Tips for Travelling Overseas with a Baby

We’ve just returned from 2 weeks on the west coast of the USA with our 7 month old daughter. :D It was a different travelling experience to how we usually roll but I’m so glad we did it because we had a great time and most of the things I was most worried about weren’t even a problem! Below is some advice based on our experience.

PDX airport carpet

Go before your bub is mobile

Ideally before 6-9 months. It’s just one less thing to think about if they stay where you put them down! There are different benefits at either end of the pre-crawling age range: when they’re really little they nap easily and frequently and they don’t need a lot of entertainment; at the 6-7 month mark they respond to distractions (toys, food) which can be useful and milk feeds are speedy. Also consider where you might be with solids: before solids involves less stuff/mess, but once they’re starting to get the hang of it they can join in meals with you (baby led weaning is very travel-friendly).

Bassinet allocations are not guaranteed

The general rule seems to be that you can’t be sure you definitely have bassinet seats until you arrive at the airport. Even checking in online doesn’t confirm them – your best bet is to get to the airport as your flight opens and cross your fingers. You can get bumped out of your bassinet seat if a younger baby is travelling on the same flight, which is fair enough, but sometimes airlines give bassinet seats to frequent flyers or passengers they want to impress because of the extra legroom. If you can’t get a bassinet sometimes if you ask nicely at the counter they might be able to put you next to an empty seat if the flight isn’t full – the extra space is helpful and it and can offer a bit more privacy.

Also note that different airlines have different sized bassinets with their own age/height/weight restrictions – check their website for details. You might also want to look into Etihad’s “flying nanny” service which is probably particularly helpful if you’re travelling on your own with the little one.

Babies don’t travel light

Luckily a lot of airlines will let you take up to 3 baby items (eg portacot, car seat, stroller) for free in addition to your checked baggage. You’ve still got to lug it all around though! We took a large suitcase full of her stuff and a portacot, but hired an infant seat with our rental car and used a Manduca carrier instead of a pram.

We had 4 flights: 2 long haul with Qantas and 2 domestic in the US. Because we booked all the tickets through Qantas our baggage allocation was the same on all flights – if we’d booked the domestic flights directly we would have had to have paid extra for checked luggage.

Carry on essentials

Take more nappies than you think you’ll need, wipes, nappy rash cream (under 100ml), a change of clothes (and remember it’s often quite chilly on planes because of the air con), zippy swaddle or sleeping bag, cloth nappy/small towel and a variety of toys. If you’ve started solids it’s also handy to have a sippy cup for water (fill it up after you go through security) and some convenient snacks (eg crackers, cheese, fruit – bearing in mind you might have to throw out whatever is left on arrival depending on customs). Snacks and toys can help pass the time on a long haul flight.

I also find it really handy to wear a wrap on plane flights with a baby. They’re easy to pull bub in and out of in a confined space and can be used for naps and/or keeping your hands free during meals. Interestingly, I found that while Australian airport security makes you remove the wrap (even if your baby has fallen asleep in it, argh) American security lets you keep it on. Also, Australian airlines will make you put your baby in an infant seatbelt for take off and landing, but American airlines don’t use them. Both of these things make American airlines very baby-wearing friendly compared to Australian airlines!

Night flights could be the way to go

I thought a day-time long haul flight would be easiest, my theory being that if we didn’t get a bassinet and/or she didn’t sleep all we had to do was keep her distracted the whole time. This didn’t really work out because they still dimmed the lights for people to sleep to help them adjust to the new timezone, but it was too early for her to want to sleep so she just got confused and frustrated then overtired. We got a handful of short naps out of her in the wrap but she wouldn’t sleep in the bassinet. We had a night flight on the way back and she slept much better – 8 hours (made up of 3 naps) in the bassinet and another hour or so on me, hooray!

