10 to try – my must-haves when travelling with a young familyJuly 12, 2017
First thing’s first. I’m no expert. I was just a mum with a boarding card in her hand, two weeks with the family stretching out ahead of her, and a sense of dread that this ‘holiday’ might not be very relaxing!
Acceptance that trips have changed is the first step to enjoyment. When travelling with a baby or toddler it’s unlikely that you’ll spend days on end on a sun lounger, bonk buster in one hand, a large rosé in the other, and that’s FINE as long as you manage your expectations from the beginning.
There are also some things you can do – and crucially items you can pack – to make it all a bit easier.
I’m fresh off the plane from two weeks in Bali with a two-and-a-half year old and a baby of nearly five months. Was it fun? Definitely! Do I need a solo mini break where I do nothing but sleep? Oh yes.
Here are my top tips for minimising the stresses of long flights and longer days…
- Get help at the airport
We used the Marhaba Elite service from Dubai International, which is available to all passengers, regardless of which airline you’re flying with. The pick-up car had both baby and toddler seats and loads of room, then we were met at the airport, staff checked in for us, a porter carried our bags, and we were whisked to a private room in the Marhaba lounge before being accompanied to the gate (hello golf cart!). The price depends on the number of passengers and the services required – for example, we didn’t need the personal shopper for duty free – but it’s money well spent for a fantastic start to your holiday, and I’ll be booking again when I fly to the UK with the two girls and no husband later this year. More info here.
- Carry a giant (enormous) muslin at all times
I’m literally about to wash/burn the one we travelled back with, because it is FOUL, but a huge, soft muslin is a must when you have a baby. We used it to line a less than lovely bassinette on the flight, draped it over a chair for Phoebe to nap on, put it down on the floor when Tabitha wanted a kick, as a breastfeeding cover, for mopping up baby sick, and even as a sun shade on a car window. My favourite is a spotty number from UK brand Isla & Wilbur, but also really rate the three-pack from Mamas & Papas.
- Use a backpack nappy bag
Having as many hands free as possible for toddler wrangling, passport clutching and suitcase grabbing is key, so we both travelled with backpacks this time. Mine is from Tiba & Marl (it was my push present – how romantic) and was bought online from Selfridges and delivered to the UAE. Click here to shop. It comes with an insulated pocket for bottles, a changing mat, and little detachable bag. I chose the black after my husband refused to be seen with the silver one. Spoilsport.
- Don’t go anywhere without a baby carrier
Absolute game changer. I had a consultation with Sarah from Luxe Carriers when Tabitha was born and found the new Tula Free to Grow carrier was the best fit for us. We checked our stroller in, so she was popped in the front, then the backpack was on my back, so I was perfectly balanced, with two free hands for Phoebe. It was perhaps not my best look, but there was zero chance of us being upgraded, so I didn’t care.
We also used the baby carrier all over Bali, from the beach to exploring where strollers just can’t reach, with my little koala frequently falling asleep and dribbling into my bra. Find out more about the Tula Free To Grow here.
- Download shows using Netflix
Netflix now has a download option, meaning your device can store shows for 48 hours. This was unbelievably useful when we found ourselves delayed for more than seven hours at Bangkok Airport, which is as crap as it is enormous. Phoebe is obsessed with Dinosaur Train (and sadly Peppa is still in our lives), while we watched Glow – silently – after the girls had gone to bed. You can also have up to five profiles per account, so all of our preferences are saved across our phones and iPads. New to Netflix? You can get a free trial for a month.
- Battery pack for portable power
All that tech brings me to a power pack for a battery boost of your phone, iPad or laptop (if you’re unlucky enough to bring it along). I got one as part of a travel kit, but Virgin Megastore sells a range that power up via USB, and most planes offer this outlet in seats, so you can charge while you fly. Ideal for checking confirmation emails, snapping pics during the journey or watching just one more Dinosaur Train…
- Buy sterilising tablets for peace of mind
I was really anxious about travelling while our baby is still young enough to need her bottles to be sterilised, so bought some Milton tablets from Mumzworld. We washed them with seriously hot water then submerged in water with a tablet thrown in. And when I saw that Phoebe was particularly fond of drinking the bathwater in Bali, I added a few tablets to the tub too. And they’re mega cheap at AED18.
- Pack a buoyancy jacket
While it took up a lot of space, Phoebe’s mini life jacket was well worth packing. The simple problem is that she thinks she’s Rebecca Adlington, but can’t actually swim… It’s by Zoggs, and zips up, with removable floats inside that you can take out as your little fish gets more proficient. Selfishly, it also meant that she wasn’t hanging off me in the water for hours on end. We found hers in Al Boom Marine on Beach Road.
- Baby-friendly mosquito repellent
Mozzies LOVE me, so I was concerned about out little ones being bitten. Mumzworld and Bumblebee in Dubai Mall sell Para’Kito wristbands and keyrings (that I fastened to the stroller and cot) from AED89, which use essential oils and are 100% natural, making them perfect for babies and pregnant women. They’re also suitable if you have sensitive skin or allergies, as the pellet doesn’t touch your skin. We also bought a moquito net that fitted a travel cot and the stroller from Kidore.
- Stickers and colouring
No travelling toddler list is complete without activities. We took along Phoebe’s favourite Melissa & Doug colouring books, where you just need water (or an ice-cube from mummy’s special drink on the plane) along with stickers and a Colour Blast book, where instead of endless pens, she just needed one ‘magic’ one to bring the black and white pages to life. All available in Early Learning Centre from AED29.
I hope this helps – and I’d love to hear your must-haves! More on our trip to Bali soon.