The honest guide to travelling with little ones, from a frequent flyer
With school holidays on the horizon, many of us will be chasing the sun on a mid-year getaway. Some might be travelling with a new bub, or toddler, for the very first time.
Travelling with littles can be a mind-bending experience for the most seasoned of jetsetters. Long hours on a car or plane with our easily bored, hardwired-to-wiggle, minis can easily morph into an exercise in torture.
The better prepared you are, and the happier you are to go with the flow, the more you’ll enjoy a vacay with bae.
1. Check your expectations at the car (or aeroplane) door
You simply cannot compare any pre-kid adventures to a holiday with young’uns. If you’re someone who likes to abide by a structured itinerary, be prepared to relax your Type A tendencies, or be sorely disappointed.
On my first road trip, with a then three-month-old babe, a five-hour drive to visit family took nearly eight, as we stopped multiple times to make bottles, change nappies and calm colicky cries.
You’ll be working around your baby or toddler’s schedule, so rather than dictating strict plans for each day, make a to-do-and-see list, before leaving. Try to tick off as much as you can but go with the flow.
Take your little one’s cues for what will be realistic, from day to day. Enjoy a late dinner the previous night? Maybe raincheck that waterfall hike and opt for a relaxing beach day instead.
2. Keep it light
Yeah, yeah, we know! You have to pack all but the kitchen sink to so much as nip to the nearest playground with bebe.
But, if you’re flying, think carefully about the travel duration and what you’ll actually need onboard, and don’t take more than that.
Sure, it never hurts to allow for an extra poop-stravaganza or reflux chuck, but don’t go nuts.
Loading up your pram with bags galore is salvation for your shoulders, until you have to check that pram in as baggage and carry everything you’ve managed to stuff in there.
You need to be extremely stealthy if you want to sneak it all on the plane as cabin baggage, lest you be marched back to the check-in desk to cop a fee for exceeding the maximum allowance.
When we travel, Mister Roo carries a backpack and I, a large tote bag, and we aim to cram all we need into these. If necessary, we’ll bring a small, rolling carry-on, too. Juggling any more than this, along with two kiddos is mucho loco.
When you’re carrying so many items in your bag, it’s very easy for things to meld into an omnishambles.
Our Joey’s Forget-Me-Not pocket mat is the ideal baby bag organiser, keeping ALL the things wrapped in a neat, little bundle, so you can find them in a hurry.
Trust me, you don’t want to rifle around your bag in a mad panic, when you think you’ve forgotten the teething gel, or an extra onesie (been there!)
Check with your airline whether they’ll provide food and/or formula for your little one.
Don’t pack the entire bag of nappies–even if flying for a full day, the most you’ll need is six to eight, per child, depending on their individual habits. Buy travel size everything. Your chiropractor will thank us.
While I prefer to cook my kids’ meals from scratch, those organic squeezy pouches were a lightweight lifesaver for my dairy and gluten intolerant littles.
Knowing that the airline wouldn’t cater to their needs, and that we’d often need to feed them on the go, I caved an bought a whole stash of pouches to take with us, overseas. Mum guilt can suck it!
3. Baby-wearing FTW
Many airlines won’t allow you to bring a stroller on the plane. There just isn’t enough cabin space to accommodate a bulky pram, for each family on the flight.
Further, if you’re planning a more active holiday, involving hiking or shopping, you’ll be glad for a content bub who sleeps on your chest, rather than one who cracks it, because they’re over the pram.
Baby-wearing is the best way to keep your kiddo happy and your hands free on vacay. Be sure to adjust your baby carrier and practice wearing at home, before you leave.
Baby-wearing should not be uncomfortable. If things don’t feel right, join a baby-wearing group in your city and attend a meet-up, where other parents are more than happy to help you fit your carrier correctly. If something is still off, a visit to the physio or chiro may be in order.
If you do want to have a stroller on hand, buy a cheap as chips, lightweight model and leave the deluxe Bugaboo at home. Whatever you bring will be thrown around the airport’s cargo area and end up scratched and marked. We found one at Target for $20.
4. Pack smart
In the hustle and bustle of planning for a holiday, we often overlook the fact that aeroplane cabins and hotel rooms can be a veritable cesspool of germs and recycled air.
Or, that we’ll be miles from home and the products that we know, and love, may not be readily available.
Take it from someone who’s marched from pharmacy to pharmacy, in Sydney, after running out of elemental formula, to top-up feed their child.
And been stranded in Honolulu, after venturing out of Waikiki’s main strip, to visit the only grocery store with allergy-friendly snack foods and unbleached nappies for the kids.
There are some things you’ll be glad you brought with you and some things you’ll want extra of.
When the kids and I came down with colds, two days into our Hawaii trip, I was so grateful for the Kiwi Herb elderberry syrup and Melrose vitamin C powder, which knocked the bugs on their heads, within 24 hours, so we could get back to enjoying our dream holiday.
We always bring colloidal silver in a spray bottle, to treat sore throats, cuts and grazes. It’s a great hand sanitiser, too, which is gentle enough to use on tiny ones.
Bringing along your own nappy cream, teething gel, baby wash, colic drops, laundry powder and medicines is a no-brainer. Babies can be incredibly sensitive, and holidays are NOT the time to be experimenting with new brands and ingredients.
Yes, it’s smart to pack minimally, when it comes to your carry-on, but you can go to town with your checked luggage, bringing your favourite toiletries and essentials, and more onesies than you think bub will need. You don’t want to spend your entire holiday doing laundry.
When it comes to bub’s clothing, you’ll be grateful for layering pieces in breathable organic cotton: short and long-sleeved bodysuits, leggings and rompers.
The best advice I can give you is to relax into the holiday, be ready for the unexpected and roll with whatever may come.
Things won’t always go to plan and there will be situations that stress you to your core, but these will be more than compensated for by moments of complete and utter bliss, as you experience beautiful places, and make gorgeous memories, as a family.
Hit us up with your fave tips for traveling with littles and let us know if our list has helped you prep for a stress-free break.