How do you imagine the first holiday with your baby will be? Perhaps you picture you and your little one snoozing together in a sun-dappled hammock somewhere, or giggling with your partner over a long, boozy lunch while your baby gurgles happily in his high chair beside you?
I'm sorry to be the one to tell you, but chances are, it's not going to be like that. For many parents, their first holiday with a baby can come as quite a shock.
Mary Carmel, mother of Freddy who is now three and a half, describes their first holiday together as "hard work." She says: "I had to do all the looking after baby jobs that I did at home but without the convenience of being in my own house where everything was to hand. So I was pretty much still on duty all day like at home. It then dawned on me that my idea of what a holiday was would have to be re-framed."
But while a holiday with baby in tow is not going to be the same as a holiday when you were child-free, that doesn't mean it can't be fun.
Here are some tips for a happy first holiday.
1. Change your expectations. You are probably not going to have lie-ins, long lunches or wild nights out.
2. Holiday with others. Consider taking a holiday with friends with similar-aged children or with extended family so you can share chores and baby-sitting duties.
3. Choose your accommodation carefully. With a small baby, self-catering is usually easier than hotel accommodation. Mum-of three-Sarah Edmonds says: "The self-catering option means you can put the children safely in bed at night and then sit out with a glass of wine and a BBQ - adults only!"
4. Think about safety. Wendy Shand, founder of child-friendly holiday specialist Tots to Travel says: "You won't be able to relax on holiday if you are forever worrying about your child's safety. If there's a pool, check if it is enclosed. Ask if there is any open water or busy roads nearby, and if stair gates are available if you need them."
5. Go long-distance. If your baby is still not mobile, now is the time to take that long-distance holiday. Flying with a very small baby is much easier (and cheaper) than flying with one who is crawling or toddling.
6. Pack carefully. Check what baby equipment is available at your destination and think about what you need to take.
Liat Hughes Joshi, author of What to Buy for Your Baby (White Ladder Press, £9.99) says: "There's no such thing as packing light when you're travelling with a baby. The key is to get organised and think through what you need for the key areas of baby care - so feeding, sleeping, changing and playing. This will make working out what you need to take less overwhelming."
7. Child-friendly. You might have sworn you would never go somewhere specifically "child friendly" but going somewhere geared up for children can often help your holiday run more smoothly.
Travel expert and author of blog Living with Kids Liz Jarvis says: "I'd recommend somewhere like Centreparcs - they have lots of brilliant pools for little ones, and because the pool is under a glass dome it doesn't matter what the weather's like. There are lots of lovely walks or you can hire one of those bikes with the special baby carrying thing at the back."
Consider going somewhere with a creche if this is something you feel comfortable with.
8. Remember that your baby won't always be this small, and it will get easier.
Catherine Cooper is a freelance journalist and author of Travelling with Children: The Essential Guide due to be published by Forward Press in January 2011.
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