What I Learnt on Our First Babycation

What I Learnt on Our First Babycation

By Melissa Singer   |  

Going away with your baby doesn’t have to be a case of 'same sh#t, different address'.

Holidays meant lazy mornings sleeping in, long, luscious dinners after one too many cocktails. Not caring what day it is, let alone the time, and switching off totally, completely, from the outside world. Then you had a baby.

It's different, and I'm not going to say it's not, but going away for the first time with bub, AKA taking a “babycation”, doesn’t have to be a case of “same sh#t, different address”. You just need to plan, and plan well, as my partner and I learnt recently.

Instead of launching head-first into an interstate trip, we booked a weekend at a luxury hotel in our home town to see what travelling with a baby would be like. Being just 20 minutes’ drive from home gave us reassurance in case of an emergency (and there were a few!). Although in some ways it felt like a cheat’s holiday (no flights, no unfamiliar streets to navigate, no language barrier), in less than 48 hours we learnt heaps about packing, scheduling, and how to still get that holiday feeling when you’re limited by nap times, pram access and, well, needing someone to watch your most precious (human) luggage.

Choose the right property

Pre-baby, I’ve been guilty of choosing hotels by their pool, or even the brand of toiletries in the bathroom. Instead, we had to consider whether the room was big enough for a portacot (tip: find a website that lists the area of each room in square metres, and don’t forget to account for some space for floor play), whether it had blockout curtains and if there was a bath. Instead of chancing it online, I called the reservations department and was recommended one room above entry level; speaking to a human gave me added peace of mind.

Consider the sleeping arrangements

Being a top hotel, there was no way we could afford a room with a separate bedroom, so we knew going in that lights out for baby meant lights out for us, too. After reading some baby-travel blog posts we put the cot in the hallway to create the illusion of her own room to help with getting her to sleep. Friends also suggested using the bathroom or walk-in wardrobe. Bottom line, you will have to improvise at some point during the holiday. My one regret: not packing earbuds to listen to a podcast or watch a movie on my phone in the darkness.

Pack light (but not too light)

I thought I nailed the packing until the weather was cooler than we anticipated and, after you toss in a couple of nappy accidents, we ran perilously low on long-sleeved tops for my daughter. We scraped by but it’s always better to overpack (a little) for them, especially if the room has central air conditioning. A good idea is to pack their sleeping bag and comforter from home so it smells familiar, especially on the first night in a new bed. We felt silly packing our daughter’s four dummies but a holiday is not the time to try (even more) new things, or worry about being judged by housekeeping.

Take your own cot, no exceptions

Despite paying hundreds of dollars a night, the hotel provided a portacot that was damaged and dirty, and the “mattress” was a rigid board with zero cushioning (lesson: never assume five stars equals a top-notch cot). Suffice to say we endured a horrible, sleepless first night with lots of tears (baby’s and mine), before a caring relative sent over their cot the next morning. Take your own travel cot.

Want a fancy meal? Try “linner”

We wanted at least one special meal but with our baby’s nap during peak lunch service, and not wanting to rely on babysitters, we opted for a 3pm reservation, which allowed us to turn a late lunch into an early dinner and be back at the hotel by bath time. For our next holiday, I’ll be booking as many dinners as possible ahead of time, as the kid-friendly slots often go first in family-friendly destinations.

Restock the nappy bag before every outing

And remember to take it, not like us, who left it in the hotel. Luckily, there was a chemist close by when a mid-lunch explosion forced us to make an emergency dash for nappies, but I dread it happening when we’re in the middle of the Daintree next month.

Remember, it’s your holiday, too

Just because you’re on a family holiday doesn’t mean you have to spend every waking minute as a tribe. We made sure to carve out little bites of “me time”, whether it was a late-night walk in the city while the other stayed back with the baby, or 10 minutes in the sauna with no phone, in complete silence. Bliss.

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