So, you’re really doing it? You’re taking your little dictator, sorry, little bundle of joy, on holiday. Here’s a guide to help you make your first family holiday a happy one.
We commend your brave commitment to the pledge made by every parent when they first hear of bub’s imminent arrival – the pledge to continue living life as you always have, just with a small, sometimes shouty third wheel in tow.
While the thought of travelling with a baby can induce heart palpitations in even the most zen parents, if done right, it can be endlessly rewarding and there is, in fact, no good reason why you shouldn’t do it. All it takes is a little preparation, a bit of research and a few positive mantras (just in case).
Of course, there may still be the odd meltdown – it’ll just take place in a far more thrilling location. Here is your ultimate need-to-know, nitty-gritty guide to your first family holiday.
Step one: choose your destination
A successful first family holiday often comes down to your choice of destination. If you’ve never flown or taken a long drive with your new bub before, it’s sage advice to pick a holiday within Australia that can be accessed in no more than a few hours. There’s no point to arriving a frazzled mess, questioning your life choices, when a little planning can side-step travel trauma.
Remember, holidays are different now. You won’t be stumbling out of bars at 3am, trekking the wilderness or lounging by a pool from sunrise to sunset, so look for destinations that offer something the whole family can enjoy together. Generally, that means cities don’t make the cut. Trundling around a concrete jungle in a stroller is probably not your child’s idea of a good time either.
To get you started, here are our top-five picks:
Hamilton Island: We love Hamilton Island, not only because it’s easily accessible, has stunning, baby-friendly beaches and reef access, but because it caters specifically to new parents. The resort island offers child-minding services, a 24-hour on-call doctor and even child seats for those super-fun golf buggies.
Noosa: Thanks to beautiful, stroller-accessible walks, gentle bays and plenty of activities, Noosa is a hot spot for families. If you’re feeling up for the challenge, camping here is also a safe and easy option.
Tasmania: While road trips are generally not a great idea for baby’s first holiday, Tassie’s smaller size makes them entirely achievable. Just be sure to drive for no more than an hour at a time before stopping to take in the stunning scenery and to let toddlers stretch those chubby legs.
Lord Howe Island: Gentle bays, activities and incredible wildlife make Lord Howe an unforgettable destination. Hop on a bike and explore or let baby splash in the shallows while you take in the view.
Byron Bay: Byron is a good middle ground for parents who still want a taste of their old life. There’s a cosmopolitan vibe going on, but also beautiful beaches and plenty of farm and rainforest excursions that are baby friendly.
Step two: find the best place to stay
Before you book your usual accommodation, complete with glass coffee table and un-fenced plunge pool, stop and assess your needs travelling with a potentially powerpoint-poking mini-me.
Often, serviced apartments are a great option, as a kitchenette makes meal prep and milk-heating easy. Usually baby’s breakfast and dinner will take place back at your accommodation, so a stovetop and bar fridge will be a lifesaver.
However, there are upsides to resorts and hotels, too. Firstly, they will usually have a cot and stroller available, as with Hamilton Island, so that’s one less thing to lug with you. Hamilton Island also offers child-minding options and dedicated programs for kids, giving you a brief respite to holiday like you used to.
Wherever you end up, it’s good practice to do a quick baby-proofing as soon as you’ve dropped your bags, such as moving any breakable items out of reach, blocking access to electrical cords and removing any furniture that could be pulled down onto their tiny selves.
Step three: get prepped
Alright, you know where you’re going and where you’re staying, but what on earth do you do with an out-of-routine bub once you’re there? You can still follow your regular schedule, but try to allow for a bit of flexibility – you’re on holidays, after all. You don’t want to have to race back from the beach for nap time. Instead, try getting your baby used to falling asleep in a stroller before you go. Putting them into a sleep bag and giving them their comforter will help to signal it’s time for a nap, but be prepared for them to resist the urge to sleep if they’re having too much fun.
If your little one is already walking, then before you go, make sure you know the location of a nearby playground and dedicate some time for your toddler to play and interact with other littlies each day. Some dedicated time for running around means they’ll be more willing to spend a bit more time on the things you enjoy, too.
Having a bag packed with essentials and snacks can help to stretch out the time to an impending meltdown. You’d be surprised how long a packet of sultanas or a favourite toy will buy you.
Step four: get packed
Of course, packing light is the goal. But as a parent, you already know that babies come with more accessories than Barbie, so it’s about finding the best and lightest versions of the necessities.
For example, there are only a couple of travel strollers compact enough to be allowed in the overhead bins on a plane. These may not be cheap, but if you plan to travel regularly over the next few years, they are worth the money.
It also pays to research the lightest travel cots. Some touted as travel cots are strangely heavy and cumbersome, so look around. It’s worth remembering, however, that most airlines will allow you to take a certain number of bulky baby items free of charge. Prioritise what you really need to take, and the rest you can hire. It’s usually not worth taking a baby car seat, and high chairs are often available at your accommodation.
Once the big items are sorted, it’s just a matter of making sure you have the essentials. Bottles, formula, painkillers (should a tooth erupt mid-holiday), bedding, swim nappies, and, for the love of peace, do not forget their favourite soft toy or bunny rug!
The survival tips
Even the most meticulous planning can go awry, so check out these tried-and-tested tips:
– If flying, be sure to breast- or bottle-feed your baby on the ascent and descent to help their ears little equalise. Or try sugar-free lollipops for toddlers.
– Buy a new ‘emergency’ toy and keep it hidden. Reveal only in crisis meltdown mode.
– If driving, do a few longer car trips in the lead up to your holiday.
– Make a pack list and check it, twice.
And finally… relax. In years to come you’ll only remember the good parts.