Many people’s first trip with a baby involves a quick dash to visit friends or family. Nothing wrong with that! But for those planning holidays with babies that go beyond a short break up the road to stay with the in laws or your parents, it pays to have a think about what it might look like (all going to plan, naturally).

5 tips for planning holidays with babies (or just one baby!):

1. Start by considering your goal for the trip.

We know, holidays don’t need to have goals, but we are going to go out on a limb and say that holidays with babies DO require you to carefully consider what you are hoping for from the trip:

  • Do you just want some time beside a pool? If you come home and haven’t seen anything except for the tropical grounds of the resort, will that feel like a successful trip or a wasted opportunity?
  • Are you hoping to spend time alone with your partner, or enjoy a few kid-free meals while a nanny looks after your sleeping baby?
  • Are you craving free time in the day, and if so, what does that look like to you? Is it a picture of your partner minding the baby while you have a massage, or your baby spending the morning with a nanny or at a kids club while you do well, whatever you like!

On holidays with babies, it obviously helps if the other adults you’re travelling with are on the same page in terms of your plan. There’s nothing worse than you deciding this is the perfect chance for relaxing family time if your partner has decided it’s an opportunity to go golfing for the day, leaving you alone with your baby.

2. Are the friends or relatives coming with you likely to chip in with childcare?

Irrespective of if you are travelling with a partner or not, on holidays with babies it’s good not to place too many expectations on any other friends or relatives you be meeting up with while you are away. If you’re heading on holiday with extended family and expect they’ll all be stepping in with offers of babysitting (without checking first), you may be sadly disappointed.

Perhaps pick one thing you’d really like to do without your baby (if that’s where you’re at) and ask in advance if you can book one of your friends of family members in for a babysitting session. That way everyone knows what’s coming up, and anything else they offer to do is a bonus.

3. If the baby is with you 24/7, what are your plans?

If you’re anything like this website’s founder, it’s very likely that when you’re on holidays with your baby you’re actually not emotionally ready to let them too far out of your sight.

No problem; except that obviously you’ll need to accept the fact that these types of holidays with babies are quite a different to the type you’ll have if you’re happy leaving bub with a babysitter for a couple of hours here and there.

Sue likes to plan a day on the road with her baby so that everyone has some “high points”.  Here’s an example from Paris: In the morning, she’d time a walk through the Latin Quarter to start immediately after her then 10 month old’s morning sleep: she knew at this time of the day he would be interested in looking around for an hour or so from the comfort of his pram.  After lunch in a tiny Parisian café, with her son in his portable high chair the pair continued walking to Jardin’ du Luxembourg, where a playground, kid’s marionette theatre and sandpits awaited.

For the afternoon, she let her son have his (shorter) afternoon sleep in the pram, while she did some more wandering through the Latin Quarter, cannily hovering near a metro station that would zip them home when he woke up. (The Parisian metro is so stair heavy she did that trip in a carrier while kind strangers lugged the pram down for her. See our public transport post for how to manoeuvre this kind of travel.)  At the end of the day, both Sue and her son felt they’d been catered for: wild success. Naturally, if there’s ever a choice, the baby tends to be (and probably needs to be) the winner!

4. Don’t move locations too often.

We can’t stress this enough.  On holidays with babies, every time you move locations you lose time and energy, and everyone needs some downtime to recover. If you’ll be away for a while, pick a place where there is lots of potential for short day trips (and the occasional long one), and where the main location where you are based is interesting enough that you want to spend quite a bit of there too.

It also helps if you are not having to get in and out of the car, or on and off public transport to go somewhere interesting; of course, that’s all possible, but you probably won’t want to do it morning and afternoon, everyday. As the adult, you may find you get a lot more “incidental” holiday if you stay in a great location that fills you with joy simply by walking outside your accommodation for a short stroll.

5. Allow flexibility overall.

Try not to plan too much, and the things you do plan, have a mental attitude that if it doesn’t come off, that’s fine. It’s something Sue has practised herself when things go wrong.

It started well – Sue was lucky enough to be a guest at the Ritz London for afternoon tea on a recent Europe trip. Unfortunately, it happened to be the one afternoon that whole week that her 10-month-old decided he wouldn’t be happy anywhere near the dining room. Not on her lap, not in a high chair, not even being held while she stood up salivating over the beautiful cakes her friend was able to enjoy (and no, the bub wasn’t happy with anyone else!).

Instead, Sue spent much of the experience wandering around the foyer, ducking back occasionally to grab another sip of tea and champagne or taste of cake. Another friend asked her if she was upset. “Not at all,” she replied.  “He’s a baby, you can’t control these things.”  A flexible attitude will really help you on holidays with babies. Quite often, ambitious plans come off surprisingly well. Other times, not so much.

Like parenting regardless of the location, you have to roll with the punches. If that sounds too stressful, scale things down even further and be even less ambitious with what you’re hoping to do. Eventually, you’ll figure out the balance where everyone has a good time.

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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.