I recently travelled to St Lucia with my one-year-old baby and now I'm here to share top tips and product recommendations with you, to help you prepare for your holiday and hopefully make it a smoother one.
If like me, you love your holidays and travel, you will soon be eager to get one on the calendar after your baby comes along. The thought of travelling with a young or older baby is daunting and packing becomes a whole lot harder, you have to take pretty much everything but the kitchen sink! The days of lounging by the pool sunbathing for copious hours, getting tipsy and only thinking about what you want to do are a thing of the past, but making memories as a family is amazing and so worth it.
Rose was 12 months at the time of travel and just for context she is a pretty chilled baby, generally has 2 naps a day and sleeps well at night with typically 1 wake up for a bottle or sleeps through, one wake up is normal for us. In terms of mobility, she is fully crawling but not yet walking.
We flew from London Gatwick and on arrival, we were put in the 'special assistance' lane which is for families and those needing extra assistance - this meant we went through really quickly - we didn't even know it was a thing before we had Rose.
We got a stroller for the holiday which we needed anyway and it folded down with one click and fitted in the overhead luggage, we chose to keep it with us - if you can I would do the same as on the baggage collection it can be on a separate belt and take longer to get. We got the Chicco Cheerio stroller
You can take through as much as you need for your baby if you can justify it for your flight, we took through formula powder, pre-made bottles, snacks and baby jars of food - no questions asked. TUI allocated 10kg worth of luggage for Rose and we mixed both our clothes and products together, so that if one case went missing, we would still have at least some of the things we needed.
Boots click and collect - if you want to save room in your luggage for things like swim and normal nappies and baby formula, you can do boots click and collect. Just bear in mind it means carrying more around with you - as if you don't have enough to carry with a baby, we found it better to just pack in our cases.
We took our usual changing bag rucksack with all Rose's essentials and then also a wheels hand luggage case for extra things.
WHAT SEATS SHALL WE BOOK?
Children under 2 do not get a seat, so you will have your baby on your lap, unless you are lucky and the plane is not at full capacity then you may get an extra seat, we did and it was so good because we could spread out more. We opted for the seats in the middle of the plane, one row behind the extra legroom seats, we found these probably the best on the whole plane as it meant we felt we had more space because we could physically see the spacious flooring and we were near to the toilets. Also, if the people in front of the extra legroom seats are nice they will probably interact with you and be happy for your baby to crawl/walk around there. As extra leg room seats are payable, if they are empty on the flight, you can probably get away with using them free or charge. The air hostesses were great and appreciate it's hard flying with children.
DAY OR NIGHT FLIGHT?
If like me you booked through a company such as TUI you might not have much choice on your flights. We had a day flight there and a night flight back. The day flight we found much easier - not only had we all had a full nights sleep before travelling, but Rose also is very particular with her sleeping conditions and sleeps in the dark, on her own, on her front in a full-size cot normally. On the day flight, she only napped one hour out of 8 and I only managed to get her to sleep by walking up and down the aisle with a baby carrier - the loud white noise machine of the plane will probably work in your favour. The night flight we found harder as not only were we tired, Rose didn't sleep very well, only 3-4 hours out of 8 and the flight was through the night.
DON'T SET YOUR EXPECTATIONS TOO HIGH
We prepared for it to be hard work and it was a pleasant surprise at how much easier it was than we anticipated. We bought lots of new toys for the plane so that the newness was intriguing and also toys that we knew suited Rose's personality well and things she would like. Although we generally just let her do what she wanted, at one point a calpol bottle and syringe kept her happy for about 20 minutes - we went by the rule of doing one thing until it no longer worked, then trying another.
MILK AND SNACKS
We took lots of Rose's favourite snacks and also baby jars of food that she likes and she did have a nibble on the plane food too. We took pre-made bottles of milk and the air hostesses warmed it up for us. I would recommend taking powder and putting it into little pots and then asking for boiling and cold water to make yourself. Every time it came back it was far too hot and we had to wait for it to cool down or dilute it by putting cold in.
