Andy & I decided we would like to take Rowan away on his first beach holiday this year, and so opted to go early in the summer before it got REALLY hot. This coincided with him being almost 8 months old & we didn't really know how he would find it. Up until now he has taken all new experiences in his stride and is a pretty laid back baby (apart from when someone laughs loudly - he really doesn't like that!)
We decided to go to our family apartment in Spain as the flight wouldn't be too long and, as my sister has 2 daughters, it's already kitted out with travel cot, highchair and other useful baby equipment.
The flight was early in the morning, which meant lifting Rowan from his slumber at 4 am. We just transferred him straight into the car seat in the hope he would drift back off to sleep. This of course didn't happen, he was much too interested in what was going on! Luckily he doesn't immediately cry for his bottle when he wakes and so we were able to set off on the half hour trip to the airport straight away.
There was a HUGE queue for the airport parking and so when we reached check in we were able to go straight up to the front as we were cutting it fine for time. Then came security and the bottles saga. I had always heard they would make you taste some of the milk, but now they have a machine that scans the milk and baby food pouches instead. This all of course takes time, as well as folding down the buggy and removing all the necessary items from your hand luggage. Anyway we managed to make a dash to the gate and made the flight without much waiting around.
Once aboard we got Rowan seat-belted in on my knee and began the 2 and a half hour journey with a 30,000 feet nappy change. We spent the rest of the journey feeding him and entertaining him as he grabbed everything in sight (we left a trail of crumpled magazines, safety cards and head rest advertising boards!) He had a 40 minute nap, but even this didn't give us a proper rest as it left you with a dead arm! All in all the flight wasn't too bad at all, but it helped having 2 of us to pass him between and that the flight itself was quite a short one.
On arrival at the airport in Spain we got our buggy & luggage back pretty quickly and then had to queue for our rental car. This gave us time to feed Rowan and he also had another nap in his pram. We'd brought his own car seat with us and so obviously knew how to strap it in etc. It takes about an hour to get from the airport to the apartment and so we stopped for lunch and grocery shopping on the way. Having brought baby milk, food pouches, nappies etc with us it was good to see that you can easily get very similar brands there anyway. So far so good!
We were staying for 8 nights and split our days between various local beaches and the pool. We even went on a trip to the zoo on one of the cloudier days. Rowan had an absolute ball playing in the sand with his bucket and spade. We started by trying to keep the towels and his sun tent sand free, but soon gave up as he would just crawl about covering everything and every part of us in sand! We took him into the water and after he got over the initial coldness he loved swimming in his baby rubber ring. We also brought a little paddling pool so we could heat the water up in the sun and he could sit in it. Despite going at the very end of May, it was still 30 degrees most days. We had the sun tent and a parasol, then also found it easier to sit further back on the beach under the palm trees so the shade was always nearby. We had brought him a couple of different sun/wet suits which were a great help as trying to put sun cream on a wriggling baby isn't the easiest of tasks!
For the first couple of days we brought lunch with us to the beach, but after a few sandy sandwiches we decided to pay the little cafe's a visit instead. This gave us a break from the sun and sand and meant we could pop Rowan into a highchair for half an hour of peace! We also got a slight break when he had his afternoon nap, although 40 mins comes and goes very quickly!
In the evenings we would head out early for dinner before Rowan got too tired and crabby. He would smile at everyone, other holiday makers and the restaurant staff. He was particularly fond of the buskers who would come around the tables playing instruments and singing! Once he got sleepy we would drive back up to the apartment to put him to bed. Once he was asleep Andy & I could have a little drink & relaxation time. He slept brilliantly in the travel cot in the second bedroom, and would conk out for almost 12 hours.
So to summarise, I think that our first beach holiday was a great success! After being worried about disturbing Rowan's sleep with the early flight and wondering if his ears might hurt on the plane, he didn't complain at all! I had also worried he might not sleep in s strange bed, but no worries there either (after maybe 15 minutes of messing around) He was at the stage where he was almost crawling, so could move around quite well!
Yes it wasn't as relaxing as our previous holidays which involved a lot of lounging in the sun, reading our books and occasionally napping, but it was great to be altogether as a family. Seeing Rowan having so much fun made it fun for us, and we still got time in the sun and time to chill out in the evenings.
If I could create a baby beach basket full of the things you need most it would include: a sun/wet-suit, hat, cuddle robe, swimmer nappies, baby sun cream, wipes, tissues, snacks and a juice bottle. Maybe this could be a new line of baby gifts we branch into!