Every year we go away with a group of friends. It started off as fifteen girls on my hen weekend in Croatia in 2015 and has since gone on to include boyfriends, husbands and now even babies. We choose a destination each year, find a villa, fill up the fridge and the freezer with local wine, beer and random alcohol and food and revert back to our childhood. We dress for dinner, then play ridiculously silly games, usually including charades, we talk about how well our group works and often start planning our next trip before we have even seen the current one through to the end. Miraculously, well as far as miracles go, I found out I was pregnant the day we landed from our last trip. Among the many things I thought about whilst pregnant and contemplating my new life as a mother, was will the group holidays still continue? Will they want me there with a baby or will they just go on without me? I have known or spoken to many mothers who didn’t holiday for the first few years of their children’s lives and I remember thinking, I don’t want that to be me. I was so determined to keep our tradition going, even with baby in tow, that I planned this year’s trip at 10 months and then some pregnant. In fact I was communicating with the owner of the property via email on my hospital bed in the process of being induced. This baby will come out and this holiday will happen no matter what! I had no idea how I would fare up as a mother, let alone as a mother on holiday with my, let’s say, rather boozy friends. However, I had promised myself that motherhood wouldn’t change me – as if there’s anything wrong with motherhood changing you and needless to say it did – and I went on holiday with my husband, five month old baby Allegra, baby Meadow, Meadow’s parents and the whole boozy lot.
Being away from home with your new baby is daunting enough, let alone jumping on a plane and jetsetting off out of the country. So, we literally took baby steps and I booked us into a beautiful country house in the Cotswolds called Holmby House. The Cotswolds is just an hour outside of London, so I wasn’t worried about Allegra being in the car too long. Allegra has since been on another two holidays of which she’s travelled on the plane. But prepping and packing for the Cotswolds was a great practice run for our first real holiday as a family.
2. Travel as a Group of Friends
I have to be honest with you, if my friends with kids had asked me to holiday with them before having a baby myself, I may not have been too keen. Or maybe that just says something about those friendships in particular. Your friendships with your closest friends will only get closer after you’ve had a baby, trust me. You’ll need your friends with you just to make you feel like you ARE actually on holiday. You see, on holiday the role of the ‘new mum’ doesn’t stop like your role at work might. You’ll still be doing the feeds and the nappy changes, the bottle cleaning, the bathing, the dressing and the undressing. The sun creaming, the aftersunning, the shade chasing and if your baby doesn’t sleep through the night, you’ll still be waking up to do those dreaded night feeds. Yes, Daddy will be there to share the responsibilities with, but your friends will be the ones that will make you feel like you’re really on holiday. They’ll be the ones that will help to mix up the monotony of maternity leave and your new normal, because the truth is the early days of motherhood can be a little bit groundhoggish at times, your friends will make you feel like YOU again.
3. Try to Travel with Other Mamas
My best friend and I were pregnant at the same time! When does that ever happen? I still can’t believe it. Us being on holiday together with the group as mums, with our daughters was beyond special. Of course, every moment you share with friends, family and loved ones is special, and I am by no means trying to be one of those women on their high horse because they’ve had a baby. But just having someone on holiday with you in the exact same ‘new mummy’ position as you are will just make you feel understood, when at times you might not be.
4. Pack the whole world… and his wife if you need to
When in doubt and holidaying with a baby, just pack it. Not sure if you’ll need it, just pack it anyway. Your peace of mind is everything to your holiday and you’ll be able to enjoy the journey to your destination knowing you have EVERYTHING you and your baby can possibly ever need. My biggest concern when travelling is the sleeping arrangements. Firstly, I just hate travel cots – I hate the fact that the mattresses are so close to the ground and therefore tend to travel with Allegra’s sleepyhead. By no means is it practical, it’s massive and when flying has to be checked in. Christian hates travelling with, but it just gives me peace of mind I need, knowing that she sleeps well in her sleepyhead no matter what.
5. Remember You Deserve It!
I was going to say, ‘despite’ being a new mum and being on maternity leave, but what I should say, is ‘because’ you are a new mum and you are on maternity leave you need a holiday. Don’t let anyone tell you that maternity leave is a holiday or that you don’t deserve it! It had been a year since Christian and I had travelled and since then I had been a poked, prodded and hormonal pregnant woman and then a neurotic, sleep deprived, disconnected mother. I was longing for this holiday more than anything and it truly made me feel rejuvenated. If you’re someone that goes on holiday regularly and you’re able to afford it while on maternity leave, you truly will appreciate escaping the routine.