It might also be better to fly on an older, noisier plane (eg a 747) than a new, quieter plane (eg A380). I suspect the noisier plane might have provided better white noise, and it did a better job of covering up grizzling/crying. ;)

Adjusting to the timezone

Baby jetlag was my biggest worry about the trip but we were incredibly lucky in this department. Even though she didn’t get any decent sleep for about a 24 hour period on the way over she fell into the -17hr timezone surprisingly quickly and adjusted just as easily on our return! I think it was probably mostly luck, but the most useful things I took from the articles I read were:

  • Don’t plan anything for your first day – you might have to write it off
  • Let them nap when they want to, but for no longer than 2-3 hours at a time
  • Make sure they get lots of sunlight and active play when they arere awake, especially for the first day or two
  • Keep the bedtime routine consistent

We didn’t bother attempting to adjust her schedule in the week before we left. You might decide not to fully change your bub over to the new timezone – eg it might be more convenient for them to go to bed a few hours later than usual so you can go out for dinner and get a little sleep in in the morning (although we found that regardless of what time we put her down she generally woke at around 7am).

Road trip it

We love rail travel but driving might be a better way to get around with a little one. You won’t have to worry about disturbing other passengers, you can pull over for a break and feed/change in privacy whenever you like, there’s a good chance they’ll be able to nap and it carries all your stuff for you (no lugging all your items from accommodation to tram to platform to carriage etc). Try not to plan any more than 3-4 hours of driving a day – err on the side of less so you’re not rushing and break it into a morning and afternoon drive so bub can nap and you can stop somewhere for lunch.

Pay for convenience

It’s a little painful if you’re normally a budget traveller, but it’s worth it. Fly with a good airline at times that will work for your baby. Rent an airbnb apartment with a bath, living space and bedroom instead of staying in a single hotel room so you can give your bub a bath as part of their bedtime routine then put them down in the bedroom while you spend the evening in the living area. Find an airport transfer service that uses a mini bus or can offer an infant seat (taxis don’t) unless public transport will take you from your door to the airport (I recommend Simon Says in Portland!).

Have fun!

Most importantly, enjoy yourselves! The long haul flights were long and it was a more expensive trip than usual for us, but I think our little one enjoyed taking in new sights and sounds, charming people in queues and cafes, and spending extra time with the two of us. I’m not sure where our next trip will take us yet (possibly somewhere closer to home), but I’m looking forward to it already. :)

Lower Yosemite Falls

8 Apps to Ease Life with a Newborn

I know we live in a world that is largely over-dependant on smart phones, but they do come in handy. I’ve played around with quite a few apps for various different things since our daughter was born and I thought I’d share the ones I’ve found most useful.

Baby tracker app

Baby Tracker (free or AU$6.49 | iPhone only)
For tracking feeds, nappy changes & sleeps. You can use it for free or you can pay a one off fee to keep using the graphs, which I really like because they’re a good visual summary and can help to identify patterns. I tried a lot of different tracking apps and I like this one best because it’s reliable, easy to use, and isn’t crowded with a lot of other features I don’t want to use.

23 Snaps (free | iPhone & Android)
A private way to share photos and videos with family and close friends, saving your Facebook feed from baby photo overload. The people you share with don’t need to have the app or even an account – all they need is an email address to receive updates, which is great if you have any non-tech-savvy family members! If they do sign up, they can post comments and likes like any other social network.

The Wonder Weeks (AU$1.99-2.28 | iPhone & Android)
Accompanies the book of the same name, which I’d also recommend. I’ve tried to avoid information overload from reading too many baby books but I like the Wonder Weeks because it explains why your baby might suddenly become clingy or start crying a lot and what big developments you can look forward to once s/he’s gotten through the fussy period. The app doesn’t replace the book but it gives you summaries from it and a little chart of when your baby’s wonder weeks will most likely happen.

My Baby Today (free | iPhone & Android)
Daily articles about what progress you could see in your baby. It’s from the Australian version of the Baby Center website but the info is not quite as good as the Raising Children Network, it’s just I don’t think RC has an app.

Sound Sleeper (free or AU$3.99 | iPhone only)
White noise app for helping babies sleep including noises like shhhh, a mother’s heartbeat, vacuum cleaner, rain, etc. You can even record your own noises. You can pay an upgrade for extra features such as longer play and a sleep tracking thing if you want to.

