Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Travel with your children – it’s the best!

Reading this week about Karen Edwards and Shaun Bayes travels around the world with baby Esme I was filled with admiration – what an utterly fantastic experience for the new family of three.

The story stuck a chord with me – there’s nothing better than travelling with your family for introducing your little ones to rich new cultures and experiences. What a fantastic and fulfilling way to spend maternity leave too.

My own daughter, Bridget, is a month younger than Karen and Shaun’s daughter, and we have enjoyed several holidays in her sixteen months, when work has allowed; travelling to places such as Greece, Egypt and Hong Kong; for up to a fortnight at a time. We have streamlined ‘travel essentials’ for baby on each trip so I applaud Esme’s parents – how clever they must have had to pack.

Five month old Bridget in Egypt

Bridget aged nine months, Kefalonia
Bridget in Kowloon Park, Hong Kong aged 14months

During my pregnancy, I was warned against travelling with children by several people especially with young babies. When I mentioned at a baby shower that I was thinking of booking a trip abroad in the new year, with my four or five month old baby, an acquaintance laughed and said ‘good luck – you’ll change your mind when you realise how much stuff you’ll need.’ I didn’t.

I’m keen to dispel the myths surrounding travel with a baby or toddler – of course it can be challenging in terms of the actual journey – but the output far outweighs an only, potentially, troubling journey. Quality family time together, minus any at-home or work distractions is priceless; and introducing new types of places, food and people to your child will surely only shape the type of person they will grow into and teach them the importance of embracing different cultures. Most importantly the feel-good factor of travelling with the people you love most in the world is an incomparable high.

Here are my top tips having visited Egypt, Kefalonia and Hong Kong with Bridget aged at 5 months, 9 months and 14 months respectively:

  • Nappies are universal. You might not get your usual brand – but unless going somewhere remote, you probably will. So save on space and just pack enough for the journey and the first day or two. This saves SO much space. 
  • Get a new toy or book for the journey – this will hopefully capture little one’s attention long enough to avoid any mid-air/ on-road/on-water tantrums. Equally remember boarding a plane or boat is very exciting for little ones so make it into a real adventure for them.
  • Travel with Calpol – there’s nothing worse than a screaming baby or child on a flight, especially when it’s your own. Bridget had a nightmare flight on the way back from Egypt with teething – luckily a quick dose of procured from the flight attendants calmed her right down.
  • Research the cities or resorts you’re visiting – not everywhere will be baby/child friendly and some places will be a no-go with a buggy or pram too. Plan ahead and list the places you can go to. That said, if travelling with a partner or companion, you can take it in turns to do some of the non-baby-friendly activities. 
  • Embrace the food for little ones too – providing little one’s aren’t just taking their very first solid mouthfuls – you’ll be likely to find things they can eat. We discovered Bridget absolutely loved moussaka, feta cheese and fresh pitta in Kefalonia and not a day went by in Hong Kong where she didn’t have a Char Sui Bao but we also let her try lots of other things including octopus! Introducing them to a wide range of foods from a young age will (hopefully) avoid them becoming a fussy eater.
Bridget enjoying octopus tentacles in Hong Kong
  • That said, if you do have a fussy eater, or are worried take a good selection of little one’s favourite snacks.
  • If travelling to warm climes, 100% make sure you have plenty of factor 50 for the little ones - the last thing you want is their skin getting sore from the sun. Also don't forget you'll be carrying/cuddling your baby or child so don't slap on the oil yourself or this may rub off on them and in turn lead to them burning!
  • Don’t stress – the more you overthink or panic about the journey or the actual trip the more stressful it’s likely to become. By being as laid back as you can, will, at least in my experience make for a more enjoyable journey for all.

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