This summer, there have been loads of parenting blogs detailing how to survive a holiday with a baby; what you need to pack, where to go, flying tips, how to dress your baby, how to dress yourself and most importantly, how to ensure your baby doesn't swallow enough sand to cover Clacton seafront. But there haven't been that many who have then reported back on how the actual holiday went. Sure, a few Instagram shots of a watermelon ice lolly or a flimsy rubber ring told some of the story, but what about the rest of it? What went well and more importantly, what went wrong?
Terrible Mother (aka Johanna) is one of my favourite parenting blogs out there. It's brilliantly simple and honest (I wish I thought of it) - three good and three bad things from each week as a parent. So, when I saw Johanna was off on holiday, her first as a mother, I asked if she'd contribute to A Day In The Life, listing the highs and lows from her time away. Was it all sun, sea and sangria? Or was it sun, sea and screaming baby?
Have a read of how Johanna, her husband and baby Lily-Rose got on below. You can follow Terrible Mother here:
1. Family time
The best thing about holidaying with a baby has to be family time. Seldom precious time you get to spend together, as one. With life taking over as it does, a week where it is just the three of us - and life admin can't get in the way - is my favourite kind of week. Having time just to... hang out.
The second best thing about holidaying in general is that you get to spend this time eating and drinking whatever the hell you like because anything goes whilst you are on holiday in that department.
Our days in Majorca fell into a familiar patter which I grew pretty fond of. Staying in a villa with a pool which I found on AirBnB, we were based in the south of the island, not far from Palma. We opted for self catering/pool rather than hotel/beach which were certainly two 'holidaying with a baby for the first time' wins in my book.
It meant we had our own place and our own space. It meant leisurely breakfasts out on the terrace, it meant every time Lily-Rose napped, we could be in the sun by the pool with the baby monitors in one hand and a midday beer in the other. It meant every time she was awake we could hang in the shade of the house- together-and then get her in the water for the first time, spending little chunks of time splashing around. And it meant that in the evenings, G could cook epic dinners of seafood paella whilst i put Lily-Rose to bed and the two of us could then spend the night eating out on the terrace under the stars drinking too much Rioja and chatting.
The third best thing about holidaying is the opportunity to lie-in. Tricky with a baby, we took it in turns to do the early shift so that, bar one morning feed, for half the week I could lounge in bed until 9am working off the Rioja head from the night before.
2. Me time
The lilo might just be one of the best inventions in the history of human kind, ever. A floating bed of dreams, its design combines two of my favourite things: sleeping and water. At 9am each day, after we had put Lily-Rose down for her morning nap, I caked myself in sun cream, headed for the pool and planted myself firmly on said lilo for as long as was humanly possible.
Morning naps for Little Frog can be anything from 30min cat naps to two and a half hour sleeping marathons. Whatever fate the nap gods delivered each day, the post 9am stint was mine. To do nothing. And the lilo was my place to do it.
I love the water and starting the day diving into a turquoise pool and the feeling of complete freedom it gives me is kind of perfect. That followed by climbing onto a lilo (there is nothing graceful about climbing on a lilo but whatever gets the job done) and either reading my book or drifting off into a doze while feeling gently warmed by the sun is bliss.
I have this same stretch of time available to me when I'm at home and who knows what I actually do in this time normally (it always seems important at the time) but it's certainly not this. I came away determined to read at least one book (I chose the latest Caitlin Moran which has been sitting half read on my Kindle for a while now and Pride and Prejudice because I have not read many of the English classics). I never made it to Pride, and Moranthology now sits three quarters read on my kindle but I enjoyed floating around the pool on an inflatable bed, loling at some of Moran's observations and remembering the important feminist lessons I will be passing on to my sleeping girl one day. Whatever time she wakes up from that nap.
3. Parenting team work and the extra minuscule moments of relaxation it allows
Holidays are not as I remember. The 8-10 hour stints by the pool or on the beach. The five books I'd manage to get through in a week. The endless exploration of new places, restaurants, beachside bars and sunsets. The relaxation and recharge they left you with.
But, when holidaying with a baby you have to take what you can in terms of relaxation and we did manage a week which was splattered with moments of much needed recharge. The bi-daily lie-ins and morning nap stint (see above) were a good start but the main thing was the completely shared responsibility of baby caring duties I had for a whole week. This is how it is at the weekends, sure, but to have 7 days where I don't have to do all the nappy changes, respond to all the tears by singing Jungle Book on repeat, and try all the techniques ten times over to try and lull her to sleep is quite the relief.
