Well, we couldn't have asked for better weather for our first trip away with Erin. The last few days have just been immense weather-wise and every time I feel the heat and sun I think, "El Scorchio!".
Our little weekend away was last minute. I was able to wangle a day off from work, sure we all have tons of holiday days saved up, so we could head away Thursday evening and have a full Friday, Saturday and most of Sunday in my mother-in-law's caravan in the beautiful West Cork.
Ruth and I were both delighted firstly just to get away and have a change of scenery and secondly, to use this trip as a test run of sorts as we're heading away again in two weeks for 11 days. (We'll be staying in an apartment then). We'd be able to know what we need, don't need and how Erin might be. Need to know all this as we're bringing Indie with us next time.
I took a few days off social media for a few reasons too. When I go to West Cork, I like to take a break from social media, looking at my phone constantly and from the news. It allows me to fully relax and enjoy my time with family and I wanted to just be in the moment with everything and of course experience Erin's first trip away.
I thought other new parents might fancy a little insight into how it all went ahead of their staycation/holiday this year. So, I threw up a question box on Instagram to see what people wanted to know about heading away with a newborn. I'll try and answer them all throughout.
First up, packing!
Packing for our First Trip Away
Sweet baby Jesus, I have never ever packed so much stuff for 3 days away. The sweat was dripping off me packing the car while also thinking, did I forget anything. The car was nearly scraping the road we had it packed so much.
I can't underestimate that you need to bring so much with you for a baby. Luckily my Dad gave me a roof box because I honestly think we'd have had to take 2 cars if we didn't have it.
This is what we brought for Erin. On top of this, we had a bag for Ruth, a small bag for me, bedding to sleep and because the weather was nice I brought my stand-up paddleboard. The paddleboard is a chunky item but irrespective we would have still needed the roof box.
A bag full of vests, baby grows, bibs, outfits, clothes etc for Erin.
Her pram and the bassinette attachment
Her bassinette (with stand) to sleep in
Erin's bouncy chair
The Sun tent
Changing bag - had all the creams, drops, pads, snot sucker etc inside
A bag full of bottles and the breast pump
A bag full of blankets
Cooler bag for the beach
Portable fridge to keep the food we were bringing cold but also the breast milk
The sterilising kit
A bag of nappies, which also had a few toys in it.
A soft mat we could assemble for tummy time and her baby Einstein play mat. The soft mat can be broken down into 9 pieces.
The baby Einstein playmat
Oh, and of course her car seat, that's a given.
I can safely say we used everything over the course of the 3 days besides the stand for the bassinette. I'll come to that in a bit. When I was down there I thought I overpacked the number of blankets, vests, outfits etc as Erin spent pretty much the whole time either in just her nappy or her sunsuit as it was so warm. She had more outfits than Mariah Carey. If the weather had been different or cooler, she probably would have gone through them all.
However, better to have it just in case Erin had a poonami or because she's teething she's soaking clothes, cloths and outfits like mad recently. Also, we didn't have a washing machine so it was a case of having enough clean items and just throwing the dirty ones into a bag to wash once we got home.
As I mentioned, we'll be bringing Indie on our next trip so we'll have more items to bring and will definitely need the 2 cars, as well as the roof box, as Indie will be going into the boot of one of the cars.
Getting set up
We hit the road Thursday evening not long after I finished up work and got to the campsite around 8 pm. Erin slept the whole way which was great, she always falls asleep in the car seat but on the other hand, we were worried would she stay awake much later once we got down there and be a little out of sorts with her new surroundings.
Once we arrived I started to unload the car and as we were staying in a caravan we set up the bed. We don't have a travel coth yet and to be quite honest even if we did, I doubt it would fit inside the caravan. So, the plan was that Erin would sleep in the bassinette on the bed next myself and Ruth. Like a makeshift co-sleeper of sorts.
The bassinette stand was struck off the list immediately for the next trip as the surfaces in the caravan and awning are a little uneven and with a wriggling baby, there's the potential for it to topple.
I was Hank Marvin at this point so we threw on a bit of food and Auntie Jen and Uncle Tyrone came to visit. I can't remember what time it was exactly when my eardrums nearly burst, but Erin started getting fussy as she was tired, overwhelmed, out of routine, new surroundings, seeing new things, meeting people etc. We tried to put her to bed but she went off.
I've never heard her scream like she did and go so red. All the dogs within a 10-mile radius probably start howling too. She got so worked up and so red that she looked like the baby from the Incredibles movie.
She went from this
With a great deal of effort, I calmed her and got her off to sleep. That over the left shoulder trick worked a treat again. She was just so tired but got so worked up she couldn't calm down. Once she was calm, she was out for the count. Like a fella that just had 20 pints, arms flung out over my arms.
Then myself and Ruth took a breath... and had a well-deserved glass of red before calling it a day.
Stick to your Routine as much as possible.
We're new parents, we don't know everything and this was our first "trip", "holiday" or whatever you wanna call it with a baby. We've been going to West Cork for years, we know the place, the set up etc and we knew it wasn't going to be the same type of trip. But once we got there we probably fell into old habits or thought we could do what we normally might do but just go to bed a little earlier.
Erin made sure to inform us those days are well and truly behind us.
The other days Erin in general was fine, the heat didn't help but she got used to her surroundings. No more atomic baby.
My advice and I'll be doing it when we go away again. Is try and stick to their routine as much as possible. Erin takes small naps in the morning, feeds more earlier in the day and then around 4 usually a much longer nap. So plan your day around that as much as possible. I'll explain a little more about this later when we went to the beach.
