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Preparing for your first family holiday

Posted on 16 Mar, 2018 by Sarah Hart

Happy hour on holiday with children
Make the most of happy hour – you probably won’t make it too much past their dinner time for any nights out!

Are you planning your first family holiday? Remember when you used to go on holiday pre-children and you could lay by the pool all day, relaxing with a book in one hand and a cocktail in the other?

I’m afraid those sorts of holidays are a thing of the past once you have children. My best piece of advice is to be well prepared and remember that while your holiday will not be the same as you are used to, it should still be a fun, relaxing and enjoyable experience for the whole family. Here are some top tips for parents who are taking their first holiday with a child under one year old.

Don’t overpack

If you are staying in the UK, remember that while babies – especially those under one year – do need quite a lot of stuff, you can buy much of this when you arrive at your destination. So you don’t need to pack five bumper boxes of nappies or enough pureed food to feed your child for a month just in case. When you are travelling abroad things are slightly different, as you cannot guarantee that you can buy the items or brands you are used to and so you may need to pack certain foods or specific products in your suitcase.

While it is good to have a selection of clothing, you can always take travel wash and so do not need to pack hundreds of vests and outfits (a mistake I have made in the past). One friend said that her first holiday with their 10-month-old baby involved a large 4×4 packed full to the brim and with a full roof box, too. In hindsight, it was far too much for one week away!

Breastfeeding mums do not have to worry too much about feeding their little ones while on holiday abroad, but if you are combi or formula feeding it is important to remember that you can’t take bottles containing more than 150ml of liquid through customs. However, you can pre-order and pay for toiletries and formula from Boots and then collect it at the airport ready to take on the plane – just be sure to factor this into your hand-luggage allowance.

Flying with children

Taking babies and children under 12 months old on a plane journey can be tricky and often it is dependent on their mood that day. However, if you are as prepared as possible, you will hopefully be able to soothe your little one and keep them (and the other passengers around you) happy during the flight. If this is your first flight with a child, think about how far you want to travel and perhaps ease yourself in with a two- or three-hour flight to somewhere in Europe, rather than going long-haul.

Airports can be stressful at the best of times, but even more so with children in tow. Give yourself plenty of time to check-in and get through customs to ensure you have as relaxed an experience as possible. If you decide to take a buggy or pushchair with you on the plane, be aware that it will need to be well wrapped and secured, as this kind of luggage can often get damaged when being handled. I suggest buying a cheap second-hand buggy that is lightweight and you won’t mind if it does get damaged or lost (we all know how much buggies can cost these days!).

When the plane is taking off and landing, it is a good idea to try to breast- or bottle-feed your baby, as the change in pressure can hurt their ears and the sucking from feeding helps to balance this pressure. For older children, tend to enjoy a sweet or lolly to suck on during take off.

For children under one, you do not have to buy a separate seat on the plane, but this means that you will have baby sitting on your lap or sleeping on you for all of the flight. Some airlines have special seats with fold-out cots, but your child has to be under a certain age to use this and must not be able to sit up. Note: this type of seat must be booked in advance, so check with your airline before travel. If you are able to choose your seats, look out for the ones at the front of a row as they usually have extra leg room, which will come in handy if you have a little one on your lap.

Once you arrive at your destination it is worth noting that taxis rarely have car seats for children, so you will need to pre-book your transfer or hire a car and request a car seat.

Take a trunki on your children's holiday
Trunkis are awesome for amusing the kids at the airport!

Changing temperatures

While you may have loved laying on a beach in the hot sun all day or skiing in freezing temperatures pre-children, take climate into consideration when choosing where to go on your first family holiday. Little ones are much more sensitive to extreme temperatures. For example, they aren’t as effective at sweating as adults and so are prone to overheating. They also feel the cold much more and will need plenty of layers if you do choose to go somewhere chilly.

If you are going to a hot country, make sure you have plenty of high-factor suncream for your baby, a decent sun hat and loose clothing that offers protection from the sun’s rays. Another friend took a small pop-up tent on her last beach holiday and this was a great place for their daughter to have a nap in and eat her lunch out of the heat. Another tip for beach holidays is to take an old double bed sheet (the fitted ones are best). You can use this as a massive picnic blanket and if you put bag or rock on each corner, you can fold up the edges to keep the sand out.

babies stay out of sun in midday heat on family holiday
Taking a break in the middle of the midday sun for a nap!
Don't forget the sun cap, arm bands, sun protection suits and sun cream!
Don’t forget the sun cap, arm bands, sun protection suits and sun cream!

Choosing the right accommodation

Make your life easier by researching child-friendly hotels, villas and apartments – there are plenty of companies online who cater for families. These will usually come with cots, high chairs and will have amenities that are suitable for families. Don’t make the mistake of booking a cottage that only has a shower, because if your child isn’t used to them you may end up having to do ‘bath time’ in the kitchen sink! Many resorts also have babysitting facilities and kids clubs for older children. If you do choose to stay in a hotel, consider going ‘all-inclusive’ to take away the hassle of having to go food shopping or constantly eating out (which just isn’t as fun with children in tow).

find shade on your holiday to keep children out of the sun
Pick a resort with plenty of things to keep the children occupied. This park was under shade so perfect for avoiding some of the midday sun.

Most of all, change your expectations of what a holiday entails. You still have to do the same things that you do at home with your baby, such as feeding, nappies, tummy time and naps – but you are in a different place. Children are very adaptable, but don’t expect your little one to settle right away and try to take pleasure in any downtime you might get.

My daughter's first family holiday
Our first family holiday to Woolacoombe – we packed the grandparents – they came in handy! And you might even get a night out alone as a couple with babysitters at the ready!
family holiday to turkey
Fab holiday in Turkey. Make sure you get a snap of ALL of you on holiday!

And finally PACK YOUR CAMERA 🙂  Make sure you make lots of happy memories and snap away to help you and the children remember your family holiday!

If you’d like to find out how to take better holiday photos click HERE. For ideas on what to do with your holiday photographs, have a read of this blog about Photo Yearbooks:

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Sarah Hart Newborn Photography