I learnt to treasure the extra 10 mins I had here and there as G took one for the team and attended to today's poo explosion or gave her constant entertainment to stave off the tears. For the first three days of the holiday, Lily-Rose was pretty hard work. A bit of a grizzle monkey, if those days had been spent solo parenting at home, my patience would have been tested. But with team Phillips-Griffiths, and those midday beers, we both survived and took it in turns to enjoy and treasure the respite the other one allowed us to have.
Packing lightly for holiday has never been my forte. Packing lightly for holiday for me plus a baby is nigh on impossible and, turns out, a complete logistical nightmare.
The bed in our spare room begun to resemble a clothes-shaped mountain at least one week in advance of us leaving for holiday, as I piled on a ridiculous amount of stuff that I want to take with us.
The same clothes mountain then gradually regressed again the nearer to take off we got as I tried, and swiftly failed, to cram every last bit into our 20kg weight limit suitcase.
This is the first time we have been abroad with Little Frog and the parental panic of being without certain essential items for a week most certainly set in. I quickly abandoned my five 'same but different' holiday staple white sun dresses in favor of being able to cram in the SleepyHead. Still convinced it was invented by some sort of sleep God, I can't face risking a night without it. Certainly not on holiday anyway.
I packed, unpacked and repacked about five times over before resorting to the ‘sit on the suitcase and force the zips shut’ technique. We struggled to the airport with an insane amount of stuff but the journey there was still nicely punctuated with occasional announcements from me about another thing I had forgotten. Seriously. Despite the week it took to pack there were so many things I came away without.
I have now done the thing I should have done in the first place and made an almighty list of holiday packing essentials for a baby. I advice you do the same. Or hit me up for mine. Turns out relying on an addled parental brain to remember everything two human beings might need for a week in the scorching heat is not a good tactic.
2. The journey
My 'holidaying with a baby’ lessons learnt did not start and end with the packing, unfortunately. In fact they escalated 10 fold during the undertaking of the journey. Oh the journey. Even thinking of it now sends a small shudder down my spine. We were flying from Gatwick to Palma with our final destination- via the car hire - being our villa. The journey took about 12 long hours all in all.
The problem with the journey actually wasn't anything to do with Lily-Rose. She was as good as gold. It was her idiot parents who were the problem.
Power walking to the gate which was 20mins away, I managed to snap one of my sandals and the only pair of shoes I had with me. Cue spending the rest of the journey known as 'the girl with one shoe' as I hobbled around the departure lounge.
Once settled in the departure lounge, waiting to board the flight, G realised he had left his rather expensive pair of headphones in a tray at security. Cue a 20min leg it through the airport for him to try and reclaim them. There were moments when I thought I would be holidaying with Lily-Rose alone but luckily he appeared again - headphones in hand - and a big sweaty mess just as we were boarding. I then had the delight of sitting next to this big sweaty mess for the two and a half hour flight. Lovely.
As we boarded the flight and had to abandon the buggy, I realised I had left both the sling and the carefully prepared box of baby medication - which included teething sachets and Calpol that I had planned to use as a 'just in case' to get us through the flight- on our kitchen table.
It was at this point where I saw another woman, gracefully move her similarly aged baby from buggy to sling and delicately syringe drops of Calpol into her smiling babes mouth that I realised I did not, in any way, have this travelling with a baby thing down.
The flight itself was actually rather fine. I breastfed Lily-Rose during take off and landing which seemed to soothe any ear related problems and, as it was an evening flight, she slept most of the way along with her father, allowing me to enjoy multiple drinks from the trolley.
Things began to fall apart again however back on dry land when we managed to salvage the buggy from the luggage conveyer-belt but quickly realised we had left the seat adaptors on before it got taken and put in the hold back in Gatwick. Now in Majorca, the seat adaptors were nowhere to be seen.
With one shoe, no working buggy and no sling, Lily-Rose and I were left completely immobile and instead sat and watched the same 'I've got my shit together' Mum transfer her sleeping babe from sling to working buggy and leave the airport for a marvelous holiday. This all whilst G joined the two-hour queue for the car hire. The cheapest one we could find. Go figure.
3. Beach baby
Never attempt to go to a sandy beach with a baby. Ever. It's just not worth it. No one will be happy and ultimately it will just be a test of parental resilience to see who will call it first and begin dismantling the tent/umbrella/windbreak/inflatables/beach mats/towels/picnic.
I called it. I did. 30mins in. 30 mins to get there. 30mins to set up. And 30 mins of tears from a sand caked baby until I broke and wanted to retreat back to the pool.
Take it from me, don’t bother even trying.