How to holiday with a baby
You’re at home after bringing your bundle of joy into the wide world. And while you’ve had a million joys spending time with your new little person, it might be time to leave the cocoon and comfort of home and explore the world again (and perhaps get a glimpse of what life used to look like before bub).
Use this ultimate guide when you’re planning your first holiday with a baby.
Where to go
For your first family holiday, don’t stay too far away. You will forget things, jam too much into your schedule, run out of nappies right when your little person produces an unscheduled poonami, and feel like you’re failing (a lot).
So take out one of the potential stress points and find somewhere to do a holiday test-run an hour or so away from home. That way, if you forget something important or your little one gets sick, you can scoot home pretty easily.
Make sure you choose a holiday spot that has everything you and your family need close-by. Here are some location ideas to get your baby brain started:
Noosa, Caloundra and Hervey Bay are nice and easy with calm beaches, short walks and baby-friendly cafes. For quiet beach escapes try Currumbin, Tallebudgera or Coolangatta on the Gold Coast or Cotton Tree or Coolum on the Sunshine Coast.
Hamilton Island has car seats in their golf buggies (the main mode of transport around the resorts), change tables in every restaurant and babysitting options if you want to go out for dinner sans child.
Once you’re confident, spread your family’s wings and try a longer road trip or even a flight.
How long to go for
This is very dependent on you and your baby, but after chatting with a number of other mums, the sweet spot is around three to four nights.
One night is not enough. You’ll feel exhausted after packing up the house and unpacking in your new temporary abode.
By day three your bub will be more familiar with their new surroundings and you will have had a few days to practice the new routine. Plus, who wants to deal with dismantling a Portacot less than 24 hours after putting it up?
How to road trip with a baby
Whether you’re driving your own car or hiring one, here’s some tips to help reduce the stress of road tripping with a baby:
- Time the drive around their sleep. If you’re in the passenger’s seat, you’ll get a nice stretch when you need to manoeuvre your body to deal with your backseat passenger’s needs.
- Two words: Wiggles playlist.
- Pack an old favourite toy as well as a new toy. They will love the comfort of their favourite toy but the new toy also keeps them entertained as you get to your final destination. Hot tip: Use chain links and hook the toy (safely) so you don’t spend most of the trip spinning around, pulling toys out of the car seat below.
- Food and drinks: Depending on the age of your baby and where they’re at with feeding stages, either pack bottles or a non-spill sippy cup with water and not-so-messy snacks. Consider sultanas, grapes, pre-made sandwiches, corn thins or rice cakes.
- Hire car: Some car hire companies also hire baby seats, prams and even Portacots.
- Avoid long road trips if your baby has colic or at least allow time for multiple stops to help keep your bub comfortable. Also, make time to stop and take them out of the car to reduce any flat head syndrome risks.
- Playground spotter: If your little one is slippery slide-ready, use Google Maps as you go on your journey to find good playgrounds nearby to break up the long drive. Yes, this is a search option and it’s awesome.
How to fly with a baby
For most new parents, the thought of taking a baby on a plane is enough to stop you from actually going on holiday.
These tips will give you the confidence to make the booking and prep for your first flight with your baby:
It’s always great to get access to the exit row for longer flights to make the most of the on-board bassinets, but if you have missed out on this option, book a window seat. Checking out what’s happening outside is a good distraction and it’s a lot easier to feed your little one with less disruptions from other passengers.
Arrive earlier than you normally would as everything takes longer with a little person in tow (especially when you need time to drop off your pram, car seat or Portacot at oversized baggage and time for unexpected nappy changes).
Bring a travel bag for your pram as it makes wheeling around airports much easier. If you don’t want to lug around a pram for the whole holiday, go for a baby carrier instead. Carriers are a lot easier to get your around the airport and you will have two hands free.
Check with the airport and airline around specific inclusions for your destination and flight. Your little one will be in awe of the busy-ness of the airport, which always helps tire them out before the flight.
What to pack for the flight
Extra dummies, dummy clips, spare clothes for mum and bub, muslin wraps for feeding or reducing the light so they can sleep, and blankets to keep them warm. Don’t forget a few small books and soft toys to keep them entertained.
Pack more nappies than you’d normally use in the flight time. It helps to pack a small bag inside of your big nappy bag so when you change a nappy you only need to take a small clutch or bag to the mini aeroplane toilets.
Don’t forget your bub’s passport for international flights. For domestic flights, you won’t need any identification for your child. If your bub is partial to a bit of Disney, pack a spare set of headphones and a headphone splitter so you can catch-up on your fave kids movie or TV show. Or make sure you can still access your go-to audio to help your baby off to sleep.
Depending on where your child is at in terms of feeding, consider packing lots of their favourite snacks and extra bottles of milk and water. It’s a good idea to ensure your little person is sucking on something during take-off and landing to help with potential ear pain. Check with your airline for advice on travelling with breast milk and consider how you will keep your bottles at the ideal temperature during the flight.
It’s all about distraction! New books and toys work a treat. But don’t forget their one favourite toy or book as well! Meeting new people (flight attendants and people seated nearby) is always exciting for babies. Bring on the hours of peekaboo!
If your bub is up to it, point out interesting things outside or inside the plane as well. Explaining the journey will help them understand and not be so overwhelmed with the noise and speed of the experience.
Get friendly with the flight attendants as you board the plane. If there are any spare rows or seats they will hopefully offer them to you first.
Where to stay when you’re holidaying with a baby
Here are some tips to help you find the perfect accommodation for your first holiday with your baby:
- Just like home, you are likely to have to deal with your little one at some stage during the night so it’s best to stick to one or two-bedroom apartments, holiday houses or places with more to it than a double bed, toot, sink and a door. That way you have a separate spot to park the Portacot or bassinet or do a night feed and not break the rest of your holidaymakers’ beauty sleep.
