Okay, here’s my top tip to any new parent: travelling during maternity leave is some of the easiest travel with kids you will ever do. Now I know right now it may not feel like it. I remember those days of being so bone tired you put your coffee in the fridge and spend half an hour looking for it (true story). But trust me when I say, travelling with a baby who takes regular naps, doesn’t need much to entertain them and, most importantly, stays in one place when you put them down, is the perfect time to travel.
One of the first things people may tell you when you announce your pregnancy is that your travel days are over. As someone who loved travelling pre-children, it was something that was said to me a lot. That made me really sad, as I love exploring the world and experiencing different cultures. I hoped that I would one day be able to share that with my little one.
And while I will be the first to admit the truth about travelling with a baby is that it’s not all sunshine and roses, I also know that it’s totally possible and, more importantly, so much fun.
Travelling during maternity leave
I feel very lucky that here in the UK we are able to take up to a year off after having or adopting a child. This means that I was able to travel quite a bit with my little adventurers and it’s given us so many special family moments to treasure.
With my first little adventurer life was pretty straight forward and we enjoyed lots of trips both at home and abroad. From a city break in Sofia, Bulgaria, to camping trips in the English countryside. Plus, visits to the beach in Scarborough, Brighton and Weymouth. Also, travelling with a baby needn’t be boring and we enjoyed some quirky staycations, including at a shepherd’s hut in the South Downs and a horsebox in Herefordshire.
When my second little adventurer came along things were slightly more complicated, as he was born during the covid pandemic. So we spent the first nine months of his life pretty much in lockdown. However that time at home gave us a chance to reassess our travel style. This led to us making a huge decision to change the way we travel. As a result, the newest member of our family came along: our campervan Bertie Dolphin. Now taking a baby in a campervan has its own unique set of challenges. But we have absolutely loved it and van life has given us so much freedom.
One of the things I often hear from new mums is that they’re worried to travel with their little ones during their maternity leave. I think that’s a totally natural response to have. There are so many unknowns when your baby first comes along and I felt exactly the same. But what I found is that the more I did, the easier it got. Start small and just do a night away at first and gradually build up. Yes, there may be some challenges along the way, but I can guarantee travelling with your baby will be totally worth it.
If you’re feeling nervous about travelling while on maternity leave, here’s my top tips:
Don’t be afraid to book your first trip
This is my biggest piece of advice, as I actually think your first trip is the easiest one you’ll do! We took our little adventurer to Sofia in Bulgaria when she was just five months old and, looking back, it was so straight-forward. She was so small that she slept most of the time on the flight (we even flew business class) and aside from her clothes, we hardly needed to take any stuff with us. She wasn’t even eating food yet (which led to a few funny experiences at airport security when the guards kept asking me where the baby’s food was and I kept having to point at my boobs!)
While we were exploring the city she slept a lot during the day and if she wasn’t sleeping, she was quite content to sit in her pram and look around. Whereas now she wants to be out and about, getting in on the action!
Make the most of your flexibility
Midweek breaks are normally cheaper and if you are able to book last minute while you’re on maternity leave you can get some great deals. I love finding unusual places to stay on websites like Canopy & Stars and they often advertise some great last minute deals. We used it to book our quirky stay in the horsebox in Herefordshire.
Don’t be afraid to travel alone
If your partner works they may not always be able to drop everything to join you when you find those fantastic deals, but don’t be afraid to travel alone with your baby during your maternity leave. Once you get into a routine with your little one you’ll know their schedule and you’ll feel more confident planning things around their naps and mealtimes.
I did a five-hour drive to Scarborough with my little adventurer, and while I was a bit nervous ahead of it everything actually went very smoothly, as I’d planned it all out in advance.
If you don’t fancy doing it totally by yourself, see if any of your new mum friends fancy joining forces and going together. Next month my little adventurer and I will be going on a girls trip to Switzerland with a friend and her baby.
Plan what you can ahead of the birth
If you’re going through the nesting urge when you’re pregnant you might want to use this time and energy to plan some trips.
When I was totally sleep-deprived and trying to book our baby’s first holiday to Bulgaria I remember wishing that I’d done a little thinking about our holiday before she’d been born. (This was why we ended up on the plane to Sofia with no guidebook and absolutely no idea what we were going to do there!)
If you’d rather not book things in advance, at least having an idea of where you’d like to go will help. The hardest thing I found in the early days was making decisions. And when you’re too tired to even decide what to have for breakfast, imagine trying to plan a holiday!
Take lots of microadventures
Adventures don’t have to be huge and on the other side of the world. You can have just as much fun on your own doorstep. Before I had my little adventurer I must admit that I actually knew very little about the place I live, Reading. That’s because I commuted every day into London and spent very little time in the town.
However having a baby has opened my eyes to some of the amazing places we have and I have explored more in the last year than I have in the five years I’ve lived here. Make sure you get out and about while you’re on your maternity leave, even if it’s just to the local park.
Don’t worry about the tiredness
There’s no nice way to put this. But if you have a baby you’re going to be tired. And you’ll be just as tired whether you’re exploring a new city or just trying to get yourself ready to leave the house.
Sure, travelling with a baby is different – you can say goodbye to lie-ins and late nights out. But it’s also an amazing bonding experience with your family. It’s a chance to spend quality time together and forget about all of the chores which seem to take over at home. It’s an opportunity to create special memories with your little one.
To be honest travelling during my maternity leave is some of the best memories I have from my year off and something I’ll treasure forever.
What do you think about travelling during maternity leave? Would you like to do it? Or have you already done it and, if so, where was your favourite place you visited?