Forget the babymoon – the latest in family travel is the 'maternitymoon'. That is, travelling with your baby during your maternity leave.
It's an idea that makes some people feel excited at the thought of going away as a new family, while others shudder at the increased difficulty.
Research from wotif.com, though, is showing that it's popular with lots of parents. One in five new parents are doing it, with almost half of those taking off for a week or two within the first few months of their baby being born.
Some of the benefits of a maternitymoon include affordability (you don't have to pay for an airline ticket for your baby yet), and babies being a great conversation starter to help you meet locals at your destination.
Travel fanatic Kirsty La Bruniy from wotif.com says it was all about timing for her. "I ran out of time for the babymoon, so I went on a maternitymoon. It allowed us to spend quality time as a new family and was a great to make the most of my time away from the office."
With a five-month-old baby, La Bruniy and her husband took off to Europe. "We travelled to France and spent three weeks driving around the country. It was a special trip, and exciting to spend time just the three of us as a new family," says La Bruniy. "From her stroller, my daughter seemed to thoroughly enjoy being at cafés and in new surroundings with us, which was more entertaining than the day-to-day life at home."
La Bruniy is currently planning her second maternitymoon with the impending arrival of baby number two – this time to Fiji.
Mum of two Pip Macdonald has done a big trip after each baby's arrival. First it was London with a four-month-old and, while you'd think sleep patterns might be the biggest challenge, Macdonald laughs it off. "She wasn't a good sleeper so travel made no difference."
The next time around, Macdonald was off to Spain with a four-year-old and eight-month-old. "It was both enjoyable but exhausting," she describes. "We were looking after the kids full-time and weren't fully able to be tourists. You need to lower your expectations given the constraints that come with it. Still, it was a gorgeous change of scene and a system refresh."
I'm also familiar with the maternitymoon, albeit via domestic travel. I took my first baby to visit family in Hobart and Sydney, on camping trips all around Victoria, and a three-week driving trip to Central Australia, all in that first year of her life.
We hold many good memories of those trips. Time away from home was a wonderful opportunity to get to know our baby and become more confident in dealing with her needs, and camping with a baby remains in my mind as the easiest time to camp with kids (because babies stay still and only need milk!).
But it's worth noting that, just like being at home with a baby, there can be some tough times. Driving from Melbourne to Sydney in a day (what were we thinking?) with her screaming in the backseat wasn't fun. Nor was the night in our tent in the middle of the outback when I had mastitis and the baby had gastro.
But for those who love a holiday, the good aspects outweigh the challenges. And a maternitymoon sure does make for some incredible memories of those early days.
Tips for travelling with a baby
Kirsty La Bruniy from wotif.com suggests:
- find family-friendly accommodation with facilities you need, like extra space, a washing machine or a microwave to heat bottles or food
- do the bulk of your travel during baby's sleep times
- feed your baby during the plane's take-off and landing, to help their little ears to cope with blockages
- stay for at least a week, to give yourselves the chance to settle in
- remember everything takes longer than expected with a baby on board, so allow extra time at every point
- adjust your expectations; this won't be like pre-baby holidays. Your baby will still require all their usual needs to be met.