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What do you wish you knew before your first holiday with a baby? - £200 voucher to be won

81 replies

MaddyMumsnet · 19/03/2024 10:06

Where do you begin when it comes to planning and booking your first holiday with a baby? Exciting but also, well, slightly nerve-wracking. There's so much to consider, from packing the essentials to managing travel logistics. That's why we want to hear from you about the valuable advice you wish you had, before embarking on that memorable trip with your little one.

Share your top tips and stories in the thread below. Whether it's advice on entertaining children on flights, managing sleep routines while away from home, or how to actually have an evening together once the baby is asleep, your wisdom could be invaluable to other parents planning their first holiday with a baby.

  • Post your stories/items/challenges/tips in the thread below to be entered into a prize draw
  • One lucky MNer will win a £200 voucher for a store of their choice.
  • Don’t forget to vote in our poll below.

Here’s what Mark Warner has to say: 
“Over the last 50 years Mark Warner has perfected the family holiday.
In our family-friendly beach resorts across Greece and Turkey our kids’ clubs are all about activity. Every child from 4 months old to 17 joins a club where they come first, led by qualified and energetic childcare professionals. Babies and toddlers enjoy home-from-home care, while children aged 3-17 learn to kayak, paddleboard, play tennis and so much more.
Holidays that give you a lifetime of memories - guaranteed.”

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What would you partake in whilst your children are at kids club?

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TheBirdintheCave · 19/03/2024 11:48

Disclaimer: I'm autistic and being travel savvy is one of my special interests, so apologies in advance for the essay!


Our son was born in November 2020 during lockdown and everyone told us that having a baby would change our lives completely. In some ways they were right, of course things are different now, but in others they couldn’t have been more wrong. Holidaying falls into this category.

A few choice remarks we had were:

‘Just do All Inclusive. It’s so much easier.’

‘Holidays with children are not holidays if there’s no kid’s club.’

‘You won’t be able to do reusable nappies abroad!’

My husband and I are city breakers, we always have been. Lying by the pool reading a book in an AI resort has never been our idea of relaxation. We need to explore, eat delicious food and see and learn new things in order to recharge mentally and I didn’t want to give that up just because I’d had a child.

In the summer of 2022 our son was 18 months old and Covid restrictions had lifted so we decided to book our first family holiday. We picked Bologna as it seemed well connected to other cities via a good train network.

I did a lot of research online to find other families who liked to travel the way we do and watched YouTube videos and read articles for tips and tricks and lists of recommended items. So, if your family and your holidays sound like mine, these are tips for you! 😊


Book an apartment

When travelling with kids, apartments beat hotels hands down. Yes, the call of the buffet breakfast is always loud in the back of my head as I’m pressing the reserve button but, ultimately, having a separate living space and terrace/balcony to relax on in the evening is worth all the croissants and pastries in France.

Booking an apartment with a washing machine also meant we could carry on using our reusable nappy system as normal. Hoorah! We were also able to pack lighter because of this and washed our clothes halfway through the trip as well.
It’s worth noting that we don’t actually cook in the apartment (bar toast and cereal for breakfast!). We just use them for the extra space and dine out in restaurants instead.

A good travel buggy is essential for toddlers

Our son loved walking (and still does at 3.5!) and always preferred to be trotting along with us rather than contained in a buggy BUT at 18 months he was still having naps so we chose to invest in a lightweight, foldable buggy and Snooze Shade to make sure he could nap on the go if needed.

The buggy we picked was the IckleBubba Globe and it was a brilliant piece of kit. Like the YoYo2 it folds small enough to fit in the overhead locker and, better than the YoYo2, it actually lies flat for children who can’t nap sitting up. My son was one of those kids and the Globe was the only buggy he ever actually napped in.

I’d heartily recommend it to anyone looking for a budget travel buggy.

Choose a good travel cot

Another piece of invaluable kit is a good travel cot, especially if you’re staying in an apartment as not every apartment provides a cot. We chose the Baby Bjorn (purchased second hand from eBay) and have never regretted the decision. It’s extremely well packaged and has survived six flights and numerous car and train journeys without a single dint. It goes up and down in a matter of minutes and it’s another product I rave about.

Always take a sling

Since having our son, our eyes have been opened a lot more to issues of accessibility (lifts over escalators etc). This is largely not a problem in the UK but in continental Europe we’ve found out the hard way that it’s better to always have a sling/baby carrier with you just in case a museum you want to visit or a train station you want to use is stairs only.

Research restaurants beforehand

There’s nothing worse than trying to manage a hungry toddler whilst also Googling nearby restaurants. I like to go to new cities prepared with a list of Trip Advisor pre-vetted restaurants and cafes so that we can just choose one, whack the directions into our phones, and head out. It saves a lot of time and stress and even money as it means you’re already prepared for how much a meal will cost and what the menu is like. We’ve discovered some absolute gems this way.

