Grace Timothy’s tips on travelling with a small child

Mother and baby

Mother and baby - Credit: Archant

Travelling with a small child can be excruciating. Here, Chichester mother Grace Timothy gives her tips on making it as painless as possible

Travelling with a baby

I took my last trip abroad with work when I was four months pregnant. A haircare brand took a group of journalists to LA for a new product launch. I left my flat with a small wheely case and a handbag, we flew first class with Virgin – I was offered Champagne on alighting and the steward made my seat go completely horizontal. I came home rested, relaxed and with a case full of new clothes. Fast forward 18 months. I’ve just come home from the first trip since then. I am less rested than before I left, definitely not relaxed and have a case full of drool-covered baby clothes. My husband, one-and-a-bit-year-old and I have just been to Rome for our first holiday à trois. Or rather a six, as we’ve called on a family of seasoned trippers for back-up. Since having their one-and-a-bit-year-old, they’ve taken plenty of trips and even booked the whole Rome trip for us. Here’s what I learnt.

The flight

No horizontal seats, no Champagne and as for travelling with just one hand luggage case – forget it. We checked in a huge case full of baby clothes, toys, nappies, bedding. And maybe a couple of changes of underwear for us. Our buggy was then taken from us at the gate (we assumed it was by a steward, maybe we were mugged). We had conveniently traded our whopping great big pram/tank in for a McClaren Quest stroller £185 which packs down into a very slim, portable luggage. I mean, it’s portable if someone else carries it. I do love this stroller but our companions had the Uppababy G-Luxe, £149.99, which comes with a bag to protect it in the hold. It is pretty impressive. String the buggy with travel tags and an eye-catching ribbon so you’ll see it amidst a hundred others on the luggage carousel.

Then we lugged a mammoth changing bag full of more baby clothes, toys, nappies and bedding for the flight. High point: we skipped the queues to board. Low point: everyone on the plane hated us as soon as they caught sight of the baby. We’d been told to feed her throughout take-off to avoid her ears popping but as soon as we were airborne, Emie wriggled up, down, left and right. I spent a lot of time trying to stuff her under my shirt, but to no avail.

Tip 1: don’t give your kid all her toys at once, she’ll just chuck them into the aisle so you’re left scrabbling around like Samuel L Jackson in Snakes on a Plane. Stagger it – offer one at a time. Tip 2: Drink straight from the bottle. Red wine slopping around in a glass doesn’t sit well next to a toddler climbing the walls.

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Tip 3: If you have a tablet, consider downloading some children’s apps or a kids’ TV show. I know, I know – TV is bad for kids, etc. but so is being chucked out of a plane window by a disgruntled businessman with a migraine. In an ideal world your baby will be duly occupied by books, but a tin-can with wings is not an ideal world. And books are so heavy.

The accommodation

Our friends booked a great little apartment on the Piazza Novana. I was looking forward to hotel-dwelling, but it means everyone goes to bed at 7pm with the baby. An apartment not only means you can prepare food for your baby but also gives you space to enjoy yourself after hours. Tip 4: You can usually request a cot, but I’d recommend the Baby Bjorn Travel Cot, £159.96 – light, portable, seemingly very comfortable. Definitely take your own bed linen – the smell of home might help your baby sleep in unfamiliar surroundings. I also took This Works Baby Sleep Pillow Spray, £16. Tip 5: Take a plug-in night light – it’ll save you from returning home with 10 stubbed toes. Just don’t forget the adaptor. Tip 6: Take oats – you can thicken fruit puree, make porridge, so if your child finds the local food a bit tricky, there’s something familiar to cook up.