Before having a baby you would have never have believed how much ‘stuff’ they need! Your house soon becomes a space full of baby paraphernalia and you always need more after chatting to your new mummy friends about the latest must-haves. When you go on holiday you have to really look at what you need to take with you, the essentials, especially if you are flying.
So your travel must-haves are:
- A few toys that they love - not huge items. Don’t let them play with them a week before you go so they are new. A couple of new things they haven’t seen before. If you are driving to the airport just have car toys that you leave in there. Pack a few small things in your bag that you can bring out in a moment of boredom. Links - which are plastic rings that you can clip toys on are invaluable - you can add teethers/spongy bath letters/small toys. This way you can link them all together and then attach them to the pushchair /car seat so you don’t lose them.
- Sticker books are always invaluable with older babies and toddlers.
- A tablet with their favourite programmes and games loaded on them.
- Antibacterial wipes - you will not believe how gross some highchairs are. It’s always good to wipe down surfaces like the plane tray and arms as your baby/toddler will decide they would like to lick them!
- Take a fitted sheet that your baby has slept on for a night. And the sleep suit and vest they wore too. That way it will have a familiar home smell and be reassuring for them.
- Take the same toiletries you would usually use at home that way it’s a familiar smell again. I suggest a few weeks before you can add a few drops/spray of lavender to their bedding at home. This will help them relax and sleep at home then take it away with you to spray on the bedding on holiday. This way baby recognises the smell and is comforted by it.
- Take travel items that pack small, for example you can get a blow up feeding pillow or a travel baby play gym. Another invaluable item to take away if you have a baby is a blow up paddling pool. You can use it as a playpen to keep them safe if they are mobile and you can also have it in the shade with water in so they can enjoy a splash too. It is also really good if you only have a shower where you are staying as you can also use it as a bath. Share the love and gift it to another family when you leave.
- Snacks and drinks to ward off the hungry moments, plus get them to drink from a sip cup, breast or dummy on take-off and landing to help with their ears popping.
- A sling for your baby can be really useful for naps and also getting on and off the plane until you get your pushchair back, as they will put it in the hold and then you will need to collect either by the plane or on the carousel depending on the airport.
- Change of clothes for you and your baby for any journey you take in case of poonami or sickness.
Follow your home routine abroad
So if you baby has set times for meals/feeds and sleeps stick to those times as closely as possible. A hungry or tired baby will be the screaming baby/toddler on the flight! If you are going long haul then follow the UK times until you get to your destination then start the new times there. You may find they will need a longer afternoon nap as they will be having to stay up later - or a shorter one if they are going to bed earlier. Take them outside in the sunshine/light as much as possible to help their circadian rhythms adjust as they get much needed melatonin to adjust their body clocks. It usually takes 72 hours for your baby’s body clock to adjust to the new times. If you are going somewhere where the time difference is only a short one you could start adjusting the times at home. Moving it by 15 minutes every 2 days for a week before your holiday. So baby is waking an hour later or earlier depending on the destination you are travelling to.
Try and aim for long car journeys at nap times this way baby will be more rested and settled when you reach your destination. Try and stop for refreshments, leg stretching and nappy changing every 2 hours. Try and do some yoga/stretching moves with your baby on the changing tables to help with their back/hip position in the car seat.
Familiarise with new surroundings
When you get to your destination whether it be a hotel/apartment/cottage or villa you need to show your baby around, whatever age your baby or toddler is this will help them understand about their new surroundings and not be apprehensive about what’s around them. Try and get them to nap in their new bedroom before bedtime as this will help baby to be less stressed at bedtime in a new place. Chat to them about each things in the room- play in the mirror, open the cupboards and wardrobes. Close the curtains/blinds in the room they are going to sleep in. This will help them adjust to their new ‘home’ for the next few days/weeks. Set up their cot as soon as possible and set out their night clothes and sleeping bag so there isn’t a panicked rush as it comes near to bedtime and baby has a meltdown.
Your baby or toddler is going to learn and grow so much whilst you are on holiday as you are exposing then to so many new and exciting things. Don’t be surprised when you return home and everyone comments how much they have grown. Enjoy all your new adventures with your little one!
By Jo Tantum - Leading Paediatric Sleep Consultant