We did it. We travelled half way round the world (literally) with our 13 month old monkey and survived to tell the tale! When people warn you that holidays post baby are ‘just not the same’ they sure aren’t lying.. So pre warned and feeling anxious I held my expectations low and packed our bags (all five of them), our Pram, our baby Bjorn, crap loads of mosquito repellent and enough kiddie snacks to feed a small army, and we (reluctantly) set of for our month long adventure.. Oh and we also packed two aunties for good luck (and babysitting services).
We travelled to Bali, the Gili islands and Dubai and were fortunate enough to stay in some amazing places, in pure pure luxury. I have a months worth of antectodes to share, but I won’t bore you with allll the detail but I do want to share my family travel do’s and don’ts.. so here are my top travel tips:
- Travel light! I thought I had but it’s so hard to travel light with a baby when your away for a month.. luckily as the nappies and snacks were consumed our bags became lighter and lighter. But we still couldn’t avoid having 2 large cases, a small trolley and two bags and a baby bag to lug around with us. We moved around every 3-4 days so this was the biggest nuisance and biggest learning for me, I will ALWAYS travel lighter in future. The icing on the cake was arriving on the small island of gili trawangan after a horrendous two and a half hour rocky boat journey watching everyone else embark into the sea to get to the shore with their backpacks.. followed by our gang and our collective haul that had to be carried on the poor crew’s shoulder to the shore! To say we were embarrassed was an understatement.. we then sat on the beach for over an hour with our large pile of luggage waiting for a gili taxi to get us to our hotel (also known as a horse and carriage). The ‘drivers’ would take one look at us and our excessive luggage and quote the most ridiculous price. In the end we caved in and paid over the odds and had to get an additional taxi just for our luggage.. I just felt sorry for the poor horse! So anyway it’s safe to say we learnt the hard way, so trust me on this.. travel light!
- Include a stopover. I usually advise against stopovers, I usually prefer to pay more and fly direct. But when flying long haul having to stop anyway and with a little one in tow, I was so thankful for our stopovers. We stopped in Dubai both ways, three nights on the way out, and four nights on the return journey. It does add time on to your vacation but when travelling long distances with babies or children it’s a must. We were able to freshen up and relax before our 9+ hour flight from Bali to Dubai and felt like we had a mini holiday.. same on the return journey and your not returning home completely exhausted. It was a win win for us. My sister and cousin joined us at Dubai airport having come straight off their UK to Dubai flight, joining us for our flight to bali.. and let me tell you a few hours in they were like zombies!
- Take a night flight. This was a god send for us.. we took two night flights, UK- Dubai (approx 7 hours) and also Denpasar (Bali) to Dubai (approx 9 hours) and my little monkey slept the majority of both flights which meant I could too. You do arrive at your destination having not had a comfortable full nights sleep but we found Sami was still sleepy enough to have a long nap and it was better then the alternative which is to keep a baby entertained for the best part of 9 hours with limited space and limited resources. We purposefully didn’t take a night flight on our return home so that we arrived at Samis bedtime and could get back into a routine as quickly as possible.
- Don’t stick to a rigid routine. At home Sami goes to bed and has naps following a strict routine. But with a huge time difference, we decided that he would be adjusting to the new times anyway so we may as well mix up his routine slightly so he could go to bed when I did. This did meant we had a grumpy baby some evenings but the trade off was we got to have evenings out and about instead of me having to sit in the dark and silence at 7pm every night. Sami quickly adjusted and napped on the go or would have a late nap before going out for dinner, but i won’t lie to you and say it was all a breeze. We had a grumpy overtired baby on many occasions as sleeping on the go is not easier for a little one when it’s so hot and everything’s so new and exciting.
- Go to a laundromat. I had taken travel wash and optimistically planned to wash clothes (mainly my little boys), but I should have known this would never happen. Especially when travelling for a longer holiday, take less clothes and get them washed so that you CAN travel lighter (see point on travelling light). Don’t use the hotel’s laundry service as we made this mistake once before and paid a small fortune, find a local laundrette and have a nice meal with the money you’ll save. In all honestly my baby mainly wore nappies and nothing else so I really didn’t need to pack so many clothes for him!
- Take a solid travel system. We opted to take a cheap stroller as I was worried about my beautiful bugaboo getting ruined on the plane.. big mistake. Not only was it not comfy for my monkey to nap in (which he ended up doing loads), it was hard to assemble and dissemble which resulted in some embarrassing moments in the first few days. On one occasion we had the stroller fully assembled on the front seat of the taxi 😂😂.
- Hire a car.. and a car seat. The whole time we were in Indonesia we hired a driver and a people carrier, but there was no option for a car seat. And let me tell you car journeys were HARD. My little monkey was agitated, upset, inconsolable and uncomfortable for nearly every journey, and he would only remain in my arms which meant car journeys were not fun for me either. When we got to Dubai we hired a car and seat and the rest is history. Car journeys became a chance for me to put my feet up and we had a happy (and sleeping) baby.
- Pack a plane bag. With all your essentials for baby including snacks, nappies, spare clothes, and lots of little toys. We used the same packed bag for all our outings and it made life so much easier. Don’t forget it’s always cooler on planes so take blankets and layers for your little one.
- Take your gro-bag/ usual blankets. Even if travelling to a hot climate, remember due to air conditioning it’s cool at night, so don’t forget to take your usual gro bag or blankets.
- Feed baby on take off/landing. I was lucky enough to still be breastfeeding my 13 month old, so I fed on take off and landing to help with his poor little ears. A bottle would have the same affect. Breastfeeding also helped with my little one not getting ill by the local food, as he was still not fully established onto solids until 14 months old!
- Don’t over do it. Although we fit a lot into our holiday we had lots of time to play with so didn’t have too many plans for any one day. This is essential for not getting stressed and feeling like you’ve had some relaxation time. We did however move around every 3-4 days and this involved long car, boat or plane journeys. This is something I would not recommend. In hindsight I would stay put in one location or maybe have picked 2 or 3 max. We managed 8 different locations! Hectic was not the word!
- Don’t expect too much. Lower your expectations, holidaying with children is not going to be the same and as long as you are prepared for this and set your expectations right, you will enjoy yourself. I had set my expectations low, but travelling with other young people, and in a large group for many parts of the trip, I was the only one with a baby or child so it did suck a lot of the time. Especially as my monkey was super clingy and wanted mummy only, so daddy and his aunties could only do so much. If you are travelling in a group, I would strongly advise to travel with other families so you can all plan like minded activities and you don’t feel like the odd one out.
We had a lovely time, saw some beautiful sites, stayed in some lush places and have some great memories but I won’t pretend it was all fabulous. It was HARD. It does come down to your babies personality, and my baby loves routine, is easily irritated and is very dependant and clingy to his mummy (mainly down to breastfeeding). Some babies would adapt a lot easier and cope with the changes more smoothly, but I guess you don’t really know how they’ll cope until you get there. For me, coming home was like a holiday and I was so happy to be home, but I will cherish the memories, I just don’t think I’ll be travelling long haul again. A 17 hour journey is perhaps a little much for a baby, but there are plenty of destinations MUCH closer to home for future trips.. I’ll leave you with some snaps..