Travelling abroad for a week with a one-year-old….
I’m a laid-back ex-backpacker. I used to travel light and ‘wing it’. I don’t think I’ve ever been so stressed as I was in the run-up to baby W’s first foreign holiday a month ago… so I thought I’d try and share everything with you, to hopefully ease your pain and stress!!
Deciding where to go
Ok, you’ve agreed you *need* a week abroad – well, what next? Here’s how we decided on our destination:
- We wanted to fly (not drive to Europe)- we were happy to fly from Cardiff, Bristol or Birmingham
- We didn’t want the flight to be longer than 2 hours-ish
- This also meant the temperature should be ok – mid-20’s
- The flight times had to try and work within baby W’s schedule – we didn’t want any evening/late night/ridiculous early morning flights
- These options basically led to mainland Spain or the Balearic islands (Majorca/Menorca/Ibiza)
- Then we had to decide whether we wanted a hotel (various board types) or self-catering (‘aparthotels’ or villas) – think about what your evenings will be like – do you need more than 1 room? (we did ok with ours but an extra room would have been nice!)
- We didn’t want the accommodation to be on its own, in the middle of nowhere – we wanted a beach within walking distance and ideally a couple of bars/restaurants/shops – but we didn’t really want to be in a big, busy resort
- Transfer times – if you’re flying, how far is the accommodation from the airport?
- Can you see yet why I was getting stressed?!
- After looking at various flight-only options vs package holidays, we decided we wanted a hotel…. obviously you will have an overall budget that you need to work to
- then we decided we needed a hotel with a crèche so that mummy and daddy could have a few hours off!
- we decided the best value holiday for us was an all-inclusive week in Menorca with Thomson – in the Victoria Playa hotel – read all about our week here
So with the holiday booked a month before we were going… what was our…
- Make sure your passports are up-to-date and make sure baby has his/her own!
- Make sure everyone has a free EHIC card – this entitles you to free healthcare within Europe – the official link is here, avoid any sites trying to charge you!
- Even if you have an EHIC card, make sure you have travel insurance – in case your holiday gets cancelled, or they lose your luggage etc – I have a family policy free with my bank account but you can get it cheap enough from sites like Confused.com
- If you need to, organise your airport parking – always cheaper to do it in advance. We went out of our way to fly from Birmingham as it was cheaper and the flight times were better – the money we saved meant we could spend a night up there before we flew- read about the Novotel stay and park deal – remember that you will have a baby and extra luggage with you – we realised convenience of things like parking were more important to us than before, so you could even plump for a ‘meet and greet’ service?!
- If you have pets like we do, don’t forget to organise a pet sitter
- Oh and don’t forget to give your nursery/childminder enough notice so that they don’t charge you ;)
Packing checklist for your baby’s foreign holiday!
So I went a bit overboard here – I envisaged us being so busy that baby W would need 2 or 3 change of clothes a day and lots more nappies than usual. In the end we took way too much (because he slept so much – we’ll come on to that!) but in a nutshell I packed for him:
- 2 outfits a day (t-shirts and shorts)
- about 9 babygros/vests
- 9 sleepsuits (we didn’t end up using any of these as it was too hot at night for him!)
- a pack of day nappies (I think there’s 31 in a pack)
- 10 night nappies
- 14 swim nappies (we used about 3 of these!)
- Nappy bags
- 2 baby bath towels
- 4 packs of wet wipes
- his teething essentials – Calpol, Nurofen, Anbesol
- a handful of bibs and socks
- his Tommee tippee bottles and sippy cups
- washing-up liquid (in a travel size bottle, so no leakage!), tea towel and bottle brush
- his bathing essentials – bubble bath, shampoo, bath toys, toothbrush and toothpaste
- baby powder – I’d never used this but heard it was good for getting sand off babies – it’s true!!
