Plucking up the courage to go on your first family travel trip is a big thing. As a big travel-lover it was a bit of a no-brainer for me, but I know travelling with a baby can be daunting to say the least. Once you’ve made that super exciting decision, the fun and games of deciding what kind of trip to go on begins.
I don’t think anything is necessarily out of bounds just because you’re travelling with a baby. Okay, maybe things like bungee jumping and swimming in icy waters are (though I bet someone, somewhere has done it), but you know what I mean. Travelling can still be exciting, adventurous and life-changing. That said, it can also be relaxing and laid-back – two things that I find especially appealing since having Nova!
We’re all different and travel for our own personal reasons, and don’t even get me started on how different all of our little babas are. What works for someone, doesn’t always work for someone else. Whether you go on one trip a year or are looking to get your travel-fix every few months, this post is an attempt to help you decide what kind of trip will suit your family.
Since Nova was a few months old, we’ve travelled here in the UK and on short-haul and long-haul trips. We’re not a nomadic family, so we have a mortgage to pay, classes to go and friends to see. I guess what I’m trying to say is that we’re a normal family – whatever that means – so you can totally do any (or all!) of these sorts of trips with your baby.
We’ve tried a variety of family travel trips, so I’ve listed the best bits about each one and the things you might need to watch out for. You’ll also find links to the relevant blog posts and one or two examples from elsewhere too. Happy planning!
The Short-Haul Flight
Reasons to Heart It: Affordable | Manageable | Lots of options
It’s a good way to ease yourself into flying with a little person. We flew to Amsterdam for Nova’s first trip. It was only an hour or so, which meant that we could get into our new family travel groove.
If like me you’re based in the UK there are loads of destinations that are only an hour or two away, so the world (okay, Europe) is your oyster. If you’re not confident in travelling with a baby a short-haul flight is a great compromise and a good way to still see loads of new places.
Travelling as a family can be expensive, so if money is an issue short-haul flights are always going to be cheaper than long-haul. Make the most of your little explorer whilst they’re under the age of two as they fly for a minimal charge.
Watch out for: Lack of space | Repeats | Charges
Unless you specifically buy a separate ticket, you’ll be expected to have your baby on your lap. Oh and don’t expect them to fly for free, as it’s not always the case. Some charge a nominal fee.
If the flight doesn’t go as smoothly as you’d like don’t let that put you off travelling again. Babies can be temperamental so there’s no reason to say that the next flight will be exactly the same.
The First Trip With Nova [Short-haul flight to the Netherlands]
The Long-Haul Flight
Reasons to Heart It: Satisfying | Exciting | Lots of options
If you’re a fellow travel obsessive you’ll know that sometimes you just need to travel long-haul in order to experience that amazing destination. This was the case when we ventured to Canada with our six-month old.
Travelling long-haul with a baby can be so rewarding. There’s something special about gazing up at an epic landmark or beauty spot with your little one in your arms. If you’re on maternity leave it’s also a great time to travel further afield without having to worry about your annual leave allowance.
It’s also a good opportunity to travel further afield whilst you don’t have to pay for a seat for your baby. You’ll just pay a nominal charge, usually just taxes.
Watch out for: The price tag | Lack of space | Naysayers and moaners
Obviously the further you travel the more expensive it usually is. Maternity leave pay can be notoriously poor, so if money is an issue have a think about where you really, really want to go and make it an epic trip. If you’re on mat leave consider avoiding peak travel periods so that you can maximise cheaper flights and accommodation.
As previously mentioned, unless you buy a separate ticket for your little one it’s expected that they’ll sit on your lap. For a long-haul flight this can be a bit of a stretch. Make sure you book a cabin cot if your airline offers them as it can make a big difference.
Watch out for moaners, firstly when you tell them you’re travelling long-haul with a baby – there will be plenty of them, but ignore them – it can be done. Secondly, you’ll probably get the eye rolls as you board with a baby. Not all babies scream constantly, so don’t let this put you off. And worse case, it’s only a few hours out of many in your lifetime.
The Fifth Overseas Trip With Nova: Six Months Old [Flying long-haul to Canada]
The Road Trip
Reasons to Heart It: Flexible | Affordable | Lots of options
The joy of a road trip is that you’re in control. You can stop whenever you like, so you can make the journey part of the trip itself too. Break up a long drive by spending a few hours (or even overnight) at somewhere half way along your route.
