What’s the deal with travelling with an infant for the first time?
So what’s the deal with travelling with an infant for the first time? How on earth do I go about this? Balancing flight times and nap times, how little man would deal with his ears popping on the flight, the logistics of breast feeding on a plane, baby skin care in the hot sunshine, balcony safety at the hotel … dear god there’s so much to think about and attempt to negate.
Firstly, let me clarify that by infant I mean 0-2 years old. From 2-16 our offspring become ‘child’ fares according to the airlines, and different rules, fares etc apply. Secondly, let me clarify where I’m coming from and what travelling with an infant felt like such a massive deal for me.
For the past decade, travel has been my thing, my passion, where all my money and time was spent. Then chickpea came along, and all that changed.
For years I boarded countless flights As someone praying that I wouldn’t end up sat next to a screaming child. Well, the shoe is now firmly on the other foot. I am the parent of the scream enabled child, praying that my girlfriend and I do not become labelled as those parent who couldn’t control their child and ruined everyones flight. Fun times! … But now that I’ve worn that shoe, I can only accept that my previous attitude was totally brattish and selfish. Of course parents deserve a break, more so than any young (ish) backpacker wanting to write a travel blog does. I see it now, and can appreciate it. Douchebag I was.
I should also add that I write this post now as a new dad, who is not only repenting for past sinful attitudes, but also as a new dad who is not only a pessimist, but who also has with a history of anxiety. In short, whilst I’m quote happy to go off exploring new places and ways of life on a budget, I am also quite highly strung when it comes to home life, and generally spend my time waiting for something go wrong, so if the below is written in a slightly fearful and negative tone I ask you please indulge my awful and complex (sometimes contradictory) personality.
So hopefully you’ll now understand that I love travel, and love my son, and I want my son to love travel as much as I do, but taking him overseas for the first time was terrifying, as I was just waiting for something to go wrong. Got it?
OK, enough waffle from me, let’s begin. Here goes my experience of travelling with an infant for the first time. Beginning at the very start … because starting anywhere else is just silly.
So where to go when travelling with your infant for the first time? Do you go big on the first attempt, or play it safe?
Somewhat predictably we went with option numero two and played it safe, choosing a relatively short flight time of 2.5 hours – Fromm London to Menorca.
Bear in mind though, just because the flight time is short, doesn’t mean its still not a days worth of travel for the little one. Our flight was at 7am but that meant rising at 3am, and we didn’t make it to our hotel until some 11 hours later. He was cream crackered.
Truth be told we actually sought out not only a destination closer to home, but paid a little more for ‘better’ flight times, but more about the flight later.
Another thing to consider with destination choices is whether visa’s will be required. Again we chose somewhere close and in the EU on account of no additional reading and paperwork being required.
Whilst I would have loved to take little man backpacking somewhere exotic, I think that when travelling with an infant for the first time, your chosen destination should cover the real important stuff – language, access to cash, emergency service etc. It’s not just about where YOU want to go anymore.
Now this is 2 fold.
A) what time of year (destination depending)
B) when you child is x months old
To be honest I thought we’d nailed the first. We went for the first week on October, on account of it being outside of the school holidays (cheaper, less crowded etc), but also with the hope of that big burning ball of gas up in the sky hanging around and dishing out a bit of vitamin D love.
I was lovely for the first couple of days, but then the winds picked up and it got a bit chilly. Of course that’s the risk you take when travelling late on in the season, and luckily we had packed some warm clothing for the evenings anyway.
The other part of the ‘timing’ equation could have been better admittedly. Having just learned to crawl and being well on the way to walking, our little man was keen to explore every nook and cranny of the resort we were staying in. Every sharpe, jagged, dangerous inch of the place. In turn we were all go, chasing him down, making sure he stayed up right, spotting anything dangerous ahead of time. It was exhausting to tell you the truth.
At dinner on the first night we both agreed this would have been a lot lot easier a month or so ago when little man wasn’t quite there with independent movement of the crawling kind.
Just something to think about. Getting both aspects of the ‘timing’ equation would be the jackpot.
