Thanks to guest blog writer, Laura Busby.
For Gray Dawes’ Head of Sales, Laura Busby, travel is in her blood. So when she gave birth to her beautiful baby boy, Dylan, last year, it was inevitable that the son would inherit his mother’s passion for travel.
Laura has spent her maternity leave travelling with her newborn son, determined for them to visit twelve countries in the first twelve months of Dylan’s life. And they’re not doing badly! To document their adventures, Laura decided to write a blog; a very personal account of a new mother’s travels and experiences.
This is Laura and Dylan’s story…
Welcome to my blog Thursday Child; developed throughout my maternity leave whilst looking after my 1st son Dylan alongside my partner Dinesh (D). They say Thursday’s child has far to go and I’m aiming to prove that with our challenge of visiting 12 countries in Dylan’s first 12 months on planet earth.
With the backdrop of the covid 19 pandemic, Brexit, transport strikes and climate change, alongside little issues like teething and weaning, this is certainly a challenge! My ambition is to leave a digital footprint of our travels whilst sharing some hints, tips and probably huge learnings encountered when travelling with a new-born. I understand many are still apprehensive to travel internationally, but if we can hit 12 countries in a year, then anyone can travel!
Travel is more than my career, it’s my reason for being. Backpacking through India – Southeast Asia, creating my own safari through South Africa, travelling through Central America on local buses and chartering my own little boat to island hop around The Philippines. My travels have taken me through 63 countries, with a thirst to see more.
When I’ve shared our challenge with friends and family, the response is pretty fascinating, bearing in mind that from the second you have a baby everyone has an opinion and advice for you! Responses ranged from a raised eyebrow to extreme interest and excitement for us. Guess which kind of people are more my cup of tea.
On setting this challenge, we started to discuss how we were going to travel to ensure each member of our team’s needs were fulfilled; Dylan wasn’t taken too much out of routine and our travels aided, not hindered his development. D likes to explore and eat and hates sunbathing (“I’m Mauritian, why bother?”) I just want to introduce the world to my son, whilst enjoying the immense amount of planning and bargain hunting that’s involved for each trip.
Some simple ‘rules’ (the first rule of this challenge is that there are no rules!) have helped us ensure each team member has an enjoyable trip:
- Under the age of 2, babies go free on flights, apart from Ryanair who of course charge £25 each way. Our ambition is to make the most of this!
- Book flight times in keeping with the routine you have. This is easier said than done, of course and this has changed as Dylan develops. As a general rule flights too early or too late are ruled out
- Book accommodation with evening space to relax in once Dylan’s asleep. This may be a small B&B/ hotel in which the baby monitor reaches down to the bar/ restaurant area. Or an apartment with a living area or outside space. We’ve fallen into the trap of being stuck in a hotel room with the lights out at 7pm – thanks heavens for my kindle!
- Book a cot in advance or splash out on a good quality travel cot for domestic trips. In most cases when I’ve booked ahead, the host has gone over and above to make it a comfortable sleeping space for Dylan
- Break the journeys up, booking accommodation close to where you land. Everyone will be ready for a break. For domestic trips, regular food/ drink/ stretch stops work well and I’ve had to curb the habit of rushing to get to where I want to get to!
- 4 nights is perfect. We’ve figured out that we can travel with hand luggage only for 4 nights, so we pack a bag each. When travelling with a baby you automatically get a baby bag included in the booking and airlines, from my experience, are generally pretty lenient on the size of the baby bag!
- Under pack. Yes, that’s right, under pack. It’s good for the planet and good for your back! I will usually carry Dylan in a carrier through the airport whilst our luggage goes on the pram. Dylan loves airports (handy!) and this method provides him with a full sensory experience, tiring him out before getting on the plane. It’s also useful to have plenty of free hands for luggage, eating, drinking, general high fiving
- Pack a small palm-sized bag for anything you’re likely to really need on the plane. Mine usually contains dummy, Calpol (for emergencies in the early days), fiddly toys/ teething ring
- It doesn’t matter if you forget something or run out. Funnily enough, the French sell nappies and the Italians sell baby milk. The great thing about babies is that they’re everywhere!