If you’ve got a car you only really need to consider fuel costs and even if you need to hire one, you can usually get a great deal.
If you feel self-conscious about travelling with a baby this is a great compromise. You still get to explore, but you don’t have to worry about other passengers, can take your time and can get away with over-packing if that makes you feel more relaxed.
If you’re also based in the UK there are so many fun places to venture to – Lake District, Peak District, Cornwall…
We drove from Edmonton to Jasper National Park in Canada – around four hours – and loved it.
Watch out for: Traffic | Excessive Napping | Hire car seats
Obviously you can’t control the traffic on the roads, so make sure that you have spare nappies, food, milk etc with you. Try to travel outside of peak times (Bank Holidays, rush hour etc) if you can.
The magical lull of the car engine sends many babies to sleep. This makes for a peaceful drive, but can mean that your baby doesn’t want to sleep when it comes to bed time. Try to time your drive with their routine (if they have one and if you can).
If you hire a car give a thought as to what you’ll do in terms of a car seat. Even if you book one with your rental you’ll find the companies usually say it’s not guaranteed and if there is one when you arrive, don’t necessarily expect a top of the range one. The one we got given in Canada left a lot to be desired.
The Fifth Overseas Trip With Nova: Six Months Old [Driving in Canada] |
The Train Ride
Reasons to Heart It: Affordable | Lots of Options
Reserve your seats and you’ll find that a train journey with a baby can be quite relaxing. If it’s not too busy you can pace the carriage if need be and if it is full, well that’s extra entertainment for your little one!
If you book ahead you can usually get great fares across most of the UK. You can even travel further afield. The Eurostar is a great way to see another country with minimal effort. We’re heading to Disneyland Paris via this service rather than the plane for precisely this reason.
We also travelled on the train with Nova when we were in the Netherlands and found the rocking motion sent him to sleep.
Watch out for: Indirect routes | Peak Travel
If you can, avoid routes that involve changeovers. Your days of being able to nip from one train to the other are long gone. By the time you’ve scooped your baby up and all the associated paraphernalia you’ll have probably missed the next train!
Similarly, avoid peak times like the commute if you can. This is especially true if you’re planning on taking your pushchair.
Changing a baby on a train isn’t fun. It’s wobbly and babies are wriggly. Ensure your change stuff is in a grabable pod or clear bag to help ease the stress of it all.
Read More: The First Trip With Nova [Train ride in the Netherlands]
The Half-Board or All-Inclusive
Reasons to Heart It: Easy | Affordable | Lots of options
Someone else doing all of the cooking? Sounds great, right?! You don’t have to bother with the washing up or faffing about in the kitchen.
This is a good option if you want to switch off and let someone else look after you.
Watch out for: Restrictive times | Poor selection
Some hotels impose restrictions on when you can eat and even where, sometimes charging a premium to eat one of the ‘fancier’ restaurants so check the small print before you book. Babies have a habit of suddenly need a change or feed before you head out the door, so leave room for flexibility if you can.
We went half-board in Greece and found that we had to delay Nova’s bedtime so that we could eat. The first dinner serving was 6.30pm.
Don’t assume that an all-inclusive buffet means that you’ll be swimming in choices. Some have poor, unhealthy options or not enough for veggies. Obviously if you’re travelling with your baby you don’t necessarily need to think of their meals just yet, but mama and dada need to eat!
The Villa Stay
Reasons to Heart It: Home comforts | Private | Affordable for longer trips
Staying in a villa can feel like a home away from home. There’s no formal check-in to worry about, you have a kitchen to use, and best of all, no one to answer to. You don’t have to worry about other guests and can simply enjoy your own precious family time.
If you’re going somewhere for longer than a week villas are usually quite competitive in terms of price. This is especially true if you take your extended family and friends with you.
We stayed in a villa for our week in Mallorca and found that we could fully relax because it felt like our own place.
Watch out for: Remote locations | Babyproofing
A remote location can be super relaxing, but give a thought as to where and how you’ll get supplies. Also check the opening days/times of nearby supermarkets so that you’re not caught short.
Pay attention to the villa set-up, particularly if your little one is on the move as not all villas have been babyproofed.
