London lifestyle & travels with kids and babies
Few considerations: weather, proximity, facilities
(hotel versus flats, full basis versus a la carte, babysitting available, extent to which parents could enjoy the evenings and some grown up time)
I found baby’s early days the easiest to travel and certainly resembling the most with former grown up life. 6 months to indulge into boutique hotels, ideally though breastfeeding friendly. I personally love warm breaks especially when October arrives in London and miserable long wet grey days never seem to end. Warm is the key word in here, as babies love it, but anything warmer than 25 degrees does not seem to agree with them. Even at 7 months our big energetic boy was collapsing into a lethargy state even in shade between 2-5pm in the Caribbean. If given the choice, warmly suggesting just warm destinations for the first 6 months.
We also noticed some notable benefits when travelling to warm places:
a. Parents and babies stock up on vitamin D, parents sunbathing on balcony whilst babies sleeping in the nice shade of the hotel/ flat. Always nicer when little ones are better equipped to front the never ending germs and viruses they come across in their busy social lives.
b. Somehow better relaxed (but not necessarily less sleep deprived) meant for us the most important sleeping milestones were achieved while away. Dubai notably, baby sleeping from 11pm-8am uninterrupted (quite a shock initially my other half and I waking up in panic that nobody asked for milk at 2 and 6) and thereafter in Abu Dhabi, once transitioned to the local time, from 7pm to 8am. And once proven that they can, even first time parents feel braver when coming back home in attempting and encouraging sleeping through the night. And this is where another key consideration kicks in, in certain destinations you do not have to pay an arm and a leg for a suite with separate living area, so you have your adult privacy and baby is sleeping merrily after an exotic day of entertainment. Especially if you made the step at home and put the baby in his own room so you’re used to having your evenings back 🙂
So the criteria we used in terms of destinations up to 6 months were:
– warm rather than hot,
– boutique and baby friendly,
– comfortable balcony/ terrace for parents to enjoy sunbathing and a glass or two when baby naps,
– one bedroom layout with separate space for baby and parents,
– heated pool ideally with a bit of shade so you can enjoy properly swimming with the little one,
– aiming for £100 a night for hotel/flat, though being flexible if we could get it for less to spend just a bit more to get one of those above ticked off.
Packing lists & tips:
Hand luggage. Hers. Separate mum & baby bag very useful, we went for a Yummy Mummy bag – great value when on sale, containing the essentials. Always better to have a dedicated baby bag, better organizing it will make your life generally and travelling easier. Also if mum/dad/ grandparent takes over for 15/30min or simple nappy change, much better to hand just one bag rather than a variety of items. Very usefully inside the Yummy Mummy there are cute changing mat, bottle holder (helps with the mess), various sealed pockets, transparent bag, little mirror. I found this ideally used for (i) one top up powder already prepared, (ii) cold boiled water, (iii) 2 nappies and wet wipes, (iv) change of outfit for baby and one top for mum, (v) dummies, (vi) a couple of plastic bags. Should you fail to be inspired by the Yummy Mummy bags, of course you could organize your own designer or simply convenient bag, average to big ideal here and lots of pockets/ little transparent bags inside.
The other handbag. His.
(a) Milk powder for the next 48 hours. Though I never had the ‘pleasure’, airlines could mess up with your luggage. Felt always better knowing that little bunny has his 2 days supplies of food. Especially if your little one has any sort of allergy or preference for a certain brand or type. That’s an easy one for mum breastfeeding, nothing additional to be carried around. If you’re using evening top ups as we’ve done, some modest quantities of powder.
(b) Baby carrier / sling. V handy, especially for curious babies who like to observe and interact.
(c) Swaddle. We warmly recommend Love to swaddle – it’s the simplest and most convenient – had one up to 8 months. And yes, friends and travellers occasionally made fun of us, but hey, who’s not content with a baby sleeping 12 hours at night and 3 hours a day uninterrupted?
(d) Ipad. Great to download in advance some nursery songs and some treats for parents (a couple of books you fancy reading and a couple of magazine). You never know when you’ll find 30min and they become so much more enjoyable when something of yours is lined up for the occasion.
(e) Little books. Yes, for the little one.
Checked in luggage:
1. Always carried some more formula that baby is familiar with, another bottle and the pump. Generally hotels have been v good in sterilising bottles, if in a flat make sure it has a microwave.
2. Sleeping bag, some baby sheets and a fluffy toy – makes any transition smoother.
3. Inflatable bath. Always fond of it, bought it at Verbaudet and never missing from our travels. Easier to inflate and bathe the baby conveniently (and gentle on your back).
4. Lots of baby clothes, few outfits on your mind, normally organising a big washing machine before the trip and asking our cleaning lady to spend 30min and iron everything. I am v rubbish myself at ironing, so always found better value for money paying occasionally £5 rather than getting something very little and precious ruined.
5. Organic sun-cream appropriate for up to 6 months. Not a lot of options on the market, we’ve settled for the only one at Wholefoods – about £20.
6. Always good to have the first couple of days covered in terms of nappies, normal and swimming ones so you discover the local convenience stores at your pace rather than first dedicated trips. A couple of cute swimming stuff for your newer different shape and baby – at this stage from my experience not necessary to go for full swimsuit as time spent in the water & sun should be on the v quick side.
7. Last but not least + separately: Pram and its bag. We’ve been quite ok with Bugaboo Cameleon and a good friend kindly lent us the travelling case each time needed – so despite all travelling pram still looking in decent shape. Especially when spending over £500 and travelling often, makes sense to protect it, if not for yourself maybe for the trading value.
Optional/ ok to be sourced locally:
– Beach toys and more inflatable animals.
– Bigger or bulkier toys.
– More nappies for the rest of the holiday.
How early is early?
Somehow always friends have a fantastic wedding planned somewhere nice in baby’s early days. And somehow always first time babies decide to hang around and be on the late side. I ended up almost 42 weeks – in hindsight despite the discomfort and impressive number of extra kilos in the last 3 weeks (about 5!), probably for the best as especially at the beginning it’s a weight depending game.
We took Ralphie’s passport picture at 2 weeks; somehow the ladies on Kings Road tricked him into keeping his eyes opened for a couple of seconds. Being British, we applied for the fast track and at about 3 weeks, he was a proud passport holder. Flying at such early age proved easy peasy, we had some dummies handy plus a breastfeeding friendly top to make sure take off and landing could work on equalising the ears & pressure. Baby slept like an angel, barely anyone noticed him on the flight. That was also greatly appreciated by grandparents who flew with ua and were so concerned – it was certainly against the good old manners of caring for babies. Eventually though grandparents relaxed once they’ve seen the sun shining gently in Rome and baby smiling and sleeping.