Make travel exciting. If you’re chilled about it, they will be too.

We’re lucky that our son is pretty easy going when it comes to travelling. He loves an airport, going through security and looking at the planes at the departure gate. We make sure to arrive with plenty of time so that no one is rushing and we can be as serene as possible throughout what can actually be quite a chaotic experience. Before we went to Bologna he was a bit too young to understand what going on holiday meant and what would be happening but we tried to talk about it lots in the weeks before hand and read books about airports and played ‘airports’ where we pretended to scan our passports and weigh our luggage etc.

Tips for on the plane

Snacks: Take lots. Our son now associates the Boots meal deal with plane travel, haha.

Sticker books: He was a bit young for these the first time we went away but they’ve been invaluable items for the last few holidays. Sticker books are great for wait times in restaurants too.

Change of clothes for everyone in a packing cube: In case of accidents or sick.

Small toys: We had a wooden lacing cheese, stacking animal blocks and a magic water ‘painting’ book.

New books: We got lots of stories no one had read before and brought them out as a surprise on the flight.

Tablets: Pre-loaded with games and his favourite tv shows. We keep the iPad as a last resort for when he’s tired or a bit ratty and just needs down time. We only ever let him use it on silent or with headphones. 

Don’t overcrowd the itinerary

On UK day trips we learned the hard way as our son got older that we needed to stick to one activity per day combined with some chill out time outdoors. This is no different when we go on holiday. Often, we’ll plan a museum or other point of interest for the morning when our son is more likely to be engaged and then spend the afternoon in a garden or playpark. For the last two trips we’ve also included a few days in a beach town at the end of the holiday so our son could spend an afternoon building sand-castles and paddling and we could take in some coastal sights too like the caves at Nerja or the beautiful town of San Vito lo Capo.


Before having my son I was always adamant that I would never travel with children but I'm really glad I changed my mind. He's a fab little travel companion and I've loved all of our exploring together as a family.

Next up is Vienna in August/September when we'll be adding a three month old to the fun! Wish me luck! 😅

ErnestClementine · 19/03/2024 12:41

Best tip for going abroad was if your baby is formula fed, you can pre-order cartons of milk to collect from Boots after you've been through security.

LittleDeeAndME · 20/03/2024 10:00

For us it was ALL you needed to take with you (nappies, wipes, creams, food they like, milk and a steriliser). So my tips would be pick somewhere with shops nearby so you can buy what you need there (A google walk through the area helped us navigate the shops - particularly British ones)

jacqui5366 · 20/03/2024 11:50

My tips would be check out your flight times - having a flight take off at 9am sounds good - BUT you need to be at the hotel at 6am to give yourself enough time to get through all of the processes - which means you need to be be up at 3 or 4 am to get everyone ready and drive to the airport - NIGHTMARE - I have been there and done that -never again.
select your seats at the back or front - so you get cabin service first and the older children are not pestering you for drinks and snacks.
Take your phone or tablet and headphones to keep the older ones entertained - buy most of the bulky baby essentials when you get to your resort.

voyager50 · 22/03/2024 07:15

I would recommend a UK holiday for the first one rather than having to worry about planes, ferries etc.

It gives all of you the chance to get used to how a change in routine affects you all without the extra things that can affect it like different time zones and climates.

MakeTeaNotWar · 22/03/2024 07:24

Lots of shade and sun cream - babies and hot weather makes them cranky

Gazelda · 22/03/2024 07:28

We did self catering for several years when DD was little. Mainly Eurocamp or siblu.

This gave us freedom around naps, bedtimes, having somewhere spacious to run around or chill. And it enabled us to keep to lots of routines and familiar food while still having the option to try something new.

We drove, so had the car to go exploring at a pace that suited us.

itsywitsy · 22/03/2024 11:28

My tips would be self- catering with supermarkets, and restaurants within walking distance, you can have the holiday weather, without the hassle of dining and buy all of the bulky items when you get there.

chickenpotnoodle · 22/03/2024 15:03

Healthcare was so important to me, what happened if my baby became ill overseas. Take your essentials, calpol and the sachets to take through the airport. Plasters, cream for bites and take good travel insurance out - check you location to see of there is a chemist or doctors near you location. I didn't need any of these, but it really helped me relax knowing I had done everything I could.

DinkyDaffodil · 22/03/2024 15:29

Book a self catering with a washing machine - I did not run out of clothes, it was not a chore as the clothes dried within a couple of hours and I brought home a suitcase of clean vests and babygrows etc, going to Europe is best as the time difference was not a problem - going to the States was not as sleep friendly as we tried to move their sleep and wake times to adapt but we were tired for most of the holiday - any tips for this I would welcome.

youareonlyhereonce · 22/03/2024 15:34

I wish I knew how difficult it was to take a photo of my baby for the passport he needed. Ours was rejected twice - so give yourself penty of time and prop baby on a chair and hold a toy in front and above their head.

