So Plum and I are off on our first ever holiday together soon, a short break to gay Pareee (aka Paris…) and I cannot wait! I’ve spent a lot of time in the City of Lights since I was a child, and that was a big reason I picked it for our little summer getaway – knowing the city well, I won’t feel the pressure to get out there and do all the touristy stuff and get lost in the heat, and I can get by in the language. The plan is to take it easy, go for walks like we do every day in London, and hang out in the city parks and museums. As they say, a change is as good as a rest!
Here are some practical tips picked up from my trip planning – you quickly realise that your first holiday as a mum can be logistically a bit tricky..
- Don’t forget your baby needs a passport! I’ll be doing a future post on my experience with the Fast Track service (clue: it wasn’t very fast), but for now I’ll say budget plenty of time- 3/4 weeks should be OK and you can apply as soon as baby is registered as you’ll need the Full birth certificate, ie. the one with YOUR details also on. Pay close attention to the photo regulations and for peace of mind I recommend getting baby’s photo done professionally- I did Plum’s at Snappy Snaps and got 2 for £10.
- I applied online for a European Health Insurance Card for myself and Plum, additionally to travel insurance which I found through Travel Supermarket.
- Unlike any air carrier, the Eurostar train service from Kings Cross St Pancras Station – Gare du Nord does not require prebooking for an infant, or an extra charge – up until the age of 3 when they will need their own seat. On international flights across all the carriers I’ve researched, there is a minimum infant lap charge that is 10% of a full adult plane fare – on budget air carriers like Easyet and Ryanair this rises to a c£20 flat fee each way, sometimes more than the price of the adult ticket. Considering air travel with a confuzzled tiny baby on your lap isn’t the most attractive proposition anyway, extra ££s for the privilege hurts!
- If you book in good time and are in easy distance of London, Eurostar fares are reasonable, the website has a really clear and helpful best fare finder, and they do special under-26 fares if you’re a young ‘un (sadly for me, that ship has sailed!) They don’t just go to Paris- although the city is a great gateway to the mainly excellent continental rail system which will take you further afield, maybe Italy or Spain! From London you can now go direct to the South of France, as well as Belgium and Germany (with changes.)
- We’ll be staying in an Airbnb apartment rather than a hotel – I wanted somewhere with a fridge, sink and laundry facilities to counter any bottle sterilising and emergency clothes-washing issues, plus enough space for me to chill in the evenings while she’s sleeping in dark and quiet, and as central a location as possible in my small budget! I found a lovely little one bed apartment with a terrace in one of the coolest parts of the city for less than a hostel room. I messaged each of the apartment owners on my shortlist to check they were ok with a baby, and all but one replied promptly saying it was absolutely fine – I’d recommend asking first if you’re bringing any kids, but according to previous reviews it’s pretty normal to do so on Airbnb.
- Of course you’ll need a couple of extra things unless your host can provide a travel cot – I’ve got a fab Koodi Pop-up Travel Bassinet which is super-compact for babies under 6 months, for some (pretty obvious) reason the garish Lime Green version is only £30 compared to the other models! I plan to bathe Plum in the sink or give her a shower, so I’ll take her baby bodywash decanted in a travel size bottle – which you can pick up very cheap at Primark, Boots or Superdrug. I’ll be leaving my trusty microwave steriliser at home, and bought a week’s supply of disposable steriliser bags at Boots (£9.99) – you fill them with tap water, pop in the bottles and hang them on a door or similar, and in 30 minutes you’re good to go with bottles ready for 24 hours. This is by far the easiest way I’ve found to keep on top of sterilising while abroad!
- For toting her around the city, I’m taking no chances so it’ll be both baby carrier and pram as Plum has off days with both! Luckily my pram is the amazingly portable Babyzen Yoyo which folds easily into a 5kg carry-bag, small enough even for plane hand luggage!
- My carrier, Ergobaby 360, was pricey but worth every penny. I tried out a few other carriers (post coming soon on this) but as a fairly petite woman, each one left my neck, shoulders, lower back and feet in pain after a couple of hours out and about. As Plum has always been a light baby and I’m a big walker, none of those other ones were right for us. The Ergobaby 360 has a padded waist support which has made all the difference to my back and it’s comfortable for both of us on a long walk – plus the sun hood is ideal for summer.
- I’ll be using the pram for parks and meals out, but as the Paris metro is even less accessible for wheels than the Tube here in London, the sling will be a saviour if we need to use public transport, or visit old buildings without accessibility. Always good to have options!
- As Plum is formula-fed, I’ll be taking her usual formula plus enough small ready-made bottles for days out – 3 per day to be safe. I don’t fancy faffing around with sterilising formula while out and about- though if you do, 500ml thermal flasks for boiled water are a steal in Primark at £2 and they have lovely designs, I picked up a baby blue and white polka dot one which is also great for Mummy’s coffee on an early start…
- Fun fact – you can also buy sterilised water in bottles in European supermarkets, just look for the baby on the label. French official guidelines don’t consider using boiling water to sterilise formula to be mandatory so diluting formula with sterilised bottled water is normal over there, though I won’t be trying it!
- St Pancras International Station Boots store has a surprisingly good selection of formula including 1-litre bottles of ready made Cow & Gate (very hard to find in small urban supermarkets!) So I’ll be stocking up there before we go.
I’ll be back with my mummy and baby holiday packing list and top finds! What are your top baby travel tips and products?