For most first-time parents, tackling your first holiday can be daunting. “The key is to be prepared,” says Fawzia Rasheed de Francisco, author of Travel with Babies and Young Children.
Your little jetsetter will need his own passport, so give yourself time to get it sorted. “I’d allow six weeks – you can fast-track an application, but my advice would be to do it when you first book your holiday so you’re not worrying,” says Wendy Shand, founder of family-friendly travel company Tots to Travel (www.totstotravel.co.uk).
You can apply for your little one’s passport at your local post office or online, and you’ll need a copy of his birth certificate (see www.passport.gov.uk for more info).
Getting your baby to sit still for a passport snap can sometimes be a challenge, so Wendy recommends using Paspic (www.paspic.com, from £4.95 for a set of 4). “You just take a photo of your baby on a plain background with your regular camera, email it to Paspic and they’ll make sure it fits the passport criteria,” says Wendy.
Go for baby-friendly accommodation that offers a cot and highchair to hire, but take your own buggy. “Babies begin to get heavy after a while and you’re normally juggling lots of bits and pieces, so a buggy’s great at the airport, and you can usually take it right through to the plane itself,” says Wendy.
A sling can also be handy and won’t take up too much space in your suitcase, while a baby carrier backpack is useful if you’re going to do lots of walking.
If you’re planning to hire a car, it’s a good idea to take your own car seat for peace of mind, rather than getting stuck with a rented one that could be dodgy. “Be aware that car hire companies can often charge around £10 a day for hiring a car seat too, so it’s often better to take one with you if you can,” says Catherine Cooper, author of Travelling With Children: A Parent’s Guide.
A portable blackout blind can also be a lifesaver when it comes to settling your little one down for his daytime nap. “I’m a big fan of the Gro Anywhere Blackout Blind (www.gro-store.co.uk, £29.99, with travel bag). It’s got little suckers on it, so you can stick it on to any window,” says Wendy.
Go the distance
Lots of mums worry about their baby’s first flight, but it’s actually much easier when they’re little, says Catherine. “The worst that can happen is that they cry, but they’re not going to be running around like a toddler. If you’re flying long-haul, ring in advance to book a bassinet but remember it’s first-come, first-served.”
Take a change of clothes for your little one and an extra top for you in case of spills or leaks. “If you’re breastfeeding, a pashmina is a good idea to give you privacy, and if you’re going somewhere exotic, it’s also worth finding out in advance what their view is on breastfeeding in public,” suggests Catherine.
“If you’re arriving on a Saturday night or a Sunday, find out if any of the local shops are going to be open because you really don’t want to be hunting around for supplies on a Sunday morning in another country,” Catherine adds. (See www.fco.gov.uk for more tips and travel advice on holidays abroad).
Fun in the sun
Remember to take care in the sun. “Make sure you have high-factor suncream, a sunhat and sit in shade if you’re by the pool or at the beach. An umbrella’s good, and maybe a sun tent and a UV suit,” says Catherine.
Your baby can lose fluids in hot weather so watch out for dehydration. “The main sign is dark or strong-smelling wee, or no wee at all, and look for a depressed fontanelle,” says travel guide author Fawzia Rasheed de Francisco.
“If your baby’s breastfed, you should drink more when it’s hot so you produce slightly diluted milk, but if you don’t have enough milk, or sense your baby isn’t sucking enough, give him sips of water to drink too, but only if he’s 6 months or older,” Fawzia adds.
Gramping – holidaying with grandparents – is becoming popular, allowing them baby cuddle time and a maybe a night off for you and hubbie while they babysit. Travelling with other families with similar aged babies means you can share childcare, or you can look into local babysitting services. “If you’re using the hotel babysitting service, ask who the sitter is and if they have any qualifications,” suggests Fawzia.
Celeb mum stories
“I know they say nothing’s impossible, but I’ve found something that is… taking a 3-week-old baby’s passport photo.”
Myleene Klass struggles to get a passport-worthy pic of baby Hero
“I was dreading the first flight on my own with my 1-year-old so I downloaded the In the Night Garden app for my smart phone and it saved my life. Betsy was as good as gold.”
Denise Van Outen, 37, mum to Betsy, 1
“For Erin’s first flight to Spain when she was 12 weeks old, I gave her a bottle during take-off and landing to help with the changes in cabin pressure.”
Emmalouise Morgan, 27, from Devon, mum to Erin, 11 months
“Take a lightweight pushchair instead of your usual bulky pram.”
Sarah Sinclair, 26, from North Wales, mum to Ella, 7 months
“We did our first home swap two years ago with a family from Sweden as a way of getting a good value break during the school holidays. Last year we went to Amsterdam when our youngest was 8 months old and this year we’re off to Bavaria. We swap with families who have kids around the same age as ours so we don’t have to take things like highchairs and toys. We spend about six months emailing our swap family beforehand and end up good friends, keeping in touch on Facebook and leaving little presents for each other’s kids.”
Kathy Verlander, 41, from Tynemouth, mum to Noah, 9, Mae, 3, and Ruby, 1
Visit www.homelink.org.uk to find out more about home swapping.