If you’d told me I wouldn’t enjoy travelling once I’d had kids I would have laughed. And probably told you to sod off, because I would DEFINITELY still love travelling…..the baby will fit in with my life and nothing will kill my wanderlust.
Travel is such a big part of my life, my identity, that me without it has been as big an adjustment as me without London.
The baby will fit in with my life….
And something I’ve never discussed openly is how I’ve developed an irrational fear of travel since having Anaïs, something I never expected to happen, something I feel embarrassed about and endlessly ashamed of.
I never wanted Anaïs to grow up with a parent so scared of travel our only holidays were a short drive away. I know that sounds privileged, because, well….it is. But my early years were filled with travel, if not adventure, so I wanted the same for her.
And my therapist told me I was increasingly making my world smaller and that, my friend, is not great for anxiety!
Which is why I thought it was SUCH a bloody great idea to snake in one big long-haul family trip to one of my favourite countries before Anaïs hit two and we had to start paying full price for her seat.
BIG MISTAKE NUMBER ONE
Ever made your toddler sit on your lap for 11 hours? Yes? Did you survive?!
Didn’t think so.
Error number two was trying to scrimp and save money by buying an indirect flight.
Mistakes number three – three-hundred were…..I mean, there really are too many, but let’s talk about the good stuff now shall we?
We had an amazing time. Yes, the flight was pure, unadulterated hell. But the holiday was amazing and Anaïs took it all in her stride. She napped at the same times, slept pretty well at night and overall….loved every minute.
She charmed the pants off everyone she met, from security guards to armed police and, although she might not remember picking flowers at the market or dodging rickshaws and rolling around on the beach, we will. And that is worth the HELLISH flight for sure.
So how did we survive it?
Here are my tips for flying with a toddler
For context, we flew to India on an indirect flight when Anaïs was about 21 months old. Door to door, the total travel time was about 20 hours each way. with the flights lasting between 2 (Mumbai to Goa) and 11 hours (Mumbai to London.)
The main event, as it were, the flight took up way too much of my attention. A bit like how first-time parents focus on the birth then fumble their way through the fourth trimester blind (just me?!), the flight felt like a monumental effort.
When really, it’s the smallest chunk of your entire holiday.
I thought about so many little things, over-preparing and fretting yet I still made a HEAP of errors and now feel I would do quite a few things differently.
Here are a few things to consider:
Seat or no seat? Before your toddler is two they don’t have to buy a full-price seat (but you pay taxes, which is a small amount variable by country) so we opted for this choice because cheap!!!
However, that means whether your baby is 2 month or 22 months they have to sit on your lap, at least for take-off and landing.
Which isn’t super realistic if you have an active toddler who doesn’t understand why they have to be strapped to you for what can be a big chunk of time (factor in taxi-ing to and from the runway, possible delays….turbulence etc etc)
However, paying XX dollars for a seat for your little one mightn’t be an option for you so I’d simply say; go with what you can afford and a basic rule of thumb is that pre-crawlers are easy and fine to sit on your lap but it gets far harder afterwards.
Direct vs indirect? Again, this is a matter of what you can afford as much as what is available on your particular route.
For short-haul flights it’s very likely you’ll be flying direct or, at least, it’ll be available to you for a reasonably small extra cost.
Long-haul flights are trickier, particularly when you’re travelling somewhere a bit off-the-beaten-path without an airport, or not on a route serviced by your fave airline you might plump for the indirect route option.
Some folk prefer this option because it breaks up a long flight and gives everyone a chance to stretch their legs.
But I’d strongly advise you take note of the ‘flight-to-faff’ ratio coined by my friend Elle. The basic premise is that your flight faffery shouldn’t outweigh your holiday time. So, for example, if your trip is seven days but your flight lasts three days because of the time difference and stopover time; this is a negative flight-to-faff ration and you should reconsider your route.
For me? A long, direct flight is preferable to two shorter ones where the logistical faffery is doubled and wriggly-toddler-on-lap-time increased.
Book the best you can afford
Overall, I’d say a lot of your decision making comes down to personal preference as well as your budget. My privilege allows me the luxury of booking the options I want (although, I still picked the cheapest and wrong ones) so I’d choose my favourite airline (read more about that below), a direct flight at a nice time with seats for us all.