Spotify (free or AU$11.99/month | iPhone & Android)
I’ve used Spotify to play instrumental lullaby versions of pop songs, which Clem seems to like and it’s a bit more interesting for us than traditional lullabies. ;) Some of the artists I’ve found for this are Rockaby Baby!, Sweet Little Band, Nico Infante, Rockaby Lullaby and Twinkle Twinkle Little Rock Star. I ended up paying for a monthly subscription because I found the ads a bit jarring if she was drifting off to sleep.

Feed Safe (free | iPhone only)
A timer made by the Australian Breastfeeding Association that calculates when your breastmilk will be free from alcohol. It also contains a useful (and not too overbearing) FAQ about drinking and breastfeeding.

Mind the Bump (free | iPhone & Android)
Meditation/awareness app developed in association with Beyond Blue for use throughout pregnancy and after birth to promote bonding with your baby and partner and to help avoid baby-related depression.

As a general thing, I also found that while I was breastfeeding I tended to mindlessly go over and over my Facebook feed, refreshing it even when there was no new content, just as something to do. I’ve felt much better since I turned off all social media notifications and started using the Kindle or iBooks apps to read to pass the time instead. That way I feel like I’m nuturing my brain rather than letting it slowly rot! Podcasts are also good for passing the time when your hands are occupied with feeding a bub.

Antenatal Classes for Labour, Birth and Parenting

We ended up going to quite a few antenatal classes. We signed up for the hospital one early on because we didn’t have time to research alternatives before it got booked out but the other classes we went to in between booking and attending the hospital one were the most helpful. We were also very lucky that one of my aunts happens to be a midwife and she flew down from Brisbane to Melbourne specially to give us a private session of her own class!

We didn’t set out to do quite so many classes but I liked it because it gave us refreshers on things we’d forgotten, the opportunity to ask questions that hadn’t occurred to us earlier, and different perspectives on various aspects which enabled us to form a well rounded picture. I also preferred classes over reading books: I think hearing the information is more helpful than reading it because the tone with which it’s delivered makes a difference and it’s really great being able to discuss questions live.

Antenatal classes

birthwell birthright Lamaze: Weekend Intensive Course

This was our main labour & birthing class. Apparently Lamaze used to be a big thing in the US and was all about a particular type of breathing, but it’s moved on since then. I found it really helpful because it was the first time I’d really heard about the different stages of labour (especially reassuring to find out the worst part is the shortest!) and it gave us practical things to do when the time came, from taking our mind off it in the early stages to hands-on physical strategies for when things got serious. After the class I felt like I was much more mentally prepared for what was to come. It wasn’t heavy on any candles/music/visualisation stuff, which just didn’t appeal very much to me personally.

Other options are Rhea Dempsey’s Embracing the Intensity workshop which I’ve heard a lot of good things about, Calmbirth and HypnoBirthing. I recommend finding out what is available in your area and reading up on their approach to see what appeals the most to you.

Parent Prep: Full Parenting Preparation Group Class (Intensive)

This is a fantastic class! It’s all very well going to classes to help you through the day or two of labour, but this class focuses on the first 3 months of you newborn’s life. We learnt lots of different settling techniques, practised swaddling and bathing, and discussed all different kinds of baby stuff. We got to try on different wraps and carriers and look at different brands of nappies and bottles, as well as all sorts of other things. Doing this class meant I never had that feeling of coming home from the hospital and wondering, “Ummm, so what happens now?” Highly recommended!

Royal Women’s Hospital: Fundamental Childbirth Education (Group Sessions)

The hospital class was split into two parts which kind of summarised the two areas above: labour/birth and early parenting. It was okay as a refresher of what we’d already covered in other classes but fairly rushed and it didn’t feel like they covered things in enough detail. If we’d only done the hospital classes I don’t think I would have been filled with the same level of confidence we got from the others. What was good was just casually chatting with the midwives that led our sessions about their experiences, finding out the hospital’s policy on things that we’d heard about during the other classes and taking a tour of the hospital’s birthing suites and maternity wards.

