Any parent can tell you, that even an outing to the shops can take hours in preparation, multiple bags of supplies and involve a lot of stress. Leaving the house with a baby/toddler is no easy feat and going on holiday is even more complicated.
Recently we have been on quite a few trips, both day trips and weeks away and I thought it would be a good idea to share my tips, tricks and things I’ve learned.
Two very important things: Mini Cooler Bag and Variety
When going on a day trip, you always remember to pack the nappies, most of the time remember spare clothes and some toys but the difficulty is always with the food. What to pack, how much to pack, will we be at a restaurant or not?
I’ve found that having a cooler bag makes all the difference. Fill it with a variety of things. Some fruit pieces, maybe a fruit smoothie sachet, kid friendly biscuits, crisps or rice cakes, milk and water, yoghurt, some food you’d feed them for lunch. Basically stuff as much as you can into that bag as possible. It means that even if you are out for lunch, if they are hungry before the food arrives you can distract them and if they are having an off day where their favourite fruit is not blueberries for the first time ever you have other options.
My other advice would be if you are driving somewhere, remember that they will only sleep for some of the time. So if it is a long trip plan for long breaks. Maybe a 2 hour lunch picnic so that they can get rid of all the excess energy from the car.
Location. Finding somewhere to stay that becomes a base for you to travel/ tourist from is really important. I find that it takes my kid a few days to settle into a new place, even if she is sleeping in her travel cot from home. So being able to sleep in the same place every day is really great. It also means that you don’t have to pack up all the chaos to move somewhere new and unpack again all that often which takes some of the stress out.
Investigate the baby/kid friendly places to eat. And if you’re just winging it, try and do an early sitting for dinner as this means the place is practically empty and if one of you runs around with a toddler who wants to walk and explore while the other eats, then at least you aren’t disturbing too many other people. For lunch where possible picnic type meals work really well, allowing you to relax a bit and letting them get rid of some of their energy.
Find your closest soft play area. Touristing is hard work, and you end up with a kid in a car seat, buggy, sling or high chair for most of the day. Which means they are building up explosive levels of energy that need to be let loose. A hotel room is often not sufficient for this and it means more tantrums, tears and chaos for you. Even if you don’t need to take your kid to the soft play knowing where one is means you have the option if you are at your wits end or if it buckets down with rain.
Guided tours are risky. Kids have a knack of being their worst possible selves at the worst possible times. Recently we booked a steam train outing. Faye loves trains. She screamed all the way up the mountain and most of the way down the mountain. Causing us to miss most of the trip and the other passengers to slowly evacuate out onto the railings outside trying to escape. And then to quickly revert back inside when we tried to take her outside as a distraction.
Cleaning supplies. Take a small bottle of dishwashing liquid with you. If your child is weaning, then there are bottles, bowls, spoons, bibs and numerous other things that end up needing to be washed each night. Staying in hotels/ guest houses you don’t have a kitchen and the bathroom sink with hand soap isn’t quite the same. If you’re still bottle feeding and need to sterilize, some guest houses will let you use their microwaves but that’s worth checking before you book. Or use travel sterilizing tablets. Same can be said for clothing. Sometimes you need to wash something and a little bit of dishwashing liquid goes a long way.
Pack light. Well as light as you can. Especially if you are travelling in Europe, you can buy baby supplies easily. Only take with you what you absolutely need for the first day or so. (Unless you’re driving and have the space) Buying formula, nappies and baby food isn’t a hardship, and when you’re flying you already have so much stuff to take finding any way to make the load lighter helps. A lot.
Don’t forget the toys and the Calpol. Remember to keep something in hand luggage to keep the little one entertained. Their favourite toy, blanket, bottle if they have one. This is to try and keep them calm and if all else fails, Calpol is your friend. Depending on the child you might be able to get them to drink milk or water during take off and landing to help with the ear pressure. Or you might get lucky and have a kid who doesn’t mind. But don’t feel bad if you need to Calpol, it keeps the baby calm, the parents calm and stops the other passengers from noticing there is a kid on the plane.
For all of you brave parents travelling with children, good luck! And remember you are often more aware of your child than anyone else.