For many new parents, the prospect of travelling with their precious bundle can feel incredibly daunting, with conflicting advice from family, friends and good old Google simply muddying the waters! We quizzed family travel blogger Nicola Burke of Jetlag and Mayhem on everything new mums and dads need to know to book their trip with confidence.
Start Them Young
When asked how early parents should plan to travel with their newborn, Nicola – who, with two daughters of her own, has plenty of experience in flying with babies – believes that sooner is often better. “The best time is from four months onwards, after your baby has had their first vaccinations. Parents should really take advantage of that small window of opportunity when you only need to purchase an infant fare on the plane, and the baby is still small enough to fit into a bassinet.” She adds, “Travel becomes more awkward at toddler age, once they are on the move!”
Do Your Homework
So you’ve decided to take your new family away on holiday. What do you need to know before you leave? Nicola stresses the importance of thinking about the type of travel that you want to undertake, and researching accordingly. “First of all, check your passports are all valid, along with any specific visa requirements for your nationality.”
If your paperwork is all present and correct, it’s time to move on to the logistics of your trip. Nicola suggests listing all the steps out to make sure you have everything covered. “If you need to undertake a transfer, what is this like? Do you have a long stopover? If you plan to hire a car, will the car hire company provide a car seat, or do you need to bring your own?” Contacting the hotel in advance will also help to clarify – and potentially cut down – the amount of baggage that you need to haul with you. “Ask the hotel if they can provide basic baby amenities, for example a travel cot, baby bath or steriliser,” Nicola advises.
And don’t forget the flight itself. “It's always worth speaking to the airline directly about their policy on extra luggage allowances [some airlines offer additional allowances for those travelling with infants], as well as booking bassinets.”
Are You Sitting Comfortably?
So what of that elusive bassinet seat? How hard is it really to secure this prime position, with all its additional legroom and storage space? As most airlines do not guarantee a bassinet on the day, Nicola says that persistence is often the key to success. “Call the airline when booking and ask them for the bassinet. Then, on the day of travel, keep asking about it – both at check in, at the gate, and, if necessary, once you’re on board.” She explains “Airlines normally prioritise bassinet seats by age, with families of the youngest babies usually getting first refusal.” Regardless, she recommends asserting yourself to maximise the chances of being allocated your preferred seat.
Packing for a trip with a young baby can often feel like a military exercise, with kilos of carry-on to navigate through check-in and all around the airport. Nicola suggests that – aside from essentials, such as nappies, food or milk – parents of infants should focus on just three essential items. “Baby wipes, a change of clothes for everyone… and plastic bags for storing said clothes if there are any spills, stains or – let’s be honest – vomit!”
And what about those key items once you arrive at your destination? Nicola says, “Of course, this will vary by age, but for little ones, a travel cot. As mentioned, you should check with your hotel in advance to see if they provide one, although you may prefer to bring your own. Also, the feeding essentials, along with your favourite brand of nappies”. She also recommends keeping sensitive baby skin happy by packing your preferred shampoo or baby wash, as well as anticipating any bumps, bruises, burns or bugs “There are lots of great natural brands on the market for sunscreen and insect repellent, and I’d also recommend packing a decent medical kit too.”
Speaking of which, Nicola stresses the importance of keeping up-to-date on the most current travel health advice – and that this is especially important when travelling with infants. “Keep your eye on travel health recommendations for whichever region you are traveling to, and be aware of insect-borne diseases, for example dengue fever.”
Three Of The Best
I ask Nicola – who has travelled extensively with her children since they were babies – for her own favourite family destinations. Here are her top three picks for parents:
Thailand “It's always a winner! If I had to pick just one place, then I would go for Koh Samui.”
Japan “Try Tokyo for a city break. It has wide stroller-friendly streets, not to mention the best food on the planet!”
The USA “We love road-tripping around the US with our kids. The States are so child-friendly that it's hard to pick just one destination, but I think our favourite state is Colorado.”
For more family travel inspiration, reviews and tips from Nicola, visit jetlagandmayhem.com