Also, if your baby hasn't had the pre-made bottles before like Rose hadn't, I wouldn't recommend taking them. On the flight back Rose refused this bottled milk the whole flight and the day of flying, the only thing we put it down to was that it wasn't the powder - even though she had the pre-made fine on the way out. This meant she was hungrier and harder to get to sleep and settle. The powder is also lighter than all the bottles, although if your baby likes the pre-made and doesn't mind the bottle temperature, they are fab to put in your beach bag when you leave the hotel room.
Load up an iPad or smart tablet with all your children's favourite TV programmes and add some interactive games they can press the screen for. If this is one of the guaranteed ways to calm or stop your baby from being upset then don't bring it out unless you need too, that way it's new and fresh if they do get unsettled.
RECOMMENDED PRODUCTS FOR THE PLANE, HOLIDAY & HOTEL
- Baby Carrier - if there was one thing that was so helpful it was our baby carrier - the environment is all so new for your baby on holiday and the closeness will really help to settle them
- Take your own travel cot sheet
- This busy book was an easy thing to pack and for Rose to play with CLICK HERE
- Buggy pram mosquito net - CLICK HERE
- Silicone bucket and spade set - this was great as it bended for the suit case - hotel shops always charge a fortune for these and we also used the bucket to fill with hotel room hot kettle water to warm a bottle - CLICK HERE
- Buggy fan - great to ensure your baby doesn't overheat - CLICK HERE
- Ear defenders - we didn't use these as Rose wouldn't keep headphones or anything like that on, but one couple we met used these one evening when their baby was asleep in the buggy and they were watching one of the live hotel shows as that was seriously loud CLICK HERE
- Baby suncream - this is probably the most expensive baby suncream you can buy but I was scared of Rose's skin burning as she is very pale and luckily she did not burn once - we didn't let her go in the sun for very long at a time and stayed in the shade where possible but I had heard of some babies reacting badly to sun creams - test a bit out before you go and make sure it's a baby one - CLICK HERE
- First aid kit and plasters
- Sterilising tablets to clean bottles and beakers in the room CLICK HERE
- Insulated bottles for hot and cold to take out with you - Chilli's are great and mine have never leaked
- Baby swim ring - these cost so much abroad so best to take one with you CLICK HERE
- Swim bonnet with string to tie under chin - this helps if your baby doesn't like wearing a hat and makes it harder to come off
- Long sleeved swim suit - JoJo does great ones of these and also supermarkets in season like Sainsburys
- Take all of your own medicine kit - calpol, teething gels etc - even if your baby is fully well at the time of going, you want to be prepared and know you've got the right UK approved and branded items with you just incase
- Swim nappies - 3 per pay
- Usual nappies/milk/clothes etc - as much as you would use at home for a week plus more
- Take your own baby camera if you can so that in the evenings you can sit on the balcony and not have to keep going inside to make sure your baby is ok
- Blanket with breathable holes in, in case you want to use it to go over part of the buggy to darken in, you can get cheap ones in the supermarkets
- Check the power usage in the chosen country you visit as they may not be able to support your baby gadgets and you don't want to be caught out when you get there
The biggest things we found to keep Rose happy were to follow her routine as much as we could - getting her to have 2 naps a day still and a early-ish bedtime and also not letting her become too overstimulated by spending some quiet time in the room everyday.
We opted for a private transfer with a car seat once we arrived in St Lucia as the TUI transfer did not provide a car seat, we didn't feel comfortable with Rose on our lap, even though it was the standard thing in that country. We were especially happy that we did as the transfer was up to 2 hours to the hotel and this meant she could sleep safely, you may be able to take on on the plane with you and check it in but you would have to check with the airline.
On the whole, be prepared for the routine to go out the window a little bit but also be prepared to have an amazing time making memories. If you have any questions do feel free to ask and I'll be happy to answer.