Travelling with Baby
This week’s posts are dedicated to the topic of travelling with a new baby. Later on in the week, I’ll post some anecdotes from Baby’s First Holiday Abroad, but today’s post is about the nitty-gritty of flying, renting a car, breastfeeding abroad, and booking accommodation with Baby’s needs in mind. I hope you find the information useful. Please leave your top tips in the comments section!
“We aren’t going out anywhere fancy on this holiday, right.” It was not a question. James and I are usually Mr and Mrs Fancy Pants when we go travelling, dressing up in the evenings; I’d do my make-up, wear heels, and curl my hair. Not this time. Most of the luggage space was for La Bambina. The accommodation we’d booked was self-catering and had a washer/dryer, so that meant not only that we’d be cooking our own evening meals, but I’d also only need a few pairs of underwear, a couple shirts, a jumper or two, and some shoes – no heels, just hiking boots and trainers. Baby, on the other hand, would look splendid in her colourful array of amazing outfits. James kept telling me I looked like a lesbian in my pony tail, boots and jeans. I don’t know what he’s talking about; most of the lesbians we know are a lot more glam than I was on this holiday.
Things we decided to buy in Ireland: Pampers, Aptamil.
Things we could have left at home: the world’s largest assortment of electrical chargers.
Most useful item: microwave sterilising bags from Medela.
Things I wish I’d packed: my Babyliss Big Hair Dryer. The other guests must have thought I won this holiday in a charity raffle as I sported my redneck chic look.
TOP TIP: Check your airport information online to see if they offer Valet parking. We pre-booked the service at Gatwick and it made life so much easier. The parking is right next to the terminal and it doesn’t cost a lot more than parking a bus ride away.
Getting through customs was actually stressing me out more than the actual flying bit, due to Baby’s feeding schedule. Our flight was at 5:50pm and I’d need to do both a reduced feed at the airport and a full feed on the flight. I had heard lots of conflicting advice on how to transport milk and/or formula through customs. On the outbound flight, we decided to bring an empty sterilised bottle with us and hope that they sold Aptamil pre-mixed in Boots in the shopping area past customs. They did. We had another bottle with enough powder for 7 ounces of formula in it, just in case.
Feeding-wise, all I ended up doing was waiting until we were in the air and sticking her on the breast. She sucked away contentedly and half-asleep for the whole 1-hour flight, not even stirring for the landing.
On the return flight, I brought two 200ml pre-mixed Aptamil containers through with no problems.
TOP TIP: Bring a couple dummies for your baby to suck on during take-off and landing. It will help them relieve the air pressure in their head.
Regarding the pram, we took it through customs and were told to hand it over when we boarded the plane. James had to walk it out to the plane and give it to one of the luggage men. We kept our Baby Bjorn with us because we knew we wouldn’t get the pram back until the luggage collection area and we wanted to be able to carry Baby in it when we landed. It’s a long walk to the reclaim area.
Next time, I might just buy one of these jackets instead of taking the nappy bag, just to further enhance how incredibly unattractive I feel while travelling. It felt like we had altogether too much to carry; in fact, we checked the pram at the beginning on the return journey and just carried her around in the Bjorn.
On car rental with baby
We arrived at Cork Airport on a rainy Sunday evening. Everyone told us to be prepared for a wet week, so we were unsurprised to see it coming down horizontally from a gray sky. Of course, in our frenzy of packing for Baby, we forgot to bring an umbrella, so we got a little damp while walking to the rental car. Unfortunately for James, he then had the task of figuring out how to install the no-name-brand, no-instructions-included child seat they handed us at the Hertz front desk. It was also a front-facing seat, rather than the rear-facing seat we would have preferred for safety reasons. Already drenched, James went back into the airport to ask Hertz if they had a proper infant seat or, failing that, if somebody could help him install the child seat they gave us. They said they didn’t have any other seats, so a guy came out to help him. Baby was just getting strapped in when another Hertz employee who didn’t speak English turned up with half of a rear-facing Graco seat. We got excited at first, thinking this would be much safer for Baby. Then we realised that he’d only brought the seat, not the system for strapping it into a car. We asked where he got the seat, maybe the other half was there? In broken English, he explained that he’d found it in lost property.
Although the employees were nice, we found the service from Hertz not to be particularly family friendly. The family behind us in the queue also felt this way. I believe they should have a much greater duty of care towards our children and provide proper, age-appropriate seats. When booking a car seat (actually, the infant seat I booked fell off my booking when I hit the “upgrade car” button. Bit of a bug in their system, so watch out for it if you are booking through them online), I feel that we as their customers deserve better than a no-name-brand seat that’s probably been dropped a million times to protect our children in their rental cars. As travellers, we can’t carry car seats in our luggage, so we depend on rental companies like Hertz. I don’t think we’ll be booking a rental car through them again.
On breastfeeding abroad
Every country has different laws and social feeling towards breastfeeding in public. I didn’t know if Ireland was like the UK, where it’s illegal to tell a breastfeeding woman to stop or move out of sight. Turns out it’s the same here. I found this website to be really interesting for finding local feelings towards breastfeeding.
As we were on the move sightseeing quite a lot, I ended up feeding her in the car a few times, usually in a parking lot with stunning views of the sea. I did feed her in a restaurant at our hotel, too, and no one seemed particularly concerned about it.
The final bit of family-friendly holiday planning I had to do was arranging a cot for Baby at our hotel. On the advice of our neighbours, we stayed at the lovely Castlemartyr Resort in one of their self-service lodges. I had requested a cot and one was supplied in our bedroom. Disappointingly, it was a travel cot with quite a hard surface for Baby to sleep on. I felt that whoever had chosen it obviously didn’t have any children. We took a duvet off one of the beds and tried to make the cot more comfortable for her, but it meant we had to check on her often when she was sleeping to make sure she didn’t try to roll over and suffocate in the plump duvet. Then, when I went to the overseer’s office to ask for more rubbish bags, I saw they had a Stokke cot sitting there. I asked if we could have that and was told it was broken, but they’d fix it for us and bring it over.
So the point is this: if you do need a cot, perhaps call the hotel to ask specific questions about the type of cot they provide. Not all cots, as it would seem, are created equal.
On the plus side, they did have a Stokke high chair in the house, which Baby is about two months too young for, but at least it was there. It would have been helpful if they had a nappy changing mat (they are so cheap and it would be a nice touch).
The clothes washer made it easier to wash muslins, clothes, etc. instead of having to bring enough for a week or use the expensive hotel washing service. The “dryer” they advertised didn’t work very well, so we just had to hang everything on the towel radiator.
But generally, if you are coming to east Cork, I would definitely recommend Castlemartyr (through Natural Retreats) as a great place to stay with kids, especially older kids as there are bikes available for free for all ages and lots of grassy space to run around in. There is also a spa (for mummy and daddy) and an indoor swimming pool for the whole family. Final bonus: free wi-fi.