It's coming up to the autumn half term, and some of the lucky ones amongst us will likely be taking off on foreign adventures, or maybe staying closer to home on a UK holiday, with their families.
I love going on adventures with my son, and have travelled with him from when we was teeny tiny, just a couple of months old. We travelled on our own together (I'm a single parent), so I thought I'd share some tips I learnt along the way. Don't let your circumstances deter you from having adventures, that's what I say! This half term holiday my son and I won't be flying on a plane or going to stay away from home, but I have promised him that we'll take a train somewhere new for an ice cream (he is now 3 1/2 years old, loves vehicles, and so this for him is the best kind of adventure!).
From when my son was tiny, I've also tried to couple our adventures with travelling (as far as possible) PLASTIC-FREE too. In some cases, it is easier to go plastic-free on journeys, and in other ways you have to just pre-plan a little bit.
So, are you planning a flight with your baby soon? Or maybe travelling long distance in the car or by train? Maybe you'll be on your own with your baby, or maybe with a partner? Maybe you'll be staying in a hotel room together for the first time?
Here are some of my tips for travels with a baby, and a few plastic-free travel tips thrown in for good measure too!
1) Start with small journeys together - I found that by starting my baby really young on short public transport journeys, that before long he got pretty used to buses, trains, undergrounds, boats, planes and more! If you have a car, the same goes for frequent small car journeys just so they get used to it. It also helps to build your confidence, in the case that you are a new mum for instance - it was always something that I was worried about, but the more often I did small journeys, the more confidence developed between us.
2) Try to travel light - planning ahead by bringing just the essentials means that, even if you are travelling alone with your baby, you can carry everything without killing your back in the process. Again, by taking small journeys often, you'll get to know what kit you definitely need and which bits and bobs can be left behind. I always found that having spare baby bibs, at least three muslins, a cotton blanket, and some reusable wipes were essential.
3) Welcome the kindness of strangers (if it's safe to do so) - As a single travelling mother with a tiny baby, I would often be unexpectedly cared for by total strangers. One man and his mother took my backpack through security at an airport while I had my son strapped on my front in a sling, one woman helped me carry a cup of tea to my table when waiting for a delayed train, one woman even helped to hold my son at the airport when I was trying to get a buggy in a bag ready for going in the aeroplane. People can be so generous, so if it's safe to do so, accept their help - I always thought that I could do it all on my own (!), but the reality is that if someone is offering to make your life a little easier, just for a couple of seconds or minutes, then accept it!
4) Try to book in travel around nap times - I've tried and succeeded on many occasions to schedule traveling around my baby's nap schedule; when it works, it's a glorious thing, and makes you feel more relaxed and makes the journey feel that more manageable. I know from experience that it's not always that straight-forward, so make sure you do have a plan for if they don't sleep at all, then you'll be pleasantly surprised when / if they do!
5) Reusable bottles are a must - whether on a train or in the car, reusable water bottles are essential for plastic-free travels? As long as you empty before you go through security and fill up again pre-flight, you can even take these on most flights!
6) Breastfeeding is great for flying - Breastfeeding (naturally plastic-free, obv!!) is great for when you are taking off and touching down on planes with breastfeeding babies. You can get all strapped in together in a special baby lap strap that you'll be given, and you can breastfeed at the crucial take off / touch down moments, to try to prevent your baby from getting hurty, popping ears. The swallowing action really helps. Alternatively, a natural rubber teether could work well too.
7) Long journeys - Long journeys with a baby can be a bit of a chore, and although we've not done huge stop over type long journeys, but we've done a fair few long car journeys and train journeys. The more distractions the better! As long as they don't unduly weigh down your luggage. Snacks, rattles, things that they can chew on such as natural rubber teethers, peepo games, dollies or teddies, a nice book... you name it - you'll need to bring out your full arsenal of distractions! In the car, I found that having familiar music in different themes was great - having relaxing sounds and nursery rhymes as they go to sleep, and more up beat tunes when they require entertaining - this is a must if you haven't got any more assistance in the car with you, because the power of music is so soothing / energising, it can really be so effective at helping your baby through some tough journey moments!
8) The power of the muslin! - You can get really creative, even with a basic muslin - you can use it for peepo games / I tied the corner of the muslin for him to chew on / I used another to put down on seats / tables in case they were less than sanitary (!) / if you forget your bibs, you can wrap them around them as a alternative bib to prevent mess and spills or spit. Totally plastic-free and so many uses!
9) Potty training on the move - As your baby gets older, you'll need some potty training options for when they have to use the loo IMMEDIATELY with no warning! :-). I keep a plastic-free potty in the boot of my car, even now, just in case. And I also keep a plastic-free biodegradable disposable potty in my bag, too, for number 2's when we can't get to a toilet quickly or easily. It has been a real gem on occasion having this to call on! They are really easy to put up, to sit on, and then you dispose of them in a biodegradable bag.
I'm sure I have more tips than this, and I'll make sure to write another blog post at some stage to incorporate them all!
Are you going away somewhere exciting on holiday soon? How do you find travelling with your baby?
See a pic below of me and my son, aged 5 months, on a trip to Copenhagen!
All the best,
Plastic Free Baby founder