It had been booked in since Christmas and we were all super excited to head to the south of France with my sister and her partner to stay with his parents. But something wasn’t quite right. Something was niggling. A weird mix of apprehension and nerves.This was no ordinary, relaxing break. No this was the first holiday with the babe! Well the 14 month old. First came the organisation of what we need to take… a pram (not the Bugaboo), a car seat (not the iso-fix), a travel cot (maybe). Then the questions. Would she cope with the heat? Would being on a plane terrify her? Would she sleep? At all? All holiday? How would we eat or do anything with a small person who needs to be in bed by eight? The stress!!! Me realising the day before I only have two months on my passport and freaking out that I can’t even go! You can by the way!
Well here’s how it went…
3.30am – Alarm goes off. Car is packed completely the night before so we can leave no later than 4.00am. We literally need to get up, dress ourselves, brush teeth then move Eadie from bed to car without waking her… Car running sneak in to scoop her up, get four millimetres from car she wakes… Leave house at 4.08am – not too shabby. Arrive at airport in ample time. Get sent through to ‘family security’ – this is a cruel trick to keep us away from the childless people. It took an age (not helped by me forgetting I had hand sanitiser in the change bag). Into departures milk and grapes for Eadie, healthy breakfast from The Grain Store for us.Despite being at the airport in plenty of time we end up up being the last ones on to the plane… Get told off by gate staff, blame it on Eadie and a nappy situation – this was a lie. So we’re on the plane. Looks of despair from those around us but there seems to be loads of kids on the plane so I feel a bit better. We had so much stuff in the change bag to keep her entertained – Keep ‘Em Quiet Pack, a months supply of raisins, iPad with hours worth of Night Garden and Sarah and Duck (a personal fave) but sometimes life is good and she falls asleep before take off! And remains that way for 45 mins of a 90 min flight! Winning! When she wakes she’s absolutely fine. Has some Pret bircher muesli and claps at landing (gosh I hopes she’s not one of ‘those’ people…).
So far so good! We were extremely lucky to be staying in the most beautiful house in Juan le Pins and were given the basement floor so we could spread all our stuff out. This was extremely helpful and I realise we may not have this luxury when we travel in the future. I won’t bore you with all the details of our holiday – it was an absolute dream and I don’t want to make you jealous! But I will go through some of the things that I think might be relevant and useful to others…
We knew that the plan was to go out for lunches and eat at the house in the evening for Eadie’s sake. That said I identified that dinner would probably be somewhat later than 5pm… I didn’t want to burden our host this so looked long and hard for some easy but healthy meals Eadie could eat earlier in the evening. Eventually, after much searching, I found some Ella’s Kitchen Meal for 12 months+. Eadie was baby-led weaned so it was quite tricky to find ones that weren’t just puree or mush. The beauty of these was that they could be microwaved or popped in boiling water for 5 mins. I think we had Coconut Curry, Paella and Bolognese Bake all of which looked and smelled good and contained veg. As she wasn’t having fresh food for dinner we were quite conscious to give her plenty of fresh fruit and veg during the day.
For the same reason as above (Eadie waking a good few hours before normal people) we took some plain porridge pots (no added salt or sugar) that you just add hot water too. Nice and light in your luggage too! So she had these around 7.00am then had breakfast round 2 with everyone else at about 9.00am (omelette, berries and yogurt!). She then brought us to her normal ‘long nap’ time and if convenient she had two hours here. We tried to relax a bit about her routine as when you’re with others I think you have to be flexible. I’ve come to realise that if Eadie really needs sleep she will just sleep. Either that or we’ll deal with the consequence at bedtime…Bedtime was something we were pretty nervous about as the week leading to the trip she had been pretty shocking. Coupled with the heat we thought we might be in for some rather challenging evenings… But to our delight she slept through all three nights!!! Sorry to be smug but sometimes you have to celebrate these small wins! I guess the combination of constant fresh and exciting things to see, smell and taste wore the little thing out! We did take her pillow from home with us so this may of helped the travel cot feel a bit more familiar. Lunches we thought could be tricky as she’s very much on the move now. The French restaurants were very good at bringing food out very rapidly and one without prompting actually brought hers out ahead of everyone else’s. She ate so well. She has a good appetite normally and was really good at trying all sorts of things and loved all the seafood! She did get a little restless. Who can blame her most of these restaurants were on the beach. Tom and I tried to take it in turns to take her for a little walk to keep her occupied and this seemed to work well. And if all else failed we gave her a pack of raisins…
One thing we thought would be really tricky was being out on a boat all day. It was my sisters birthday while we were away and her boyfriend had planned to hire a boat for the day to go round to St.Tropez. He text and asked what I thought. We responded with ‘Let’s put her on a boat and see what happens!’. Nothing ventured, nothing gained eh? So off we went. We boarded the boat at her nap time and the rocking of the boat successfully got her to sleep in record time! There was a bed below deck which we could see from the deck! This was nice as we got almost two hours to have a little swim off the boat and take in the scenery of Billionaire’s Bay! As we approached open water the Captain asked us to wake her up as there was a swell and he wanted her where he could see her! So up she came in her little life jacket! She clung to her Daddy for dear life for the first 45 mins or so but then started to relax!By the end of the day after playing on the beach and having lunch next to Joan Collins she’d truly found her sea legs! We tried to be as relaxed as possible on this day and I think it really helped her to relax into it.
The flight home was okay. No tears but lots of fussing. To be honest it was not a great time for Eadie to be up but sometimes that’s how life goes. This was not helped huge queue for passport control when we got back and the monsoon that seemed to have descended on the UK. Back down to earth with bump. Literally.
We had the most wonderful time and Eadie honestly played an absolute blinder. I could not have wished for a better child! I know that not all experiences will be as easy as this or maybe they will but here’s my top tips…
- Make sure you have appropriate food with you for little ones.
- Keep them well hydrated.
- Try to be flexible with your normal routine for your own sanity.
- Invest in suncream that is easy to apply. We use Banana Boat Kids Factor 50. It goes on like a dream. A little greasy but I’ll take that. And tell your partner where the sun hats are when you go for a facial and come back to your child with pants on their head.
- Try to stay as calm and relaxed as possible. I really think it makes a difference. I’m not great at this but Tom is very good at reigning me in when he spots me on the edge of stressing.
- Take some things to make an alien place feel a little like home. Pillow, iPad to watch bedtime tv.
- Don’t assume flights etc will be terrible. Chances are things will never turn out as bad as you expect. I had to tell myself that about the boat trip and it turned out just fine. Aside from some sore heads the following morning.
- Don’t take more than one book. This is not what a holiday used to be!
- Find another child to entertain yours on the late flight home! Poppy in the row in front of us saved us. And took great delight in telling me Tom was not as cute as the baby. It’s true, he’s not!
- Just enjoy it. As we all know by now some moments of this parenting are great. Others suck but they pass. Don’t let the bad times win and stop you from doing things!
I hope this helps and doesn’t come off as smug. We’ll be ‘those’ parents on the plane one day and I’ll tell you all about it! We’re off to Belgium this weekend. No plane but lots of driving. I’ll let you know how that one pans out…