Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nator/4508804370/sizes/l/in/photostream/The thought of a long journey with a small baby fills new parents with apprehension. It may be planning a trip to a far-flung destination, or just a long weekend to stay with the new grandparents. The prospect of a journey, be it by plane, boat or train can seem daunting... even frightening. My son’s first travel was when he was 11 months old. We went to Hongkong during his first year birthday celebration.
But with careful planning, traveling with a six month to 11 months old can be one of the easier challenges of parenthood. Babies of this age are surprisingly adaptable traveling companions. Their needs, apart from regular feeding and changing,are simple. The big advantage is they will be sleeping a lot so they don't need entertaining. Don’t worry, that challenge will come later. For now you have a few short months when you can travel, if not lightly, then at least (with a little forward planning) fairly peacefully.
The first thing to consider is the method of transport. You have a third person in your lives now, and that is going to be quite a different ball game from the days when you could book a last-minute deal, pack a rucksack and take off. Unfortunately the words 'last minute' and 'babies' don't sit easily together. So before you decide where you are going, maybe it's best to consider firstly the travel options and their ease of use for parent and baby. From 3 months onwards babies don't travel light, and this has to be a major consideration.
If you are planning a holiday only a few hours drive from home, a car is by far the best option. From a few weeks old to six months, car travel is bliss. The motion of a car has a soothing effect on babies, so if you organize your journey properly baby will sleep blissfully for a large part of the time. If you're planning a long drive it may be advisable to hit the road as soon as baby settles after his predawn feed. After the routine feed-and-change, instead of putting him back in his cot,quietly fasten him into the car cot or seat and he will drop off to sleep as if nothing unusual has happened. Then you can drive happily for a few hours before the traffic builds up. It's a good idea to stop for a break every 2 hours or so for a cup of coffee and a nappy change if necessary......... a tired driver is a careless one,and a clean, well fed baby is a quiet one so the break is good for both of you. Remember to pack a bag with everything you're liable to need...bottles, wipes, nappies, a change of clothes... and keep it in the car. The good thing about using your car is you don’t have to worry about baggage allowances and details like that. In hot weather keep a packet of baby wipes, or bottle of mineral water and a face flannel in an insulated freezer box to refresh a hot, sticky baby (and a hot sticky, driver). Don't forget a window sun-shield either, ideally one that allows you to open a rear window. Baby can't tell you if he's getting overheated so do keep checking on him in hot conditions. Always leave in good time and make sure you have breakdown cover. You may not have bothered in the past, but the last thing you want is to be stranded on the hard shoulder of a motorway with a tiny baby.
Trains are also a good method of transport for babies, with the added advantage that you are able to move around and pay more attention to baby's needs. The same things apply as for car travel. Pack a baby bag with everything you're likely to need en-route. Include a changing mat if possible, as train toilets may not have changing facilities and you might have to resort to using the table in the compartment. Reserve your seats for a less stressful departure.
Coach travel, although cheaper, isn't a good option. The seating is tight, there will be little or no facilities for feeding or changing and you will be feeling cramped and tired after a couple of hours.
Ferry travel is simplicity itself. As long as you remember to bring absolutely everything up from the car deck that you are liable to want for the duration of the sailing Once the boat is underway it isn't possible to return to the car without permission so do make sure nothing has been overlooked. There will be plenty of space on board, so take out of the car all you can comfortably carry. Book a cabin, even on a daytime sailing, if possible. It's worth the extra cost for the privacy and quietness it provides. If you have a long drive, when you disembark, you will appreciate having been able to relax in your own space for a few hours.
Flying needs careful planning. Before booking any seats call the airline to establish hard facts about weight allowances, provision of child seats or travel cots, and what carry-ons are accepted. Book early and remember to order a child seat at the time of booking. Some airlines allow to use your own, but check, and double check, that you have the one which fits their requirements. Being turned away at check-in is the last thing you want to have happen.
You will have to surrender the baby buggy as it will have to go as 'hold luggage' so think of investing in a buggy bag. They're not expensive and will ensure nothing is accidentally wrenched off or otherwise damaged. A baby sling is a useful addition as well. You may have a long walk to the plane after the buggy has been checked in and juggling a baby, a hold-all, and boarding passes will have you frazzled before you even take off. Don't forget a soft toy or rattle, and a dummy or soother for baby to suck on during take off. Painful, popping ears will upset him and everyone around him. Make sure you have enough bottles of prepared formula...staff will reheat them for you. Seating on short haul budget flights is usually first come, first served, but babies and children have priority boarding so listen carefully for the announcement and go to the gate immediately so that you're near the front of the queue. Many airlines, particularly short haul, have no nappy changing facilities and midget-sized toilets, so after you've checked in, use the airport changing tables and put baby in a night-time nappy which will hopefully see you through the flight.
There's a lot to remember so, however you're traveling, make a list a good time ahead, lay everything out and check it off. Once you're satisfied you've not missed anything,close all the bags, check the house is secure and go off for your first family holiday. Providing you've done your homework you'll have a wonderful time.