I’m not moneybags though, so it’s all economy….but still, the little tweaks count.
And a note on timings. EVERYONE said to book a night flight so Anaïs would know it’s bedtime and sleep.
This is BULLSHIT.
Night flights don’t mimic the calm of your child’s bedroom, so what actually happens is that everyone’s asleep and cross you are keeping them awake, your kid is overtired and confused and the flight attendants aren’t around as much because everyone should be asleep.
Book a daytime flight, unless your tot can fit in the in-flight bassinet and you are confident a night-flight is the best option regardless.
Anaïs first flight was with British Airways, who I totally recommend for kids because they get a cute little high-flyers booklet with their airmiles and get to meet the pilot (after the flight.)
However lots of other airlines do a similar thing and these are my personal favourites.
Lots of airports have play areas, with varying quality (The one at Heathrow T4 is right by the smoking area….grim) so always seek these out. It gave Anaïs time to blow off some steam and was a chance for us to chill out for a bit too.
We also utilised the family-friendly security lines which are less intimidating than the usual and the queues are more chilled out too. Although we were travelling outside of school holidays so…..perhaps we got lucky!
Don’t allow too much time. We allowed WAY too much time which led to a very grumpy toddler ready to sleep with no way of doing so. It was late at night so she was already past her bedtime (see: ‘no night flights’ for this error) and, in hindsight, there was no need to
Pin me for later
This is a pretty easy one to be honest because almost everything people said here was uniform AND true.
Snacks, snacks and more snacks were key. I packed way too many but it didn’t feel like a waste because….well, the potential to run out was a very real and hideous possibility.
I sectioned my snacks in two, one bag in my carry-on and the other in our checked luggage and then sectioned even more. I made sure Anaïs couldn’t stumble across a giant bag, and hid everything in little pockets, mini bags as well as easy-access in my own bag.
We didn’t take loads of toys but the ones we did take were new (for the excitement factor) and not precious (the plane is not a great place to lose stuff!)
We took a few sticker books, and a water-pen colouring book because of the lack of mess, and MY WORD, what a brilliant invention they both are. Anaïs absolutely loved playing with stickers which kept her amused for the longest time of anything.
We don’t have any screen-time rules at home, but Anaïs hadn’t ever used an iPad before which was accidentally brilliant. I bought a cheap plastic case, downloaded a few games (Bing was a clear winner) and the Peter Rabbit film too.
We also bought a set of kiddy earphones in case there was something to watch on the in-flight entertainment as well as for the iPad; they are made for little ears and only go up to a safe volume too.
Lastly, don’t worry too much. At most, the flight will be a day long…….and believe me, it’s 100% worth it for the holiday!
It’s funny to look back on a few short years ago when I planned my year based on where I would travel to, how long for and when.
I’ve always been a travel addict, I guess because my first passport came before my first birthday and by 5 I’d already had a stint living abroad. But maybe not. Maybe it’s simply because I love sunshine on my face and sand in my toes, eating street food and pounding pavements without a schedule.
Who knows. But travel, and travelling, has always been my happy place. For me: “the journey is the destination” rings oh so true because I ADORE flying. When the plane’s wheels lift and woosh you’re above the clouds is like taking a HUGE breath of air.
Past tense. I adored flying. Travelling was my happy place.
This little bean who makes my heart pop with love and is the ultimate, squidgy delight managed to kill all that joy in just over a year.
I despise travelling with her. I tolerate travelling without her. And that would be fine, I guess, except that I’m kind of, sorta a travel writer. Apparently.
Can I still be a travel writer if I sorta hate travelling? It’s not that don’t have the urge to visit anywhere new, although I feel super settled being at home in Brighton. Of course, I long for a break with my husband and yep, I’d happily hop on a plane or train to Europe. I think about my time in India with super fond memories and long to wander down Khao San Road eating street food again but honestly? I could take it or leave it.
I was chatting with a friend recently who used to be a flight attendant. And she admitted that after having kids she developed a fear of flying – I can relate to that too. Being above the clouds no longer gives me a sigh of relief, it makes me feel anxious. It makes me wish I were on the ground with my feet planted close to home. A 45-minute delay wouldn’t have entered my mind as an issue before Anaïs, but now it feels like the biggest waste of my time.