Disclaimer: I’m not any kind of birthing/parenting expert, these are just my opinions based on personal experience and research. It’s all Melbourne-centric too, since that’s where I live!

Baby Stuff: Clothing, Transport and Bedroom

Nearly one year since my last post and I now have a 3 month old bundle of joy in my life! In the spirit of my travel-related posts I wanted to share some of the things we’ve found useful just in case anyone else finds them helpful too. I’m certainly no kind of parenting expert at all, and goodness knows you get bombarded with an overwhelming amount of information and (often conflicting) advice when you’re about to or have just become a parent, but if you do find any of this useful, fantastic! If not, that’s totally fine too.

This post is about… STUFF.

Nursery bunting

Maternity Clothes

They are expensive. For the most part you can get away with buying larger sizes of normal clothes, but there are certain things – namely pants – that you will want to get a maternity version of for your own comfort.

Side note: maternity jeans are the comfiest jeans ever. You will wish all jeans could be like maternity jeans.*

You can get significantly cheaper maternity clothes at H&M and large Kmart stores, but I’d recommend getting bras from somewhere you can be professionally fitted (eg Myer). If you need some fancy maternity clothes for a special event (eg wedding) try the Pea In A Pod factory outlet in Collingwood. (Still more expensive than normal clothes, but they have a much bigger range than H&M or Kmart.)

*Top tip for post-baby pants: Katies denim! Probably the closest thing you can get to maternity pants that aren’t actually maternity pants.

Baby Clothes

Basically, don’t buy heaps of newborn (0000) and 0-3 month (000) sized clothes. They’re ridiculously cute and tempting but your bub will most likely grow out of them before each outfit gets even one wear. You will need some though – babies can go through several changes of clothes a day. Oh, and unless you’re due in winter, you’re unlikely to need any socks until they’re at least 3 months old. Target and Kmart have quite decent and very affordable babies clothes. Cotton On have some very cute stuff too.

In a similar vein, don’t stockpile too many newborn size nappies or you could end up with heaps of unusable leftovers.


Car seat/capsule, carrier and pram/stroller will probably be your biggest investments. Having said that, you don’t need to spend a fortune to get good ones. I recommend signing up for an online Choice membership, which you can always cancel after 3 months if you don’t need it any more. They have a detailed section on kids stuff and their tests often reveal that cheap models can be just as good as, if not better than, expensive ones.

Important considerations:

  • Car seat – They can take up a LOT of room. If you have a small car ask about models that won’t leave the front seat passenger with their knees folded up around their ears. You don’t need excessive padding either. It looks good, but in our experience it just leads to a screaming, overheated bub. If you’re the least bit unsure about how to install it get it professionally fitted. We got a Britax Safe-N-Sound Compaq AHR which suited our Toyota Corolla, but removed all the strap padding because it’s too hot and choke-y in summer.
  • Soft structured carrier – Not all babies like being in carriers but we’ve found ours very convenient for our life in the inner city and it gets more use than our stroller. Carriers that allow your bub’s legs to sit in a froggy “M” position are best for hip development. We were tossing up between an Ergo and a Manduca – we went for the Manduca in the end because it was cheaper and didn’t require an additional padded insert for the early months. We’ve also found a borrowed Hugabub wrap invaluable for surviving the witching hour in the early days.
  • Pram/stroller – Visit a physical store to do some test driving. Make sure it’s easy to manoeuvre, fold, lift and load into the boot of your car. Then you can buy the model you like online where it’s probably cheaper. We skipped the pram and went straight for a Maclaren Quest Elite stroller: it lies back so it’s suitable from birth, turns on a dime, folds up in seconds and is super light.

Be aware that sometimes models go out of stock across the board and it can take a couple of months until they’re back in, so you might want to get big items sorted a couple of months before your due date. If you’ve only got enough brain power and energy to sort one thing, make the car seat since you need that to get home from the hospital.

Practise using all of these before the baby arrives. Especially the car seat!


