Thank you to those of you who read my last post about taking a baby on a holiday. I felt the need to write a second post on the subject because I didn't really get to elaborate too much on the actual travelling element of it, which I think is the reason why a lot of parents would be anxious about or reluctant to take a baby abroad. Hopefully I can help dispel some of the common fears by telling you about my own experience.
Firstly, the actual booking of the holiday. It's gas because so many people find this to be the most stressful part about going on a trip. I love the booking part and it's always a personal challenge for me to try and get the best deal possible. I don't think I've ever paid more than €450 for a week in the sun. It's completely do-able if you shop around and don't waste money by using travel agents. I know a lot of people like to use travel agents because it seems more organised and you can pay it off week by week, but they are a total rip off in many regards. Booking it separately is much cheaper and it's a lot easier than you think. Websites like Travel Republic will let you secure accommodation for as little as €1 and you can then log back on and pay off the fees in your own time provided you have paid in full three weeks before your holiday. How handy is that? There are two basic elements to going on holiday. You need to get there, and you need somewhere to stay. For me the flights are the most important thing and I like to book those first. I suppose that's because they are the most expensive part of the holiday, and when a flight is booked you really feel like you are going. There are plenty of options for accommodation in most resorts, so that can be organised after.
OK, so the flights. If you are booking online from Ireland, chances are you will be flying with either Ryanair or Aer Lingus. I have flown with both and have good/bad things to say about them both. I'm not fussy though. At the end of the day I want to get to my destination safely and with as little hassle as possible, and both do provide that service. For our recent holiday to Fuerteventura we decided to book our flights with Aer Lingus. Usually I would go for Ryanair because their prices are generally cheaper, but Aer Lingus were the better option this time around. The reason for this is due to the fact that we actually booked the holiday while I was still pregnant. It was a spur of the moment decision. I had saved a bit of money to help me out while on maternity leave (when I would be earning the €230 per week state maternity benefit in Ireland) and instead I decided I would rather have a holiday to look forward to, than the extra few bob in my pocket each week. It was the best decision I ever made. It's funny how it happened actually. Myself and Peter were watching tv one night and he just casually mentioned that Aer Lingus were having a sale. Ten hours later I had the holiday booked. See, I can be spontaneous on a rare occasion!
When I was comparing flight prices the Ryanair flight was actually the exact same price. In the end we decided to go for Aer Lingus though because they confirmed to me that there would be no fee for when I had to call them and change the baby's name on the booking after he was born. You see, I was booking the flight for my unborn baby. We had to book it under the name "Baby Byrne" and I would later go on to call them and change it to Billy Byrne. For this there was no fee, and the staff at the Aer Lingus Customer Support were really helpful, thanks for that guys!
So that was the flights booked. We chose to bring one 20KG bag each which meant we had two in total alongside our cabin baggage. We could also bring a buggy free of charge! Then it was on to the accommodation. I knew I wanted to stay in the Bungalows that we had stayed in previously, but I also knew that various websites would have different prices for the exact same accommodation. I checked out websites like hotels.com, trivago, alpharooms, and eventually booked with booking.com because they had the cheapest rate for those dates. In just five minutes it was booked and paid for. There were options to pay later, but I decided to pay in full and have it all out of the way.
And there we have it, a holiday was booked. €880 in total for two adults and one 4 month old (young?) baby to fly to fuerteventura at the end of September for 10 nights. This includes all flights, accommodation and all taxes and charges. We didn't bother booking a transfer bus or anything because the beautiful thing about going to Caleta De Fuste is that it is literally a five minute taxi ride to the airport. It costs the grand total of €11! Handy! Oh, and the taxis have car seats which is something I was worried about. You just ask when booking the taxi, or when in the taxi queue at the airport (where there is usually a staff member organising everything). The only other thing we had to book was travel insurance. We always do this the night before we go on holiday and it cost us €25 for the ten days. Make sure to have your European Health Card too.
Like myself, most parents are worried about the travelling element of the holiday. How will the baby/children cope with the airport? Will their ears hurt on the plane? Should you bring food or buy food? Can you bring formula/bottles through security? What can you bring to entertain a child in a cabin for several hours? Will it be easy to change nappies while on the plane? What if the baby or child has a tantrum? These are just some of the many questions you might have. I pretty much had them all. First let me say that you can bring formula through security. They will probably take the bottles and test it but that's no biggie!
Of course every ones experience is going to be different, but I am very happy to share mine which thankfully was a very positive one. Firstly, the airport is actually not that stressful. We had parked at the long term car park and got the courtesy bus from there to Terminal 2. Easy peasy. A little tip though, make a note of where in the car park you park. It is HUGE and each section has a name or code. It's all well and good when you are excited for your holiday and skipping to the airport, but when you return and the holiday has ended, you do not want to be walking around a massive car park trying to find your car. Particularly with a baby in tow. We made this mistake when we went to Vegas! Never again. Imagine this, pitch black and I am shouting at Peter from a far "A little to the left, is that not it? I could have SWORN we parked there. Are you SURE?" as Peter ferried around the car park in search of the mo mo.