You’re obviously looking for the weather aren’t you, but be sure to quickly any public holidays whereby facilities you might use could close and leave you ‘stranded’.
So you know where you want to go, but you’re going to need that little red book to enable to little one to pass go at customs.
It’s laughable really on that you have to somehow take a reasonable pic of your little one – plain background, no shadow, no movement, straight face where possible – so to have it last for the next 5 years, despite the fact that your child will look so different within the next 6 months, let alone 5 years. Seriously, what do the passport controllers even do with baby passports?
Even though you can now submit passport photos digitally, there are online tools such as Paspic.com, whereby they apply an algorithm to tell you the % chance of your photos being accepted by the passport office. They also print the pictures at the right size and mail them to you. For £6 I think it was a worthwhile purchase, and saved us any delay to the process owing to rejected photos.
Ok, so you have a booking and passports. Now to pack.
Typically I was always a light packer. Determined to fit all of what o needed in hand luggage, save have to check a bag and then wait around the carousel for it at the other end. The cost of checked luggage was always a big turn off too.
This time around checked luggage was included in our package holiday, a whopping 22kg each for the Mrs and I. It seemed a lot, but we managed to use up 90% of the allowance , and even bought along a lightweight buggy for good measure.
A large part of the 44kg + hand luggage consisted of the following …>
- Swim nappies
- Baby food
- Lotions and potions (inc medicine)
… and then there was his clothes, and the Mrs cloths, and finally a zip pocket to squeeze my weeks worth of clothes into. I got on the plane looking like Joey from Friends when we wears everything chandler owns … I wore pants though FYI.
Check out your airlines ‘Infant allowance’, and policy on buggies. For example, on top of our 22kg per adult checked luggage, Jet 2 also allowed us an additional 10kg for our little mans essentials. We could have taken any 2 from his buggy, travel cot and /or car seat. We only took the buggy, but were allowed to take it all the way to the steps of the aircraft. Handy!
Another thing to potentially look at packing is a blow up baby bath. This is just in case your room only has a shower, but also because it can act as a tiny type paddling pool too. Happy days!
The alarm buzzed at something silly like 2am. On the drive to the airport there were still people coming home from nights out in town … that used to be me once upon a time … in a galaxy far far away, when I was able, and didn’t have this dad bod.
Anyway, it was early and getting little man into the car with all the bags was no small task we made it though and for the most part it was easier than i expected.
We didn’t, but I dare say staying at the airport the night before would make your lives a fair bit easier. Failing that, book an early flight so that the roads are clearer would be my other tip .. assuming you’re driving.
I would also advise a baby carrier if you’re using an off site airport car parking facility, as it is unlikely the coach/van transferring you to the airport will have a child’s car seat (unless you’re taking yours on the aircraft of course).
When travelling with an infant for the first time, the flying probably sticks out as being the most difficult part. The reality of our experience was that it went ok. There we tears, but tears of tiredness rather than fear or being uncomfortable. Tears of tiredness I can now easily recognise, and know that in just a few mins I can rock little man off to the land of nod. Of course I still did the British thing and apologised to everyone in sight, but yeah a small victory.
Whether such a victory would have been had had we chosen a destination much further away I’m not so sure. We started small on purpose, from London to the Balearics. We toyed with Ireland to see family, but then despised we wanted it to be just the 3 of us, but still looked for a family friendly location whereby if there was an emergency, language was unlikely to be much of a barrier, likewise we knew we’d most likely be able to get hold of some branded/gold quality baby products if we ran out.
A 2.5 hour flight seemed just about right. A stretch of our parenting skills, but not an impossible test.
With regards to arrangements on board. We managed to get seats together without paying any extortionate fees – although the airline did try it – this made things a lot lot easier to share the load. We also managed to get window and middle seats, so with the mRs ticked up against the window and my dad bod forming a flabby and formidable shield, we were actually able to feed little man quite easily. The window itself was nice distraction for little mr too.