Everything I do has to be weighed up against time spent with my family. I have to ask myself: “Is this worth it? Is this better than hanging out with my baby?” Not much passes the test!
Yes, I could take her with me but honestly….have you ever navigated trains, planes and automobiles with a screaming toddler who won’t sit, stand or lie down? It’s not fun.
Trying to make travelling with kids less stressful is tricky. Because I don’t necessarily think it’s possible. But should I try, even if that means I have a great time, just so I can say I did it? Who do I need to prove anything to?
Answers on a postcard please. And if you find my wanderlust, post that too.
Shall I tell you a secret? I wrote this post about six weeks ago and I was SO proud of it. I declared it a ‘brilliant writing day’ as I wrote two posts that day and I was as smug as if I’d penned a best-selling novel.
Squarespace lost them. LOST BOTH POSTS. I cried, then promptly moved back to WordPress before breathing a sigh of relief. But I couldn’t face re-writing such a perfect post so that’s why it’s taken me over a month to put digit to keyboard and tap it out once more.
But here goes……because in all the questions I get asked, this one is VERY high on the list. Why I left London and moved to Brighton despite the fact I know approximately three people who live here.
In the two months, I’ve been living in Brighton what always surprises me is not how quickly I’ve adjusted, but how little adjustment was necessary. And I’m still waiting for the FOMO to hit every time I’m invited to something in London, something that would have taken me twenty minutes to get to once upon a time but would now (god-willing) take approx 3 million years on a stuffed train packed with cross commuters.
Obviously, that’s a huge exaggeration but Southern rail isn’t known for its efficiency and although I am really close to London and have a direct train in easy reach, it’s still quite the faff to travel up and down to the Big Smoke so I’m rarely in a rush to do so.
Even if I wanted to. Which, realistically, I very rarely do.
Tired of London, tired of life
Because the truth is, I don’t. I spent my entire adult life in London, not really knowing how to be an adult outside of the hustle and bustle of a capital city. I know nothing of renting somewhere where you might pay less than 1000 per calendar month to share with 17 Australians and I don’t know how I’d cope if my nearest shop was a twenty-minute drive from my house. In fact, until now, I can’t remember the last time I lived in a house. Before I lived in London I guess!
I’m used to not worrying about travel times and train timetables. I lived in zone two the majority of my time in London so it was twenty minutes from anywhere I wanted to get to anyway. I had a nice little community, cool cafes and Oli and I went to our fave pub regularly. There were nice spots for me and Anaïs to go and everything felt quite…..safe? Convenient? I dunno. Maybe boring?
Yep. Boring. I was SO BORED.
London is lively and exciting and busy and, YES, ‘the Queen lives here!’ But did I enjoy living in a city home to over 8 million people, most of whom I didn’t know, care about or want to cross paths with?
I guess I did once upon a time. But after taking a big break from London life when Oli and I travelled long-term my priorities changed. I no longer craved nights out each week or going to new pop-up restaurants that I had to queue for because booking is passé.
Left my soul there, down by the sea…..
Anyone who knows me knows I love being by the sea. Not on top of the sea so much….because I hate boats. But under the sea for sure. And definitely strolling by the sea too.
I always knew I’d move my family back to the seaside because that’s where I grew up too. But I didn’t want to go back ‘home’ to Kent and longed for more of a city vibe (sorry, ‘vibe’…. really Lucy?)
I spent many a Saturday down in Brighton in my youth, and a few with Oli too. But I wouldn’t say I knew it well at all. So I can totally understand why people thought it was a snap, rash decision to up sticks and move further away from our family to a place we’d never lived before.
But I don’t really care what people think, do I?
In lieu of a real reason, I can offer you this: It just felt right.
That’s all! I go with my gut on most decisions and this was no different. It just felt really right.
Was I scared of not having a Pret on every corner? Or of being away from a gazillion tube lines? Nope.
Scared of missing out? Yeah, a bit.
Worried I’d become irrelevant at work and never be invited to another blogging party again? I mean…..after having a baby I was pretty much kicked out of the travel blogging community I was in anyway, so…nope, not really.
If you’re thinking about leaving London and moving somewhere else know this; when the time is right you WILL know. And you’ll never regret it because guess what? Living in my dream house by the sea trumps anything else London could ever offer me.
