“Wow. You’re brave travelling with a baby!” Or words to that effect. I used to ‘breezily dismiss’ this immediate response to our plans to live in France with a baby in tow. Until this week.
This week the reality, of what travelling with a baby means, has set in. The paraphernalia, the logistics, the sleep deprivation, the screaming, the paraphernalia, double the hand luggage, fights over sky cots, dilemmas over baby food while travelling, the paraphernalia, conflicting advice about security restrictions on carrying baby formula and food… need I go on?
But, as with that sinking feeling you get a week out from due date, I realise – too late – there’s no way out. The flights are paid for, the accommodation and lease car are booked. Next Wednesday morning we’re off, with baby on board.
Have baby, will travel.
My mum’s maxim was always ‘start as you mean to continue’. When our eldest was born, during our big OE, this maxim rang in my ears with an ominous peal, Given the inevitability of a return to New Zealand one day, and our general love of travel, we thought we had better bite the bullet early.
So, we set about a carefully planned, incremental approach to weaning the baby – and ourselves – into travel as a family. It was tough, but, twelve years, three kids and endless travel later, it’s paid off.
At four weeks, we took Oliver to stay overnight with friends in Oxford, an easy couple of hours away. At 6 weeks, we took him for two nights away with friends in the big smoke of London. Slightly more adventurous. Especially when stuck on the inner ring road, lost, as night approaches, with a screaming hungry baby in the back. At 3 months we drove to North Wales for five days. So far, so good. At four months, we took him to Slovenia for ten days. Crazy. Just crazy. What were we thinking? It was hot, the village bell tolled every 15 minutes night and day, we got no sleep, we drank too much coffee. It was great. We were hooked.
Since then, we’ve done countless trips, with one, then two, now three… European weekenders, the big move of the four of us (including 10-month old) from the UK back to New Zealand in 2005, two 6-week return holidays to Europe,.. We now have the preparations and packing down to a fine art.
Here are some things I’ve learned that help:
- prepare early
- make lists – packing lists can be re-used, with improvements, for subsequent trips, saving you time and stress
- pare what you take with you back to an absolute minimum. Most things you can do without, or buy on the go
- accept all offers of help
- when packing, focus is key – kick everyone else out of the house, play your favourite music – loud – and just do it
- something unexpected will happen – go with the flow.
So, with less than a week to go, and packing not started, I’m not panicking about this trip. At all.