I always thought we’d put our bub straight into a cot, but we wanted to have her in our room for at least the first few months and a cot was not going to fit, so we used a moses basket and stand. She was wee when she was born and grew out of it in only 2 months, but for us it was better than a traditional bassinet because it was easy to transport up and down our stairs and we could even pop it in the car to take on visits to family and friends’ houses. We got our cot and change table from Ikea.

Practise your swaddling skills before your little one arrives. If you want to make things easier on yourself try to snag some second hand Love to Dream Swaddle Ups on eBay. They’re usually in good condition because they aren’t used for very long and they’re just too expensive new ($40!). They’re brilliant and as a fun added bonus they make your bub look like a starfish. Or a caterpillar. :)

Kindle Paperwhite vs Keyboard

I bought a new Kindle. I have a perfectly good Kindle Keyboard but about two weeks ago I bought a brand new Kindle Paperwhite (2013 model) on a whim. It was quite an indulgence to upgrade when there was nothing wrong with the old model, but I’ve been pretty pleased with the new one!

Kindle Keyboard and Paperwhite

If you’re considering a similar upgrade you might be wondering whether it’s worth it. Here’s what I’ve found:


  • The backlight! This of course is the biggest advantage the Paperwhite has over the Keyboard. Brilliant, even coverage which is easy on the eyes, and you can turn it off completely if you don’t need it. It’s quite powerful too – I’ve haven’t needed to turn it up any more than 50% so far.
  • The touch screen is quick and intuitive.
  • Navigation, page turns and functions (eg dictionary look up) are much faster and more responsive.
  •  It’s really nice being able to browse your books by cover.
  • It’s smaller and lighter than the Keyboard, but the screen is bigger.
  • The type is darker and clearer. (I read in a forum that some people had compared demo model Paperwhites to their Keyboards and found the type to be blocky and inferior, but I think the demos must have just gone a bit wrong from being handled too much and too roughly in store.)
  • You can get cases that work like iPad covers – open it and the Kindle wakes up without having to press any buttons!
  • It can roughly calculate how much time it will take you to finish the current chapter, as well as the rest of the book.
  • I thought I’d miss the page turn buttons from the Keyboard but you get used to turning pages by touch pretty easily. Sometimes it’s even better than the buttons, eg if you’re eating a sandwich and only have a spare knuckle.
  • You can look at multiple word phrases in the dictionary much more easily now.
  • Collections now appear in alphabetical order rather than recently accessed.
  • Authors are now sorted alphabetically by last name, instead of first name. (Although this could have had something to do with me cleaning up a lot of my collection’s metadata.)
  • The Page Flip feature isn’t quite as seamless as thumbing through a few pages in a real book, but it could come in handy.
  • I haven’t really used it yet but the Vocab Builder sounds like a nifty extra.
  • I scored mine $20 cheaper at Target than Big W (AU$159 vs AU$178 for the Wifi model). :)


  • I had to upgrade my firmware to 5.4.2 to get my Mac to recognise the Paperwhite without resetting it every time. I don’t like the way collections are now somehow synced but luckily I haven’t had the grey ghosting issue other people have complained of.
  • The Kindle Collections plugin for Calibre doesn’t work with the Paperwhite so when I was setting it up with my content I had to file everything manually (but you only have to do that once and then you’re good to go).
  • The battery life does seem to be a bit shorter thank the Keyboard, but still superior to iPads.

Top 10 Parks and Gardens in London

Oh dear! It’s nearly a year since I started this series and I’m afraid I haven’t made much progress in that time. It’s difficult to maintain a blog while travelling but it turns out it’s even more difficult during the every day routine of “normal” life! Time to smash the rest of this thing out before our time living in London is an all-too-distant memory!

London can at times feel like an overwhelmingly large jungle of grey buildings and grey weather but it’s actually “the greenest city of its size in the world”(ref) with parks, gardens and other green spaces covering almost 40% of greater London. Before we moved there we’d heard that when the sun comes out and the temperature rises above 24ºC Londoners flock to those green spaces and strip off to sunbathe. I never really believed it until I finally witnessed it for myself, and I think it’s great. I love the fact that they embrace sunny weather so enthusiastically and it fills the parks with a fun and cheerful atmosphere. A good spring in London, when you get that first relief from the cold, dark grip of winter, is is wonderful thing to experience. Here are some great places to do it!

