Your ultimate guide to summer travel with littlies
Staring down the barrel of a holiday away with kids can be a scary prospect. Will anyone sleep? Will the journey there and back be an extended grizzle fest? How is it possible for someone so tiny to need so much stuff? The notion of a staycation at home can suddenly seem quite appealing. But don’t go calling the whole thing off – a bit of planning, along with keeping some tricks up your sleeve, can go a long way to helping you have a fabulous holiday.
Practice makes perfect
One of my favourite holiday tips came from a friend who is a mother of four. When I complained about how the novelty factor of the baby and toddler sharing a room was robbing us all of sleep, she asked, “Did you get them used to sharing a room before you went away?” Um, no. We didn’t. “If you want them to be flexible away from home, get them used to being flexible beforehand,” advised my well-seasoned friend. Try to mimic the sleeping set-up you’ll have on holiday as much as possible before you go. If you have more than one child and they’ll be sharing a room, do a few trial runs at home first.
If your baby is going to be sleeping in a port-a-cot for the first time, set one up in their room at home to get them used to it.
Day sleeps can be tricky when you’re travelling – especially if you’re going to be out sightseeing, or don’t want to be racing back to your accommodation for naps. If your baby usually has day sleeps in their cot at home, start trialling on-the-go naps in their buggy so that you can be adaptable with sleeping locations while you’re away.
More sleep saviours
Portable blackout shades and buggy covers can be really helpful if your little one needs darkness to nod off (the one downside to long, sunny summer days). Baby shops and online retailers such as The Sleep Store have plenty of options for windows and on-the-go solutions, or you could get handy with towels and drawing pins over the bedroom window. Note: always check bedrooms have adequate ventilation, and never cover a buggy with a towel or blanket as it can overheat your baby.
Re-create the home bedroom as much as possible – if you use a sleep-training clock or night lights at home, make sure they’re in the suitcase along with any special sleep snugglies and the sleeping bag. If space allows, throw in the usual fitted cot sheet you use at home.
If your little one is used to a quiet house for sleep time and you’re going to be sharing accommodation with friends or relatives, investigate white-noise options to help block out unfamiliar sounds (there are a whole host of apps and devices to deliver white noise). An electric fan is great for this purpose as well as keeping the room cool in warm holiday spots.
Are we there yet?
Easily the most daunting part of any holiday: the journey there. We’ve all either been or seen the parent with a howling baby on a plane, or the parent in a car who looks like they want to be anywhere but where they are right now. Keeping busy little people entertained and still, isn’t always an easy task.
Front pack Our front pack was my best friend on many a trip. Navigating check-in, customs halls and baggage claim is a much easier process with two free hands and a baby who can see what’s going on. Following a disaster flight with my 10 month old, I quickly learned to pop her in the front pack at the first sign of fractiousness on the plane. On most flights we took, I could be found bobbing up and down at the front or back of the plane with a small person attached to me.
Umbrella strollers When they’re too big for the front pack, travel umbrella strollers that fold up to almost nothing are a lifesaver – particularly for international travel with long walks between terminals. Progress is much faster, and your shoulders are then free to carry your enormous carryon baggage, because… Props Even though you’ll feel like a pack horse (and will be limited to 7kg), it’s a good idea to have an arsenal of entertainment with you for air travel with little ones. Books, toys, sticker books, ipad/tablet, headphones, treats – load them all in and ignore your “no more than 20 minutes of screen time per day rule”. One of my favourite props for the toddler age is a small etch-a-sketch. No felt-tips or pencils to scramble after on the plane floor, and it’s great to take along to cafes/restaurants on holiday as well. If there are tears about erasing the picture before starting a new one, you can always take a photo of each masterpiece on your phone (our holiday snaps are heavily peppered with “my favouritest drawing!” pictures). Take more than you think you’ll need: With food and clothes, less definitely isn’t more. If you have a flight delay, you’ll be grateful for the extra bottle or packet of crackers, and if there’s an up-chuck or leaky nappy, you’ll appreciate the changes of clothes (for baby and parent). My husband shook his head in disbelief at how much I’d packed into our carry-on the first time we flew. But when we arrived at our destination, our baby was down to just her nappy and a manky cardigan, and I was in a singlet not really designed to be worn as outerwear.