Thursday, 3 March 2016

Tips & Useful information for Travelling with a Baby

Holidays, Vacations, and Travel with a Baby

Travel with a baby doesn't have to be difficult. Sure, you'll have all the typical comments like the sceptical 'good luck' and the 'rather it was you than me.' But you have to remember - you're doing this because you want to, and if you're happy and relaxed, your baby will be. The only difference is that you're not at home in the same environment. (Oh and perhaps the time difference but more about that later).

Sterilising

Bottles need to be sterile for giving milk, as milk is a bacteria haven! This is easily done on the go using Milton tablets - available at most superstores. Any airtight container will do. We have one that's just big enough for all bottles, and we split the tablets in half as they are designed for a container twice as big (easily done as they are pre-scored). The water with the tablet dissolved in it can be used for 24 hours - rinsed bottles can be added and removed interchangeably.

Milk and feeds on Flights

Ultimately any decision is down to the security scanning person themselves, but passengers with babies are ordinarily be allowed to take on pre-prepared, unopened milk feeds, and even sterilised water to make the feeds up. Check with your airline, but we generally found security staff extremely helpful and reasonable. Also on most good scheduled airlines, milk is available if you need more unexpectedly.

If you're breastfeeding this is an enormous asset on an aeroplane. Not only will baby be reassured and cosy next to you when the pressure changes, her ears will cope far better with this if feeding whilst taking off and landing, as the sucking will help equalise the pressure. Baby can also be bottle fed for similar benefits.

Feeding and swallowing makes all the difference and our baby daughter didn't scream once when journeying to or from New Zealand from the UK.  

Prams and Pushchairs

Depending on where you are going and what you are doing, a pram with proper tyres rather than little wheels is a Godsend. We have been able to take our little one in a variety of ambitious places including very sandy beaches, narrow bumpy paths in the bush, and up and down lots of steps at national parks.

Most airlines will allow you to take the pram at no extra cost if you are paying for a child's ticket. They usually allow you to use it until you board the plane, and stow it for you in the hold when you're at the gate.

Baby Carriers

The option to 'wear' your baby is priceless. Especially in confined places, places with lots of steps, or places where you need your arms free from pushing a pram. We opted for a soft cross-over sling-type carrier with my large raincoat wrapped around both myself and baby for rainy days. The soft carriers take up hardly any space and are easy to put on and take off at your leisure.     

Sleeping

Travel cots - again priceless. Most hotels will have them and set them up if they know in advance the age of your child. We haven't needed to take one with us yet but we do have a Mamas and Papas one which folds up small and sets up in just 3 steps. Great for road trips. Not the best for taking on a plane - use a hotel one in this case or buy one when you arrive.

If you're changing baby's routine and sleeping in different places and at different times, it is essential to keep routines that don't change. For example always having a bedtime story, and a certain song or tune before bed. We use 'Tranquil turtle' - it projects soft watery reflections on the ceiling with a gentle tune and switches of by itself after 20 minutes. Perfect. Also we go around the room whispering goodnight to items in the room so bubba knows it's quiet time, and also so she knows she is somewhere different and therefore she is less likely to wake up in the night wondering where she and everyone else is. So far she has not refused to go to sleep on holiday once, or woken up with a fright.

Time Difference / Jet Lag

A baby with jet lag is not a fun thing, it has to be said. However the general advice below should keep restlessness to a minimum. We did exactly this when we took her to New Zealand (12 hour time difference) and found that she stopped waking at night within 3-4 days, and even when she did, she usually went straight back down without fussing.
  • Allow them to sleep when they are tired regardless of the time of day
  • Keep bedtime signals and routines consistent and obvious
  • Don't talk to them or do any 'daytime' things when it is supposed to be night time once you've arrived
  • If they are active and awake in the middle of the night after a feed, allow this and keep the room dark and quiet as normal. Then they eventually nod off they will realise it is night time

On the Go

A changing bag with lots of pockets and a changing mat is essential - just have everything in one bag, it is far easier. We have changed bubba in so many places, and the back of the car is not abnormal. However if you're changing your baby in places which could be unclean such as a counter-top of a public toilet (or worse, the floor), the changing mat, baby wipes, and antibacterial gel are all extremely useful.  

Don't over-do the toys. We take 3-4 little toys and 2-3 little books, just rotating them so she doesn't get bored. Babies don't need constant stimulation and it is healthy for them to occupy themselves and pay attention to their environment as well as play with interactive toys. I typically choose one toy with a rattle or noise, one with a tactile touchy-feely element, and one which is shiny or lights up. This ensures you can stimulate the senses in a variety of ways.