- 3 x swim costumes (all UV50 protection)
- 1 swim towel
- 2 x sleeping bags (1.5 tog but we could have done with a 0.5 tog)
- his bedtime essentials – comforter, sheepskin, couple of favourite blankets
- Black-out blind (didn’t need it)
- a buggy (ended up having to borrow one from the hotel as we’d forgotten the sun visor thing)
- Snooze-shade – absolutely great product to safely cover your baby so he can nap in the buggy out of sun’s harm!
- Baby carrier (Baby bjorn)
- SPF50 – some quick-dry stuff
- Sunglasses and sun hats (even though I knew he wouldn’t wear them – just pulls them off!)
half-packed suitcase for our baby!
Here’s a link to his holiday wardrobe – I bought a lot of new (but generally cheap) stuff (I needed to stock up on his next size up anyway) to take with us as I couldn’t bear the thought of needing to do laundry on our first day back lol, and it meant I could start packing early.
Part of his holiday wardrobe!
I think I only forgot two thing which would have been quite handy:
- his thermometer
- some muslin sheets which we could have soaked and used them to cool him down
In the end, like I said, I took way too much – but I had heard things like ‘they don’t sell pampers in Spain’ – I was even worried that they wouldn’t sell normal cow’s milk!!! As it worked out, the supermarket opposite our hotel sold Pampers, Ella’s kitchen food sachets – the works – but I guess it’s better to be safe than sorry?!
Neither me or my other half had anything in our hand luggage for ourselves (apart from money, passports etc!) – it was all stuff to keep him busy on the journey (and when we got there) so we had:
- Bottles (for milk and water)
- Snacks – raisins, baby crisps, bananas
- Books – his favourite 2 plus new ones I’d borrowed from the library
- Wet wipes
- Couple of nappies and nappy bags
- His comforter an favourite blanket
- Couple of small toys e.g. his toy tablet
- A few change of clothes (for all temperatures – I didn’t know if he’d get cold on the plane! He didn’t!)
We both used soft bags, so we could stuff them underneath the seats in front – easier than needing something from the overhead compartment when the seatbelt sign is on!
And we split everything between the bags e.g. pack of wet wipes one, just in case one of us wandered off with a bag!
The airport – some tips
So I was dreading this part – our flight was at 7am so we needed to be there about 4.30am – even though we were staying right opposite and figured we’d be early, there was already a huge queue!
- So, we paid about £10 each to go ‘priority’ – this meant we could jump the check-in queue, security queue and our luggage would be first off – money well spent for us!
- we checked our buggy in at check-in and carried him in the carrier – but you can take the buggy with you right up to the gate (so have a think about logistics, what if they fall asleep in the buggy etc?)
- Now, I knew at security that they would let you take formula milk through – but I had no idea about cow’s milk?! Well they do let you take baby bottles full of the stuff, so we filled ours up at the security desk (so now you know, you can do it in advance)
- Don’t forget your bottle insulators to keep the milk fresh for a couple of hours!
- After security we headed straight to the comfort of the airport lounge – another perk that I have with a bank account. I’m not sure how much these cost as a ‘day pass’ but if I were you I’d seriously consider it – you’re guaranteed somewhere comfy to sit and you help yourselves to hot/cold/alcoholic drinks and snacks (bacon rolls in our case!) – so when you add up how much you might spend at an airport it could be a good deal?
We started giving baby W his milk in the lounge, hoping he’d fall asleep but he was still wide awake when we got on to the plane, which is what I was dreading the most!…..
The flight – with a one-year-old!
Lots of people had said that giving your baby a bottle for take-off/landing was a good idea as it helps with their ears popping. This seemed to work a treat for baby W, plus he eventually entered his usual milk coma not long after take-off and slept on his dad’s lap for a good hour (so half of the flight). The other half was taken up with a walk up and down the aisle, and using all the toys and treats from the hand luggage to keep him entertained.
He wasn’t happy about sitting still for landing, but at least it’s only about 10 minutes of moaning ;)
PS I really enjoyed reading/watching this blog post and video from Knott bump and us about navigating airports and flights with a baby (similar age to baby W) – worth a watch!
