Top tips for travelling with kids abroad
Christmas is often a time for travelling away from home. Fying with little ones can be a challenge. But fret not! From knowing what to pack, to breezing through the airport, we've got YOUR whole trip covered. Naomi Reilly, Scarlett Brady and Rachel Price investigate
Baby to go
Gone are the days when you could grab a bag and hop on a flight to some far flung holiday destination. Now even a trip to the supermarket can require military precision, so it's not surprising that taking babies and small children abroad requires serious planning. If the prospect of travelling with them seems scary, don't worry you're not alone.
'More parents shun holidays when their children are aged between one and four than at any other time because of logistics and the practicalities of travelling with babies,' says William Gray, editor of 101 Family Holidays. But taking your baby on holiday doesn't have to induce trauma. In fact, with a little bit of thought and planning, it can be a breeze (well, almost). After all, babies are portable, and once they've had all their immunisations at 12 weeks, there really is nothing stopping you. And as William is keen to remind us, 'In many countries, locals will make a big fuss of littl'uns, putting you at ease and giving you a big morale boost. And let's not overlook the fact that babies and toddlers often go free.' Got to love that.
If your baby hasn't got a passport, make sure you apply to get one plenty of time before you travel. Sounds obvious we know, but it can take at least four weeks for a baby's passport to arrive. Happily you don't have to worry about traipsing to the post office – just download an application form online. Then you just need to convert a digital photo of your baby into a passport photo – and you can do this for free at Paspic.
As well as arranging comprehensive travel insurance, if you're travelling within the EU, be sure to apply for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) for each member of the family. These cards entitle you to free (or discounted) emergency medical treatment.
Multiple outfit changes and sunscreen aside, there can seem like a never-ending list of things to pack. 'Obviously you want to avoid excessive luggage, particularly if you're simultaneously cajoling a pushchair and luggage trolley through the airport,' says William, 'but it's probably better to pack too much than cope with the anxiety of leaving behind those little extras that make life easier.' So, what should you take, and what don't you need? First up, don't waste precious room in your suitcase with tonnes of disposible nappies, swim nappies and wipes.
Most resorts boast babies – and have shops that can cater for all their intimate needs!
What you will be pleased you packed for them is loose fitting clothing: light cotton vests (a couple with long sleeves to protect arms from the sun), superlight trousers, at least three swimsuits/trunks and quality armbands (because the pool will lure them on arrival). For peace of mind, a first aid kit is essential: fill it with sachets of Calpol (they take up less space), teething gel, plasters, antiseptic cream, mosquito repellent, a thermometer and antihistamine cream.
One of the most challenging things about travelling with tots is keeping everyone entertained at the airport, so any airport that considers the needs of children gets Gurgle's seal of approval – and we think you'd have to go a long way to beat the smart family-friendly facilities at Heathrow's sparkling Terminal 5.
Operations Director (and mum of two) Susan Goldsmith shares her tips for making air travel more fun.
1. Planning beforehand can make all the difference. Pack passports, boarding passes etc in easily reachable places. Plus check in advance if hand luggage meets security requirements via our website.
2. Bring small games for your child but don't hand them out all at once! Keep surprising children throughout the day.
3. If you have toddlers, make full use of any airports play areas. At Heathrow Terminals 3, 4 and 5 we have fantastic facilities where they can burn off some excess energy before they have to sit still on the flight.
4. If you want to stick to regular meal times, then take advantage of special restaurant offers such as Heathrow's Kids Eat Free. High chairs and activity packs should help to keep babies entertained.
5. Look out for our wider 'Family Lanes' when going through security. There are also specially trained passenger ambassadors on hand to help with larger items such as buggies and changing bags.
6. Products such as baby milk or medications can be purchased in advance via the reserve and collect service. For more information visit heathrowairport.com/family
1. Aeroplanes can be very intimidating environments for sensitive toddlers – noisy and often cold! So pack a cosy, lightweight throw and allow them to coccoon themselves in it.