Allowballow · 22/03/2024 15:47

I would say... get a sling and use it in the airport (check pushchair in and then have hands free in the airport)... do whatever you want to do when babies... they are very they get older consider some not too busy days. We like to alternate busy and not too busy days.

sharond101 · 22/03/2024 21:26

That they only need a few vests and some swim nappies, not lots of clothes!

LittleDeeAndME · 23/03/2024 13:58

Make a list of everything you need, sippy cups, their favourite toys for sleeping, medicines, it would be aweful to leave something 'irreplaceable' for your holiday. read the reviews of where you are staying - the most recent first for the best 'feel' of how the resort is, where shops are and how the holiday clubs are run.

DanBenandBud · 23/03/2024 15:04

I would never take a baby to a hot country, it's just too much of a risk with overheating and becoming ill. I waited until mine was 9 months and we went on October. Self catering suited us, we found we too far too much with us, and were able to buy a lot of the things we had taken in the local Consum stores, so think about what you actually need and what you can buy at the resort.

RoundRedRobin · 23/03/2024 20:39

I wish I’d known to pack more nappies and clothes than I’d think I’d need as all our leaky nappy situations seem to happen on holiday!

Elliebobtail · 23/03/2024 22:51

Try not to over plan activities and bring lots of sun cream! Careful with white clothes though, they can get stained with sun cream!

RomainesToBeSeen · 23/03/2024 23:07

We enjoyed villa holidays abroad when DC were little. We went out and about during the day, had nice lunches and then came back in the afternoon for a swim and easy food. Sometimes we'd go to the beach at 5pm for something to eat, a play in the sand and then home to bed.

DC went to bed at usual(ish) time and we had a few hours to sit outside, have a glass of wine and snacks and it felt like we had a break.

Take black bags and tape in case bedroom curtains aren't very good at blocking out light for early mornings. Baby monitor was also useful in the villa. Take plenty of familiar snacks - they were less easy to find in local supermarkets and handy to have in the car/bag.

My top tip would be to try not to do too much each day so that DC aren't overwhelmed. That said, it helped us to have a plan for each day so we had a rough idea of what we were doing. DH and I would usual make a plan for the next day while sitting out in the evenings.

thesleepyhoglet · 23/03/2024 23:23

Wow these holidays sound fab and I will be looking into them.

I think when travelling with a baby, don't worry about a pushchair but get a decent baby carrier either soft or the backpack style.

Theothername · 24/03/2024 06:40

I was a huge fan of sticker books when my dc were little too @TheBirdintheCave and my top tip is to peel away the negative space around the stickers to save yourself endless cries of “Mum! Mum!”

I am also a huge advocate for self catering - being able to feed babies and small children quickly and appropriately when needed instead of trying to navigate buffets and restaurants with hangry monsters is the difference between having a holiday and surviving one.

But we really do need more words for holidays because taking a baby abroad is a different experience. I love family holidays - even now that they’re stroppy teens, but having realistic expectations about what you’re getting into is the key.

TheBirdintheCave · 24/03/2024 08:11

@Theothername That is a good tip :) My son still struggles to get them off the page 😂

I thought of a few other things!

*Blackout blind
We chose the Tommee Tippee one (again second hand from eBay) as it packs down small and can be folded to different sizes to fit different windows.

Booster seat *(age dependent)
You can't guarantee that everywhere you eat abroad will have a high chair so we bought the Polar Gear portable booster seat. It has a foam pad to raise a toddler higher which a lot of other designs didn't. It folds into a neat rectangle and we stored it inside our buggy bag for transport on the plane. On days out it fit perfectly inside the basket of the buggy alongside our nappy changing pod. It was easy to wipe down and clean too :)

TheBirdintheCave · 24/03/2024 08:17

@Theothername A holiday can mean different things to different people though. My style of holiday has never featured relaxing for example, we've always been go, go, go.


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DaveWatts · 24/03/2024 08:27

Don't expect it to be the same as a holiday pre-kids
Don't go anywhere that is less well-equipped or not as nice as your house!
Don't go somewhere super hot, you will spend your whole time looking for shade/air conditioning
Do consider a city break - great with babies as there's so much to see & do, good public transport helps too

DenDenDenise · 24/03/2024 08:55

Can I suggest Barcelona for your first break with a very young family, there is beaches, city life, an abundance of different restaurants, and the public transport is just the best, The flight times are much shorter, this was my second holiday with my young family - having gone to grand canaria for the first- in October but such a long flight time in comparison.

Lisiantha · 25/03/2024 00:24

However you normally sterilise bottles and feeding equipment, switch to cold water sterilizing while you're away. Use a large rectangular plastic box with a clippy lid. Measure your water once at home and mark the level on the box with a permanent marker so you don't need to measure it while you're away. The box takes up zero space in the suitcase because you can stuff it full of baby equipment, socks or whatever.

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