If you’re a long-time reader you’ll know I’ve never done hotel reviews. Or product reviews, in general, to be totally honest….in fact, I’m pretty sure I loudly proclaim I “don’t do reviews’ in my about me page. Which is awkward, because here metaphorically sat together; me writing a hotel review and you, loyal reader, reading it.
Why the change of heart? It’s twofold. I got a bit bored of travel writing, and when I found my mojo again I realised one of the things I liked reading was hotel reviews. Huh. And secondly, it’s a great service to offer brands when I travel in exchange to a complimentary stay.
So, one hashtagauthentic reason and one purely business one. Anyway, enough of that gumph. Here’s why I ended up staying at the delightful citizenM hotel in Rotterdam.
The reason I was in Rotterdam for the weekend was to attend (and speak at!) a travel blogging-conference. So I should put my cards on the table now and tell you I arrived via Amsterdamon Friday night (via a long-winded route) before leaving Sunday morning. I didn’t see all that much of the city at all, hence why I’m not about to write y’all an itinerary or recommend it as the next best city-break.
However, I did notice a few things and can even recommend you a cheeky brunch spot too. You are SO welcome.
Rotterdam is about 30 mins by train from Amsterdam but you can fly straight into the city too. I’d probably go back if I were to visit Amsterdam again and perhaps hop over to see the museums and markets for the day.
Because it’s a super-chill city and really easy to walk too – I didn’t need to use the public transport aside from zipping in and back to Amsterdam Schipol airport (which cost approx €13 on the inter-city train) which probably brings you to one of the reasons citizenM is so awesome — it’s literally opposite the Rotterdam Blaak metro station!
First off, I paid for this myself. Just wanted to get that out of the way! I’d always wanted to stay at a citizenM after seeing a few friends rave about the London hotels, but given I lived in London it never seemed relevant to me.
So when I started searching for places to stay in Rotterdam I was pretty chuffed (and surprised) to see a branch of the boutique hotel in a super cool area of the city. I should say I was surprised purely because there are only six citizenM locations worldwide and one of them is only 30 mins away in Amsterdam so…yep, didn’t expect one in Rotterdam too.
The hotel ticked all of my boxes; Location in the Nieuwe Maas? Tick; Bar? Yep; Slight hipster-y boutique vibes? Absolutely. But if I’m honest, I didn’t think I’d be in the hotel for so long I’d need all the bells & whistles so was pleasantly surprised when I arrived to a really cosy room (they aren’t big, but somehow manage to feel spacious) with the coolest little luxuries.
Like I say, this was 100% paid for by moneybags herself aka moi. But I guess I should also admit citizenM is super affordable. My hostel days are over (unless I go back to Singapore that is) and, as a mum to an extroverted little bean, I was really looking forward to having a hotel room to myself.
Is that wrong? If so, I don’t wanna be right.
Anyway, although I wasn’t there for very long I REALLY made the most of my time and by that i mean I had a super long shower and watched all of the tv in bed. The hotel has iPads in all the rooms which you use to control the lights, temperature, films…..and obviously you can go basic and, erm, just use the iPad for internet too.
I so wish I had a video of what happens when you utilise the mood settings on the iPad because, no lie, I spent way too long going from ‘Romantic’ to ‘Chill’……and I even used the jazzy alarm function which woke me gently with the sound of birds. Quite different to my usual baby crying morning-song.
Here are my hotel highlights:
The bar is so hip. Also open 24/7! Penguin books adorn an old bookshelf and you can enjoy a drink with a view of the Geldersplein, canal and the Marinersmuseum.
Everything was really reasonably priced and the hotel offers breakfast in the form of a delicious, but basic looking buffet I didn’t partake in. I went across the road to Lot & Dan which was SO YUMMY and Instagrammable. I also paid the same for my brekkie (€14) as you would at the hotel (although I didn’t get a belly-busting buffet…..)
What else? Hmmmm, the staff are crazy friendly and the bed was super comfy. And the marketing worked on me because all I want is to stay at another citizenM hotel so….yep, how stupid am I for saying no when the London PR offered me a free room over two years ago?! DOH.
Anyway, #bloggerprivilege aside, I can’t wait to stay at the hotel again and have a cheeky Amsterdam trip with my beau planned soon!
