On one hand, there’s something fabulous about a family visit when you are travelling with your baby: you get to spend time with your loved ones. But there’s a downside too: you can find it’s too much time to spend with your loved ones.

In a perfect world, we’d stay with family or friends and they’d be excited to see us, supportive of the way we look after the baby and flexible enough to understand that when travelling with a baby under one, plans don’t always come off. In reality, that’s a trifecta that’s hard to achieve.

On a family visit everyone has to be super diplomatic, or you’ll find even little comments rub a sleep-deprived-you the wrong way. “Oh, you’re still breastfeeding?” or “Oh, he’s not eating solid food yet?” or “Oh, he’s awake already?” or “Oh, you mean you can’t go out for another two hours till he wakes up? The list of possibilities are endless.

If you’re planning on staying with friends and family, it pays to be realistic. How are they likely to act? Will there be a running commentary that might annoy you?  Are they likely to be helpful, or worried about the inevitable mess that comes with a baby?  If too many answers come back in the negative, you might find it better to rent an apartment (try Airbnb), or even, stay in a nearby hotel. 

It’s easy to think that if you’re on a family visit to people with kids, things will be simple. After all there will be toys, kid-friendly meals, and a flexible schedule.  But, sorry to play devil’s advocate, often there will be battles over sharing toys with the newcomer (bring your own just in case); a kid-friendly meal in one household may be a dining blow out in another (be prepared to organise your own), and unless your friend/relative’s children are the same age – and even then, this is unlikely – you can find your baby is day sleeping just at the exact window the other children have available to head out and play. (This is really common when one child is on two sleeps, and an older child is on one – getting out of the house without wrecking someone’s sleep schedule can feel impossible.)

Still, get it right, and it’ll be a fantastic holiday for all. Really!

Our Top 7 tips for a successful family visit with your baby:

1. Get the timing right.

Two nights at your in-law’s house might be a dream, while four or five might start to push everyone’s buttons. Don’t overstay your welcome. If you’re unsure where to start: start on the conservative side. If it’s a wild success, next time try adding another night or so, but remember, by then the baby’s needs will have changed, so what worked now might be problematic later on.

2. Bring your own toys.

Just in case your hosts kids aren’t in a sharing mood (particularly recommended if their kids are toddlers – this can be a really trigger).

3. Set expectations before you arrive.

How much will you be free to head out and ‘do’/see things or visit other friends or rellies?  If you’re hoping people will come to you, make that known in advance.

4. Plan to feed your own baby.

It sounds obvious when they’re little, but if you’re travelling with a 9month to 1 year old and staying with people who have children, it’s easy to think, “Hmm, well maybe they’ll all just eat the same thing?” (Making cooking and shopping less of an issue – you can all pitch in rather than doubling up.)  A nice idea, but one that doesn’t often translate to reality at this age.  A 11 month old may be eating finger food, full family meals or purees, while your three-year-old host’s child might be in a fussy phase where they eat yoghurt, pasta and nothing else.  Pack foods you can cook easily in someone else’s space, and be prepared to do a small shop on arrival.

5. Be flexible.

You’re in someone else’s space, and probably saving some money in the meantime, so in return, be flexible.  And if your mother-in-law says something that bothers you, bite your tongue. It will pay off, most of the time.

6. Help keep things tidy.

Easier said than done, but it’s nice to try to rein in the mess when you’re in someone else’s space.  Tidy things up at the end of the day, be the guest who cleans the kitchen or basically helps out where possible. Everyone knows those are the guests who get invited back.

7. Leave a gift.

Yes, even a bottle of wine or something small.  Remember, even if your hosts are delighted you are there, they’ll have had their house overtaken by both adults and your bub for the length of your family visit, so a little gesture always goes a long way. If you’re on a car trip, just pack an extra bottle of wine or buy something in advance so you don’t have to think about it on the road.  Sue STILL feels guilty about one visit where her host went out of the way to help, and she only had the chance to grab a card, because baby wrangling and jetlag overtook her free time.  Since then, she’s always planned in advance.

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Aussie journalist, travel writer and founder of babieswhotravel.com Sue White has always been a traveller. When her son was born, Sue knew her travel itch would still need regular scratching. But how do you travel with a baby under one and still have a good time? Is it even possible? Where do busy new parents discover practical tips to support those first few trips? To find out, Sue and her baby son travelled both Australia and Europe doing house sits and house swaps; cat sitting and car journeys; took on 24 hours flights and short domestic jaunts; travelled with friends, solo and family members; and cycled, drove, flew and train-ed around seven countries, all before his first birthday. Learn more about Sue.