All new parents go through a period where they become thoroughly bored with the four walls of their house, and long for something different. A trip to the cinema, perhaps, or a visit to the shops. I say – don’t stop there. Newborns may be tiny, loveable, infuriating bundles of various substances, but they’re not made of glass. You can travel with a newborn, and there’s no limits to where you can go – don’t immediately assume that your best bet is a family holiday park and a succession of early nights under house arrest. If you’re after a break like that, you may as well stay at home.
Research the destination
The first thing you should do is your research. If you’re going to Thailand, great – but ask around. Family, friends and colleagues may be able to tell you about baby-friendly airlines, hotels and things to do, but travel review sites and forums are your best bet. Listen carefully to what people tell you – especially on parenting sites. If quite a few people warn you against a particular location or place to stay, listen.
They’re not trying to quash your fun, they’re just reminding you that travelling with an infant can be much harder work if your surroundings aren’t suitable. Trip Advisor, Mumsnet and Virtual Tourist are the best places to start.
Talk to your airline
Warn your airline that you’re travelling with a baby, and always ask to see if you can get an upgrade. Tell your hotel as well, and anyone else who could potentially be ‘inconvenienced’ by a squalling baby. The more information you give people the better, as if you find yourself needing more help than needed, it won’t be a massive surprise to them.
Be careful with food
If you’ve seen Airplane!, you’ll get this reference. Make sure that you and your partner always try to eat veggie food if you’re somewhere with dubious hygiene standards, and always eat different meals to lessen the chances of you both getting food poisoning.
If you’re both out of action, that could mean that your baby doesn’t get as much attention as they need, and they could get poorly, too. If you can, take as much bottled baby food with you so your baby’s diet doesn’t change immediately, and if possible, try and squeeze enough meals into your suitcase to cover the whole trip.
Enjoying your trip
Don’t forget that babies are remarkably resilient, and might adapt better to travel than you. Don’t force them to nap if they don’t want to, and don’t be afraid to hire a qualified babysitter and enjoy some time alone with your partner every now and then. Of course, hiring a babysitter depends on the country that you’re in, and your feel for the people in the area.
Make sure that you both have enough sleep, and that you take care of yourselves. Drink plenty of water, don’t overdo it on the booze front, and try to maintain a healthy diet. If you’re taking care of your bodies, there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to deal with the occasional sleepless night.
If, through some irritating fluke, your baby doesn’t sleep at all, you will have to take turns sleeping and caring for him/her. This is, unfortunately, one of the chances that you take when you travel with a baby – don’t ever rule it out, and just assume that jet lag will do the hard work for you.
The water should always be approached with caution
Be very careful when bathing your baby – even if it’s OK for adults to bathe and brush their teeth using tap water, do not assume that your child will fare as well. Watch them closely when they’re bathing (yes, I know that you’ll do that anyway, but really closely) and make sure that they don’t get any water in their mouth.
Always brush teeth with bottled water. Sterilisation tablets will be your best bet when you’re travelling, no matter where you’re going, as bottled water may not always be available.
Above all, relax! Remember, people in other countries have babies too, and they seem to deal with the whole business fairly well, as a rule. If everything gets too much, you can always go home – nobody will think any less of you, and will admire your stamina.
However, if you can stand the pace, do so – as a couple, you need to get leave the house at some point. You’ve got the rest of your lives to admire the kitchen table – take these chances whilst you can!