fear once on board, from books to tunes, white noise apps, stickers and even the dreaded iPad.
Forgive yourself for too much screen time when the only alternative is fear, and other passengers’ loathing.
2. Over prepare
Forgetting your Louis Vuitton scarf may have been the ultimate travel disaster once upon a time, but things are now more complicated. When travelling with bub, imagine the worst case scenario, and plan for it.
Being prepared for any disaster – be it head-to-toe babyccino catastrophe or a sudden dislike for all previous favourite foods – is the only way to travel.
Bring more than enough nappies, an extra set of clothing for you and baby, and surplus food or formula (even breastfeeding mums may like to pack a little formula in case). Pack a good supply of pharmaceuticals for yourself and baby.
When time zones switches are inevitable, download breastfeeding, nappy-change and bath apps such as Total Baby that record timing, so you’re on top of baby’s schedule no matter the actual time of day.
3. … But don’t over pack
It’s tempting to pack the kitchen sink, but resist. While savvy travelers always do it light, so do effective travelling parents.
There are essentials for the travelling part, but remember items such as nappies will be available at your destination. If you’re going off the beaten track, order familiar items ahead using Amazon and have them waiting for you when you arrive.
Most hotels will cater to baby’s needs and it’s prudent to book a cot ahead. Meanwhile, there are new favourite toys to be discovered wherever you’re going.
4. Be stroller smart
You don’t need to take the behemoth buggy you usually cart the babe around in all day, nor its cross-country capabilities, you need something light, portable and gate-checkable.
Whether you’re taking it trekking in New Zealand or pavement pounding in New York, make it work for the occasion or you’ll have to work overtime when you get there.
5. Be seat savvy
Book yourself and your infant in a bulkhead seat to take advantage of the bassinet, which can attach to the wall.
Failing that, book an additional seat and take along a light-weight car seat informing the airline of your plans, so baby can sit beside you and you have free hands for a glass of Champagne.
Baby carriers can be lifesavers when travelling. Not only can you wear children through security, you have free hands for strollers, carry-ons and boarding passes. A baby strapped to your chest is a baby not crawling down the airplane aisle, or screaming to be picked up.
6. Eat early
Just because you’re accompanied by a child doesn’t force you into a holiday of kids’ menus, paper tablecloths and other people’s children. Book into the restaurants you want to try, but super early, open-time early.
You may be heading out for 5 o’clock meals, but you don’t have to worry about nasty looks from other guests, the kids won’t get over tired, and you get to eat something other than chicken nuggets.
7. Family-friendly luxury
Luxury needn’t be thrown out with the bathwater when there’s a baby on board. Premium economy, business and even first class usually cater to baby and kids, despite what the faces in the premium end of the plane might tell you.
Tell the hotel you’re travelling with children and request a quiet room away from elevators and with a bath.
Make use of the room service; there’s nothing like breakfast in bed and a strong coffee delivered in the morning after you’ve spent half the night reassuring a baby with jetlag.
Want more insider secrets on the travel industry? Read Kate's most recent travel articles here.
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