1. Hampstead Heath
Our old local! Duck ponds, bathing areas, grassy hills, tree-lined paths and terrific picnic spots. Kenwood and Kenwood House are just to the north of the Heath too.

Hampstead Heath

2. Golders Hill Park
The park itself is not the most picturesque in London but it does have a kind of free open air mini zoo with deer, rhea, lemurs, mara, birds and butterflies which is great for the kids.

Deer, Golders Hill

3. Richmond Park
E-nor-mous! Great for cycling. Not as verdant as some other parks, more of a dry, yellowy colour. Wild deer roam around the place. When you’re finished you can get a cracking cup of tea at The Dysart Arms on the western edge.

Wild deer, Richmond Park

4. Regent’s Park
Beautiful green park just north of central London (near Lord’s Cricket Ground) with a boating lake, Queen Mary’s Gardens and the London Zoo. I found it funny that it’s fine to drink alcohol in the Gardens but you might get reprimanded by a bobby if they catch you kicking a ball around, since it’s more likely to be the opposite in Melbourne. ;)

Regent's Park

5. Primrose Hill
Just north of Regent’s Park and offers a spectacular view of the London skyline, particularly at dusk.

Primrose Hill

6. Kensington Gardens
One of London’s most famous gardens, and I think more picturesque than Hyde Park which is just to the east past a body of water called the Serpentine. Kensington features a Palace, memorial statues and a modern art gallery.

Kensington Gardens

7. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
There’s an entrance fee to visit Kew Gardens but it’s worth going to see its beautiful old iconic greenhouses – I particularly liked the ones with giant waterlilies. It also features lots of different types of garden styles from all over the world.

Palm House, Kew Gardens

8. Parkland Walk
A wonderful escape from the hustle and bustle of London – even though it’s still quite central you’ll feel like you’re following a trail in the countryside. The walk follows an old disused railway line – my favourite route is from Finsbury Park to Highgate. Once in Highgate, you have to visit the beautiful old cemetery.

Parkland Walk

9. Crystal Palace
Probably not in the nicest part of town but I have a soft spot for it because of the bizarre collection of dinosaur sculptures. Made in the 1850s, they were the first dinosaur sculptures in the world and based on research pre-dating Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, and are interestingly inaccurate by today’s standards.

Iguanodon, Crystal Palace

10. Little Venice
Not a park per se but a beautifully picturesque area nonetheless. I spent many of my lunch hours wandering along the canals past longboats. (Specifically, laughing along to Ricky Gervais’ podcast and old XFM show, so the two are somehow intrinsically linked in my mind. :)

Little Venice

Of course there are many others – St James’ Park, Greenwich Park, Victoria Park, Holland Park, London Fields… which is your favourite?

More Top 10 in London:

Crochet Caterpillar

What’s this? A resurfacing and temporary change of topic! I’ve been absent for a couple of months, busy with daily life in Melbourne. One of the things I’ve been getting back into is knitting and crochet. And today I’m posting my first ever crochet pattern!

First, some back story.

My parents’ dachshund Lucy has a beloved toy caterpillar that she uses for stress relief: whenever she feels sad or overwhelmed (for example, when she doesn’t get quite as many snacks as she’d like, or the latest visitor has stopped patting her) she pulls out the caterpillar, climbs on top and starts chewing its face. When she’s done she falls asleep on top of it.

Lucy Lucy's caterpillar

She’s destroyed several of these caterpillars by now but the shop Mum and Dad used to buy them from doesn’t stock them anymore. They’ve tried buying other caterpillars but they’re too big or not quite right, and Lucy still goes back to her favourite which is starting to look rather worse for wear. So I decided to crochet her a replacement!

Caterpillar side

Here is the pattern if you would like to make your own. (It assumes you already know how to crochet in the round.) Please let me know if you spot any errors so I can fix them!

click for the pattern »