Taking your baby on holiday: Advice and information
You so want it all to go right, and you find yourself worrying about how exactly it's going to work.
After all, if it's hard just to leave the house or get across town, how hard is it going to be to go on a long journey? What if you forget some vital thing? How do you make sure you have everything you need at your destination? And how do you carry your baby for a walk along the beach (it's true, the pushchair won't work in the sand!)?
Here's an ever so useful checklist.
Planes and taxis
If you want to get the low-down on how to get your family from home to the airport and then abroad without having a complete meltdown, we've got a special feature for you here.
All airlines and destinations have different guidelines, but if you're flying on Easyjet, here are their guidelines to flying with children. Some taxi companies will keep your car seat for you while you travel.
As for long train journeys, you can fold up and store the pushchair in the luggage rack at the end of the carriage. Or you could wear your baby in a sling - anything to avoid carrying pushchairs up tube station steps (though if you do take a pushchair on the underground, you'll find fellow passengers very polite and helpful).
Family seats of four around a train table are a good height for holding babies on your lap, so reserve those if you can. And if you can book early enough to afford first class tickets, it makes a huge difference.
A long car journey becomes less monotonous for you as well as the baby if you download one of TomTom's child-friendly satnav personalities like Bugs Bunny, Dora The Explorer, or Spongebob Squarepants.
You may be worrying about travelling with a cot, highchair, sterilising equipment and so on - in which case, take advantage of the many baby-friendly holidays on offer which do all this for you.
You can book a baby-friendly holiday cottage/villa/house exchange where you know there will be a cot, a highchair, safety in mind, and so on. Home exchanges with other families with a baby are increasingly easy to find - try Lovehomeswap for stylish ones.
Or consider one of these:
Cottages in the west country
Family friendly spas with pre/postnatal treatments
European holiday accommodation vetted by parents
UK including hotels and camping
If you want to hire a holiday nanny, try holidaynanny.co.uk - fees are around £465 for one week!
WHAT TO TAKE
Great portable products
If you do want to travel with your own baby products, there are some excellent light and portable options.
Medela's microwaveable bags (£11.99 on Amazon.co.uk) are practically weightless and each bag can be reused up to 20 times.
You just pop the bottles in with some tap water and microwave the bag for a few minutes - infinitely easier than trying to bring a huge plug-in steriliser machine with you.
You can buy travel-size baby bath products - we like Gaia's natural baby starter kit in travel-size bottles, £12.99 from www.nctshop.co.uk.
Or to save money just decant some of the baby bath you use at home into a smaller bottle, or buy baby bath and shampoo at your destination. Pampers' disposable changing mats (£5.99 for 12 mats from Mothercare) are very handy, too.
Liat Hughes Joshi, Parentdish's baby gear expert and author of What to Buy for Your Baby advises: "Smaller scale travel cots are a complete waste of money! If it doesn't last until age two-and-a-half or ideally three (after which your child should manage to sleep in a proper bed), don't buy it!" Ideally, look for a cot that doubles as a playpen, Liat adds.
See Liat's top five travel cots here.
These can be bulky to travel with and Liat doesn't recommend the lighter cloth kind. Liat advises: "Remember that most even vaguely child-friendly hotels, restaurants and self-catering places can provide a highchair or travel cot - whether it will be clean and you'll be happy to use it is another matter of course. It's always worth checking before rushing out and buying this stuff as sometimes you can manage a trip without."
Disposable bibs are helpful if you aren't going to be able to do laundry easily where you're heading. £2.99 for 20 from Mothercare.
Travel sleeping bags:
Grobags fit a five-point harness so you can use them in a buggy or carseat while travelling. If using a sleeping bag on a hot holiday (26 degrees in the room), the recommended tog is 0.5, with a short-sleeved bodysuit underneath, or for a summer temperature room of 21-24 degrees, use a 1 tog bag and a long or short sleeved bodysuit depending on temperature.
Travel health kit:
• Pack any medicines in your hand luggage, but check beforehand (see above) for check-in quantity restrictions.
• Drinks (cooled boiled water for babies) keep babies hydrated on flights. Encourage them to suck to ease painful pressure in their ears
• Calpol or Nurofen individual sachets for children to lower fever and ease pain are handy on holiday as they're lightweight.
• Thermometre – to keep an eye on fever
• Insect repellent and after-bite/sun balm - Green Baby does some lovely natural products.
• Re-hydration sachets for vomiting and diarrhoea (ask your chemist)
OUT AND ABOUT AT YOUR DESTINATION
Travel is where having a lightweight pushchair comes into its own. Once your baby is big enough, you can use a lightweight stroller instead of a bells-and-whistles pushchair. Or opt for a relatively lightweight all-in-one pushchair like a Bugaboo Bee or a Maclaren Volo or Quest. You need to be able to carry and fold it easily.
But of course you can't easily push a buggy around on the beach, so if you're planning to spend any length of time walking along the shore, a baby sling or carrier is ideal.
Lightweight and functional ones include the Ergo, Didymos, Close Caboo and Babybjorn (try the NCT Shop which stocks most) but they are all very different so do your research.
The Ergo is a lightweight simple backpack, ideal for babies over five months, as you can use it to carry a toddler on your back - though you can also carry them on your front or your hip.
The Didymos is a traditional woven wrap - it takes some practice to learn to use it but once you can, it's very versatile for carrying all sizes of baby on your front or back.
The Close Caboo and Babybjorn are best for smaller babies as you can only wear them on your front, but they're attractively designed and easy to use.
Some changing bags are especially designed for travelling - PacaPod makes backpacks as well as changing bags which men don't mind carrying. The main travel features include super-organised detachable inner 'pods' for feeding and changing things; a built-in coolerbag; plus space for a laptop. We like the Mirano, £95.
The Frommers With Your Family series offers essential tips and expert opinion on the best value family-friendly accommodation, dining, attractions and events.
Don't forget to bring plenty of toys for the trip. Easy-to-transport ones with plenty of playing-time include the V-tech baby laptop, £12.49 on Amazon.co.uk and the Early Learning Centre's Lights and Sounds Buggy Driver, £10.
Top tip: bring along a DVD of In The Night Garden (£8.49 from Amazon.co.uk to entertain your baby on your laptop on the journey and at your destination.
BABY AT THE BEACH
Huggies' Little Swimmers disposable nappies (£3.66 for 12 at Mothercare) are perfect for swimming on holiday.
You can also get inflatable baby arm bands and swim-seats, like this one, £12 from Mothercare.
Babies need full-on sun protection - the NHS advises they wear factor 50+ sunblock as well as a wide-brimmed hat, and using a parasol over the buggy.
Babies do need passports for international travel - they cost £49 and do involve some work - you will need passport photos of your baby, their birth certificate and a co-signatory.
Plus they take a few weeks to process once you've completed the application form.
More details here.
The old E111 form that covers UK citizens if they need medical assistance in Europe is now called the EHIC.
If you fill in the free online application, you can add your baby's details so they are covered, too. But it takes around a week to get your card, plus you also need to take out private travel insurance on top of this and include your baby.
Bon voyage, babies!
Click on the banner below for more summer holiday fun, features and food: