How to plan for a stress-free family holiday
One in four families finds it so stressful to travel with a baby that they don’t do it at all! But holidaying with a baby needn’t be a trial with our tried-and-tested tips.
Ace your first family holiday with baby
We know it’s hard enough to leave the house with a newborn, let alone board a plane while trying to keep your little one calm and quiet. Even if you opt for a UK holiday, the idea of trawling the motorway with a crying baby can make you want to curl up in a foetal position yourself. But the good news is that with a few handy tips and tricks up your sleeve (not just tissues!) your holiday can be a relaxing escape for all of you. Here’s how...
Flying with baby
Sort your baby’s passport
Your baby will need a passport and the official advice is that it will take around three weeks (but we think it’s best to leave more time).
If you are travelling in Europe, sign up for a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). You can only apply on an individual basis, so be sure to apply for the whole family. It’s important to have both EHIC and travel insurance, because the EHIC won’t cover the costs of repatriation or lost possessions.
And did you know that Boots offers a variety of travel insurance cover within the EU, from a single trip to tailored long-stay cover (you can get 15 percent off when you book online at Boots Travel Insurance - eligibility criteria applies).
Book a bassinet
On many long-haul routes, when you book your flight, you can request a bassinet plus a ‘bulkhead’ seat (at the front of each cabin). Some airlines may charge for this. "Book as soon as possible," says Carrie Bradley, former flight attendant, author of blog Flying with a Baby and mum of two, "or you’ll end up with a baby on your lap the entire flight."
If the worst happens and you miss out? You could book another seat (expensive though!) - check with the airline whether you’re allowed to take the car seat on board, although remember that until your baby is able to sit up on their own, they should not be seated in a semi-upright position for longer than two hours, to avoid putting pressure on their spine.
Best time to fly for baby
"If you’re flying long haul, I’d recommend booking an evening flight," says GP, author and mum of two, Dr Ellie Cannon. "Babies tend to sleep anywhere, and it makes it easy to stick to your usual routine." Dress them in comfortable clothes that are easy to change, too. Now is not the time to be grappling with dungarees in a tiny loo.
On that note, make sure you have enough spare nappies, wipes and clothes for everyone. And bring a few familiar toys to distract your baby from meltdowns.
Shop smart at the airport
Packing space at a premium? Make life simpler by using Boots Order & Collect. Buy all your baby travel essentials five days before you travel, and pick them up at the airport after you clear security (so you don’t have to squeeze any more nappies into that already over-packed suitcase). It’s convenient for UK holidays, too – order those bulky essentials online and collect from the Boots store nearest your destination. Check your airport’s website first for details on restrictions and regulations.
When to board the plane with a baby
Most airlines let families with children board first – but if it’s long haul, don’t do it! "You’re going to be on that plane for a long time so make the most of the opportunity to stretch your legs – especially if you’ve also got a toddler with you," says blogger Karen Edwards of Travel Mad Mum. Wise words.
Carrying baby when you’re on board
Sure, you can take your buggy right up to the departure gate, but what about on the plane and at the other end? A baby sling will make your life a trillion times easier. Not only is it a great way to walk your baby around the plane cabin if you need to but it keeps you hands-free for wrestling with travel documents, etc.
How to breastfeed on a plane
Breastfeeding in public can be awkward, but in cramped economy seats it’s an art. "The most useful position for flights is the ‘jockey’ – where your baby straddles your knee," says Karen. She also recommends booking a window seat if you’re worried about privacy.
Plane food for your baby
A hungry baby is a grizzly baby – pouches and packets fit easily into hand luggage – just don’t forget the spoon (or the 100ml limit)! And remember to pack plenty of water.
Avoid baby earache on take-off
The change in air pressure during take-off and landing can cause havoc for little ears, which is why bottle or breastfeeding at these times is recommended. "If you’re bottle feeding, the majority of airlines will warm the bottle up for you if you let them know in advance, but they don’t have facilities to sterilize on board," says Carrie. "Pre-sterilized bags are a great option." Don’t leave it until your baby is starving hungry, either; the milk might need time to cool. And – hurrah! – you can take breast and cow’s milk and baby formula in your hand luggage, even if it’s over 100ml (just be aware that sterilized water for your tot must be kept in a baby bottle).
Keep your baby entertained on the plane
"Keep a stash of toys especially for travel – ones your baby hasn’t seen for a while. Nesting cups and toy smartphones are great choices for planes in particular," says Colleen Lanin, author of The Travel Mamas’ Guide.
Driving with baby
Wise up to latest car seat safety rules
Recent research has shown that it’s much safer for babies to travel in a rear-facing car seat, on the back seat, until they are at least 15 months old if you have an I Size or height-based car seat (up to 13kg if you have a weight-based car seat). You can also fit a specially designed mirror if you want to keep an eye on your little passenger from the rear-view at the front.
This is something to be aware of in the car, so check their tummy or back of neck for temperature rather than feet or hands (which are usually cooler). Take off extra layers and let in a little fresh air. And take regular breaks – the latest research suggests that newborns should not sit for much longer than half an hour in a car seat.
Time your car trips around naps
In an ideal world, the movement should keep them asleep. But if your little one won’t fall in with your plans and stays awake, grizzling, then it could help to have one parent sitting in the back of the car. Keep a toy or two to hand for emergency distraction and consider downloading a white noise app on your phone.
Block the sun on the backseat
"If you’re travelling by car, a black net sunscreen on the window is an absolute must," advises Boots Parenting Club health visitor Angela Davy. "Otherwise the strong sunlight might be beaming onto your baby’s face without you realizing." Do compare different sunshades, too – some have handy indicators that let you know when it’s getting too hot.
Keep milk chilled
If you’re taking milk on a long car or train journey, ensure your baby’s milk stays cold by packing it in a zip lock bag full of ice.
Entertain your baby in the car
For long car journeys, have an easy-to-access box of their favorite toys to hand, that you can hand out judiciously as soon as you spot that familiar lip wobble.
Good to go? Handy baby travel checklist
Here’s a useful ‘must-pack’ checklist to help you prepare for holidays and trips away from home with your baby:
Swap your changing bag for a rucksack, with the following essentials:
• Nappies – allow more than enough for the journey
• Travel changing mat
• Spare sets of clothes (one or two depending on the length of your journey)
• Sling (for easy carrying at the airport and on the plane)
• Snacks, water, pouches of food (with clip-on spoons)
• Toys (ideally ones they haven’t seen for a while)
• A ‘used’ muslin with its comforting familiar scent
• Universal bath plug – it will turn most basins into a baby bath
• Cool bags