Travel is such a huge part of my life. I mean, I’m a travel blogger! But it’s more than that. I absolutely love the feeling I get when I travel. Exploring, making new discoveries, having new experiences and the thrill of adventure. It’s something I desperately wanted to be able to continue to do after having a baby.
While I was pregnant I read plenty of tips on travelling with a baby. Things to take with you and what to expect. The thing is though, it’s so hard to even imagine before you’re doing it! And as many tips as I read, there were still some realities of travelling with a baby that I didn’t grasp until we were actually doing it.
Every baby is different. You hear it over and over after you’ve had a baby. But it’s the truth. So not all the things that I’ve encountered when travelling with a baby will be the same as the next family, but these are some realities that I wouldn’t have wanted to know, whether or not they might happen for you!
It’s glamourous, in retrospect
Paul Theroux said “Travel is glamorous only in retrospect” and when it comes to travelling with a baby, this is TRUTH. All those #travelfamily photos with babies and their parents in exotic locations in cute clothes on Instagram are only a teeny tiny moment in time of what it takes to travel somewhere with a baby.
Chances are there’s been a baby outfit change at some point already that day, and if not there will be! I mean, I know of some Instagrammers who take multiple outfits with them to get different looks for their photos throughout the day. Well, babies have been doing that since before Instagram was even a thing…
In short, it’s nice to look back on adventures with Baby B so far. But there’s a lot behind those pictures.
You don’t see the nights where we were awake every hour because he just couldn’t settle and the accompanying exhaustion the following day. The stress when he wouldn’t fall asleep in the car and I’d spend the whole time trying to soothe him between photo and sightseeing stops. When he was sick all over me and himself in the middle of a restaurant. Or when we ended up eating separately because one of us would have to walk him around while the other ate and we didn’t have the choice to abandon a meal halfway through because it was a paid campaign.
Looking back, it’s easier to remember the highlight reel!
Timing is everything
Some parents are slaves to a schedule and routine, while others are more free-spirited in their parenting. Before Baby B came along we talked a lot about how we still wanted to be able to do things. To travel, and to take him out with us. I was hoping I would be this chilled Mum who would just deal with his needs as and when but not stress over it.
Well, what La La Land was I living in?!
I’ve always been a planner, and, no surprises, I still am with a baby! While we don’t have a super rigid routine I learnt pretty early on that timing is crucial. Timing for naps, and timing for feeds. The flexibility might come into where they happen and in what circumstances, but the timing can’t really change. Unless you want to deal with a super grumpy baby!
Unfortunately, we have not been blessed with a baby that will just fall asleep wherever, whenever he’s tired. He’s much too curious and interested in the world for that! So naps have to be carefully planned for when we can put him in his cot in a dark room when we can pull the sunshade over the pram and keep walking for at least 30 minutes, or when we need to drive somewhere for at least that long.
We’ve done a few road trips with the baby and it’s become painfully clear that short drives with lots of stops are not the way forward for us! Hence why we spent a lot of time of the Isle of Arran driving extra miles to keep him asleep!
For us, routines can’t go out the window when we travel with a baby. We have to stop and think about the day and where we’ll be at certain times. This might mean an early or late start to squeeze something in before a nap, or an odd timed lunch for us because we need to stop for a feed. If we don’t get it right then it can have a snowball effect for the rest of the day and sometimes, the night!
So if you’re planning to travel with a little one, just make sure to pack the routines as well!
Accommodation is super important
I love choosing accommodation for a holiday. The right accommodation can really make your experience of a place! I’m always searching for something a bit unique, or in an epic location. Now there’s the added element of whether it’s baby-friendly.
What type of accommodation is the best will be different for every family. As Baby B has got older we’ve come to realise that we really need to have separate sleeping spaces if possible. He’s been sleeping in his own room since he was 5 months old so it’s a bit hard to go back to one sleeping space! The best case scenario for us is a separate sleeping to living space so that we can put him to bed and still stay up and have an evening. Even if that’s just watching TV!
It’s also really useful to have cooking facilities so that we can plan to have a meal out during the day but dinner in. Somewhere in a lovely location with a view or surrounding scenery is, of course, a bonus too!
That’s not to say that staying in a hotel isn’t doable, especially if there’s plenty of space and it’s a short stay. In that case, an onsite restaurant that opens early enough for us to eat before his bedtime is best, then we can all go up to the room and turn in for an early night. Which to be honest isn’t a bad idea most of the time! Not that we haven’t stayed up and eaten some dessert by nightlight of course…
You need more stuff. But not ALL the stuff.
I’m sure you’ve heard it before. Babies don’t travel light! For such little people, they really do need a lot of gear. However, that doesn’t mean you need to take absolutely everything! When Baby B was 3 weeks old we went to stay with family for Christmas and I did take EVERYTHING. Like literally moved all the baby stuff from our house to theirs. Even the baby bath! Luckily I don’t feel the need to do that now, although there are definitely times when I’m still guilty of overpacking.
The key to packing, as usual, is being smart about the gear you actually take. A travel-friendly lighter version of your pram, a lightweight travel cot or bassinet, you get the idea. We actually have a list of all our favourite baby travel items and things we won’t leave without here! And when it comes to toys it’s tempting to pack a lot, but babies really old need a few things to keep them amused, plus you can always give them unconventional things like sunglasses (not expensive ones of course!) or new everyday items for exploring.
It teaches you to slow down
Now you might be reading this and thinking these realities of travelling with a baby don’t seem all that fun. And yes, sometimes travelling with a baby isn’t! But luckily there are also some awesome reasons you should consider travelling with your baby or young child, and one of those is that it teaches you to slow down.
I was definitely one of those people that liked to cram as much into a trip as possible. I’d have a decent list of things to do and often add more once I arrived. A long lie in and lounging around the accommodation wasn’t really for me.
Having a baby changes that. It makes you realise what’s really important. What do you ACTUALLY want to see? What aspects of the place your visiting are most important to you? You can’t have a packed itinerary when it comes to baby travel, and even if you do you can’t be sure you’ll get to stick to it!
Now we plan to do a small number of things that we really want to and that will be fun for us with a family. Getting out and about is good for Baby B because he likes to observe and see things, which means going for a walk is always a great option for us. It means he can sleep in the pram too! So we do get to go out and explore, we just have to time it right and not plan too many big things in one day.
It brings your family closer
If you’re still questioning why travelling with a baby is even a thing then this is the best reality of travelling with a baby for you. Just because you’ve had a baby doesn’t mean you don’t need a holiday. And sure, a holiday is really just looking after your baby in a different place, but it’s still a different place you get to explore together!
When we go away we’re together 24/7, which is a luxury we don’t get at home. And yes I do say luxury because having two sets of hands to manage the baby is much easier than one. Plus, Baby B gets love and attention from both of us at once, and we get to see him do new things and learn and grow together instead of via video, or one of us saying “watch this!” and trying to get him to repeat doing something as soon as the other walks in the door.
Travelling as a family strengthens our family bond through our shared experiences, and creates strong memories of our time together while Baby B is small that I can look back on with fondness. Even when it doesn’t quite go to plan!
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