Once you arrive at the airport you will see a board with a list of the various flights. It will give you the flight time, destination and the area that you should head towards to check in. It's all very straight forward. When you get to the check in desk, give them your travel documents ie your passport and your boarding cards (if you have checked in online already). We didn't have to check in online so we literally rocked up to the desk with our passports. It was at this stage that we could ask about seats. Earlier that week I was just about to fork over €20 to reserve seats and then I realised it was totally unnecessary when we could pretty much do the same thing for free on the day, provided we weren't too picky and arrived with plenty of time to spare. My issue was feeding Billy. I thought it might be handier to feed him if I was at a window seat, with Peter beside me. So that's what we did! BIG MISTAKE. If you are travelling with a baby my advice would be to book an isle seat, or at least have one of you on the isle seat. I say this because I failed to consider nappy changes and I felt very enclosed and claustrophobic at times when I had to get myself and Billy out of our seat which involved a stranger (who was sitting on the isle seat) moving so that Peter could get out of his seat and let us out. Sounds simple, but being in an isle seat would have totally eliminated that issue. I learned my lesson and asked for an isle seat on the way back. This was much nicer. When I needed to go to the loo, or bring Billy for a nappy change, I just got up and walked without worrying about people having to move.
Speaking of nappies - I worried about where you actually change the babies nappy on a plane. I knew I had never noticed a baby changing table before, but like everything you don't notice these things until you need them! Did you know that all toilets on an aircraft have baby changing tables? Me neither. It's a little table that pulls out from behind the toilet. Nappy changes were quick and easy with no issues at all!
As for food in the airport, we decided to go for a nice healthy Burger King with it being holidays and all that. At this point I had Billy in a sling (because I gave the pram to the staff when we checked in, but I could have kept it until we actually were about to walk on to the plane) and he was asleep. It was nice to sit back and relax while eating my meal. I did sort of eat while leaned to the side though - no baby needs lettuce on their head! We decided to have something before the flight because it would be a lot easier than when sitting on a plane in an enclosed space worrying about hot food and drinks with the baby sitting on one of our laps. We were nice and full when getting on the plane and it worked out nicely.
Another thing I worried about was what to clothe Billy in for the plane journey. Planes have an awful habit of being freezing one minute and then roasting the next. I decided to dress him in a footless baby grow from h&m, teamed with warm socks and a long sleeved vest underneath. When he got a bit warm on the plane I removed his socks, and it meant when we arrived in sunny Fuerteventura he was nice and cool with nothing on his feet. The material of the baby grow was light too, which worked out well. This is him just before we left the house, my little chicken!
The actual plane was fairly unremarkable, in the best possible way. In terms of seat belts, they gave me a separate little seat belt for Billy. I had to fasten my own belt, sit him on my lap, and then attach another little seat belt to mine. He essentially had his own separate seat belt. This means that you have to sit the baby on your lap facing forward. For some babies this might not be the most fun. This is where the doddee and bouncing him on my lap came in to play. Anything to distract him from the fact that he had a belt on and couldn't move too much. It was probably about ten minutes before the seat belt sign went off, and the time passed by relatively quickly with no problems. Billy didn't seem to have any problems with his ears. I know this is a worry for many people but my advice would be to give the baby a doddee (if they take one) as the sucking motion will help their ears. Another bit of advice would be to feed them just before take off. I did this while we were sitting on the plane waiting for everyone to take their seats. It just meant that he was full and wasn't fussy while he had to remain seated on my lap. We spent the rest of the journey mostly playing with Billy. We brought a rattle, teddy, blanket and a little book. He also slept quite a bit in our arms. When we landed the pram was literally waiting for us as we walked off the plane. It was great to be able to put Billy in to a familiar place. It was also handy to use the pram to hold the hand luggage which nicely fit in the basket underneath and the handles. We walked to the baggage collection area and fifteen minutes later we were in a taxi on our way to the resort. It genuinely was completely painless. I think the main reason it went so smoothly is because we had it well thought out. A little bit of planning and thought really does go a long way.
The flight on the way back was even more unremarkable. It was night-time and so Billy slept literally the whole way home. He woke for a quick feed but would then go back to sleep. It made for a nice relaxing flight for us all. I didn't go to sleep because Billy was asleep in my arms but I sat back, relaxed and definitely enjoyed the journey. Before I knew it we had landed back in Dublin and while we had just had an amazing holiday, it felt great to be home. I think it was a genuine feeling of "we did it". It was lovely knowing the holiday had been a success and we were at the other side of it now. A fantastic family experience and some amazing moments for the memory bank.
Another little trick which you might find useful is to buy a little pot of camomile syrup. You can buy this in most chemists. It's basically a little pot of thick syrup which is mostly made with camomile but does have some other ingredients. You can dip the baby's doddee in to it and even a tiny little bit of it will calm any baby down immediately. It is magical stuff! I asked my PHN about it and she said that the medical standpoint on it would be fairly relaxed. She said that it is quite sugary, but for the tiny bit you use each time it isn't really of much concern. She also mentioned that she had two children and so she knew aaaall about it! I think that speaks co We still have the pot that we bought when Billy was born four and a half months ago. It's not something you would use every day, but I have used it for exceptional times where Billy might be crying a lot and where he doesn't seem to be hungry, windy or in need of a change etc. I also used it the day he had his two month injections. He was upset afterwards and a teeny bit of the syrup on his doddee totally distracted him while we walked home from the medical centre. It's a personal choice, but it was recommended to me by a few mammy friends and I think it's great stuff when used on occasion.
I think that's it folks. A long post with no photos, but I wanted to give you as many tips as possible and I hope I haven't forgotten anything. If you have any questions please just ask me in the comments and I would be happy to anser them.
Labels: airport, Baby, breastfeeding, flight, holiday, parenting, travel, vacation