We love going on holiday and that was one thing we vowed wouldn’t change just because we were having a baby. To make sure we stayed true to our word, when I was 8 months pregnant we booked a trip to Italy for the coming June. This meant we had a holiday to look forward to, leaving on the day our baby would turn 4 months old.
We were so excited. We had booked to return to Verona for one night, then travel onto Lake Garda to a small town called Lazise for 3 nights. We did this same trip at the end of our honeymoon 4 years prior, and the fact we would be away for our wedding anniversary made the trip even more exciting.
I put a call out on Instagram for tips on travelling with a baby. I follow some great accounts so I knew I’d get some help if I asked. My inbox was filled with helpful tips from other mums and dads encouraging us to embrace travel. Alongside the helpful messages were more than a few people telling me that we were crazy to even attempt to go away with a baby. Helpful! We obviously knew this would be different to other trips as we would have a baby in tow, but we were ready to give it a go and create new family memories.
I am here to confirm… holidaying with such a small baby was great and totally do-able. They are so portable at that age. In fact it wasn’t even half as stressful as we had anticipated it to be. It just required forward planning and research ahead of leaving.
Here are our top tips for travelling with a baby, and the things that we found helped to make our first trip away with a baby a stress free one.
Speak to your airline on the phone
When we booked our holiday, Brodie hadn’t even been born so we had to call the airline following his birth to add him to our booking. We just had to pay around £20 in taxes for a return flight, absolute bargain! The airline confirmed over the phone what a baby got in regards to a luggage allowance and I was delighted to find out British Airways offers a full 23kg checked bag, 2 hand luggage bags, a collapsible stroller and a checked in car seat. This made life so much easier. He has his own checked suitcase and we took his usual baby bag, plus a bag of extras for the flight and we were also able to take the stroller to the cabin door. We didn’t take a car seat as our luckily booked transfers in Italy supplied baby car seats.
You are also able to book your seats way ahead of time with British Airways if you have a baby, so this meant we didn’t need to worry about online check in and have that panic to select seats the day before we travelled. We opted for middle and aisle seats so if we needed to get out for any reason we didn’t have to disturb the poor passenger sat with us. On the way back we actually lucked out and had an empty seat next to us.
*Tip* Take a baby carrier of some form, as once you hand your stroller to the cabin crew on boarding the plane, you don’t get this back until you collect your luggage meaning you have to carry your baby on the bus to the terminal, through passport control and then wait until your luggage is ready to collect. Brodie was a big baby so was heavy to carry all that time. We weren’t aware of this so didn’t take his ergo baby with us, but we will in future. Invest in a stroller bag of some kind to protect it against being thrown about by luggage handlers. We had this stroller protection bag, but so it seemed did everyone else, so tie something to it to identify it as yours on the luggage carousel. Luckily a friend warned us in advance of this so we easily found ours.
Book an apartment
Usually Craig and I would opt for a modern type boutique hotel on holiday but this year we knew we would need a kitchen with a kettle for making up formula and a microwave for sterilising bottles. We managed to find a central studio apartment in Verona which offered all we would need.
In Lazise we had a lovely one bed apartment with a separate living / dining / kitchen space and a large balcony. Even though booking.com stated that both apartments had all the amenities we needed, I still contacted each apparently directly to confirm. I also got each apartment to send me a photo of the travel cots that would be in the rooms, as they referred to them as ‘camp beds’ on email so I wanted to see exactly what they provided before booking. Thankfully both were lovely, new travel cots that I had no hesitations about using. I confirmed ahead of our trip that babies could use the pool as I know some hotels are a little funny if it’s a tiny baby. Luckily we were able to and just took lots of swim nappies and a yellow baby float so he could bob along. Neither apartment however had a bath, so one of us ending up holding Brodie in the shower, whilst the other hoses him down! Not ideal, but we coped just fine.
The good thing about having an apartment with a separate living area meant that once Brodie was asleep in our room, we could still enjoy a late night glass of wine and catch up on Love Island on the Ipad without disturbing him!
*Tip* Take your own cot bedding, washed just before you travel so it smells like home. This can help settle babies in an otherwise new environment they are not familiar with.
Liaise with the car company
We were lucky that we had previously used a very good car service in this area for our honeymoon, so we booked with them once again knowing they were reliable. Language was a bit of a barrier but I managed to get them to send me a photo of the car seat they provide so I could check it would be suitable for such a small baby. The week before we left I also got them to confirm they definitely had a car seat available for all 3 journeys we would be making with them just for additional peace of mind.
*Tip* I would recommend packing a small roller window blind for car transfers as the sun was so strong, we just stuck this in the car window each time we got a transfer and it meant Brodie could see without being blinded by the Italian sun!
Tackling the airport
We flew from London Gatwick and they had a helpful section on their website that confirmed their allowances for milk through security. The same liquid guidelines don’t apply for babies, so you can take more than 100ml of water or milk through security. Staff just have to put it into a machine for a quick test. Security allows you to take enough milk / food for your outbound journey. The rest should be taken in checked luggage.
*Tip* You can pre-order baby milk (both powder and pre made) on the Boots website so it’s ready to collect from the Boots store after clearing security in both North and South Terminals. Who knew! So we just took a couple of bottles to see us through until we were through security and collected the rest.
