People might say that you’re mad or crazy to be travelling or going on holiday in the UK with a toddler or a newborn baby, or both. They’ll ask why are you doing that, it’ll be hell, or the car journey will be an absolute disaster. Yes that could be the case, but with careful planning it could go a lot smoother than you think, and is definitely something you shouldn’t shy away from even if you are thinking it. We’ve just been on a week long holiday to Wales that involved a 7-hour drive each way, and have had many other long distance car journeys with our toddler. We’ve endured it and had a brilliant week. So here’s how we made travelling with a toddler and a newborn baby a success rather than a calamity of errors.
Pack in advance
Don’t leave your packing until the last minute. I spent a few days packing as I knew that it would take time. Packing when you have two small children takes three times as long as packing when it’s just you. I set a rule that everyone was allowed one bag to make the trips to and from the car easier. Plus it also meant that we didn’t take reams and reams of stuff, although I completely overpacked my bag, my toddlers bag, and my baby’s bag. It’s also best that once the bag is packed you keep it away from your children who may take liberties and unpack it.
Only take with you need
Like I said above I took way too much stuff. It’s difficult in the UK as you never know what the weather may be doing, but if you’re staying somewhere that has a washing machine you may not need an outfit for everyday. As a rule of thumb get everything out that you want to take, and half it, but don’t do this with your underwear. I promise you that you should hopefully wear it all, and not return home with a pile of crumpled clothes that you didn’t wear.
Get your toddler involved
Your child is likely to want and need a selection of toys and books whilst they are away. In addition to their clothes bag, ask them to fill up a rucksack with their toys and books that they would like to take. This gives them some responsibility in packing, plus they should start to learn that they can’t take everything. They may pack a few random things, so just make sure before you leave that they have their favourite bunny or book to avoid any meltdowns at bedtime.
Take snacks and plenty of them
Your toddler will announce that they are hungry the moment you set off, so make sure you have enough snacks and water to last the journey, or at least until you stop. This could be in the way of crackers, small pieces of fruit (just remember to quarter the grapes), Yo Yo bears, croissants etc, anything that is easy for you to pass to your toddler and for them to eat in the car without making a mess.
Think about what you need for the baby
If you’re breastfeeding this is easy and I’ll talk about it below. But if you’re combi-feeding or formula feeding you will need to make sure you have enough for the journey. You could take boiled water in a thermos flask and then make up your bottles when you stop, but bear in mind you will need to allow time for the water to cool. Or you could purchase the ready-mix bottles of formula which may be more convenient. Most service stations often have a baby-station in the restaurant area where you can get boiling water, use a bottle warming facility or a microwave if your baby is eating purees.
You will also need to pack in your luggage a means by which to sterilise any bottles and formula supply for the duration of your stay. Oh and don’t forget nappies and wipes in an easy access location for the journey, and enough for your stay.
If you’re breastfeeding make sure you pack what you need for this. If you need the pump don’t forget this. And also don’t forget breast pads. You may find because of the travelling you’re not feeding your baby as regularly as you are at home, and your boobs may start to feel a little full, so be prepared for this eventuality.
Plan your stops
If you’re travelling more than 2 hours you will have to stop. Your toddler will be demanding that they need a wee, and your baby shouldn’t be in their car seat for more than 2 hours without being lifted out and having a little break. Make sure you know your route and you have an idea on where you are going to stop. You may find that you get ahead of schedule and don’t want to stop at your planned pit stop, so bear in mind how far the next stop ahead is. Also if you’re stopping at service stations on the motorway consider whether you want a supermarket to pick up essentials. Most have a Waitrose or an M&S in them, but check first.
Consider getting an online food delivery
The last thing you want to do when you arrive somewhere after a long journey is do a food shop. So it’s best to take a few essential supplies you need for once you arrive such as milk and tea, and then consider getting an online food shop delivered. This will be really useful if you’re staying somewhere for a week, and will mean that you haven’t got to pack the car with loads of food, drink and nappies taking up that much needed room.
Work out what kit you need
Check before you leave whether you need to take travel cots and moses baskets. The place you are staying may be able to provide a travel cot, but what will your baby sleep in depending on how old they are. If you are travelling with a newborn you may need to take your moses basket or sleepyhead. Also think about what you need in the way of pushchair. If you have a travel system, could you use the car seat attachment rather than the bassinet, as this will certainly help to save on space. There are lots of options, but just make sure you think about this in advance.
I also find taking a bouncer for a baby incredibly useful giving you somewhere to put the baby down during the day. If it’s an item you use everyday at home and couldn’t be without, then take it. We have the Baby Bjorn bouncer which is incredibly light and folds flat, making it really easy to travel and pack away in the car.
Think about what time of day to travel
Lastly think about the best time of day to travel. You may find it easier for you and your children if you travel at night when they would be sleeping. This may mean that you’re in for a relatively smooth ride if they sleep, or a chaotic journey is they don’t sleep and gradually become more and more over tired. You also need to think about yourself. If you’re travelling in the evening how tired will you feel, or are you best to wait until the morning, and hope your children are ok with that. It’s up to you, but personally travelling during the day or in the evening have made little difference for us.
So those are my top tips for travelling in the UK by car with a toddler and newborn baby. Is there anything else that you would add to this list? We’re off again in a couple of weeks, but this time by plane, so I’m going to have to be really good at packing and organising everything into two suitcases.