I review my recent stay at the dreamy, delectable citizenM hotel in central Rotterdam; the perfect city break destination.
Can I travel without my baby when I’m breastfeeding?
Niche topic, I know. But to be honest I needed this info before my trip to Japan last year as I was still breastfeeding Anaïs. But for love, nor money I couldn’t find anything useful so I may as well add my two cents to the mix!
I managed it, but it was a tricky situation. At the time (almost six months ago) I was still breastfeeding Anaïs 100%, so I knew that we would either have to use this trip as the time to stop altogether, or I would have to plan how to pump enough milk to last three or four days worth of feeds.
Whichever option I chose, I knew I’d also have to work out how to cope with my bursting boobs while I was away because swollen breasts are insanely uncomfortable at best, and at worst, gte mastitis. Not ideal when working on the other side of the world.
Your travel strategy is totally dependent on what you want to do when you get back to your baby. I was already weaning Anaïs off a solely breastfed diet onto a part milk, part formula, part food one. But like I said, going away for four days without breastfeeding her at all could have led to all sorts of problems, so in the week leading up to my trip I went a step further and started dropping feeds, switching to formula.
This is a totally personal decision, but for me — a necessary one. Going back to work as a travel writer meant, ahem, travelling (shock, I know!) And while I’ve made a decision I’ll be travelling differently going forward, be it work or pleasure, I won’t always be taking Anaïs with me.
All this is to say that I knew after this trip I wanted to stop breastfeeding.
So for me, the main issue I needed to worry about was how to cope with engorged, painful boobies. Breastfeeding is a supply and demand situation, so dropping feeds = less milk. BUT if, like MOI, you want to stop feeding…..I guess it’s best to drop feeds gradually. I didn’t have that option, so……
PUMP OR BUST
That’s right, you seriously need to pump or pop regardless of your end goal. The only real difference will be how much you need to udder up and take a breast pump break.
Regardless of why you’re pumping, or how often, you will probably need to dump your milk (this is obviously completely dependent on where you’re travelling and for how long).
I have two breast pumps, both by Medela. Neither of them ever got much use because I’ve never been able to express much milk. I don’t know if you’re aware, but milk supply isn’t solely dependent on sticking your nipple into a plastic cone and vacuum sucking away.
You need something called ‘the let down’ to happen. Yep. The let down is when your hormones help to dictate whether your milk should rush in and fill your lovely empty bottle. These hormones tend to happen when your baby latches, snuggling into you and giving you all those warm, fuzzy, mama feelings.
Funnily enough, said feelings don’t happen quite as easily when the latch is cold and plastic cone and you’re sat for three years watching your nipple rhythmically get sucked in and out of a mechanical teat.
Ruth Crilly said it best when she declared pumping was like trying to get unicorns tears.
That is so TRUE. Needless to say my trip to Japan went swimmingly. When I got back, Anaïs went straight back on the boob for a few comfort feeds but quickly stopped and that was that. Writing this so long after I stopped breastfeeding, it’s easy to see now that I didn’t realise how emotional it would be to stop. my decision making was purely a practical one and I didn’t stop to think about the fact that I was having to give something up because of work.
No concessions were made for me, as a breastfeeding mother. And don’t get me wrong, this was my favourite press trip ever – so I can’t imagine what it would have been like had I been on a more challenging one.
Yet, even so, the option was either – take the job, or don’t take it. I chose to take it because, honestly, jobs like this don’t come up very often. We were given a budget and free reign of our flights and itinerary with only a few clauses. It was amazing! The perfect job.
But now, as I look back I realise (late, because privilege) that had I had to go into an office after six-months maternity leave I would be screwed. As someone who couldn’t express enough milk for one feed, let alone several — I would’ve had to stop completely.
Which is totally shit really, isn’t it?
BUT, I promised a practical post so here it is. Here are my best tips for travelling without your baby while breastfeeding.
Pump up the volume
Whichever option you go for you’ll need a pump. I have two Medela pumps (both kindly gifted) – one electric, and one manual. Like I say, I couldn’t tell you how amazing they are because I had such a tricky time of it expressing milk. But, I certainly preferred the electric version, as it was just so much more convenient (manual pumping for an hour is a touch tiring……)
However, the manual pump is so small and light (and doesn’t come with the udder-milking sound the Swing does!) so I took that. And it was perfect for my needs as I could just whack it under my jumper on the plane (and in the airport too…..my poor travelling companion Elle Croft had to witness a lot of boob!)
