We have just returned from a week away at beautiful Forster Tuncurry! I'm getting a lot better at travelling with a baby - the dilemma is that you don't want to pack too much, but you also don't want to pack too little! I want to share a few tips that have really worked for me.
Tip 1: Pack different items into different bags.
I had a different bag for myself, Brendan and Miss M, and then a bag for our towels and sheets (they weren't supplied at our unit) and a bag for food and kitchen items. This was really useful to know exactly where something was when we unpacked, and it was handy to know exactly how to repack on the last day.
Tip 2: Restrict yourself to 1 bag each.
Unless you are going to lots of different places, or to a variety of places with different temperatures, you shouldn't need to pack more than 1 bag each. I ALWAYS overpack and have to really think about what outfits and items I will actually use, not just what I think I might use. This tip is also important when you travel with kids because all of a sudden you need to pack items like the portacot and pram, and these take up lots of space.
Tip 3: Research where you are going and choose some fun activities to fill your days.
Now I don't have an experience travelling with older kids (except for going away with a family who has kids in primary school), but it makes sense to go somewhere where there are a variety of activities to keep kids occupied. For example - the beach, putt putt golf, ten pin bowling, paths for walking and bike riding, indoor playground centres, places to go fishing etc. Also consider what you will do in wet weather (ten pin and indoor playgrounds are great for this). Miss M is only 9 months old, but it's always important for me to have walking paths available so I can take her for a walk in the pram (keeps both of us occupied!) Also research what type of apartment or unit or caravan park you are going too - do they have a pool or playground or other activities for kids? Is the place in walking distance of a beach, or do you have to always drive to the beach?
We enjoyed a game of tennis, bike riding and lots of walking to the beach on our recent trip. My mum and dad came with us, and mum loved kayaking on the water. It was really fun.
Walks with the pram
Miss M's first time playing at the beach!
Tip 4: Spend some time relaxing!
It's lots of fun doing activities all day while on holidays, but it is important to spend time relaxing as well! Take a good book if you enjoy reading, lay beside the pool sun baking, or go for a wander along the water. I made sure we did one or two activities in a day but no more, so that we had time to spend relaxing as well. If you feel rushed the whole time you are away, you return home not refreshed at all! This seems especially important if you have older kids - bring some 'busy bags' or 'quiet activities' with you to keep the kids occupied while you enjoy a cuppa!
[Organising the four of us has a great blog post on creating a busy bag - click here]
Tip 5: Create a packing list so you won't forget anything!
I keep what I call a 'master list' in my phone with a list of absolutely everything I might need to take with me. Each time I go away, I use an emoji/tick to check off things I have packed. Here are some things that are on my list:
- Snacks for the trip
- Phone charger
- Earphones for ipod/phone
- Water bottles
- CD's/car charger/music for the car
- Plastic bags (always come in handy!)
- Clothes: enough shirts, shorts/pants for the time you will be away plus a jacket in case it is cold. I always pack at least one pair of jeans and a jumper/jacket even if it is summer. I also always pack some 'house clothes' which are clothes you can wear if you are feeling lazy one afternoon (like the type of clothes you wear around the house on lazy/relaxing days).
- Shoes: include thongs for the shower and joggers if you plan to do any exercise
- Under clothes
- Accessories (scarves, jewellery, headbands etc.)
- Hair brush
- Straightener and hair dryer
- Hair ties and bobby pins etc.
- Toiletry bag with toothpaste, toothbrush, soap/body wash, shampoo, conditioner, moisturiser, sanitiser, sunscreen, aloe vera gel for sunburn, personal items
- First Aid kit with panadol and bandaids (make sure you pack baby panadol - can be a pain to have to run out and find some late at night or in a town you don't know!)
- pillows, towels and linen if your unit doesn't provide them
- book, board games and other activities
- Sports equipment, eg. badminton rackets to play badminton on the beach
For Miss M I packed:
- baby carrier
- blankets for her bed
- teething gel, baby panadol, thermometer, baby sunscreen
- nappies (I only packed enough for a few days as I knew I'd be stocking up at Aldi while I was away)
- two baby towels (one to lay on and one to dry her with)
- clothes - enough in case some get soiled, but not too many!
- a selection of toys
- nappy cream and powder
- dummy clip
- hair brush
- spew rags
- blanket for the pram/muslin
- baby food and items to eat with (bowl, spoon etc.)
Tip 6: Don't pack things you know you won't use!
If you know your baby won't sleep in the portacot while they are away, don't pack it! Also, use what you have - we bathed Miss M in the laundry sink in our apartment, but babies can just as easily be given a quick 'bath' with mum or dad in the shower.
Tip 7: Pack a large bag (e.g. an Aldi bag) that can be used for dirty clothes
This is an essential for me, as I like to be able to come home, and chuck a load of clothes in the washing machine straight away after a trip. Rather than repacking your bag with clean and dirty clothes and having to sort through it when you get home, you just have one bag ready to be washed. If you are away for awhile, you can wash while you are away (in your unit or at a laundromat).
Tip 8: If you are road-tripping, keep lots of activities in the car, and keep the car tidy!
It can be frustrating travelling and just chucking stuff into the car (including rubbish), and then having no space to change a nappy on the road. A clean car is as nice a space to be in as a clean house. Portable DVD players are excellent for older kids, as well as some quiet, easy-to-do and minimal-mess activities (colouring etc.) to keep kids occupied.
[Me and Miss M on the way to Forster]
Tip 9: Try and keep your unit/apartment etc. relatively tidy.
Obviously a holiday is not the time for deep-cleaning, but I know it's a lot nicer to be in a tidy apartment. I am actually a shocker for keeping my bags tidy, and I rarely make my bed on holidays... we all need a break! In saying that, I prefer my holiday space to be clean and tidy! One way to do this is to unpack immediately when you arrive.
Tip 10: Plan to relax or have time out while your baby naps.
Travelling can be off-putting for babies and you might find they get out of their normal routine. If you baby is happy to nap as normal during the day, use the time to relax and enjoy a book (as you might be stuck in your unit for a couple of hours). Or alternate who stays with the baby, while the other can enjoy some alone time (I prefer to shop alone!) If your baby finds it hard to sleep, try some of these tips:
~ take the pram out for a long walk while baby naps
~ take a scenic drive while baby naps
~ If you would normally bath a baby, read to them, sing a lullaby and then put them to bed, stick to this routine while you are away as well
~ use a baby carrier to go out for a walk while baby naps
Tip 11: Designate a play area and a changing station.
If you have the space, designate an area where the babies toys are set up, and where there are no hazards (e.g. cords). Also set-up a changing station with wipes, a portable/water-proof change mat and nappies to make changing a nappy easier.
Tip 12: Enjoy yourself and don't stress - let some of the rules go out the window!
If you normally stress a lot about kids eating healthy food, now is the time to let go a little, so you can have an enjoyable holiday too! I normally make all of Miss M's food at home, but was happy to buy a few packets of baby food while we were away. I remember as a kid Mum would let us have fruit-loops and coco-pops on holidays (weet-bix during the school term!) - I used to love it! Similarly, if you normally have a no-eating in front of the TV rule, you might have to let this go if you don't have a unit with a dining table, or it might be handy to take portable DVD players out to dinner if kids can be rowdy or unsettled during dinner.
Hopefully some of these will be helpful to others as well.
Can't wait until our next trip!