We know it’s been a weird year. Most of us have spent far longer away from our families than with them. As we head towards the holiday season, you might be thinking of travelling, either by plane or by car, with your baby. So here are some guidelines for travelling safely with your baby.
If there’s one rule that is non-negotiable, it’s that babies should never be driven in cars without a car seat. Their small bodies and tiny, fragile necks will not survive a collision, and this is even more true when driving in unfamiliar places.
It’s also the safest place for your baby to sleep while in the car, which is often the best way to get from place to place. Driving with an awake, frustrated baby is very difficult, so planning to drive during your baby’s naps is often the best bet.
Although it’s tempting to let sleeping babies lie, it isn’t recommended to allow your baby to continue sleeping in their car seat outside of the car. The car seat is shaped in such a way as to protect your baby’s body while the car is moving. But it does tend to crunch up their tiny bodies, especially if left to sleep unbelted and out of the car seat.
Every family has different sleep essentials. You might have a baby monitor and a white noise machine, or a favourite cuddly toy or blanket. Whatever sleep props you need, it’s best to take them with you if you can. This is especially important for slightly older babies and toddlers, as travel can leave them a bit disorientated and too excited to sleep. The Snuza baby monitors are small and compact enough to travel easily, making them ideal holiday companions.
Be aware of any time differences and keep track of the length of naps during the day. If your baby has only had short catnaps throughout the day, then you could start bedtime 15-30 minutes earlier to avoid trying to get an overtired baby to sleep. A solid bedtime routine will help your baby get to sleep, even if they are out of their usual environment.
Most hotels, guesthouses and even AirBNBs will be able to arrange a cot, crib or camp cot for your baby to sleep in. Before you book, it’s wise to ask and make sure something will be available. A normal bed in an unfamiliar place isn’t ideal, as your baby could roll out of it and onto the floor. If necessary — and if you are driving to your destination — be prepared to take a foldaway camp cot (sometimes called a Pack & Play) with you.
We all like to let loose sometimes, especially on holidays. There are ways to co-sleep safely with your baby, which you may do routinely at home. However, it bears remembering that it is never advisable to co-sleep with your baby if you have been either drinking or smoking or are otherwise not in total control of your faculties. Even extreme exhaustion (say, after a long flight or a long day of driving) can impair you enough to make co-sleeping unsafe.
There’s nothing worse than being far from home, maybe in a foreign country or unfamiliar place, when your baby gets sick. Make sure you take along some baby paracetamol, a nasal aspirator, a thermometer, teething medication, sunscreen, bug repellent, and a syringe to administer any liquid medication. Wet wipes, bum cream, and hand sanitiser are also always helpful to take with you.
You just never know when there’s going to be a blowout, so a change of clothes — for both you and your baby — can be the difference between a great day and a day covered in poop or vomit. This is especially true on holiday when you might be eating different food and passing that to your baby through breastmilk. Try to use pre-boiled, bottled water to make formula bottles to avoid any potential contamination from the water (leading to more of said blowouts!).
Prams and buggies can be really helpful, but they can also be a big, heavy thing to lug around on holiday. Another way to carry your baby around, safe and happy, is in a sling, wrap or soft-structured baby carrier. Babies will often sleep better and for longer when on their parent’s body, as opposed to in a pram, and the carrier leaves you hands-free to get on with the business of your holiday.
Travelling with a baby or young child is very different from pre-kid travel. You might have been prone to long nights partying, or even long days in museums. When you travel with kids, you should plan for a slower pace and far more breaks. Break long drives up into 2-3 hour slots with breaks for fresh air or a runabout. Book your accommodation near a park if you have a toddler, you’ll always appreciate a place for your kid to run around.
Travelling with kids is different, but with the right planning and the right expectations, it can be amazing. Try to keep your sense of humour intact, and give yourself a lot of grace. It should be a holiday for everyone, and if that means letting the reins go on the daily routine so everyone relaxes a bit, then let it go. You can pick it right back up when you get home. We wish you happy — and safe! — travels!