Family holidays are fun-filled, exciting times when you can enjoy some undisturbed days together creating precious memories and giving baby some incredible new experiences. But, if you’re expecting it to be anything like your pre-baby summer holidays then you’re in for a bit of a surprise! Relaxing on a sunbed, reading novels, long days of sight-seeing or floating in the pool sipping cocktails will probably not feature on your holiday to-do list this year…
Where to go?
There are many family-friendly resorts, hotels and campsites across the UK, Europe and beyond but there are no hard and fast rules about where you can or can’t go with children – the type of holiday you choose is entirely up to you. Babies and children are really quite adaptable so it’s all about the type of holiday you want, where you feel comfortable, and your own personal holiday ‘must haves’. There are loads of hotels offering kids clubs (for older children), crèches, playgrounds, swimming pools… you name it! Families make up a huge portion of the holiday market so finding something family friendly isn’t hard. Resorts like Centre Parcs or destinations such as Disneyland are incredibly popular with families and offer a range of entertainment for kids of all ages, with plenty to keep the adults amused too (read our blog for top tips on planning a trip to Disneyland Paris). Many holiday companies also offer free child places if you book in advance, so booking ahead can save you some money. You may, however, want something a little more low-key and there’s no reason why you can’t take a baby on a camping trip so long as you’ve got the bedding and equipment to ensure everyone has a good night’s sleep!
Don’t feel you have to be pigeon-holed into a certain type of holiday now you’ve got a baby. You’ll have a much better time if you choose whatever type of holiday you and your family find most relaxing. You may have read recently about the couple who took their 10-week old baby backpacking around the world during the mother’s 10-month maternity leave from her job as a nurse! Although this must have been an incredible experience, very few people are that brave so don’t worry if the idea of packing all you need for your baby into a 20kg suitcase fills you with dread, let alone a backpack…
When to go
If you’re able to travel outside of school holidays then you’ll find holidays are much cheaper and all destinations, in the UK or abroad, are quieter – as are roads and airports. As soon as your little one starts school current legislation does not allow schools to authorise time off for family holidays unless there are exceptional circumstances and you may be fined for taking your child out of school, so it’s worth making the most of the benefits of term-time travel while you can. It’s also likely to be cooler if you avoid July and August, which will be better for baby.
What to take
Ah-ha – the big question! What to pack when you’re holidaying with a baby! Everything except the kitchen sink, perhaps? While it’s easy to get carried away, you can try to minimise what you take to the bare essentials…
A car seat – this one’s essential if you’re driving or hiring a car, although it may be possible to hire a car seat when you get to your destination (but make sure it’s a good one from a reputable company). It’s not necessary for babies to travel in a car seat on a plane as they can travel on your lap up to the age of two, and don’t require their own seat. If you do wish your baby to fly in a car seat you will need to book them a separate seat on the plane and you’ll need to use a FAA approved car seat (the flight attendant may well check the label). Some airlines (although maybe not the budget ones) will let you take a car seat as checked baggage for free, so it’s worth contacting them to find out.
A lightweight buggy – as long as it’s age-appropriate for your baby or toddler, you’ll find that the lighter it is or the smaller it folds, the better it is for travelling!
A baby carrier – have you ever tried pushing a buggy along the sand? The first time you try it will probably be your last! If you’re thinking of hitting the beach you many find a front or back baby carrier is a much easier option.
Sterilising – if you’re bottle feeding then you need to be able to sterilise. Cold water sterilising tablets or microwaveable sterilising bags are ideal for holidays as they do the job but don’t take up much room in your case.
Nappies – you may have a favourite brand at home, but while you’re away it is worth just using whatever you can get in the local supermarket rather than trying to cram a whole week’s nappies into the suitcase.
Highchairs and cots – if at all possible it’s best to hire these at your destination, but if you can’t then lightweight travel versions of each are readily available. Fabric seat harnesses which strap to any normal chair can be used in place of a highchair, providing an ideal, foldable, short-term solution.
Sun cream & hats – these are a must for protecting baby’s delicate skin. Make sure you choose a good, high-factor, baby-friendly sun cream and try it out beforehand to make sure it doesn’t irritate their skin. Take several hats and don’t get too attached as you’re bound to lose one or two!
A UV pop-up tent – sounds like overkill? Trust us; this will be a lifesaver on the beach! They can fold up really small so they won’t take up much room but they’re brilliant for providing somewhere shady and off the sand for baby to sit, sleep or have their nappy changed (sand and nappies are not compatible!).
Favourite teddy or comfort blanket – do not forget this!! Enough said.
Documents and Essentials
As well as the packing, you need to make sure you’ve got all the paperwork you need for travel, depending on your destination. If your adventures are taking you further afield make sure you’re fully informed regarding travel and entry requirements. You can find advice by country here: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice
Babies of any age need their own passport for overseas travel, so apply well in advance (it can take up to 6 weeks for a first passport to be processed). They have to have their own photo without you on it (at all, not even a hand!). Even as an adult, having a decent photo taken in a booth is difficult, so propping a baby up on one of those spinning stools is nigh-on impossible! It’s worth going somewhere where passport photos are taken with a camera and checked on-site to ensure they meet passport guidelines. Many high street photo shops or independent chemists offer this service – it’ll save you a lot of time, effort and stress!
If you’re travelling in Europe all members of the family should also have an EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) which entitles you to free or discounted medical treatment at state-run hospitals and GPs in any European Union country (plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland). These are FREE to apply for so beware of any websites that try to charge you. You can find out more information or the official link to the site here: http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/travel/free-ehic-card. So far, nothing has changed with regards to the EHIC following the UK’s decision to leave the EU. This doesn’t replace travel insurance though, so make sure you’ve got that too.
Phew! After all of that organisation you’ll be ready for a holiday! Wherever you go and whatever you do, have a great time. Enjoy your time together as a family and delight in watching baby experience new things like the cold of ice-cream on their lips, the sea on their toes and the sand between their fingers (but stop watching and intervene before it gets to their mouth!). Remember to take the camera to capture the memories…and don’t forget the charger either.