Seven things I learnt travelling to Australia with a 6-month-old
We’ve just got back from a two-and-a-half-week trip to Australia with a 6-month-old and I thought I’d gather my thoughts which may be useful to anyone else who’s considering long-haul travel with a baby. We moved around quite a lot having gone over for a wedding in Melbourne and then decided to travel along the Great Ocean Road so we were staying at a different place almost every night.
1. It’s worth checking what formula / food / nappies are available at the destination
Do some online research / ask contacts you have at your destination. As we were going to Melbourne and I have friends who live there, I asked them to check in the shops what was available as we were just starting weaning Leo and I couldn’t face taking all the purees we’d need with us! Interestingly they don’t do the pre-made formula in cartons like you get here in the UK so had to be a bit more prepared each morning and make up his formula. I was no longer breastfeeding by this point (a whole other story!) But if you are, this will really help as obviously reduces the amount of stuff you need to take! I took 8 bottles and the microwave steriliser bags as wanted to play it safe and continue to sterilise while we were travelling even though at 6 months in theory we no longer needed to.
2. It won’t be as bad as you imagine (well not all the time!)
You may have visions of crying babies on airplanes, lack of sleep, arguments with your other half/family… it can happen, but just remember why you are travelling- for us going back to Melbourne was like going back to our second home and seeing a close friend’s wedding was very special. We wouldn’t have travelled around the world with a 6 month old if we didn’t have a very good reason, so it helped to keep remembering that. Of course Leo being 6 months old doesn’t understand why he’s stuck in a dark room with loud noise and other people so it’s understandable he got a bit upset. He’s been sleeping in his cot since he was 4 months and seems to like having space to move around while sleeping so this was totally different for him. We stopped off in Dubai for an hour which was nice to get out and stretch our legs. Leo was in the Baby Bjorn and was happy enough- some fellow passengers entertained him while we were waiting for the second flight. Finally arriving in Melbourne was a real sense of achievement- we all made it in one piece! It was night time (11:30pm) when we got to our accommodation and so we *tried* to get some sleep. Leo had just had a quite a long nap on the plane so was awake for a few hours which was tricky since we just wanted to collapse in bed! Eventually he slept and so did we. It was lovely to wake up in Melbourne and go out for brunch in one of the old places we had gone when we lived there.
3. It doesn’t matter about what other people think on the airplane
I thought I’d worry about other people but in the end all I cared about was if Leo was OK and making sure we got some rest. He did cry at the start of the first flight when we left but was actually pretty good after that. Coming home the second flight was hard work as he wouldn’t settle at all so we arrived back totally knackered, but then at least we were home! We did all we could reasonably do to make the flight as good as possible- that’s all you can do as a parent and if anyone is giving you evil eyes or commenting under their breath, it says more about them and the state of their lives. I have learnt to let it go – yes it’s our responsibility as parents to do all we can to help Leo have a good flight, but a baby’s behaviour is not something you can control. If noise is an issue, they should have brought ear plugs or headphones to block it out rather than sitting there tutting! Actually most people on the plane seemed understanding when Leo was crying.
4. Make the trip as long as possible to allow down time
Rather than arrive just in time for the wedding, we made sure we had a few days to adjust and I highly recommend this- it took a couple of days to feel OK and a couple more to fully switch to the time zone. Leo managed to get into his usual routine within a week of being there which was pretty impressive. I think this wouldn’t have happened if we had been rushing around the minute we arrived. We knew the area we were staying very well as we’d lived in Melbourne for 2 years so were lucky in feeling at home right away and knowing the area.
5. You can still do things- just allow extra time!
For the travelling part after the wedding, we found we needed an extra hour or so each morning on top of how long it would have taken us pre-baby. Washing bottles, preparing formula, packing his things etc. This would be easier if you’re exclusively breastfeeding and don’t need to worry about bottles and purees! It would also be easier if you’re only staying in one place for your trip. We decided that we wanted to move around and see different areas since we were already very familiar with Melbourne. I also sometimes like to take on a challenge to prove to myself it’s possible. I saw travelling with a baby as something I needed to do to prove to myself I could – to open up my world again. As parents we can face a lot of negativity ‘oh you won’t be able to do that anymore now you’re a parent’… I say why not?! Proper planning and preparation makes a lot of things possible and the world is becoming more baby-friendly as more ‘Millennial’ parents simply won’t accept that they can’t do the things they used to do pre-parents. Go us!
6. The pushchair / pram / sling is key – make sure you have a good one
I did a lot of research in terms of which pushchair to take with us. I had an iCandy Strawberry already but it didn’t fold down very small and would have taken most of the boot space alone. I managed to find a Bugaboo Cameleon at the local children’s charity shop for £50 which was great as then I didn’t feel bad about it getting thrown around at the airport. I also found the official Bugaboo travel case for it on eBay for £20. It was great as it folded down really quite small for what it was- yet we could still have a large bag attached to it and put loads of stuff in the basket- very handy! Worth taking the time to sort this out. I decided I still wanted something quite sturdy since Leo was only just 6 months old and I wasn’t quite ready for something like the super lightweight BabyZen Yoyo. I also knew he’d probably be sleeping in it quite a lot so wanted it to be comfy. We also took our trusted Baby Bjorn sling which Nick mainly used as my back was playing up, but this was essential for when we were sightseeing and in and out of the car a lot and going up and down stairs along the Great Ocean Road to see the sights. We had used this carrier a lot beforehand so knew that Leo would be happy in it and that it would be comfy for Nick- definitely worth taking the time to find the right one for you- I tried quite a few that I just didn’t get on with and would have been a waste of time to take with us.
7. You will make really special memories (it’s worth the effort)
Finally, though it may seem like hard work at the time, now we look back on our time in Australia with real pride and joy that we made it there and back as a family, that we were able to attend our friend’s wedding, and that we took Leo to the places we had spent time at before he arrived. I would say you need to adjust your expectations in terms of how much you can do in a day given naps and bed time etc… I think we managed to do that quite well, and the only thing I’d change now is moving around accommodation slightly less- we still could have gone to the same places without needing a different Air BnB every night- we’d have just been on the road a bit longer.