Saturday, 1 April 2017

Learning to do less (aka Baby's first holiday)

Well where does the time go? It has been over 3 weeks since my last blog and even though I took my laptop on holiday with us with the express intention of blogging I somehow never got the chance. There was me thinking I would have more time on holiday with a little baby... Lesson 1: No. Just no.

Here are some other lessons I learned on Baby's first holiday and my packing list for a 12 week old baby (I'm a "list" kinda person). Hopefully they'll make your first trips away a little smoother.

Let's recap Lesson 1: Do less. You do not have more time on holiday with a baby. But how is that possible, I hear you cry!? No laundry, no chores, no changing the bed or online grocery shopping... surely you can claw back that time and spend it doing fun stuff? Well yes, but what we learned very quickly was not to underestimate the impact all the new sights and sounds had on Ayla... she loved being away and soaking up her new surroundings but she wasn't up for doing too much each day. A couple of days of our 10 day trip were spent baby-cuddling and chilling in the apartment with maybe a wander down to the boulangerie the highlight of the day. We needed to do this so she could feel grounded and reassured enough to enjoy our days out rather than be phased by them.

Doing less is a mantra I have had to learn the hard way in the last few months. Pre-preggo me was a person who would always cram something else into my day; I really did seem to be able to "create" extra time in my diary... until I couldn't. The first trimester hit me like a brick wall - learning to do less had to happen very quickly because if I didn't listen to the signals my tired pregnant body were giving me it would just stop and I would crash out. I have slept on more random sofas pregnant than in several years of misspent youth!

Anyway, my main top tip is definitely not to plan to do too much or none of you will end up enjoying it.

Lesson 2: I cannot overstate how long it will take you to pack! I would even say it is worth cajoling a grandparent or paying a babysitter to come and watch/cuddle/entertain baby just so you can keep track in your tired, baby-addled brain of what has gone into your suitcase. My husband ended up with a odd assortment of clothes including 15 T-shirts and no socks purely because we didn't have a uninterrupted 30 minutes to pack in the whole 24 hours before we left. I really can't explain why - if you have a baby, you already know!

Next time I am going to start packing 3 days before with a tick sheet of contents just to ensure I have clothes that make sense as well as essentials such as my phone charger and deodorant at the other end! My full packing list is below - I hope its useful :-) 

Lesson 3: Flying is awesome with babies! I was so worried that she would disturb the whole plane and generally be fractious but she was totally fine. We flew from Heathrow to Nice on BA and the extra baggage allowance was fab... in addition to our own 23kg suitcase and hand luggage each we could also take a 23kg suitcase for her, two pieces of hand luggage and a car seat and buggy too. We paid precisely zilch for all this extra allowance as she is under 2 years old. Fantastic!

They allow you to board first too which was great as we could get all our hand luggage stowed easily and get Ayla on the boob in relative privacy. The air hostesses brought her an inflatable air cot (instead of a life jacket) and a seatbelt to attach her to mine. She squirmed a bit but was fine when feeding or snoozing and had no issues with her ears on take off or landing thankfully. Just in case, I did work quite hard to focus her on feeding during those times as apparently the sucking and swallowing helps with the pressure change. She was more interested in looking around with my nipple hanging out of her mouth which was brilliant as you can imagine!

A note on the car seat and buggy - we had expected to be able to take Ayla in the buggy to the gate and have it waiting for us at the other end. We had bought a couple of sturdy cases to pack them into to avoid damage when they were slung in the hold (and stuffed a load of nappies and other bits into the car seat bag!) but as Nice airport cannot offer this service we had to pick them up from outsize baggage at the other end. It would have been worth having a sling with us to pop her in rather than trying to carry her plus all our hand luggage through passport control etc.

The buggy and car seat we took was the Out n About running buggy and a Maxi Cozi car seat - you can actually attach this car seat to their buggy with a couple of adaptors so she is rear-facing ie. facing you... we loved this combo. Perfect for taking into restaurants too as she is table height or, when you can't fit the whole buggy in, you can detach the car seat and bring that with you.

Lesson 4: Have your (large) taxi transfer booked (and hope they'll show!)
Yup, we landed at 11.30pm and our taxi didn't show up... apparently he had broken down on the previous job. The key at this point was not to panic and to start praying as we attempted to tetris a large amount of luggage into the only remaining taxi on the rank! We were so glad we had brought our own car seat not knowing the quality of the taxi rental ones, not to mention whether they would have the correct newborn insert or whether it would have been puked on recently...

Lesson 5: Double check what accommodation has been booked.
We arrived at our hotel in the mountains to find we had been given a suite with a separate bed but no baby cot... turns out they thought we were a family of 2 adults and 1 child rather than 2 adults and 1 baby which would have led to a significant price increase as they would have charged us for half board for the child too. I assured them that she only drinks milk and they discounted the room for us ;-)

Lesson 6: Take an extra person if you both want to ski.
We had a part beach, part ski holiday and it was immediately clear that we would need a Granny for my husband and I to both be able to ski. There is no strapping the baby into a papoose and heading down the slopes - they can't breathe with the wind whipping past them - and the idea that we could tag team from the comfort of a sunny mountain restaurant deck was soon too complicated. So we met Daddy for lunch up the hill and hung out shopping and drinking chocolat chaud in the village. Definitely take the time to check the resort is fun during the day and is fully open if low season before you book!

Lesson 7: You don't need to take everything with you.

They do have babies abroad you know, and even if you are as picky about what you use on your baby as we are (biodegradable nappies, organic botty balm, organic cotton sheets, no BPA plastic etc)! Take minimal toys - we used the car seat as a bouncer for example - but I really advise including a few familiar things that look, feel and smell like home for Baby... Ewan the sheep, muslins, cot sheets, your husband and his travel guitar... the choice is yours :-)

Here is my packing list:

Insurance details
EHIC cards
Travel cot (unless you can book one at your destination)
Cot sheets x2
Sleeping bags x2 - check tog is appropriate
Ewan the sheep
Baby monitor
Plug adaptors 
2x outfits per day
Coat/snow suit
Swim nappies
Beach/swim wear + hats
Baby sunglasses
Organic baby suncream
Water wipes
Nappy bags
Baby balm
Baby powder
Cotton wool
Hand spray 
Changing bag
Buggy and shade + travel case
Car seat + travel case
Window blind for car
Plastic backed picnic blanket
Rattle and muslin for flight
Baby-proof necklace for Baby to fiddle with on the flight
Baby towels/flannels/bath products
First aid kit
Plastic bags
Laundry detergent/softener 

Plus my stuff - clothes, makeup, jewellery, toiletries, laptop and charger, phone and charger, kindle and charger, shoes, coat, hat and gloves, small handbag, adaptors, camera etc.

I know that probably seems like a mammoth list but it's what worked for us - you can probably take less if you can launder items at the other end (in which case you might like to take your own laundry detergent and softener). 

We had a lovely time away filled with some magical "firsts" - the first time Ayla saw the sea, the first time she saw the mountains, her first touch of snow... 

We took loads of photos and have been able to get free prints of these and very reasonably priced photobooks from a couple of apps I highly recommend: one called FreePrints and one called Photomask.

And we are already planning our next trip: taking our VW campervan round France through wine country - I'd better start expressing!!

[Just call me mama, life lover, wellbeing campaigner, organic fiend and blogger of all things.]