Onsen if you can!
If you can, have a hot bath or hot shower. OR, do what I did and have TWO dreamy Japanese Onsen experiences. That really soothed my swollen boobs and I felt so much better afterwards.
I found that for the first 24 hours, my boobs were rock hard but after onsen and by the time I was on my way home my boobs felt full, but not uncomfortably so.
Plan, plan and plan some more
Decide what you’re going to do beforehand, ideally a good month before, as it’ll make your time away so much easier. I didn’t have that option so it kind of meant that I had to stop breastfeeding entirely. This was the right decision for me (I was already planning to stop fairly soon.)
I am a skincare GEEK, so I double cleanse with oil or a balm cleanser and always pack flannels when I travel. If you don’t do this already, I suggest you add them for this trip because they double up as a great breast-soothing tool.
You can soak them in really cold water or really warm water and rest them over your boobs. They will soothe them and, if you are trying to pump, they’ll probably help the milk to flow a little bit easier.
This is going to sound super weird, but when I needed to pump even just a few drops and I was really struggling — I would look at pictures of Anaïs and it sort of triggered a bit of a hormonal response helping the milk to flow. I definitely never got the bigger let down that some people get but it certainly stopped me from crying with the pain!
Et voila! Have you been on a trip without your baby while breastfeeding?
Anyone who knows me knows the following statement to be true: I LOVE FLYING. It’s my favourite way to travel and I often choose it over seemingly cheaper/easier solutions. Although having said that, I’ve never flown to Paris…..interesting.
Anyway, long-haul is the crème de la crème for me. The longer the better (I genuinely looked forward to my flight home from Australia.) Every time I book flights I get a little flutter of excitement.
Why? Well, I guess the Virgo in me adores the structure and rigid organisation of the airport, the child in me adores the thrill of take-off and landing and the stressed internet-addicted blogger in me adores the unadulterated excuse to have zero contact with the outside world.
But I know I’m in the minority here. The stats tell me so and so do my friends 😉 So, this post is going to tell you exactly how you can make your long-haul flight less stressful, and dare I say it – dreamier — by packing my carry-on flight essentials.
Something you want
Sleep and relaxation……
I don’t know many people who don’t want to sleep on a flight, and I’m no exception. I’ve never found those fancy blow-up pillows to be any good, so I stick to my trusty blanket scarf. I bundle it up, pop it next to my head and snooze as best as I can.
A few other luxuries I love to take with me are my favourite essential oil (I love chamomile or lavender), my sleep mask and my favourite Nuxe face mask (yep, I’m that girl…..)
Something you need
Hydration and health……
I have to admit I’m partial to the in-flight food and wine. But salty food and dehydrating alcohol are hella crappy for your sleep opportunities (not to mention your skin) so I always take a reusable water bottle so I don’t have to rely on those teeny-tiny plastic cups the cabin crew give you.
It’s also worth packing some painkillers in your bag, as well as something to help you cope with sickness or anxiety (if that’s something you suffer from.) I find that whatever essential oil I take is great for this too.
Something to wear
Comfy and casual……
Okay, I’m gonna tell you a secret here. I NEVER wear trainers on a plane. Know why? Because apparently that means you’ll never get upgraded. BUT I always wear comfy shoes. Whether it’s ballet pumps (yep, I still rock those) in spring or some ankle boots in winter, they’ll be easy to slip on and off and be comfy as fook too.
Light layers are also pretty key. I stick to leggings over jeans and cotton t-shirts and cashmere jumpers over shirts, or hoodies. Actually, I don’t own a hoody!
Something to read
Be it light, be it long…..
Since having a baby I have to admit that I am WAY behind on reading anything more than a tweet. My attention span is so short these days and I tend to waste my time faffing or cleaning (yuk) while Anaïs naps.
But a long-haul flight is the PERFECT time to catch up with some light reading…..ahem……or whatever feminist book I’m currently reading. And I actually think that’s what everyone should do too; take that great chunky novel you have been desperate to get stuck into, but have a couple of chill magazines too.