We recently did our first big trip with Jess (see here) and to say I was nervous in advance is an understatement! It wasn’t our first time flying but it was our longest flight to date for Jess. Not to mention the longest flight we’d ever done ourselves! It was also the longest time we’d been away together as a family (3 weeks).
Perhaps we were a bit crazy to pick New Zealand as a first holiday with the distance and time difference. However despite the nerves beforehand and the effort (packing takes a lot longer!), we had the most amazing time. That’s not to say it wasn’t without its challenges, going on holiday with a baby is definitely different from holidays pre baby!
I thought I’d share a few things we found useful from our trip if you’re also planning a getaway with a little traveller….
What to do in the airport…
The first question was how to keep Jess entertained in the airport. I’d travelled with Jess at 10 weeks and 4 months but she was a lot more active this time round.
If you can I’d definitely recommend trying to let your little one have some time outside of the carrier or pram. Especially if they are a bit older like Jess (who was 7 months) and can sit up unaided. Jess had just started crawling the week before we travelled which was obviously really exciting but also a bit daunting. She was keen on exploring which can be a bit limited on a plane!! We took a large thin blanket to use to create a mini play area pre flight. It also works well on the flight too depending on where you are sitting. If you fly with Emirates they provide really colourful themed blankets for babies on the flight too.
Opt for a carrier around the airport…
I ummed and ahhed about this for weeks for my first trip with Jess. But having done a few trips now I can definitely say opting for the carrier is the way to go. Especially if you don’t have a travel friendly stroller such as the yoyo. We have the Uppababy vista which we love, and although you could take to the gate, it’s not practical and not really needed.
At this age (7 months and younger) the carrier is perfect and means you have your hands free. If you really need a stroller then in Dubai you can pick up a free one to borrow in the terminal. But even with this option we didn’t need one. Jess was perfectly happy in the carrier and busy watching all the goings on. It’s fair to say Jess loves airports!
Invest in a travel bag if taking your pram…
This was an item I wasn’t sure on especially as there’s so much stuff to buy when you have a baby. Turns out the travel bag was VERY useful if you choose to take your main stroller as opposed to a smaller travel option. A brand approved travel bag means you are covered if there’s any issues during your trip. It’s basically insurance and I’m so glad we had it as our pram seat snapped after one the internal flights in New Zealand.
Providing you register your pram and travel bag for the warranty and have the receipt, then there is no issue in fixing/replacing the pram on return. This can vary between brands though so check first! Definitely worth considering if you’re looking to travel quite a bit with your main stroller. We opted to take ours as Jess was used to it and it’s pretty sturdy for walks etc (but apparently not internal flights!).
Packing for the plane…
There’s already a lot of advice online for what to pack when travelling with a baby so I’ve decided to keep this bit brief.
It’s fair to say traveling light is now a thing of the past!! Having said that when I traveled on my own I did try and pack as light as possible in terms of hand luggage. If you can I’d recommend just a rucksack especially if you are using a carrier. Handbags and shoulder bags are great but don’t work so well with carriers.
In terms of top tips on what to pack remember a change of clothes for you as well as baby!! I didn’t need this but always useful to have! Some airlines do provide items such as nappies and baby food. Although I think it’s better to come with more of these than you need just in case this isn’t an option on your flight.
Choose apartments over hotels…
This was a top tip from a friend and is was the best advice. Although a lovely luxury hotel room might be appealing, in reality if you’re all in one room once baby goes to bed you’re a bit stuck. An apartment gives you the option to have a separate lounge area to use. We used AirBnB for all our bookings in New Zealand and found it great. Make sure you check the apartments have separate bedrooms and aren’t studios or adjoining. This is sometimes the case and difficult to see in photos.
This did happen in our first location but wasn’t too much of an issue. The benefit of an apartment is you also have the option to cook and eat in which is great. It was also good as Jess was starting solids so it made it easy to prepare food for her.
Look for accommodation with baby friendly facilities…
Another point on accommodation is to check for accommodation with baby facilities. This avoids you having to take too many additional items with you. We considered taking a travel cot so Jess had the same cot each night so would be familiar with it, but the additional cost on the internal flights meant it just didn’t make sense. Lots of apartments have cots and high chairs etc so it’s really worth checking. We took our own sheets so Jess had some familiarity for the cot.
If you can’t find accommodation with facilities consider hiring. We did this in both the Auckland and Rotorua accommodation and it was really easy and very affordable.
Try and stick to your routine (but be flexible too!)…
We don’t have the most fixed routine for Jess anyway which in some ways helped but we did try and be consistent in terms of what we did each night even if the timings were a bit different. We would do a book and a shower (there was often not a bath but Jess was happy enough with the shower!) and then feed before bed. That’s not to say Jess went down to sleep after this routine each time or went in her cot straight away (see photo!) but it did improve as she settled in and adjusted to the new time zones.
Limit the number of locations – spend longer in fewer places…
Our plan for New Zealand was probably a bit different to what we might have done if Josh and I had been doing it on our own. We probably would have done odd nights in places and a lot more driving but I definitely think limiting the number of places was such a good plan on this trip. As mentioned earlier travelling light is a thing of the past so having a base meant we could unpack properly and enjoy an area rather than unpacking and repacking every other night.
Not planning too much every day in terms of activities also meant it was a lot more relaxed and we didn’t feel pressure to rush around which suited all of us. It was actually a nice change as past trips have often been trying to include as many sights as possible so it was nice to slow down and spend more time getting to know each area.
Don’t plan too many long car journeys…
This really depends on the baby but Jess is not a car fan so this was an important one for us. We still wanted to see a lot of the country so opted for internal flights which were really good and very reasonable and a lot less painful than long car rides.
It did mean we missed some key sights such as Milford Sounds but we decided that the stress for us and upset for Jess just wasn’t worth it and instead made the most of things to see and do that weren’t so far away.
Most importantly have fun!
Although it can be a bit daunting planning a big trip with a little one, it’s 100% worth it. Whilst holidays might be different to what they once were it’s different in a good way. I’d definitely suggest travelling with a baby if you get the opportunity to do so and can recommend New Zealand as the perfect destination and one that is really baby friendly.