- Try to keep your baby’s surroundings similar to their room at home with a night light, white noise or nursery rhyme sounds and a cuddly toy or blanket.
- Most accommodation websites have a search option for kid- or family-friendly properties. While this tick box is more helpful once your little one is a bit older, you will have to do some more digging on the properties that come up in these search results.
- Before booking your accommodation, ask whether they have a cot or bassinet and high chair (if your bub is up to sitting and solids). Check whether sheets and blankets are included with the Portacot as well. It will save you a tonne of room in the car if they do.
- Select accommodation where you’re likely to spend most of your time. If you want to visit the beach every day and have a nice spot to walk for a coffee with your bub, don’t stay in the middle of nowhere. You’ll end up spending most of your time getting ready to leave and risk little people falling asleep exactly when you don’t want them to.
- Washing clothes while on holidays was never high on the priority list pre-bub, but having a washing machine and dryer within your holiday apartment will reduce the bulk of baby clothes you have to pack and reduce the mountain of washing that will take up your first day back at home.
- If your little one is onto solids, look for accommodation options with a kitchen. If you’re organised, bring some pre-cooked meals and snacks with you to make the most of true holiday time. Or if you’re hoping not to cook at all, find accommodation with a restaurant onsite and ask if they have a baby menu. Don’t laugh, lots of places have a pureed menu.
- If your bub prefers to splash around in a warm bath, find accommodation with a bath or bring your own baby bath.
- Tummy time stops for no holiday. Bring a play mat or rug and some bright and noisy toys to keep non-crawler bubs busy.
- Keep your cool and make sure you have air conditioning or heating sorted (depending on where you’re staying and the time of your trip). Also, keep security screens for peace of mind and mozzie-proofing.
- If your bub is on the move, check whether the accommodation has stairs and other potential baby-proofing nightmares. You won’t be able to control everything about your holiday venue, but if there are big things you’re worried about from the photos or description, ask before you book.
- Keep up your bub’s swimming progress with an onsite pool. Accommodation with kiddie pools are super and beach-style pools with a gradual slope into the water are perfect for sitting, crawling and splashing around to gain confidence before they can freestyle 50 metres.
- Make use of the ‘do not disturb’ signs to keep housekeepers away from sleeping babies.
- Save time and avoid grocery shopping on holidays with an online shop before you go for essentials like nappies, wipes and snacks. You can arrange for the goods to be delivered when you arrive to save carrying all those items with you.
Things to do (and how to do them) when you’re holidaying with a baby
First things first, calm down on the list of things you want to see and do. You have to consider the facts: babies have to sleep, babies have to be fed and babies always poop right before you want to do anything.
To truly enjoy your break, keep your holiday routine similar to your home routine and plan to do one fun thing each day and one relaxing thing as well.
Here are some ideas of things to do while you’re on holiday with a baby:
- Explore your locale on foot with either your pram or baby carrier. If you love the outdoors and your bub is up to it, plan a longer hike in a national park or a coastal walk.
- Find kid-friendly cafes with amazing coffee and parks with a playground
- Pick up local treats and set-up a picnic outdoors in the shade
- Go out for lunch – sometimes it’s easier to do lunch out as opposed to dinner when babies need to go through the dinner, bath, story and bed routines
- Head to the beach for some sand time or take a dip and practice their baby swimming lessons in the pool at your accommodation if you have one.
- Farms, zoos, sanctuaries and aquariums are lots of fun
- Find a good takeaway spot for dinner if you’d like a break from the kitchen
What to pack
In the few days leading up to the trip, write a list of all the essential items. Remember, unless you’re going somewhere remote, most things can be bought at the local supermarket or chemist so don’t worry if you forget a couple of items.
- Sheets and blanket for the Portacot
- Nightlight and music maker
- Snuggle friend
- Pack for three changes of clothes per day
- Sun-safe gear and swimming nappies
- If you’re breastfeeding, don’t forget your shawl or muslin cloth so you can feed anywhere
- Breast pump and formula
- Bottles and cleaning gear
- Sippy cups that don’t spill
- Bibs, burp clothes
- If your bub is up to solids, try to take a few frozen meals with you. Plus you’ll need some bub-friendly spoons, bowls and travel-friendly sippy cups.
- Note: If you’re flying, the usual restriction on liquids don’t usually apply to your baby’s food and drink. Check with your airline beforehand for all the details.
Toys and play time
- A couple of their fave toys helps in the car and while you’re enjoying your coffee
- Books (small sized ones are best for travel)
- Matts and blankets
Out and about
- Think about downsizing to a smaller and lighter pram or stroller for travel
- Not all restaurants and accommodation have high chairs so you may need a travel high chair or fabric chair to hold your bub in tight while they eat
- Baby carrier
- Baby-friendly sunscreen
- Shade tent
Other important stuff
- Nappies, wipes and nappy rash cream (work out the rough nappies per day number and add a few extras)
- Swim nappies, swimming hat, long sleeved swimmers or rashies and towel
- Nappy change sheets for public change rooms
- Thermometer, Nurofen or Panadol and a First Aid kit
- Child-friendly insect spray
- Bath stuff. Don’t forget a hand towel, baby bath gel, shampoo and conditioner and a bath toy (rubber ducky needs a holiday too, right?)
- Passport (if you’re travelling internationally)
- Baby monitor
- BYO babysitter. Invite the grandparents or family members who would kill to spend more time with your little one. Pay for the extra room and you, in turn, receive an extra pair of hands, a patient third party when you need it and a babysitter so you can head out to dinner.
- Zip-lock bags for snacks and soiled clothing