2. Stash crumb and stain free snacks such as bagels and water in your overhead locker. Well, there's nothing more despressing than arriving at your destination looking like a dinner lady.
3. Minimise ear-popping by keeping tots awake, and swallowing, during take off and descent.
4. Think about where you want to sit and if possible, pre-book your seats in advance. For instance if you are breastfeeding, you might prefer a window seat
If you're worried about your fussy eater eating the local food it's worth noting that you can take as much baby food jars and packets as you need for the journey as flight restrictions don't apply for baby food and drink. And spoons, bowls and bibs will come in handy too. Extra things that can also make a difference include a night light to help you negotiate those night-time feeds, a universal bath plug (great for converting showers into instant baths) and, to make an environment feel more familiar, an iPod full of your baby's (and your) favourite music. And don't leave a cherished toy behind – you'll regret that one.
If possible, book flights that coincide with your baby's sleep and nap times – the idea being that you won't have to entertain a baby that wants to be awake for the entire journey.
For the time they are up, arm yourself with as much ammunition as possible in the form of pop-up books, sticker packs, snacks, snacks... and more snacks.
Try to pre-book the roomier bassinet seats at the front of the plane (at no extra cost), especially if you're embarking on a long flight. Otherwise your baby will have to sit on your
Stress-free travel for all
1. Whatever your views on tots and the use of mobile devices, nothing beats technology when it comes to travelling with kids. It's an idea to hide their favourites away a week before you plan to travel – that way when you really need them to hold your child's attention (such as during delays), they will.
2. Going anywhere can throw up all sorts of mini emergencies and minor distractions that cause parents to become stressed and ratty (which is no way to start a family holiday now is it?). Ease the load by divvying up key responsibilies with your partner in advance. For instance: he's in charge of all passports, all cash and cards, and absolutely everything to do with car hire. While you focus on food supplies and toilet runs.
3. So, how does the modern mum take everything on holiday bar the kitchen sink?
A: She decants... everything! Start by picking up a set of Boots Stacking Travel Pots (£2 for five), and let the obsession begin.
4. Once you've experienced the hassle-free joy of airport valet parking you'll never set foot in an off site carpark again. And it's nowhere near as expensive as you'd think. Park & Go offer a fabulous service. lap (fine for short hops to Europe). Another option, if you can afford it, is to purchase a full ticket for your little one and have them sit in a car seat next to you.
Finally, to prevent ear-popping, make sure you give them milk or water to drink during take-off and landing.
Where to stay
There is an abundance of baby-friendly options online. If you're looking for a hassle-free one then check out websites like Baby Friendly Hotels, Tots too and Away with the Kids that offer hotels, cottages and villas that come complete with cots, highchairs, blackout blinds, baby monitors andsterilisers already set up. They'll have checked out the area and vetted the accommodation for safety, something that's vital when travelling with kids. Sheila Merrill, public health adviser at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) says, 'Key things to ask about include balconies, swimming pool arrangements, blind cords, smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.' Of course, hotels and villas aren't the only options when holidaying with your baby. Camping can work brilliantly if you're the outdoors type, or a house swap with other young families can be a success. Take a look at Homelink. But ultimately, wherever you go, get there safely, and enjoy it!
Routines are all very well when you're at home but everyone needs a certain amount of flexibility on holiday – even babies. Don't stress yourself out too much about returning from day trip a bit late for bathtime – it is a holiday after all. And if there are time differences, bear in mind that it may take a couple of days for your baby to adjust. The one thing you can't afford to be flexible with on holiday is a baby's feeding times. Unlike adults, babies can't skip meals. And if they're on solid food, GP John Mervyn Thomas says, 'It's worth remembering that fruit, particularly watermelon, has been known to contain unclean water which could make your baby unwell.
'It's also advisable to avoid unchilled buffet food and stick to bottled water if you're unsure whether the water supply is safe to drink from.'
Lastly, try to remember, it's a holiday for you too! If you're away with your partner, take it in turns to have lie-ins. And when your baby's napping, use the time to read a book have well-deserved siestas yourselves.