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From His Perspective (As the man I will be writing this part of this informative article)
My daughter 'Summer' just turned 1 and it is a long time since we were able to get away anywhere.
Travelling with children starts as you leave your front door of course, apart from preparation and that is the point of this article - to help you do just that. Our destination was Antigua in the Caribbean but many of the tips prevail no matter what country. I wouldn't recommend countries that have problems with Dengue, Malaria Yellow Fever, Typhoid etc the list goes on. And you should know what the medical facilities are like in your destination and make sure when you arrive that you get your coms sorted and the doctor on speed dial - or at least the resort desk.
So first things first where is good to travel with babies ? That’s another article.
You will have extra bags than normal to handle which is normally a lot already as you know so it is a good thing to have make this plan with luggage in mind - minimise on the luxuries but don't skimp too much on the babies daily product needs - you can carry a lot with airline trolleys and taxis.
Despite the destination you should plan your babies meals for the journey ahead though enquire with your airline as
to whether they provide meals for babies. We travelled with Virgin Atlantic and they didn't mention that they provide baby foods. But as we returned right at the end returning to Gatwick we were offered excess pots - perhaps it's for the other classes ? We went economy so don't assume they have food for your baby anyway but you might enquire. Still I am not sure I would trust fully an airline for my babies food, enough said - take all the food you will need and make sure you get it through security by observing the following:
1) Be prepared to test the bottle and make them as you go - so take powdered formula and the water pre sterilised etc, it will be more than 100ml so they may or may not get you to taste it. Mix your babies feed on the plane at the same times the baby is used to. You will all have to adapt to the new time-zone but this is not the time to start forcing your baby.
2) Try and order your baby food from your airport store (we used BOOTS) that is AIR SIDE then this will not get confiscated otherwise even sealed it most likely will be a problem to get through security. So try then to pick up the food you need for the time on the aircraft AIRSIDE. Email your airline for info but the airport security is the most knowledgeable on it in both destination and departure airports.
That covers your trip until you get there then you need to research your destination. Check with baby forums to see if there is any info online of ask a question in our baby travel group.
Its a risk to depend on the internet alone for knowledge so you should take food for the duration anyway, but you might take a risk on dessert and opt for local produce like mango and bananas if your baby can. If you are doing a vacation rental you will be able to make much of your foods indeed a fridge sink and kettle make for a rudimentary kitchen and would allow you to make some food. We fed our summer toast every breakfast as we could be sure that they were not adding sugar nor salt, the later is very dangerous for your infant.
If you are in the western world you should check that your intended destination sells the exact baby formula if you need it, switching this is not major but should not be done if unavoidable. In other destinations it may be very difficult to get items like nappies and food. We wished that we had known that in Antigua the first choice supermarket had a very good and full selection of baby foods and products as much as back home in the U.K. And knowing that we might just have packed a few fewer in our case we ended up taking back our spares !
If you take enough nappies and swimming nappies and food you should still have enough room for your clothes. Virgin Atlantic don’t charge for children under 2 but do allow them a hold bag - so well done for that ! BA charge 90 pounds at the time of writing to Antigua from London.
A note on immigration.
Also make sure before leaving the plane the airline replenishes your water supply and the baby(s) as passenger comfort in immigration is an often forgotten detail. Airports have a very annoying habit of treating immigration with little thought to the comfort or even basic survival needs of the holidaymaker. Antigua was not a good example no water or food and long hot lines! We got through after gruelling HOT 1.5 hours in line with only hindrance from the immigration staff after virgin had poorly informed us about landing cards. Fill one in each of you is my advice just in case you need it. With our one year old we had not a separate card and we were sent to the rear of the queue to do one for her. It was the single only time we had such poor treatment from an otherwise they get a gold medal.
Past immigration we were able to use a trolley again for all our bags (I also had a dive gear bag again free with Virgin Well Done!) and the buggy. A transfer made it easy from now on. We got to the resort and had the pre arranged cot and kettle and an unused wine cooler to hold our sterilizing fluid. Summer got through a good few dummies in a day, our resort was well cleaned but you can never be too careful. Also try to avoid getting water especially from the sea in the ears just before the return home to avoid infection and difficulty to equalize the cabin pressure and sinuses (dummies help here). So these are some of the things we did and our holiday went smoothly, Summer had a fantastic time in the pool, we used a sun-suit and hat and sun-cream factor50+ especially for children (keep reapplying) also a good insect repellent she didn’t get but for 3 bites in the 2 weeks. My partner seems to attract them like mad but in Antigua in our resort it wasn't bad at all.
It was quite a lot of work but nice work to constantly monitor and have in our care Summer and we had a great time. We avoided all but a dry land tour. We purposefully chose for this reason a great all inclusive resort we needed nothing more than look after Summer and enjoy the break from working and bringing up an infant no mean feat !
The beach MAY or MAY not be your friend Summer loved crawling along the sand after a few days getting used to it and she seemed to stop eating it as well. Reports suggest that in small doses infant can eat sand without issue. She loved always looking around. We could enjoy the sand and crawling without fear of her falling but small stones broken glass are hazards on many beaches so be careful.
We got our Summer a sun suit and a matching hat and a couple for regular bathing suits, swimming nappies protected our fellow bathers from nasties in the pool which you should buy and take with you. The sun hat worked well at first and later summer didn’t want to wear it but instead suck the water out of it like a flannel. But getting the sun off your baby is the best thing you can do in general. We did make a habit of regular breaks in our ac room to help us all adjust slowly and our resort allowed us to get from the pool to the beach in under a minute ! Some big resorts you will need 10 minutes!
The pool in our resort didn't have a shallow area so Summer was always in our arms and she got mistakenly dipped down to the nose on maybe 5 occasions in the 2 weeks. She drank some pool water in this case. Towards the end of the second week she started to really enjoy splashing the water and was actively trying to bury her head in the pool ! I couldn't imagine leaving my baby who can only crawl in a shallow end of a pool even if I am right there due to the risk of head injury. A key thing is that we wanted to avoid scaring her. We must remember its daunting for them. So pool time was a good start to the day.
Baby Friendly Tours ?
We did do a day tour of Antigua via land but nowhere was really easy for her to get some sleep in so a full day in our arms - hard work but enjoyable to see all the villages and sugar mills and of course the world class beaches and resorts. There were moments when she was in the stroller for an hour or so and that’s the best you can hope for. You should still have an enjoyable day with a lot to see and you probably won't think about it. Don’t think you can take your baby on a boat – its not advisable.
It’s a bit sad if one believes that a baby of 1 can't make long term memories (though they love the mamories – sorry couldn’t resist). But I guess she will be able to experience the pleasure again soon at least we hope so. I would be very lucky to get to St Lucia for my 40th Birthday so watch this space though I know we will return to Antigua one day it was such a friendly island away from it all, I have to get to know other islands is all.
One thing that was really disappointing was the state that our buggy (stroller) was left in after getting 'placed' in the hold. The rubber on the handles was marked from getting dragged against something in a way that could only suggest rough handling. This is something that I hope improves across normal luggage in the hold in general. It could go something like this 'your buggy is free you will be glad to hear, now do you want to pay a protection fee that will make sure that it isn’t damaged ?'
I don’t want to leave on a negative and just wanted to express how helpful friendly and mannerful the lovely Antiguans are. We had a great holiday !
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