Do you get anxious at the thought of travelling with your baby for the first time? Would you love to hear tips from those who walked those steps before you?
Kicking off a travel series, I recently interviewed mum and travel blogger Kate Denham whose (almost) 2 year old daughter Isla has more stamps in her passport than most adults. With Kate finishing her university degree online and husband Chris having his own business that allows him to work remotely, they haven’t let having a baby slow down their grand travel plans. This is Kate’s travel story...
How old was Isla when she first travelled on an airplane and where did you go?
Isla was 3 months old when we flew to Hong Kong. It was a 9.5 hour flight and went really well considering we were complete novices. I joked that she slept better on the plane than she had in her life but it was true!
What is the longest flight you’ve done with Isla?
14.5 hours from Sydney to the Los Angeles. It was just after her first birthday and it was probably our most challenging flights even though we flew business and had the flat beds to sleep on. In retrospect, the configuration of the seating didn’t help us so we learnt from this and flew premium economy on return. That was a much more pleasant flight!
How many countries/cities have you visited with Isla?
(We really need to offset our carbon footprint!)
Did or do you plan your flight times around Isla's sleep time?
I didn’t when she was really young and napped multiple times a day but once her naps became important sanity breaks for me I started to consider what times we fly because now if she has a short or missed nap, it determines the whole day. You don’t want to waste a day with a grumpy toddler (and mum) especially when you’re travelling and wanting to experience a new destination.
What are your must have items for travelling with a baby?
For young babies:
- A pillow. Plane rides suck when you’re holding a sleeping baby for hours on end while you awkwardly lean your shoulder and neck. Prop a pillow on your lap/ arm rest and voila!
- Small portable speaker and spare phone to play white noise so your baby learns to associate that with sleep even when in foreign environments, and of course to block out foreign city noises!
- If breastfeeding- a cover. I’m all for #normalisebreastfeeding but the reality is, some countries are not as lucky us ours and we have to respect their culture and norms. I only found myself uncomfortable a few times and was glad to have a cover with me. I just used a muslin that doubled as a pram cover/ blanket.
Check out @bff_breastfeeding_friend on Instagram and Buy one here!
- Milton’s sterilising tablets for everything baby is going to put in their mouth!!
- Chekoh baby wrap - lifesaver! Easy to get baby to sleep, safe place for them when you need two hands, and stops strangers trying to touch/ pick them up.
Buy one here!
Babies 6 months+
- Phil and Teds lobster chair, pictured below. Buy one here!
- Pram - it depends on the city as some places are just not pram friendly BUT if you can bring it, do it. It serves as a baby bed, shopping basket, bag holder, high chair, safe play space etc. Not being able to put your baby down is harder than pushing a pram over gravel roads any day!
For older babies and toddlers:
- New toys to unwrap and play with on the plane or moments where you need cooperation at short notice (like standing in line for Customs with an overtired toddler)
- Jetkids Bed Box. I haven’t tried this product but plan to as Isla will have her own seat soon. It looks amazing, it’s a suitcase that sits at their feet and folds out into a little bed for them! Buy one here!
What made you want to travel to all of these great faraway places with a baby?
I have always been drawn to travel and that only became more apparent after I had Isla. I saw an opportunity to make the most of those sleep deprived days and thought, I can be sleep deprived sitting on my couch watching Netflix or I can be laying on a tropical beach eating out of a coconut bowl. Was there even a choice!? Also, as Isla gets older I have aspirations to use the world as her learning platform.
What was your greatest fear about travelling with a baby?
The only real fear I’ve had was when Isla started solid foods whilst we were in Southeast Asia. But in retrospect I think I would have been just as fearful even if we were at home because choking is global!
What’s your best memory so far of travelling with Isla?
They are all great memories as everything has been such a journey and we have learnt more than I could have imagined. If I had to pick one iconic memory it would have to be waking up on the overnight train in Vietnam as the sun was rising over the rice paddies. It was surreal.
General advice for families wanting to follow in your footsteps or even to take a holiday with their baby for the first time?
Our GP gave some great advice before we left for Southeast Asia as I think he could sense my concerns about travelling to developing countries with such a young baby. He said ‘children survive infancy in the depths of the jungle. Your child will be fine eating fresh fruit and vegetables by your hotel pool, just use common sense’. And he was right! We vaccinated the hell out of her and tried to keep her out of the depths of the jungle and so far, we have all survived. In all seriousness, if you want to travel, just do it. After you have done it once you will learn more than anyone could have told you before you left. Choose a short flight to comfortable destination and let yourself make mistakes. You’ll probably pack too much, and forget something semi important but at the end of the day just relax. Unless you’re planning on travelling to the Mongolian Steppes by horseback, you’re bound to be able to buy anything you will need at your destination. The hardest part is just taking the chance to make mistakes, but it is so worth it for the memories!
Follow Kate's journey on Instagram @katelouisedenham