22 Sep 2013
Portugal – travel lessons learned
I like to keep this blog positive. After all, there are plenty of places which will tell you that travel with children is impossible/difficult/undesirable and so on. The whole thought behind the blog is that this isn’t true. And I still firmly believe that.
But. But. There’s no point me sugar-coating the bad experiences. Because travel, like life, is full of them.
In the same way that having a delayed flight or losing your bag is unlikely to put you off ever travelling again, a less than perfect holiday with a baby isn’t about to stop me. I have to admit that I feel in need of another holiday after our trip to Portugal though.
So here’s the lessons I’ve learned this time.
1. Pack more painkillers
I’m pretty good. I have a travel first aid kit, and I put in a thermometer, a few sachets of infant ibuprofen (for the plane) plus teething gel and granules. For some inexplicable reason – in hindsight, anyway – I didn’t put the bottles of painkillers into the suitcase, thinking a few doses from the sachets would be fine.
If Minnie’s bottom molars hadn’t chosen last week to very painfully come through, and she hadn’t also caught a nasty cough/cold on the plane, I’d probably have been right. As it was, the first doses barely touched the sides and we had to track down a pharmacy to stock up.
2. Baby food pouches have yet another advantage
I’m a big fan of these for travel – they won’t break, they don’t take up much room, they’re not heavy and older babies will happily slurp from the pouch, meaning there’s less mess.
It also turns out that you can spike the contents with a syringe full of baby ibuprofen… So, when your baby is refusing spoons/syringes/most food but will suck down pureed fruit, it’s a painless way to get the painkillers in.
3. Improvisation is good
We’d packed toys and books for the plane. Minnie spent most of it happily shredding a magazine. When we got to the villa, she was more fascinated by the opportunity to climb the single step in the living room, or crawl back and forth through the sliding doors onto the terrace. And after I’d spent weeks trying to shift her nap to after lunch, we totally abandoned the routine.
She wanted to doze in the car? Fine. She wanted two naps again, not one? No problem. She only wanted to eat cheese, yogurt and fruit? I bought in bulk. It won’t work for all babies, but going with the flow was the best solution to almost everything.
4. Don’t hype up the holiday
Perhaps because I always travelled a lot, I’ve avoided the trap of having to have the perfect holiday – after all, there’s another around the corner. Obviously I want it to be great but without the pressure of an improbably flawless week. After all, you can’t control the weather, things rarely go completely according to plan and jetlag will make any travelling companion tetchy.
But this time was a rare family break, so I had distinctly rose-tinted visions. Cut to day 2. My husband is in bed with some fluey bug, exhausted, shivery/hot. Minnie is coughing and whimpering with (as then undiagnosed) teething. It’s well past lunchtime and I haven’t eaten. The sun is shining outside, the pool-side loungers calling to me. I am inside, trying to calm and entertain Minnie with a limited selection of toys, watching the precious minutes tick by. This is not what I’d envisaged. (Thankfully, it did all get better).
5. Seize the moment
Lazing by the pool with a book for an hour while my husband looked after Minnie didn’t seem asking too much of the universe, I thought. As it turns out, because of his illness, it was.
But there were moments, waiting to be seized. 10 minutes sitting peacefully alone, eating a ripe nectarine on a sunny terrace. Chilling out with my friends on a secluded beach for half an hour as Minnie and my husband both napped in the car. A glass of vinho verde after her bedtime as the sunset turned the sky a string of improbable molten golds and reds.
6. Holidays will never be the same again
I know, I know, I can see just how surprised you all are. Intellectually I knew that things would change with a baby. OK, that everything would change with a baby. But I didn’t really properly understand that meant for good. For ever. Until this holiday.
At the back of my mind, as Minnie develops and changes, I had a vision of travel being vaguely as it used to be, only with her joining in as she got older. Perhaps in some ways, that will be the case. But as this week has shown, she’ll dictate much more. And I don’t mean she’ll be a miniature travel tyrant, ordering us around.
Because while I can make plans, book babysitters, dream of a few snatched minutes relaxing by myself, a couple of tiny teeth have shown me that I may have no option but to abandon them.
Image: Dan Harrelson/Flickr