A friend at work actually gave me this one, but it works so I’ll share. Before the flight, buy your little one a few new toys (not too noisy) but do not let them see the toys ahead of the flight. The idea being that something so new will keep their attention for much longer, and ultimately keep them entertained (and quieter) for longer. BBC Iplayer and Amazon Prime downloads of Peppa Pig etc are also gold!
Flight survived, now from airport to resort.
I honestly could find so little about transfer arrangements that in the end we just decided to wing it. We toyed with lugging our car seat on the flight (what’s one more thing to carry ♂️) but ultimately decided against it, in case the baggage handlers decided to test its crash impact functionalities, and managed to render it useless.
The transfer was only 20 mins – another thing to consider, and we purposely chose somewhere with a short transfer time – but that’s not the point, and accident could have occurred at any point and I’m somewhat amazed holiday operators don’t have stricter regulations in place for the transfer of infants and children.
When Hiring a car of course you’ll demand a baby seat included, but how you guarantee it’s quality, and whether you can get an iso fix base I’m unsure. Either cart your own seat over there, or again you take the risk that the car hire company is reputable and employs high quality standards.
Bit of a repeat, but as above, have a Baby Bjorn (other baby carriers also available) to secure your infant if transferring on a coach/bus.
I would also try and pick a hotel/Airbnb etc that is within an hours transfer of the airport if you’re on a coach/bus, as they can get quite hot and uncomfortable. Obviously if you’re hiring a car you can stop of when you need/want.
Should be standard, in respects of ordering a travel cot in your room, but where the request is only one way and with no confirmation received we could simply hope that our request was read and acted upon.
The alternative is lugging your own travel cot, but it shouldn’t really have to come to that IMO.
>Make sure you get in there as early as you can with your request, especially if you’re travelling in high season.
Phone your holiday operator early to arrange a travel cot through them, but closer to the time of your departure I would also contact the hotel directly to confirm. The holiday operator will make the request on your behalf, but will rarely get a confirmation.
Being half board, 2 meals a day we’re sorted.
Our hotel provided decent chairs and the selection of food on offer was enough to keep us all happy.
We did wonder about whether the fruit would be OK for little mr, especially as there were an annoying amount of flies buzzing about. In the end decided to go for it, and it actually became a really good intro to some new tastes and textures – at the expense of someone else’s walls and floors.
Not sure there’s much else to add here to be honest. We did take our own bibs, spoons and backup food pouches, which were for the most part utilised, and we’re glad we took them.
Go to Aldi or Lidl or wherever, and stock up on some food pouches. These can go in your case and be used at meal times in case of emergencies.
Otherwise, use an buffet type meals as a chance to have your little one try new foods.
Tempted to write ‘N/A’ here to be honest, travelling with an infant for the first time was not an experience I found overly relaxing.
Yeah so this is the part where I sound super spoilt and ungrateful, but a whilst our little holiday was lovely, I don’t think I could call it relaxing.
With so many unknowns and little mans sleep schedule all over the shop – on account of getting up at 2am to catch our flight – a lot of time was spent making sure he was entertained, fed, or somewhere safe to sleep.
Days at the beach we’d become accustomed go over the years became just a few hours at the beach, for returning to the cool and sanctity of the room for a nap was a must.
Sleeping around the pool was a no no. Firstly because we had to keep an eye of little mans wanderings (HSE people!!), and secondly because his energy and wanting to be entertained at all times wouldn’t allow for it.
I should add here however that our little boy is super active, super dipper active. He does not sit still. Even at a month old he was arms and legs all over the shop. Sleep was, and still is something to be fought on his mind (we on the other handle welcome sleep like it where a gift from above). So the relaxing part of this post is highly unlikely to be a one size fits all type experience.
Teamwork i.e. shift work. Give mum a few hours off to enjoy a spa perhaps, and then dad a bit of time to go jetski or some other manchild type activity.
Otherwise I’m sure you’ll develop your own routine, and probably find yourselves snoozing as your little one snoozes.
I think the above about does it and covers my experience of travelling with an infant for the first time. In short, travelling with an infant for the first time is quite daunting, and has the potential to be quite tricky, but if a anxious control freak like me can manage it, I dare say almost any parent could.
Go forth, travel, enjoy it!!