- Airlines have a really annoying habit of taking your pram at the bottom of the plane steps, then dropping it at the other end wherever they like. It’s always worth asking the question to understand if the pram will be left at the airport steps, a luggage belt, or ‘special services’
- I see it as wasted time travelling to an airport before your journey has begun so have always tried to fly from either East Midlands (10 minutes from home) or Birmingham (30-40 minutes from home) This of course can limit routes and options but I’ve found there’s still plenty of choice if you plan ahead. As we’re both off work and flexible on days to fly, I’ve uncovered some serious bargains
- All airlines provide a baby seat belt which hooks onto your belt and it’s worth just figuring out how these work ahead of time. Dylan always sits with me on take-off for comforting and if he gets restless is quickly passed to his Dad/ any fellow passengers who look keen for a jiggle
- Whoever you travel with, prep your team. This may sound silly but avoids things being left (we’ve managed not to lose the baby up to this point) and everyone understands their role. It’s a team effort travelling with a baby. i.e., “If you can do a check at security to make sure we’ve picked everything up, I’ll run to the airport bar for wine” That kind of thing.
- I’m generally more stressed about my baby crying than anyone else is. Babies cry, I and anyone it bothers will just have to get over that. Dylan generally only cries when he wants something, and travelling has taught us to recognise the signs and respond much quicker
- People love babies. Babies love looking at people. The journeys and people we’ve met have provided as many memories as the destinations, so we always try and take our time and enjoy every second
Before jumping into the international travel, we undertook a few trips closer to home to find our feet. The first long (ish) trip was to visit D’s family in Epsom when Dylan was 1 month old. The learning here was to remember once you’re on the M25 it’s really tricky to get off! We have since researched the best stop points for this journey we make regularly.
Dylan and I then took a day trip to London at 6 weeks. This was our first experience of public transport which provided a whole host of fresh considerations on how to travel with a pram. I was staggered at how badly the London transport infrastructure is set up for travellers on wheels and wanted to explore further on how the needs of travellers with a broad range of needs are met across the globe. I make reference to ‘Invisible Women’ by Caroline Criado-Perez; a key read on exposing data bias in a world designed for men.
Women do 75% of the world’s unpaid care work and this affects their travel needs. Across the globe, we lack consistent data on public transport usage categorisation, but for example in France, 2/3rds of public transport passengers are women, in Philadelphia and Chicago the figure is 64% and 63%. Meanwhile men are more likely to drive and if a household owns a car it is men who dominate the access to it.
The differences don’t stop at the mode of transport; it’s also about why men and women are travelling. Men are most likely to have a fairly simple travel pattern; a twice daily commute in and out of town. But women’s travel patterns tend to be more complicated. A typical female travel pattern often involves, for example, dropping children off at school before going to work; taking an elderly relative to the doctor and doing the grocery shopping on the way home. This is called ’trip-chaining’; a travel pattern of several small inter-connected trips that has been observed in women around the world.
In London, women are 3 times more likely than men to take a child to school and 25% more likely to trip-chain; this figure rises to 39% if there is a child older than 9 in the household. Considering these overwhelming statistics, only a third of London underground stations have step-free access. I’ll continue to report on each destination’s accessibility throughout our travels.
Upon arriving at Liverpool Street, the lifts were broken. As I approached the steps, the 2 staff members asked if I was ok, which I obviously replied yes as they watched me struggle carrying the pram up the steps. My bicep strength has improved over the months but at 6 weeks post-birth, these struggles really weren’t ideal.
The day provided a lovely opportunity to catch up with my Gray Dawes CEO alongside some old friends and feel a little more like ‘old me’. Dylan absolutely loved the sensory experience of the Big Smoke, and we had a lovely day of bonding. I’ll never forget the Mauritian security guard at The German Gymnasium who just wanted to hold him, providing me with an opportunity for a good catch up with my old pal Gordon before heading home.
I was a little apprehensive travelling with Dylan alone but quickly realised travelling by train is much easier; I have 2 hands and we can move around. The white noise is also great for babies, and he slept most of the way there and back. The day really grew my confidence to travel.
Without a doubt, having a child has been the single biggest learning curve I’ve experienced in adult life and poses many questions; what kind of mother do I want to be? How will we spend our days? Why, in the early days would he only sleep in his car seat? Will I ever have a full night’s sleep again? Why are there just certain stains you’re never going to get rid of? Why do I often feel desperate for a break, then have a pang of loneliness the minute he’s gone?
A lot of these questions I’m still finding answers to, or accepting they’ll have to remain unsolved! But when it comes to what kind of parent I want to be, this is simple. I want to teach him to be curious. Take interest and try to understand the world around him. I stumbled upon a career in the travel industry and it’s certainly the right place for me. I want to provide my boy with all the opportunities to see the world and explore. This begins now. Travel broadens the mind like nothing else.
I hope you enjoy following my little family on our travels,
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