Check out my top tips for travelling with babies and toddlers that I discussed on Newstalk Drive Time and let it help you with your travel plans.
Before you go:
Do your research.
Discuss what type of holiday you want with your partner. Many parents book the top family hotels because they think they need to. A kids pool may be all you need. Kids clubs can be handy, but many kids clubs only start at age 3, you will need a specific club or creche that caters for babies and toddlers.
If travelling with an infant, ask yourself are you going to leave your baby in a crèche? So many parents don’t even use the facilities on offer. Trust me there will be a time when you need to book the best family properties, where slides in the pool and mini discos will be the best part of your child’s holiday. But for now, why not take advantage while you can and book a holiday that suits you too?
If you want to book a top family complex that caters for babies and toddlers, look at TUI Holidays Holiday Villages or Family Life resorts. These are all inclusive resorts where all meals and drinks are included in the price of your stay. They will also have evening crèche facilities so you can have a ‘date night’!
You don’t have to worry about bringing the kitchen sink because most will have baby packs with highchairs and blenders that you use. Many even have their own baby corner at meal times, where you can choose what you want from the buffet and blend it yourself. What ever hotel or apartment you choose, check beforehand what baby equipment they have available, it may be a lot easier and cheaper than bringing them in your luggage allowance.
Don’t travel during school holidays.
One of the best things about travelling with babies and toddlers, is that you can travel at any time! Take advantage of the fact that your child hasn’t started school yet and travel off peak. Not only will you save yourself a lot of money but you should be able to get availability in the best hotels / apartments and should also avoid the crowds.
Stay near a beach
If you want time to sunbathe, book an apartment or hotel close to the beach. Babies and toddlers can entertain themselves for hours with a bucket and spade. If you base yourself a distance from the sea shore, you won’t have to worry about them going into the water. Sitting by the pool with a crawling baby can not only be quite stressful, but you will spend your day jumping up and down from your sun lounger for fear that they will fall into the pool.
Don’t be put off by long flights.
With the exception of the crawling age (usually 7 – 12 months) travelling with babies and toddlers on airplanes should not be a big ordeal. In most cases they will have a nap, and once you bring plenty of snacks and toys to keep them entertained, it is usually fairly straightforward. Many people choose to book short flights to Majorca or the Algarve (2 and a half hours) but then spend 2 hours on a coach to get to their resort. Personally I would prefer to spend 4 hours on a plane and take a 10 minute taxi ride to my accommodation (Lanzarote, Tenerife etc.)
If you are flying to the USA, fly direct where possible. Being able to clear customs in Ireland before you fly is a life saver. There is nothing worse than arriving after a long flight only to queue for 90 minutes to clear customs. We flew via Heathrow to San Francisco last year and we barely made the connection, we literally had to run onto the plane. And although we made the flight, our bags didn’t! We had no luggage for two days. I’m a firm believer that families should fly direct where possible. If this is not feasible, make sure you allow lots of connecting time between flights.
Make use of your child’s luggage allowance:
Considering you pay as little as €20 for flights for babies under 2, some airlines give a very generous baggage allowance. Ryanair allow a 5KG baby bag plus two pieces of baby equipment, a buggy and either a booster seat, a car seat or travel cot. Aer Lingus offer the same, although they state the baby bag must be part of the adults allowance. Airlines policies vary but check the luggage allowance before you go. Once your children turn two, you have to pay for a seat and so they may be entitled to a 5-10kg hand luggage allowance, as well as a buggy, so make use of this too and save on checked luggage charges.
This might sound obvious but always count every single piece of luggage you have (there can be a lot with babies) and keep that number in your head when collecting from the carousel. I left a bag on the carousel once. Whether it was baby brain or just having too many bags, I forgot one and there is no re-entry back into the baggage hall…
Make a list of all things to do/bring and do this in the run up to the holiday and at your leisure. The night before the trip can be fairly hectic and something can be easily overlooked. That way you won’t arrive at your destination, having forgotten something. Maybe a checklist of the most important items that must come home too, so you know you won’t leave anything behind.
Airport and Plane Tips:
Prepacked formula is your best bet.
Babies’ bottles technically don’t fall under the 100ml liquids rule, but not all airports, or airport staff for that matter, tend to acknowledge that. You should be ok to bring large bottles through security in Irish airports. They might just ask you to taste it to prove it is formula. However I would always bring empty sterilised bottles and powder dispensers just incase the baby’s bottle is taken from you, particularly for your return journey. You can also bring pre packed formula cartons that are 100ml size. Calpol comes in sachets now too which are much handier for the plane.
Bring plenty of supplies for the journey.
Change nappies right before you board the plane, as the changing facilities on planes are tiny! Bring a change of clothes too, in case of accidents and a blanket to help your baby sleep. When travelling with babies and toddlers, snacks can be a life saver, especially if delayed. Bring more than you think you need, babies always seem to eat more when travelling.
Depending on the age of your child, I found the Aquadoodle great, you don’t have to worry about markers destroying your clothes, or the airplane, and they are suitable from 18 months. A new toy is always a good idea too, something to keep them occupied for a while. If they have a favourite toy that they can not live without (there is usually one!), bring a second one. If you loose it when abroad it can ruin your trip, having a second one in the bag can be a life saver.
There are phone Apps that cater for young kids too and if they are watching TV at that stage you could always download a movie or TV programme that they could watch on a tablet or phone. I have a media share which is a portable device that creates it’s own WiFi network so you can watch movies at any time, on the plane, in restaurants, the car etc and you don’t need WiFi to use it. I don’t travel anywhere without it, but it might be used more with older kids.
While you are away:
Keeping safe in the sun.
I think it goes without saying to apply sunscreen regularly, but you should also test it on your baby’s skin before you go, to ensure they don’t break out in a rash. There are sensitive skin creams for babies, I use the Boots ‘Soltan’ sensitive brand normally and find it good. Body suits can be a God send – you don’t have to worry if you missed a spot! Sun Tents are also a good buy, if you plan on spending a lot of time at the beach.
Buy light coloured clothing as dark colours hold the heat more. Bring a few hats and sunglasses – you will lose one or two! Download the Wolfram Sun Exposure Reference App. It will tell you UV forecasts so you can see what time of the day the UV rays will be at their highest, it is not always midday!
Keep your baby cool.
Give your children plenty of water to avoid dehydration. If travelling with babies and toddlers during very hot temperatures, always book a hotel or an apartment with air conditioning. Check that it is in the bedrooms too and not just the living room. Hire a white or light coloured car as dark cars hold the heat. This might be a hard task to guarantee, so if you can’t get one, buy a cheap windscreen reflector from a local supermarket.