Lessons Learned: How to holiday with a baby and return in one piece
Thinking of going on your first summer holiday abroad with your baby or toddler? There are a few things I wish I'd been told beforehand and a list of five of the key lessons my partner and I have learned about family holidays.
There's no room for parental assumptions
My husband and I are like overexcited puppies when we go away on holiday, especially when we return to Ibiza – our first love. On our most recent trip, we both assumed it was the other person’s job to feed our son Flynn, bathe him, put him to bed and so on, because we both ʻneeded a break’ – a statement frequently heard pool-side and uttered by every parent.
Meanwhile, the party lenses slipped on a few times without us realising and the one glass of wine at lunchtime turned into a bottle*. We’d both stare at one another, silently playing Jedi mind-tricks trying to convince the other to say, “Oh darling, you carry on drinking and I will take care of Flynn and do the four wake-up calls post midnight too.” Needless to say this tactic didn’t work.
Get rid of these kind of assumptions when on holiday, communicate with your partner and try to plan ahead when it comes to who will do what with the baby. I suggest one night on, one night off, when it comes to night feeds etc. (obviously if you are breastfeeding this task will fall solely to you). If you’re on holiday with other people and have activities taking place in the day and night, assign each other days and nights off, so you both get to relax. It works! (*Not all of our holidays centre around alcohol consumption. Actually, who am I kidding...)
If driving abroad, don’t do the following...
Here is a scenario that I will encourage you not to do for reasons that are pretty obvious. We decided to take Flynn away with us on holiday to Santorini and to attend my good friend’s wedding. It is a place that boasts some incredible views, but also involves driving along lots of bendy roads with 50ft-plus drops down to the sea below. And, of course, they drive on the other side of the road. I’m a confident driver, but my brain will not allow me to drive on the opposite side of the road.
Before we left for the airport, I declared to my husband that I wouldn't be driving while away – and he couldn’t have agreed more. Fast forward to the night of the few-drinks-around-the-pool low-key hen and stag dos, which we both planned to attend and, of course, with Flynn in tow. The hen do was actually low-key, but the stag was the complete opposite (you know what men are like when they start drinking in a large group!). This meant that I had to drive us back to the hotel, from the highest point on the island, in the dark, without any streetlights. Oh, and with a crying baby in the back of the car.
Here’s what happened next:
- Within 10 seconds of pulling away, I scraped and dented the side of the car along a tree trunk. As you do. T-cutting was most definitely not an option.
- I misjudged, quite a few times, how near we were to the side of the road and the 50ft drop below. Cue my husband screaming at me to move away from the edge of the road. But in my panic, I moved too far over onto the opposite side of the road and the non-existent central reservation line. This was the pattern for the entire journey. I’ve never used so many swear words so many times in 30 minutes.
- Neither of us had checked the petrol gauge before setting off. Of course, the petrol ran out after 10 minutes of driving and at a convenient time of 1:00am. To add, there wasn’t a filling station open or nearby. Cue me having to reduce my speed to 20mph, with cars flashing and overtaking me for the rest of the journey, which lead to even more swearing and nerves.
So the lesson here? Get taxis and avoid driving abroad at all costs – especially at night!
Ignore well-meaning advice from child-free friends
I genuinely love it when my child-free friends try to help out and give me advice. Sometimes it’s exactly what I need, as they’re able to state the obvious and simplify things that I’ve overcomplicated. However, when on holiday, I’d recommend smiling and responding to any unwarranted advice by saying, “Cool, thanks for that, I’ll give it a go a bit later on.” Examples I’ve been privy to include:
- “Why don’t you just put Flynn to bed at the same time you go to bed [midnight] and keep him up during the meal out?” Er, do you want to see what the devil looks like? No, I didn’t think so.
- My favourite was: “Can’t you just feed him what you’re eating? I was eating steak and chips, and Flynn was three-months old at the time. Good luck with those gums son!
Be open to doing exactly what you said you wouldn’t do
I held onto lots of “I will never do that” ideas prior to becoming a parent. I have no idea why – perhaps snobbery, or maybe because of how society has conditioned us to think – but I quickly realised that on holiday these preconceived ideas go out of the window and with speed. Here are the things I ended up doing on holiday that I had vowed to never do in a million years:
- Giving Flynn pouches of food and regularly squirting it directly into his mouth.
- Letting Flynn have the dummy whenever he wanted it.
- Giving Flynn Nelson's teething granules - aka baby crack cocaine - just to chill him out if he was losing his sh*t.
- Changing Flynn’s nappy in a public or unsuitable place, like the boot of a car or while I sat on a toilet.
- Only giving Flynn Evian bottled water (any bloody bottled water will do when abroad and in the middle of nowhere).
- Letting Flynn sleep in our bed every night.
- Applying baby-friendly sun-cream to a 12 week old. Apparently their skin is too delicate to withstand it at that age, yet we’re told you can burn on a cloudy day and in the shade, which happened, so on the sun-cream went.
And guess what, it didn’t do him any harm.
Find new ways of having fun as a family
Without stating the obvious, clubbing and hanging out at bars won’t be on the cards when on holiday with a baby, unless you go away with grandparents, which brings another set of pros and cons and that deserves a whole other blog post. Check out local activities or sights that you would’ve bypassed in your single days, such as: guided walks, museums, galleries and shopping centres. I can hear you yawning right now and thinking what a crap way to end a blog post, but you might just surprise yourself! I’ve gone from the girl who didn’t walk any further than from her front door to the cab waiting yards away, to owning a National Trust card and using it regularly to go on walks and to explore historic houses.
Holidays with children won't be the same as when you were young, free and childless, but they can be a relativity stress free, pleasurable experience, if you accept and embrace the changes, and look for new ways to enjoy yourself with your family.