I would have your sleep situation set up along with a changing area set up. So there is no fucking about when it comes time to put her down (at any time) or to do a quick nappy change during the night for example.
I'd start getting her ready for bed earlier than you think you might have to. It will take a little longer for them to get to sleep if they're not in their usual cot or cosleeper. Again, I'm no expert. I'm just sharing what we did but it worked.
Ye, as a couple then, can relax for the evening and keep an eye on your little one.
Lastly on this, we did pop to a bar for some food and drinks. At the moment it's outdoor dining and with the weather, it was all about finding shade for Erin. For anyone breastfeeding and fancies a drink, what Ruth did was have a drink during the day as opposed to later in the evening as Erin has a longer nap during the day and the alcohol would be out of her system in plenty of time for when we're trying to feed Erin and put her down for the night.
The sterilising life, I don't know how many times I've sterilised bottles, dummies, pumps and I'm only 4 months into being a Dad. However, it's a necessity and still needs to be done on holidays or trips away.
As I already mentioned, my wife is breastfeeding so our need to sterilize bottles may not be as high as someone who is formula feeding. In saying that, Ruth pumps, so we do need sterilised bottles for that and bottles in case Erin is being a little fussy with a latch.
We were fortunate enough to have a microwave in the caravan to sterilise dummies and bottles, but our normal MAM sterilising box/kit. I don't know what ya call it, but it was way too big for the microwave.
The individual MAM bottles can be sterilised individually in 3 minutes which is super handy. The pump equipment we sterilised in boiling water and we made sure to have enough bottles to collect the breast milk with us. Again if we were stuck we would have washed the bottles in boiling water also.
Someone did mention to me about getting sterilising bags in Boots which is meant to be great to sterilise items when you're travelling. However, I couldn't get to boots so I can't comment on them, except I hear they're great and that I'm planning on picking some up ahead of our next trip.
Going to the Beach with a Baby
Ya know those memes, "Tell me you're a Dad, without telling me you're a Dad" going around at the moment. I had one of those moments at the weekend. It was when I was carrying a tent, a cooler bag, 2 chairs, towels and a paddleboard onto the beach as Ruth just carried Erin.
At that moment, I said to myself. "Feck, I probably look like such a Dad". If I didn't need to make it any clearer to people that I was a Dad. I was rocking my Budgy Smugglers once I was on the beach with a beer in hand. Top Dadding.
My tips for beach trips with a baby. Find a beach that isn't a long walk from the car to the beach. Saves your partner walking a huge distance with a baby in the sun and also saves your back from carrying stuff onto the beach.
If this Dad blogger thing doesn't work out, I definitely have a career in being a camel carrying loads of stuff in the heat.
Invest in a sun tent, with a high UV protection rating and the bigger the better my opinion. The Wolfwise one we have has a high UV rating which actually kept the tent quite cool which was perfect for Erin. Also, it was big enough to sit 2 fold-out chairs, with plenty of headroom and loads of space still for cooler boxes bags etc. It was easy to set up and take down too.
When we went to the beach, I left Ruth and Erin in the car with the a/c on while I set up the tent. Ruth then brought Erin down. I then did quick trips back to the car to bring down the changing bag, baby chair, fold-out chairs etc.
Oh when we were leaving, a little thing I did was run up the car, switch it on and get the a/c running. Five minutes later Ruth would come up with Erin and at least she was getting into a cool car instead of it being like a furnace from the sun all day.
Quality Dad tip there.
Erin on the beach
For the vast majority of the time, we kept Erin in the tent, shaded from the sun. She was either wearing just a nappy or her sunsuit. I did bring her down to the water to dip her toes and take a few photos. She didn't seem to impressed by the cold water but didn't cry or react either. We'll see how she gets on next time.
When I did bring her down to the water and had her in the sun, I had the sunsuit on and a desert hat (has a little flap at the back to cover her neck). Here's the one we used by JoJo Maman Bebe just in case ye were looking to pick one up.
Time for just us
One of the benefits we got from going to a place where family are also staying on their staycations was the fact myself and Ruth could get a little time as just us. Safe in the knowledge Erin was looked after.
We didn't do a whole lot but a short walk to the beach and swim in the Atlantic together was fantastic and I loved every moment of it.
I nearly lost my wedding ring
Also, while we were at the beach I nearly lost my wedding ring. I was out swimming in the cove and realised my wedding ring had come off. I'm assuming through a combination of the cold water shrinking my fingers and sun cream.
I was like it's gone, it will be like finding a needle in a haystack. A few people helped me look in the general area I thought it fell off. I wasn't holding out much hope as one little wave could wipe sand right over it. After about 5-10 minutes of looking a little girl on a paddleboard saw it sparkling, thanks to the clear water and it being silver. So I dove down to get it and breathed a sigh of relief.
Overall experience of the short trip
I have to say I really enjoyed the break and a few days away. The weather obviously helped. Yes, I'd have loved to have gone to the pub or stay up much later but I loved being down there with Erin and family and introducing her to a place we go to every year.
The amount of stuff you bring is staggering but honestly, you will use it all. I'd get a roof box just for ease of putting stuff into the car, especially with big or awkward size items.
Bring more the enough, better to have it than not have it or have to go looking for it in an unfamiliar town or city.
Be flexible with your day and try not to be in a rush.
Finally, enjoy it
Our next trip is only a week away.
Looking forward to our next trip away in a weeks time. We'll be bringing Indie and staying in an apartment. There will be more packing and planning but last weekend's trip was the perfect test run.
I'd highly recommend a test run, even just to another family members house, ahead of your first trip away.