I learnt so much about myself, my marriage and our son whilst travelling as a family for the first time which was really special but I also learnt some tips that made the trek to South Africa from the UK much more comfortable!
1. Travel with a hand towel to layer the car seat. We hired a car seat along with the car and it was a gross nylon one that made Alex sweat profusely. A towel buffered that and made him a little more comfortable.
2. Fragranced nappy bags – whether for a smelly nappy or an item of clothing that’s been sicked up on, you don’t want that smell putrifying everything else. Bag it in a pleasantly smelling bag.
3. A play mat. We invested in a large play mat when we arrived and it made the world of difference. Everywhere we went and everywhere we stayed Alex had a big soft area to play on so he could spread out and roll around without putting people’s carpets at risk of any sicks or exploding nappies.
4. A changing mat proved invaluable on the plane as well as when we went to places that didn’t have a changing table (yes this still happens) and for when we were on the road and had to do a quick backseat bum change.
5. A nursing pillow is a godsend. Not only did it serve as a comfy feeding position but it also saved our arms on the plane and proved to be really useful at elevating Alex to give him a new perspective – which all babies enjoy!
6. If you are flying long haul – order a sky cot. They often have them on the plane anyway but if you happen to be on a plane with a large number of babies (like more than four) they won’t always have enough and even though you have to take them out every time turbulence hits (very frustrating) it was great to be able to put Alex down to sleep where he could be comfortable and give us an opportunity to sleep as well.
7. A nappy bag is obviously a must but you need something versatile, durable, comfortable and big enough to carry enough back up plans for thirty plus hours. We got a great backpack from Leke baby which held all of Alex’s stuff no problems and as it was a backpack there were no strained shoulders. Definitely invest in comfort plus size when travelling such long distances.
8. Alex is formula fed so we had a nifty little formula divider which had three sections of pre-measured formula. What a great piece of kit! We travelled with a whole tin of formula, because you never know but this meant that we had three feeds ready to go in a bottle without faffing, so we were only faffing every nine hours as opposed to every three.
9. As with a formula fed baby you need hot water and so we also travelled with a flask. Now, getting this filled every nine hours as opposed to every three meant that we did not irritate the cabin crew, we didn’t have to panic when he was hungry and we knew we had everything we needed if the seat belt sign was on and we weren’t able to get what we needed. The flask also proved invaluable in South Africa as they were going through scheduled power cuts at the time and this meant we always had a few feeds worth ready if we couldn’t boil water.
10. Before Alex was born we got a great deal on a three in one travel system which is great for daily life but unbelievably bulky for trips. We bought a lightweight travel stroller from Argos and it made the time in the airport so much more comfortable. Just make sure you know where it’s going and whether you will have it in the connecting airport…we didn’t know we wouldn’t and it was a very long walk after an already long flight. Some airports have airport strollers such as Dubai, but they were often all checked out or too big for Alex, who couldn’t yet sit up.
11. Schedule a feed or have a dummy ready for take off and landing. We all know how the pressure change can hurt our ears – imagine it for a little baby head.
12. Prepare for the next stage. We travelled with teething gel, calpol and teething rings just in case and lo and behold Alex started teething quite ferociously just before we headed home. I have never been so grateful for these amenities.