Guest Blogger: Anna Parker of Travelling with Penelope and Parker.
10 tips for travelling with a little explorer
We love to travel, always have always will. It’s in baby’s blood. It’s where the blog started and so every time we have a new adventure or trip i’m thrilled for us all, including the blog, that I can capture the memories! Since the little one was born last July we’ve taken a fair few trips - we’ve only been abroad twice (to Vienna and Abu Dhabi) but we have had a fair few trips around the UK (London, Peak District, Cheshire, Dorset, Cornwall, Somerset). Each trip takes me a long time to plan, and longer to get through the washing when we get home. But each trip is fantastic, and whilst it isn’t relaxing like holidays of old it is fantastic to adventure with the little one and see him discover new things in new places. I will never tire of taking him to the beach, despite my dislike of cleaning sand out of everywhere for months afterwards!
So here’s a few tips from me, but I’m always looking for more suggestions, especially for trips on planes with toddlers, as we’ll have that to deal with soon enough!
1. Get on with it and make it part of a regular routine
Our first trip was when the little one was 3 months, just up to London for the night. And a month later we went to Vienna to see friends. Getting on with it early, whilst baby is still relatively quiet in the crying stakes and fairly self-suffient on my milk was definitely an easy time to dip our toes. We have a tried and tested packing list and having done it a couple of times we find that we aren’t nervous about doing it again. Yes it takes hard work and it isn’t all smooth sailing, but by making it something that happens every few months it isn’t as overwhelming and so is far more enjoyable for everyone!
2. Know how to put the travel cot up in rapid speed.
I would really recommend building the travel cot a few times before you go somewhere and need to use it. The instructions that came with our Joie one made no sense and definitely don’t match up with how it actually gets erected. Thankfully we had practiced putting the cot up a few times at home, so that when we arrived somewhere at nap time and needed to get the cot ready to use in moments, we could. I’d also recommend making up the mattress with your sheets before you travel so that it’s one less faff on arrival. And buying an extra softer mattress to use too. When we go somewhere that has a cot, I always take my own sheets just because they are a nicer texture and smell of home.
3. A monitor that runs on WiFi
I didn’t have one of these to start with, but needed one in the summer so I could sit in the garden while baby napped! It’s been amazing on holiday. Sometimes cute old little holiday cottages have walls too thick for a normal monitor to work. And sometimes you want to be able to sit in the sun on a terrace just a bit further from the room than a normal monitor would reach. In the hotel that we just came back from in Cornwall they have a baby listening service in the evenings so that parents can have dinner in the restaurant. I personally wasn’t happy with just that, so was glad that we could have an iPhone on the dining table next to the listening buzzer as a second pair of ears, and some eyes.
4. Travel pushchair and transfers
So the first time we flew we took the Bugaboo and I would never do this again. Too stressful. Invest in a travel pushchair that folds up to be part of your hand luggage. This was a game changer for us. Wheeling a sleeping baby onto the plane and transferring him straight into my arms still asleep on the plane was so simple for us all. And there was no risk of pushchair damage either with it just above my head. We were gifted a Nowababy seat liner and this was another game changer. All pushchairs seem to be made of non-breathable fabric so in hot weather baby gets sticky. The seat liner has changed all that for us. I also tend to use a company called BlackLane for airport transfers as they provide the right size car seat at no extra cost, one less thing to fly with and worry about going missing or being damaged. And while we are on key items - the toxic high chairs that seem to be offered for babies long filled me with dread. So much so I now have two different travel high chairs. One is fabric and straps onto a normal chair. The other is a Phil and Ted Lobster, and we actually use it at home now too. Not only does it mean you don’t have to use the toxic chairs, but it means you can eat with baby anywhere with ease.
5. Pool float
Our little one loves the autonomy of bobbing around next to us in the pool in a pool float that supports him and keeps him safe. When he’s being held by one of us he mainly just splashes and kicks and it is all quite exhausting. The float means that he can have quiet time in the pool with us as well and is starting to learn how to propel himself around. I suspect that on our next trip, if he keeps up his swimming lessons, he might need arm bands instead, but for the first year and a bit the float was loved by us all. Definitely worth the effort to blow up!
6. Choose a hotel and room carefully
I’ve never been a fan of people that take a baby to a non-family hotel as I really think it is unfair on all other guests, however good the baby is. It’s been a bit of a change looking for family friendly hotels that still include something of the style we liked pre-baby. But we have found some gems already. We’ve also focussed on choosing rooms with plenty of space inside and out. When baby naps it’s great to be able to be outside, rather than stuck indoors with him. The time we had our own pool was a particular favourite. I’ve also tended to book bigger rooms that we normally would just so that we have space to spread out and so that baby doesn’t have to sleep right next to me like he did as a new born. And all inclusive, something I’ve long avoided, actually works really well for weaning. And family hotels that serve baby tea at 5pm are truly inspired too - the babies eat and the parents drink!
7. Packing squares
I have always loved these, but they are even more useful for our bags and baby’s bags, especially when trying to find something in the dark or as quietly as possible. I divide up all the different types of clothes into different squares and magically seem to be able to get far more into our cases and bags when I use them.
8. Sainsbury’s and Boots airside
Favoured shopping spots for a staycation or an overseas trip respectively. I always use Sainsbury’s for deliveries when we want something dropped off at a holiday home as helpfully (unlike others) they tell you 12 hours before drop off if there’s anything that they don’t have for you, so you can plan ahead. For flying, I pre-order food (and milk when we needed it) to an airside Boots shop. When we get to the airport I wheel an empty hand luggage case through security and then fill it up with my delivery at Boots. Takes the pressure out of packing and also means you know they’ll have what you need!
9. Travel sleeping bag
These are so useful, we’ve had a few JoJo ones now. The beauty is that you can plug baby into the car seat or pushchair in it, just as you would with normal clothes. When we’ve been away with him and wanted to go out for the evening with him asleep while we ate they’re so helpful. The normal bedtime routine happens - bath, milk, book, sleeping bag. And then we pop him into the pushchair and walk him to sleep before going to dinner. That was the plan last weekend too at a wedding, but despite mostly doing his bedtime routine there was no sleeping, until we bundled him and his sleeping bag into his car seat. Then his eyes shut as he settled down in his seat!
10. Three sun loungers
Never just take two sun loungers, thinking only adults need one. On our first day by the pool on holiday earlier in the year we had two between us and the little one toppled sideways off one and hit his head. He was fine thankfully, although he did announce his arrival to all and sundry because of the shock. Since then we take 3 loungers, and push them together. Then it’s far harder to escape to danger!
Overall, I would just say, plan for it all and then some more. And take washing up liquid, washing powder for everything else. And make sure to relax too - whilst it is going to be more hard work than holidays of old, I’d say from our experience that the new normal is far