Gatwick airport offers a separate family security lane which is great as you don’t feel guilty for holding anybody up whilst the stroller gets scanned and they rifle through the baby bag to scan your milk as everyone else in this lane also has children. It was so quick to get through too but not very well sign posted so keep an eye out.
*Tip* I would hugely recommend paying ahead before you travel for premium passport control on arrival back in the UK. I think we paid about £10 for all 3 of us, and we were fast tracked through in no more than two minutes. There is a separate booth for premium customers and it avoided being in a mass queue as we arrived ate the same time as an international flight with hundreds of passengers and as I mentioned you have to carry your baby through until baggage reclaim to this was so worth the money. In fact, if you sign up to MyGatwick on their website, you get 20% off premium security and passport control. That’s what tempted us do it in the first place.
Surviving the plane journey
We had booked onto an early 6.45am flight, so we literally scooped a sleeping Brodie out of his cot at 3am, bundled him into the car in his pj’s and let him go back to sleep. This meant by the time we got on the plane he was ready for his first bottle of the day at a similar time to being at home. We held his bottle back until take off as this helped his little ears adjust. He mainly just slept for the duration of the flight but woke around 30 minutes before landing, so we didn’t have to entertain him for long. We then fed him again on landing to ease his ears, he grizzled a little but thankfully we survived the plane journey with no major hiccups! We then changed Brodie into a summer holiday outfit once in Italy at the airport.
*Tip* Buy a new toy, one your baby hasn’t ever seen before so they can spend time discovering it on the flight. I was told this by a friend and it was a great tip. We bought Brodie a monkey with various materials and plastic bits attached and it kept him quiet until landing.
*Tip* I would recommend getting on the plane last. As a family you are invited to get on the plane first, but we wanted to spend as little extra time in our seats as possible as that meant a longer time entertaining a small baby in a confined space! We just hung back and let everyone else board and we joined the back of the queue.
Feeding whilst abroad
By the time Brodie was 4 months old he was solely on formula so I had to do my research around how we would make his feeds up whilst we were away. Not all bottled water is suitable for making baby formula due to the mineral content so after much googling I found the names of brands that were suitable and they were easy to find in the local shop. We stocked up and just boiled this for feeds. However we used pre made formula where possible. We had taken enough to last the trip as I wasn’t sure if the brand we used would be available in Italy.
To sterilise, we used microwave zip lock bags from Boots. They are great as each one can be used up to 30 times and can hold 2 bottles at a time. I use them when we stay with family now too.
*Tip* When abroad and looking for water to use for formula, look for a baby face printed on the label, this means it’s baby safe! Oh and don’t forget to pack a bottle brush for cleaning bottles at the end of the day.
Combat the sun
We knew it would be hot in Italy in June so we were very prepared for this. We took a stroller umbrella to shield Brodie from the sun when we were out and about. We also took a SnoozeShade which meant he could nap out of direct sunlight. We also used this to cover his legs if needed as well as sun cream. In fact we used his SnoozeShade all summer, definitely one of the best things we bought. To combat the humidity, we took a pram fan which was great. It just clipped on and provided a gentle breeze when needed. We took baby bug repellent in case of mosquitoes to avoid any bites.
*Tip* If you take a fan away, make sure you take spare batteries as we didn’t and the fan soon ran out!
Trying to maintain a routine on holiday
Brodie was in a great routine before we went on holiday, going to bed at 7pm every night and sleeping through until 7am the next morning with no night feeds. I was a little worried a holiday would disturb this as we would be out in the evenings. We continued to bath and feed Brodie for 7pm just like at home. Instead of putting him in his pj’s as it was still too warm, he’d get dressed up back in a summer outfit and then head out for dinner with us. Once we got back to the apartment around 10pm we would give him a little top up milk feed to settle him after he was ready for bed, and he slept the whole night just like at home! This meant we still got an evening meal on the shores of the Lake, and Brodie would normally just sleep in his stroller, or take in the sights and sounds like such a good boy!
*Tip* We found trying to keep up with normal day time naps kept Brodie in his routine enough to make the late evenings work. We would take it in turns to put him down for a nap if we were close to the apartment and often have a little day time sleep ourselves. If we were out then white noise from our phone and his SnoozeShade would be enough to send him off.
Send a postcard home
We have started writing a postcard whenever we go away and sending it home addressed to Brodie to go into his memory box. We wrote all the things we had done and the things we had seen. We decided to do this on the last night of our holiday and I am so glad we did.
So there we have it, nothing too major to successfully survive our first trip with a baby! Prep and research was key! Yes, we packed too much stuff but I would rather be over prepared and ready for every eventuality! A lot of the things we bought can be reused on other holidays such as the fan, sun shade etc. Yes I stayed in the shade instead of sun bathing, but you can always fake it when you get home if a tan is important to you.
Do not be put off by people who tell you that you won’t enjoy it or it’s impossible to travel with a baby. Brodie was a dream and we did nothing differently once we were there in regards to eating, drinking and exploring to if we were there just the two of us!
We have booked a 10 day trip back to our favourite place in Portugal for June 2019 in a villa and I feel confident about it being a great trip, even if we will have a 16 month old this time so we will have new issues to tackle! Any tips for travelling with older babies are very much welcome!