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JESSIE STEPHENS: 'Starting with the flight... Every mistake I made when I took my baby to Europe.'

There was a moment in a Dublin AirBnB at 1:30am in the morning or perhaps it was 3:45am — at that time of night who can know for sure — when my husband asked me "Are you alright?"

I was absolutely not alright. I hadn’t slept for more than a couple of hours at a time for maybe four days, and now our eleven-month-old seemed to have decided the day had begun despite me gesturing broadly at all the evidence to the contrary.

But that wasn’t why he was asking.

He was asking because I was holding our baby upside down, supporting her feet as though they were her head, stroking them gently while whispering to her foot that it was time for sleep.

That was a low point.

When we decided to take our baby on a three week international holiday that would begin in Ireland and end in France, I was under no illusions that this would be like travelling pre-kids. But I thought if I just read enough, listened to every piece of advice, researched all the trinkets and had a stern talking to my baby where I begged her to be cool then our little family would thrive.


One of my best friends was getting married in Ireland, and I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. We travelled with my twin sister, her husband and their six-month-old daughter, as well as my parents, who I'd never had the opportunity to travel overseas with. While the holiday was outstanding and we made memories that we'll treasure for a lifetime, we also made a series of mistakes. Here are some of the biggest.

1. A stopover.


We knew travelling long distance with a baby would be hard, and so we thought "maybe it would be easier if we stopped over somewhere for a night, got some sleep, and then did the second leg."

It would not be easier.

We checked in at an airport hotel and discovered that despite assuring us via email they would provide a cot, they actually didn’t have a cot. On the premises. So our baby would have to sleep in… the sink?


By this point we already did not know what time it was anywhere in the world, but it was dark and we had 12 hours to rest.

We squeezed our single beds together (it was unclear why we had single beds) and put Luna in the middle, where she played for a few hours before falling asleep for maybe a total of three hours. We were awoken in the early hours of the morning by a baby who wanted an adventure, but hadn’t clocked that we were stuck in an airport up until we boarded a plane, which we would also be stuck on.

The stopover ended up providing very little sleep and just prolonged a journey that was already too long.

2. Not foiling earlier.

When we finally arrived in Dublin at midnight, after days of not sleeping, we were sure Luna was due for a solid 12 hours.

We had forgotten that in the northern hemisphere this time of year; the sun rises at 5am, and even before that the sky has a sort of… glow.

At 2:30am her day started, and so went her ritual for the next four nights. We had made some grave errors.

The first was not putting foil on the windows. Dr Golly, a genius paediatrician, had given us this advice, which is to wet foil and use it to cover the windows. Foil blocks out all light — which is often the difference between a baby sleeping and not sleeping. We were too delirious for the first few nights to do it, but once we bothered it certainly made a difference.


The second mistake was not mentally or logistically preparing for Luna's jetlag. We had no game plan, except to gasp every time she woke up. Ideally we would’ve divided and conquered, having a plan for the morning (note: 2:30am is actually not morning) where one of us slept and the other took her for a few hours.

3. The itinerary.

The funny thing about organising a trip with a baby is that the baby you plan the trip for is a different baby who boards the plane.

When we planned to drive around Ireland, Luna was only just crawling. She loved the car. She was happy in her pram and didn't know yet the fun of pulling herself up using every object she encountered. Exploring towns with a baby in a pram, and then climbing in the car for her three or so naps seemed idyllic.


By the time we left, Luna was eleven months old and having two longer naps. She needed movement. Exploring meant crawling at speed and pulling herself up.

Being our first baby, we had no idea how different eleven months would look to six months. Suddenly, we needed to factor in Luna requiring lots of movement and being awake for much of the car trips.

We ended up staying in four different places, three across Ireland and one in France, and the best places were houses with lots of space for her to explore. We stayed in France for ten nights and that was heavenly because the cot, high chair and bath situation were all set up and we could settle in.

4. The trinkets.

Yeah. We probably should have paid more attention to the accessories.

I resisted buying just about anything (I hate clutter and waste) but there were a few things that would have made the world of difference.

My twin sister had the CoziGo for their six-month-old which we stole at every opportunity we could. It’s a travel friendly sun and sleep cover for prams and bassinets (including plane bassinets) that blocks out any light. We were planning on Luna having most of her naps in the pram, and the CoziGo meant she’d fall asleep (no stimulation) and stay asleep for longer. Game changer.


From plane seat extenders for babies, to the SlumberPod, we probably should have invested in all the baby travel accessories with silly names.

5. Finally, the flight home.

Due to a series of unfortunate events, I had to fly from Nice, France home to Sydney, Australia, on my own with an eleven-month-old and I don't have a single positive thing to tell you about that experience. 

Doing that flight alone was my first mistake. 

Watch: Horoscopes At The Airport. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

My second mistake was not booking an extra seat. I read somewhere that you can book a heavily discounted second seat for an infant under two (50-80 per cent cheaper than an adult fare) but only if you transport them in a car seat.

Upon first glance, this seemed ludicrous. I already had my hands full with a pram, a baby bag, suitcases, my bag, the actual baby etc, and there was no way I could also cart around a car seat and somehow install it (?) with my one free hand.


I'll tell you what. I should have tried. 

If she'd been in a car seat, the flight would have been doable, because I could've eaten (I didn't eat for the 24 hours) drunk water (I didn't drink for fear that I would need to wee the second she went to sleep) and even watched something (I had to entertain her the whole time).

We also had to hire a car seat everywhere we went anyway, installing it ourselves, so it might as well have been our own.

I could go on with my mistakes, but my fear is I may never stop. What is parenting if not a series of miscalculations and errors?

Our idealism and naivete is constantly shattered, and surely that is all part of the adventure. We can't travel, and we certainly can’t parent, without mess and chaos. But with that came invaluable time with my family, a wedding I’ll never forget and exploring cities and towns I’d been desperate to visit for a decade.

I'd do it all again in a heartbeat.

For more, listen to the Mamamia Out Loud subscriber episode with a full debrief, right here: Mistakes, A Hospital Visit & The Highlights: A Debrief On Jessie’s Holiday.

What has your experience travelling with a baby been like? Tell us in the comments section below.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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