Way before Bea was born my mum suggested a family holiday to celebrate a significant birthday. I was nervous about the thought of taking a baby away so young, for so many reasons, but had always vowed if I was going to have children, I wouldn’t change my life drastically, so I had to finally put my money where my mouth is. We just got back yesterday from Florida and managed to navigate the 8+ hour flight each way, including a night flight on our return and the 5 hour time difference so I thought I would share a little bit of what helped us.
Firstly, Bea is an easy baby and sleeps well which helped immensely, although I have to say it actually was the thing that worried me the most. Before she was born I thought, what’s the difference between sitting in my front room bouncing her, feeding her and getting her down for naps, to doing it on an aeroplane? I didn’t worry about jet lag as I figured she wouldn’t have a routine anyway at 14 weeks when we left. It turns out she did and we were just getting a pattern of sleeping from between 7.30 to 8.30ish until a dream feed, then through the night. I had no idea how to negotiate the jet lag for her. Secondly, we flew with Virgin Atlantic, choosing a direct flight to Orlando, as although it was further from our destination, we figured she would sleep in the car on route to the villa, and we wouldn’t have to haul our stuff and a potentially fractious baby through an airport transfer. In the end she was so good, I wouldn’t worry about doing a transfer at all in future.
Bea was almost 15 weeks when we left so I didn’t find packing too bad at all. I had bought summer clothes for her before she was born which she never fitted because she was so small, so we had plenty of warm weather stuff. Going to America made things much easier as did staying in a villa – I packed only enough nappies for the journey there and the next day, then bought more in the supermarket along with cotton wool for nappy changing. We only took a select few rattles etc for distraction, her bath time toiletries, a multitude of muslins and bedding for incase it was chilly at night.
Virgin allowed us to take a pushchair and a car seat as part of our baggage allowance so I bought a generic car seat cover (iSafe Universal Car Seat Travel Bag) to protect it and the Uppababy Vista Travel bag. This wasn’t cheap but comes with the guarantee that if the travel system is damaged in transit, they will rectify any damage. I’d thoroughly recommend it as it not only protects and stows the contents but it’s easy to pull around, with handles and wheels in all the right places. (Look out for the full review on the Uppababy coming soon…) We also used the bassinet part of the Uppababy as her crib to sleep in while we were away, and the full coverage was perfect for keeping her out of the sun when we pushed her around too. Lastly, we also took the wrap sling on the plane and walking on the beach with a (last minute purchase) hat as it kept her well covered from the sun again. We paid extra to fly with Virgin and direct but I don’t think it was worth it in retrospect. The flight flew by we were so busy with her and we only got a bassinet on the way out for her to sleep in – we were basically awake all night for fear of smothering her on the return leg because we couldn’t put her down safely. We had been assured that whilst not guaranteed, the sky cots are allocated on basis of need and there was unlikely to be 12 babies younger than Bea on board, but apparently those with disabilities got all the seats as a priority.
For the outbound flight I packed 3 baby gros and vests, (in case of poo-splosions etc!), 8 nappies, wipes, nappy bags, a blanket, 2 toys, 2 dummies, 2 muslins, plus my own mini toiletry bag for flying (with lip balm, hand cream, toothbrush and paste and alco-gel in case of needing to clean my hands without a sink!) and purse. Pete carried my magazine etc. All of this might seem a lot of detail but I agonised about what to take, where she would sleep etc in the run up, so I hope this helps someone. Oh, and a spare top in case of vomit related incidents, dribble bibs those disposable change mats I mentioned – perfect for a mid-transatlantic nappy leak in the worlds smallest changing facilities.
I decided on the outbound journey I would try to extend her normal daily routine of an hour or so awake, followed by a nap, beyond her normal bedtime until it was the right time at our destination. The flight was easy enough, although harder than I anticipated. Bea didn’t react to the white noise of the plane, in fact it seemed to wake her rather than soothe her, so she only slept for a few 30 minute stretches throughout the 8.5h flight and had a couple of fractious periods due to tiredness as a result, but on the whole she was great. We landed at about 4.30pm local time, which as 8.30pm our time. She was completely flat out as a result so I woke her, fed her and tried to keep her awake until we got in the car later. I let her sleep the 2 hour drive to the villa, then woke her as if it was her normal dream feed.
The first night she slept until 5.30am, the same the next, then almost 7am, and day by day she slowly readjusted. Other than in the afternoon on the first day when she was really unsettled and crying when we realised it was bed time for her body clock and she was exhausted, she adjusted brilliantly, going to bed earlier in the evening than usual which suited us anyway for eating out and the early waking for a few days didn’t bother us either as we were jet lagged and waking early too!
We’re still going through the aftermath of the return flight. It was a night fight, departing at 7.30pm and I figured I would feed her to sleep on the way up and not wake her for a dream feed, and get her up at the other end as though it was a normal day. We were slightly scuppered as we didn’t get allocated a baby bed for her which meant we both sat awake all night holding her. She was blissfully unaware and after a few startles and wakes at the beginning of the flight, very quickly soothed by feeding, she slept all the way through until we got in the taxi to go home. That was partly because it was 4am Florida time when we landed here at 8am, but I applied the same principles as the outward journey, although I felt like I was torturing her when she wouldn’t wake up. She napped throughout the day as usual (other than a very long one yesterday morning when we also had a cheeky snooze,) and will no doubt go to bed later than usual for a couple of nights as she adjusts back into her usual routine. I’m actually going to use it as an opportunity to get her into a bedtime routine and napping schedule for the first time ever. I’ll keep you posted in the comments later
The holiday itself was worth any minor tiredness we suffered getting there and back. Bea had her first trip to the beach, her first dip in the sea, went swimming in the pool most days and got to play with Daddy every day! To be honest the hardest part was keeping her out of the sun which we managed by either using the wrap and a hat, or taking the bassinet on the beach and not going to the beach until the sun was pretty low.
If you’ve got any questions about anything I have missed out, or if you’ve got any great tips for travelling with a small baby please do share them. To be honest, I really don’t think travelling with a baby is much of a challenge compared with a toddler or active older baby, but as with everything new about having a baby, it can be a really daunting prospect. It’s never as bad as you think and it’s worth every moment of family time in the sun!