Comfort and Safety

If you're flying for longer than a few hours it is really handy to have an airline baby bassinet (which attaches at the front to the wall and usually has a safety strip or belt across the top). These are available if you pay for your baby's ticket and don't just have her on your lap (around £90 but it varies). The bassinet is just in front of you, so your seat will be at the front - therefore lots of legroom is an added bonus! Babies are not allowed in these for take-off, landing and turbulence though of course. Make sure you use the safety belt at all times in case of unexpected turbulence. Babies don't weigh a lot and can easily lift into the air which is extremely dangerous, never risk it.

Road trips with babies are very feasible, just bear in mind that you need to stop and give the baby a break from the car seat every 2-3 hours, otherwise it is not good for the spine. Ideally don't travel more than 3 hours a day, or at least factor in long breaks and stops where the baby can lie flat. It is easy to stop and relax in Europe, especially France where the many 'Aires' include places to eat, picnic benches, play areas, babychange, and are generally very well-equipped.   

Health-wise, a common issue for children and babies can be temperatures. Carry some baby paracetamol (such as Calpol) with a measuring syringe just in case. These take up almost no room and in the case of a fever of any kind this will be very useful, and also put your mind at rest.

There is advice not to slather your baby in suncream, due to active ingredients. Best advice is to just keep baby in the shade, use a sunhat, and if you're using suncream, put it on exposed areas. Little shady canopies can be made by tying white muslin cloths to prams, chairs etc. 

If you are unsure on any of this information please check with the relevant websites/authorities. Although I endeavour to ensure this information is correct and up to date, I cannot be held liable for any incorrect information (such as the info regarding sterilising bottles).

Road Tripping With Baby! Shopping, Skiing, and Eating Out in The Vosges and the Swiss Alps

Our first road trip with the little one didn't start well, but don't let the fact that she was 3 months old seem like the problem... in fact, we can quite firmly blame the Christmas traffic! After a 6 hour journey to Dover which should have taken no more than 3, we arrived and got our ferry to France.

We chose a short road trip for our first one with our baby daughter, just so we weren't in the car for too long (it's 3 hours at a time in the carseat - maximum, otherwise you risk hurting their little backs).

Our route down to Switzerland took in the Vosges mountains and Alsace - a beautiful and unique region bordering Germany. We stopped for two nights there and made the most of the area despite there being no snow at our favourite little ski resort! I took the opportunity to enjoy a little shopping in beautiful Colmar - making sure to visit my favourite French home interiors shop, Maisons Du Monde, and Sephora the US make-up store. The Colmar Christmas market was still on, and full of unique and pretty gifts.

colmar christmas market

We found a restaurant which had space for us - the town seemed to be a very popular destination what with the Christmas market being so good, and the absence of snow on the pistes - but we enjoyed a traditional Tarte Flambee and crepes nevertheless.

Most restaurants were extremely helpful and happy in view of us having a pram and baby, the only issue was space for the pram, so in smaller restaurants we just took her in the car seat or sat her on our laps. This worked well until I knocked over an ornamental ski which nearly fell on my head because of shuffling about with a flailing baby! This was at our favourite restaurant 'Au Chant Du Bois.' It is a wonderful chalet restaurant in Le Tholy near the ski resort of Gerardmer which is loved by locals, and despite the falling ski, we had a superb evening.

Once in the Swiss Alps, we made the most of the fairy-tale Swiss charm and stayed in beautiful Thun - situated on the turquoise Lake Thunersee. Chalet-style Hotel Chartreuse was classy and immaculate. (rooms cost around 120CHF - 140CHF).


thun swiss alps
Thun Castle


We made use of the snow and went skiing at lovely high-up Meiringen. We got the little one in the pram and up in the cable cars (which no one even batted an eyelid over and which was free). We took it in turns to sit with the bubba in the cafĂ© while the other skied. This worked well as despite not being able to ski together we were able to save money and share a ski pass.



Our first road trip with our baby daughter really did reassure me that traveling with children shouldn't be a hassle as long as you don't have too many strict plans and are prepared to take it a bit more slowly due to feedings and nappies. The biggest bonus of road tripping in Europe with children is of course that Europeans love children and almost any activity and establishment is very family friendly. Where else other than France do you see dogs warmly greeted in restaurants?