Having a baby or small children can make travel and holidays seem like a daunting prospect, but with some careful planning and preparations, family holidays can be fun and rewarding for everyone.
Whether enjoying a ‘staycation’ or going further afield, they can also enable your child to learn about difficult different cultures and ways of life from a very early age.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re holidaying abroad or staying with friends and family, a new and different environment may not be as child-friendly as your own home. Children are naturally curious and will want to discover and explore, and whilst we want children to have fun and enjoy their holiday, it’s important that simple steps are taken to keep them safe.
Ensure you have up to date information about your resort. You can check the Foreign Office’s travel advice here.
Travelling in the UK
If you are taking a long car journey during your holiday, or driving from the UK to the continent, make sure you allow extra time for regular breaks. Take your baby out of their car seat during breaks, even if they’re asleep – this allows them to stretch and reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death syndrome (SIDS).
There is no set age for when your baby/child can travel on an aeroplane, but parents should check with the airline as guidance may vary. Parents should also check with each individual airline the amount of baby food and milk allowed, and get guidance for seating and excess luggage requirements.
You should also check if the airline requires a car seat on board the plane and, if you’re hiring a car, you’ll also need to think about the size and luggage capacity. It’s amazing how much extra luggage a small child needs!
Some airports offer an ‘order and collect’ service for baby feeds – check with your airline before you travel.
Try to feed your baby on take-off and landing as the sucking will help their ears to ‘equalise’ and reduce discomfort while flying.
Pack sachets of infant paracetamol or ibuprofen rather than bottles of infant medicines. Read more about minor ailments and illnesses here.
If you’ve given birth by caesarean section, you may be advised not to fly until after your six-week postnatal check-up when your GP to gives you the all clear. Check with your travel insurance about their guidance around this.
Babies and young children are used to the UK climate, so a holiday destination which is hotter or colder can come as a shock. It’s important to be prepared for the weather in your destination. Check out websites such as BBC Weather to help you decide whether to pack hats and gloves or sunscreen and sunglasses.
Make sure you’ve also read our advice about keeping safe in the sun too.
Accidents often happen in new, unfamiliar settings. So being aware of areas that pose a danger to your child, such as swimming pools, balconies and steep steps, will help you keep them safe when on holiday.
If you’re going to be staying with relatives, ask them to think about dangers such as equipment that could be put away or made safe, and outdoor features such as garden ponds.
Prior to booking a holiday with a pool, think about whether there will be a lifeguard on duty or if there is a fence around a pool.
Familiarise yourself with emergency procedures and equipment such as nearest fire exits in buildings and lifesaving equipment for pools and open water.
When abroad, make sure you have emergency contact numbers to hand, as well as a travel first aid kit. For details of what to have in a first aid kit and some first aid advice, visit the NHS Website.
If you’re travelling abroad for your holiday, a little planning beforehand can make breastfeeding or formula feeding less of a challenge. Here are some things to think about:
If you want to carry expressed breast milk, formula milk or sterilised water on the plane for the journey, you will be allowed to do so even if in some cases this exceeds the 100ml hand luggage allowance. Airport staff may open containers to screen any liquids at the security checkpoint.
Formula feeding when abroad
Travelling while formula feeding requires practical consideration prior to travel:
- You should consider taking supplies of formula milk, bottles and sterilising equipment with you as they may be unobtainable in the destination country.
- Good hygiene is imperative when making up bottle feeds as an infant’s immune system is not fully developed, meaning babies are more susceptible to infection.
- When it comes to your sterilising equipment, check to see whether your accommodation has a microwave before you depart so you’ll know whether you’ll be able to use a microwave sterilising unit. If it doesn’t, sterilising tablets can be used to keep your bottles clean and safe throughout your trip.
The quality of tap water varies from country to country. If using local tap water, remember to boil water first.
Parents and guardians should observe the following rules when preparing formula feeds using bottled water abroad:
- Bottled water may contain too much salt (sodium) or sulphate. If using bottled water to make up a feed, check the label to make sure the sodium (also written as Na) level is less than 200 milligrams (mg) per litre, and the sulphate (also written as SO or SO4) content is not higher than 250mg per litre.
- Bottled water is not usually sterile. It must be boiled before preparing the feed. Do not re-boil bottled water as this may concentrate sodium and sulphate levels.
- Always check the seal on bottled water. If it is broken, do not use it.
- Visually check bottled water. If it looks dirty it is not safe to use unless treated first.
For some destinations, travel vaccinations may be advised for everyone in the family, including young children. Talk to your GP, practice nurse or health visitor at least six-eight weeks prior to departure. The age of the child determines which vaccines they may be able to have.
When taking a baby to parts of the world where they might be exposed to diseases they are too young to be vaccinated against, it’s important to be aware of the potential risks. For example, babies under the age of six months can’t receive a vaccination to protect against yellow fever because of the risk of them developing a brain infection (encephalitis), while babies under the age of two months can’t take anti-malaria tablets.
Find out about routine childhood vaccinations here. Make sure your child is up to date with theirs.
Although the vaccinations that your child is given through the childhood vaccination programme are available free on the NHS, you may have to pay for some travel vaccinations. Your GP or practice nurse will be able to advise you.
For more detailed travel advice, including about disease prevention and vaccinations, visit the NHS Travel Advice website.
Stay up to date with the latest covid travel advice here.
All children under the age of 16 years need to have their own passport. Passports can take up to three weeks to arrive, so make sure you apply in time. For more information about applying for passports, please visit the Government Passport Website.
When sending off your child’s passport application you will need to send original copies of supporting documents, photocopies will not be accepted. For full information on applying for your child’s passport visit the government website.