The Third Overseas Trip with Nova: 5 Months Old [Villa in Mallorca]
The Hotel Stay
Reasons to Heart It: No cleaning | No cooking | Babysitters
If you’re after a relaxing break this could well be your answer. You don’t have to make the bed, wash the towels and such like. It’s great!
Suites work particularly well because you can set the cot up at one end, whilst you relax at the other. Our suite during our stay in Greece had a lounge area with partition doors at the foot of the bed, so we were able to pull those across and leave slightly ajar.
Watch out for: Cleaning rotas | Poor rooms
Whether it’s to feed, for naps or to get out of the heat, you may find that you end up spending more time in a hotel room than you did pre-baby. To save being interrupted by the cleaners use the ‘do not disturb sign’, especially if you’re baby is napping.
Have a look at the room dimensions and different options before booking. You don’t want to end up with the cot squished next to the bed not being able to turn the TV on or chat. It’s often not that much more expensive for a bigger room and it’s totally worth it in my opinion.
The Second Overseas Trip with Nova: 5 Months Old [Hotel stay in Jersey]
The Fourth Overseas Trip with Nova: Six Months Old [Hotel stay in Greece]
The Cottage Getaway
Reasons to Heart It: Home comforts | Private
Similar to a stay in a villa, a cottage getaway is perfect if you like your home comforts and you don’t want to socialise with other guests. If your baby is a bit of a loud night owl this can often be a good option as you don’t have to worry about thin walls and the cries bothering other guests.
Watch out for: Adjoining Properties | Remote locations | Babyproofing
As much as you don’t have to worry about thin walls, do make sure you check the site plan or Google Map the property to see how close the other cottages are. I stayed in a cottage with Nova and whilst it was gorgeous, it was essentially in someone’s back garden.
Similar to a villa stay, also check where the nearest shop is so that you can pick up supplies. Unless you specifically go for a child-friendly cottage you’ll need to either think about babyproofing options if your little one is on the move. For example, would you take a pen, stair gates, corner bumpers etc? In a hotel room the space your baby can explore is limited, whereas you need to be extra vigilant in a cottage.
The Camping and Glamping Trip
Reasons to Heart It: Affordable | Lots of options
This option comes with a bit of a disclaimer; I’m not a camper. However, I know lots of families enjoy this type of family travel as it can be really cheap and super fun for the little ones (more so when they’re toddlers).
Loads of campsites now have glamping options and quirky airstream vans, so you could potential upmarket your trip, which is never a bad thing in my opinion! Tie your stay with long walks in the countryside and you’ve got the makings of a lovely, cheap getaway.
Watch out for: Rubbish weather | Bathroom facilities
The UK is renowned for its cloudy skies, so when you’re imagining your camping trip try not to look at it with rose-tinted glasses. Assume it’ll be gloomy weather and then anything else will be a bonus.
Babies need to be changed a lot, so you don’t really want to be trekking a mile to get to a loo or to be changing a smelly nappy in a super cramped tent. Don’t romanticise your trip too much when you’re booking it – think about it realistically. If it’s not that much more money for the bigger space then I’d go for that.
Reasons to Heart It: Good travel-fix
Again, this one comes with a disclaimer; we haven’t been on a family cruise. I imagine it’s an awesome way to see a lot of destinations in a condensed amount of time, so if you’re a fellow travel addict this could well be the option for you. Has your partner only got a week or two to spare? Perhaps this is your answer.
Most of the big cruise liners have everything you could want and then some, from casinos to spas and lots, lots more.
Watch out for: Sickness | Price tag | Tight schedule | Age restrictions
I don’t know if babies can get sea-sickness, but mama and dada certainly can so make sure you pack some tablets with you just in case. Also bring some stomach remedies too for general sickness. It’s so hard looking after a baby when you feel ill.
Cruises tend to have tight schedules, which is all well and good pre-baby. It’s fun dashing about, cramming as much into each day as possible. However, babies work on their own time so don’t assume you’ll be able to go at the same pace.
Also watch out for age restrictions on cruises. We almost went on one when Nova was five-months old and it wasn’t until we were quite far down the line that we discovered the minimum age of six-months. Cruises are usually expensive too, so have a good think about your annual travel budget and whether you want to blow it on one trip.
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Are you thinking of travelling with a baby or did you travel with your little one? Do you have anything to add or want to ask a question? Leave a comment below! X