So we did it! We went travelling with a baby and we survived! (Insert all of the fist bump/hands in the air emojis here.) When we booked our flights to Bulgaria Mr A and I decided that our week in Sofia would be a trial run for future holidays, the chance to figure out travelling in our new dynamic. We knew that travelling with a baby would be very different from our previous trips of travelling as a couple, so with that in mind we planned an ‘easy’ holiday to begin with.
That meant staying in one place (rather than my usual ambition to see as many different towns and cities as we can in a single trip) and making use of Airbnb accommodation so that we’d have somewhere to cook in the evenings. We also promised to keep our expectations realistic, rather than trying to cram loads of activities into each day.
We booked our holiday to Bulgaria when our little adventurer was just a couple of months old. I won’t say that we were unorganised, but an example of how ‘relaxed’ we were (read: how tired I was) in the run up to the trip can be summed up by the fact that when we got on the plane Mr A asked to look at the guidebook for Sofia (usually I am a big fan of a guidebook) and I realised I had totally forgotten to even bring one! Hence we decided a go-with-the-flow attitude was going to be our best bet on the trip.
And in all honesty, our first family holiday went surprisingly well. We absolutely loved Sofia and found it to be a really child-friendly destination. Some of the things I’d worried about – such as flying – were easier than I’d thought they would be and our little adventurer coped amazingly well with her new surroundings. However, I’m not going to lie, there were also some moments when we realised “huh, okay, so our holidays have definitely changed!”
So I’m sure this list will be constantly evolving as our little adventurer grows and our travel style changes, but here are some of the things we learnt about travelling with a baby:
Lie-ins will be a thing of the past
Remember those nice, relaxed, lazy mornings you used to have before exploring a new place? Lovely weren’t they? They will never happen again. Your baby will not care that this is your holiday. Her normal wake up time is 6am and that is when she will wake, come rain or shine (except, of course, on the days where you need to get somewhere early then she will sleep in). Your mornings will now be spent juggling the baby between the two of you while you attempt to wash, dress and feed yourselves and a tiny, wriggly person who is extremely adverse to suncream. By the time you leave your apartment/hotel to start the day, you will be exhausted.
Routines from home will go out the window
Nap times – forget them. Bedtime routine – gone. In the same way that being on holiday is new and exciting for you, it’s the same for your little traveller. Why would they want to nap when there’s so much new stuff to see and do? Why should they settle straight away at night when they’re in a different bed, listening to new sounds? And why wouldn’t they cry in the middle of the night when they wake up in new, strange surroundings? At first I worried that we were going to undo all of the good habits we had got into at home, but then I figured we just needed to go with it and the amazing thing is that she slipped right back into her normal routine when we got home.
You will appreciate the quality family time together
Sometimes when you have a baby it can feel like you are ships passing in the night. I’ve joked to Mr A in the past that it feels as though we are having a board meeting when he gets home from work each evening, as we debrief each other on the day’s events and make plans for the week ahead. So it was lovely just to hang out with each other 24/7, to chat about random things like we used to do and for Mr A to be able to experience all of the cute little things that our little adventurer does during the day when he’s at work, which I usually just have to report back to him. Also, in the evening when our little adventurer was in bed we were able to relax and enjoy dinner together and watch a film, rather than running around the house trying to do all of the boring chores like getting the washing done and loading the dishwasher.
You will love opening the world to them…
One of the things I love most about having a baby is seeing her little personality develop and the older our little adventurer gets the more we are learning that she is a real outdoors girl. There’s nothing she loves more than laying in a park watching the trees overhead; she laughs at the sky when she’s in her pram and if we go out to a restaurant she spends most of her time smiling at other people who are trying to eat their dinner. It was so special to share those moments with her, to follow her gaze and see who, or what, was making her grin so much and also to just sit and take time to appreciate being outside rather than rushing to the next ‘must-see’ on a list.
…and they will open the world to you
I’ve always been quite an out-going person when I travel. I love meeting new people and talking to them about their daily lives. The journalist in me is constantly nosy and asking people why they do things in particular ways, or what their opinions are about certain matters. But one of the things I found about travelling with a baby is that they also attract more attention and interaction with others. Everyone loves a baby and we were regularly approached by people who wanted to peek inside the pram and tickle her toes. Old ladies stopped us in the street to chat (neither of us had any idea what the other was saying!) and waitresses in restaurants coo-ed over her in between serving courses.
You will always pack way too much
I’m not exaggerating when I say it took me an entire day to pack for our holiday and as someone who hates packing, I felt like I needed a week away just to recover from it! I think the problem with packing for baby’s first trip is that you tend to take everything you could ever possibly need. I took almost double the amount of outfits our little adventurer required, as I got so worried that she might be sick/poo on her clothes. But I ended up bringing so much clean stuff back that I definitely think the old backpacking mantra of ‘double your money and half your possessions’ applies when you’re travelling with a baby too and next time I’ll be packing way less.
You will find your happy place
It’s sometimes easy when you have a new baby to feel a little lost in the world. Many of the things that defined you, such as your job and your hobbies aren’t there any more. Your friends are living their own lives and suddenly you’re thrown into a whole new ‘mummy world’, where every day is a learning experience and most of the time you don’t have a clue what you’re doing. This learning-as-you-go technique definitely still applies when you’re on holiday. But occasionally at the end of a long day, filled with highs and lows, of moments of joy and moments of exasperation, of outbursts of tears (both baby’s and yours) and happiness, you will look over at your other half holding your baby and think to yourself ‘I wouldn’t have it any other way’.
Where did you take your little one on your first family holiday and would you recommend it?
If you enjoyed this post why not check out Five things to think about when booking your baby’s first trip and if you want to know why Having a baby is like travelling the world, then take a look at this post.