Last year Big Slice and I were lucky enough to take a couple of trips abroad with Lola; the experience was predominantly lovely, however certain aspects of it will be forever consigned to my nightmares. Mindful that Summer is fast approaching, I thought I would pull together a checklist of observations and learnings from when Lola was not quite a year old; hopefully it will offer some useful pointers for anyone contemplating similar, particularly if it’s going to be your baby’s first trip overseas. We may or may not work up the nerve to go away with both piglets this year.. but I am under no illusions that long distance travel with two under two is going to throw up a whole new set of challenges! I hope you enjoy.
– At the airport, I took ready-to-go formula, a full baby water bottle and some nibbles through security. All were tested but with minimal hassle. Some branches of Boots & Superdrug will actually let you order items in advance to collect once you are airside.
– If you stow a bag in the hold with your buggy it doesn’t get weighed so be a chief sneak and go large – stuff it full of faffy items like spare nappies, wipes, blankets and favourite toys. Alternatively, for the flight home I zipped up Lola’s grobag and filled it full of extra goodies – pyjamas, extra layers and shoes for me for landing back in frigid temperatures – no one looked twice as I trundled onto the plane with it in conjunction with the huge nappy bag.
– As with many testing charters from Edinburgh, we flew Jet2and opted to check-in our car seat (free, easy & stowed with oversized items so no need for packing/protection). Please be aware they have no window blinds. Yes, you read that correctly. The sound of half a dozen sleep deprived babies screaming for absolution from 7-10pm will leave you contemplating escape via the emergency exit at 30,000ft. Research your direction of travel for minimal sun exposure, give them drugs (I’m kidding/not kidding) and make use of the laminates.
– If using a hire car, take a portable window blind, or do as we did and put up a trusty muslin. You can always tuck it away in the handrail when baby wakes.
– Excessive Googling pre-flight told us to expect temperatures around the mid 20s.. but by midweek it was 39°. Lola had a horrendous time adjusting to the heat and spent 4 days like a listless, fish-eyed lettuce leaf. Try to make sure you have air-con, or organise a fan. I frequently ran into bars to pop a fresh ice cube in her water bottle (by day 2 hypothetical bugs in the water mains were the least of my worries!)
– Pack an extra sun hat when out and about. Lola threw hers away without us noticing and we wasted a good hour trying to find somewhere that could cater for her pea-heed.
– Local cuisine might be fine in general (depending on your jam; we did baby led weaning so basically throw bits of whatever you’re eating at your child and see what sticks) but more often than not I ended up cooking at the house and packed pots of emergency pastas/omelette etc as the heat made her fussy and utterly diminished her appetite to the point all she wanted was milk. Take some extra pre-bottled formula or an accessible boob in case your little one goes off their food too. We had no issue finding highchairs, but if this is a concern depending on your chosen destination, the Totseat is ideal for such situations. On a similar note – I found just one single baby changing station the entire week so I’d recommend carrying something you don’t mind laying on the toilet floor!!
– Even before the Zika outbreak, I’ve always had mozzieparanoia. I spent ages researching what to take and can report we returned home with not so much as a hickey.
– Along a similar theme; sun cream & hefty pool protection a must. No burns to report. I have since heard great things about Neal’s Yard Citronella spray for mozzies, as well as their lavender and camomile after sun spray.
– This was one of the worst learnings for me; Lola developed random allergies from day 1 and had neon green oozing from her eyes and nose round the clock for about 5 days. I spoke to the pharmacist there and at home who explained it’s pretty normal for babies as they haven’t been exposed to certain pollens before. I used saline spray on cotton wool and put her in the pool or shower as much as possible. There’s not a lot you can do but let it run its course; just don’t get a fright if it happens! Someone has since suggested to me that they put a little bit of antiseptic cream (e.g. Germoline) around their little ones nose and mouth to combat germs from recirculated air – it’s worth a try!
– We were rural so entertainment was less tumble tots, more ‘look – another mullet’ so be prepared to be resourceful. I recommend taking little things (balls, squeezy water toys, books) rather than big battery operated noise makers that can quickly become cumbersome and tedious. When in doubt, go heuristic; Lola spent a giddy 45 minutes on the flight home playing with Grandad’s empty wine miniature. Seriously.
– If you’re staying somewhere with a sociable outside space it is an idea to take the travel cot outside with you, fill it with toys and place it nearby in a shaded area; this enables the family to hang out round the pool and your little to still feel part of the action while being safe and secure.
– We took the in-laws Maclaren stroller which was perfect for knocking round town, naps and travelling (you can take it right to the plane door). We also had an umbrella which was largely redundant, but came into its own on 2 or 3 occasions for extra coverage. I have since also heard good things about the iSafe buggy shade; it has the advantage of packing up tiny.
– Finally, there’s no doubt that going abroad is a sensory overload for kids… some don’t bat an eyelid and thrive in the new environment, others have a full meltdown and send you reaching for breakfast Mimosas every. single. day. If you find yourself experiencing the latter, all you can do is try to stick to your established home routine as much as possible to offer your little one some familiarity and reassurance. If that doesn’t work, try wine. All the wine.