Transfer to your accommodation
We had transfers included in our package holiday but we could see from the website that it could take up to 90 minutes (because of all the drop-offs etc) so we figured we’d speak to a rep when we arrived and pay for a taxi (30 euros, 30 minutes) if it was really going to take 90 minutes.
Well, we had a lovely surprise on arrival – because our holiday was with Thomson but our flights were with Thomas Cook, we were in a minority and so the Thomson rep gave us a taxi slip and we got a free taxi to our hotel, instead of getting a bus :)
The taxi ride ended up being the hardest part of the day – baby W having to sit on our lap for 25-30 minutes. It was hot. He’d had a nap but hadn’t slept as long as usual, so he was grouchy and basically wanted to be on the move – he’d sat down for way too long by this point! So he cried and moaned most of the way and nothing would distract him but we got there in the end!
So have a think about how long your transfer might be on a bus etc. Our luggage came off early (as we’d paid for priority) but in hindsight, it might have done baby W some good to run around and burn some energy in the airport before we jumped into the cab….
On holiday – our new routine
We expected the weather to be about 20-25 degrees, but we arrived during a heatwave and for the whole week the temperature was 30-32 degrees! This was tough and basically baby W was not himself for the week, which I think was a combination of the heat but also teething (his back teeth were coming through). It wasn’t too bad, he was ok and did have some fun, he just wasn’t his usual, happy self.
Within a day we’d fallen into a new routine, we all know how much babies/toddlers love a routine – I’ve shared ours below, but you will of course find your own routine – I guess the point is, that your baby/toddler might be very different on holiday to at home so be prepared for that in case you were hoping to do excursions, go out at night etc!
6am – wake-up!
6.30am – 8am – play-time (softplay/wendy house area) or one morning we went to the beach (the swimming pool didn’t open til 9ish I think)
baby W early morning play
8am – breakfast
8.30-10 – walk and a nap – we’d have a lovely walk along the sea, and after a while we’d zip up the snoozeshade (turned out to be a holiday essential!) and baby W would have a 30-45 minute nap
10-12 – baby W went into crèche 3 mornings, played with us the other 3 mornings. As I said in the post about the hotel, the crèche was brilliant and meant we had a little break from him (and most importantly, he loved it!)
1 – lunch
1.30 – 3.30/4 – nap time. Before holidays he’d cut right down on his afternoon nap but the teething/heat combo meant he basically slept all afternoon, every afternoon! This worked out great as daddy caught up with sleep and mummy caught up with sunbathing and reading books!
4-6 playtime – swimming/softplay
6.15 – dinner!
6.45-7 bath, bottle, bed for baby W – we tried to stick to him home routine as much as possible here.
One night we tried taking him out, asleep, in the pushchair, so we could enjoy a sunset drink, but he stirred too much for our liking, so every night we’d just sit on the balcony with beers and books instead! A couple of nights my other half went to watch the footie, which was fine with me – we’d be in bed for 9.30-10 anyway!
Read more about our week in the hotel here
Coming back – and home, sweet home!
Our flight home was at 1pm, so it was a nice time to travel. The taxi transfer was less stressful this time, but baby W was a bit grouchy in the airport and we had to queue a fair bit – we didn’t have the cash for priority queue-jumping here, and there was no airport lounge in menorca airport!
A bit of milk on the plane, and baby W then slept for most of the flight this time! Picked up our luggage, a trolley is a must as of course you have an extra suitcase, transfer bus to the car park and eventually home sweet home!
Holidaying with a 13 month old is great fun, but does need a bit more planning and preparation than usual! If you choose the right place for you and settle into a new routine, you can all have rest and some fun :)
I hope I thought of everything, and hope you found this useful – if you did, I’d love it if you could share it with your friends and peers on Facebook/Twitter! (And if you want to follow me, I’m @yummyblogger on Twitter) and if I missed anything, please do leave a comment!