Travel isn’t always easy, is it? Throw in children and things can get even more complicated. After nearly four years of travelling with one child in tow, we set off as a family of four when our youngest daughter, Cheeky, was just six weeks old. I admit, we didn’t make it easy on ourselves: a 2,000 mile road trip, two countries and one flight in the space of two weeks.
Rewind four years and it was simpler. My eldest daughter, Mrs T, went overseas for first time when she was nine weeks old. We went to Portugal, exploring the Duoro valley and Porto. She was so portable and well-behaved, it almost felt like we were travelling as a couple. We wandered Porto and its famous Port houses with her tucked into the baby carrier and even managed a Michelin-starred dinner while she was asleep in her pram.
Fast forward to summer 2016 and with two children it was tougher (no real surprise there then) especially with the eldest still getting to grips with her little sister. She loves her but she also loves poking her, pulling her and shouting loudly in her face. Sibling love, ay. But what is the reality of travelling with a six-week-old baby and how did we cope on the road? Here’s what we did and some of the practicalities of travelling with young children.
Where did we go?
We travelled by car to France under the Eurotunnel. Our first stop was an overnight stay in Troyes and then Lyon before getting a flight to Rome. We hired a car and drove to the Marche region of Italy for a villa break with a big group of friends and their children.
After a four-night stay in Italy, we flew back to Lyon and continued our road trip, exploring a few different places in Provence. We stayed in three different hotels in Jucas, Castillon du Gare and Uzes and did day trips to Avignon, Roussillon and Pont du Gare to name a few. Rather ambitiously we headed to Morzine in the Alps at the end of the break where we saw family and watched one of the final stages of the Tour de France. Our journey home took us via Beaune staying there for one night. As we were travelling in Europe we didn’t need any injections beforehand just her passport which we got very soon after registering the birth. Read my post for tips on applying for a child passport.
At six weeks old when we left, our youngest was still at the sleepy stage. She slept a lot in the car and ensured we got her up and out of the car seat every few hours (which we had to do to feed her anyway).
Our eldest (who was nearly four) was happy playing ‘I spy’ and watching a film/TV shows on the iPad. But being cooped up in a car did mean she got a bit grumpy every now and then. On the whole she was really good but perhaps a bit more attention-seeking when we stopped (and having a baby to feed at the same time can be exhausting).
We managed to tie in most of our baby’s feeds with service station stops when we could also use the toilet and have lunch. When it was clear she was hungry (crying) we made some unplanned stops. There were a couple of occasions when I had to jump in the back of the car and squish in between the car seats in an attempt to console her. Cozy! I also had to sit in the back during the three-hour journey to our villa in Rome. Our hire car was tiny so the buggy got the passenger seat.
On the short flight from Lyon to Rome, Cheeky was well behaved and I used the KangaWrap (see my review here) which she fell asleep in. It was also good for looking around some historic buildings on our day trips, for example the Palais des Papes in Avignon.
At only six weeks old Cheeky wasn’t yet in a good routine. She struggled to sleep on occasions and there was a fair bit of the ‘witching hour’ with us walking up and down with her in the pram. We had a few lovely evenings with them both asleep while we had dinner though. Hurrah!
The KangaWrap came in handy for a couple of the nights when she was struggling to sleep. I popped her in and had a wander and she nodded off. As always the problem is putting them in the cot/pram without them waking up. On one occasion I just ate with her in the wrap!
We took the Koodai travel bassinet with us and she slept on the floor in our bedroom. It needed a bit of extra padding underneath (a blanket or large changing mat). At the time she was waking once or twice in the night to be fed. Fortunately Mrs T is a deep sleeper and didn’t wake up when the baby woke in the night. During the day, she would nap in the pram, in the shade by the pool or in an air-conditioned room. Young babies sleep a lot! During the day, she didn’t seem to mind where she slept.
I breastfed her which was very easy, no need to take any bottles, but if you do, Milton tablets are brilliant for sterilising. The great thing about travelling with young babies is that they don’t need much. Very few toys required and no food other than milk. With my eldest daughter being nearly four years old, she was able to stay up and eat with us some of the evenings (with us getting an early table) and Cheeky in the pram or we got a babysitter. For lunches, especially when travelling, we would often make sandwiches from the breakfast buffet.
We went for two weeks in mid July. In France’s Luberon valley where it’s a bit higher, it was cooler and could get rather windy. In other parts of France and in Italy it was hot, around 32-35 degrees celsius. For some of Cheeky’s day naps I would take her into an air-conditioned room and if I saw she was getting too hot would do the same. I kept her in the shade all the time.
Getting out and about wasn’t too bad. It may take a bit longer than normal to get out the door but once we were out we had fun. Mrs T enjoyed looking around some of the small towns in Provence. There were a couple of days when she could just enjoy the swimming pool.
Our day trips included a visit to the Roman aqueduct, Pont du Gare and to Avignon where we arrived in the midst of its music and arts festival. See my photos from the visit here.
We enjoyed looking around the different towns in France and if Mrs T was getting a bit fed up there was usually a carousel or ice cream to keep her spirits up. Watching the Tour de France was also fun. It was raining but we took shelter in a nearby pub with some friends and their children.
The toughest day was in Lyon when it was very hot and we were staying on the outskirts of the centre. You can read about our experience here and watch my short vlog below.
Spending time with friends in Italy was great for Mrs T who could play with children her own age. I could focus more on Cheeky and the feeding and sleeping. We crammed a fair bit in, especially with the flight over to Italy, so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend adding a detour like that in.
The biggest issue at the time was the relationship between the two girls which was still in its infancy with a bit of jealousy manifesting itself. It was fine when we were active and Mrs T was entertained but at times was a bit testing. Mrs T just wanted to pick her up and play with Cheeky when she was just too little to do anything.
This made it different to Mrs T’s first trip abroad to Portugal. It was a lot easier when we only had to cater for one child’s needs. I would advocate travelling with a young baby especially if it’s your only child. They sleep so much and are very portable so you get time together as a couple (if they settle alright). There may be the odd stressful time but looking back at my photos I can only see the happy times with the negatives almost forgotten. We’ve made lots of happy family travel memories which has helped me to recall a lot of events in those early baby days when it can all become a bit of a blur.
Having a car helped with all the baby paraphernalia. Our large car easily fitted the pram and our luggage. The issue was when we got to Italy and had to use a hire car.
The Koodai travel cot is very compact and was an important accessory. The KangaWrap came in very handy as did a roll-up travel mat which cheeky could lie on around the pool. The Babybjorn bouncer let her sit up and see what is going on.
Travelling with a six-week-old baby had its challenges at times and being in a hot country can add to it. But babies can be tricky at that age anyway, can’t they? No matter where you are. As they sleep a lot, you can do activities and chill out by the pool at times. Having your partner around also helps! Getting children used to travelling from a young age has also worked wonders. My two girls seem to enjoy the experience and are great on aeroplanes and in cars. On the whole, young children are incredibly portable and adaptable so getting away when they are young is very doable and there are a lot of positives! Go forth and holiday!
When did you first go away with your children? What challenges and advantages did you experience?
Linking to #fearlessfamtrav with Wander Must Family
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