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How to travel abroad with a baby and not lose your mind

There’s no point in sugar coating the facts. When baby makes three, a whole lot of things suddenly become more complicated – and travelling is one of them.

You can wave bye-bye to the leisurely stroll through duty free, a civilised lunch and grown-up conversation. Instead, you can say hello to leaky nappies and arguments over who failed to pack Mrs Snuggles the bedtime bunny.

But it doesn’t have to be all tears and tantrums (yours or baby’s). Here are our top travel tips to help make your first family holiday memorable for all the right reasons.

Choose a realistic destination

Of course you want to go to Bali again this year, and of course you simply must sign up for that wine tasting tour in South Africa. But unless you have an entourage of nannies, it’s unlikely to happen. Babies and aeroplanes aren’t natural companions, so it might be best to opt for a holiday hotspot with a direct flight – the shorter the better.

You’ll also be helping yourself if the holiday you choose is family friendly. It might not be your first choice, but there’s a reason why all-inclusive package holidays exist, and hotels aimed at families are more likely to have the facilities you need, such as a babysitting service or a kids’ pool.

Have the right documents 

Babies need passports and if you need a visa for your destination, the chances are your baby will need one too. You should also make sure your travel insurance extends to include your newest family member.

If you have a different surname to your baby, it’s a good idea to take proof that you’re their parent – your child’s birth certificate, for example.

Prepare for delays 

Delays of some sort are inevitable, so pack appropriately. You can never have enough nappies, wet wipes, muslins or food.

The good news is that food and liquid restrictions don’t apply to baby food or baby milk. You can take formula, soya and cow’s milk, sterilised water and baby food in your hand luggage. While there is no legal limit to how much you can take, it’s a good idea to check with the airport you’re flying from first.

You can also take expressed breast milk in hand luggage, but individual containers can’t be any bigger than two litres. The only thing you can’t take is frozen breast milk.

Have what you need to hand

Toys, dummies and a handheld fan are essentials for the plane journey. To do everyone a favour, have them to hand in a bag that fits under the seat because nobody needs you getting up and opening the overhead locker every five minutes.

Invest in a baby carrier 

Buggies are great and airlines are usually very accommodating, so you shouldn’t have any trouble taking yours along for the ride. But a good baby carrier makes travelling and sightseeing easier, leaving hands free to carry luggage and take holiday snaps. A carrier has the added bonus of making mealtimes simpler – for a start, you’ll be able to use both a knife and a fork rather than have one hand rocking a stroller. Look for a carrier with a cross-back, which is likely to be more comfortable if you’re using it for long periods.

Expect the unexpected

Don’t assume routines will stick even if you’re lucky enough to have a textbook baby. With that in mind, remember: travelling is exhausting for pretty much everyone, so don’t be too hard on yourself. Don’t sweat the small stuff like a missed nap or grizzly baby – it happens, and most other passengers won’t even notice a baby crying over all the engine noise.

Make bedtime peaceful

For many parents, a calm and peaceful bedtime is like the Holy Grail – mythical and highly sought. To make new cots seem familiar, bring your own cot sheets and any night-time comforters. If your baby can only sleep in the dark, you can buy travel blackout blinds that stick to windows with suction cups. If it sounds like overkill, remember – there’s a reason why sleep deprivation is a form of torture.

Don’t forget to treat yourself

Your first time away as a family will always have an element of trial and error as you discover what works for you. So, sit back, relax and don’t feel guilty about finally finishing that book you started six months ago – after all, it’s your holiday too.  

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