So the passport application is in and the flights have been booked. Although we’ve already been on a few weekends away in the UK, we’ve just organised our little adventurer’s first holiday abroad and we’re going to… Sofia in Bulgaria.
The city first came to my attention in a blog post written by Shikha from Why Waste Annual Leave. As soon as I read about this budget-friendly destination, with its historic charm, friendly locals and a side-helping of great foodie spots, I knew I’d love to visit one day and quickly added it to my (never-ending) travel wish-list.
Fast-forward a few months and I’m not going to lie, I found it a little daunting trying to decide where to go on our first holiday abroad as a family of three, as there seemed to be so much to think about which had never concerned us before. For example, things like climate and flight times suddenly play an important part in planning a trip, as do facilities and transport systems within the country.
So here’s five things which helped us when we were deciding where to go for our baby’s first trip abroad:
Choose somewhere close
We agreed pretty early on that we wanted our first trip to be somewhere in Europe, so that the flight wasn’t too long. To date our little adventurer has travelled well in the car and on trains, so we’re crossing our fingers that she’ll enjoy a plane ride too. But in case she doesn’t, I wanted to play it safe and take a short flight, rather than feeling stressed on a long-haul one. With Bulgaria just three-and-a-half hours away from London, that felt like a good first journey to attempt.
Opt for somewhere child-friendly
My first thought for a destination was Lisbon, until someone pointed our how hilly it was and how many cobbles there are! Sometimes it’s easy to forget simple things like how easy it will be to get around with a pushchair and if there are baby-changing facilities in public places. If you’re a breastfeeding mama, even things like how comfortable you’ll feel doing it in public in a different country are things to consider. Luckily there are so many great family travel blogs out there now that it’s often easy to find advice about new destinations. In the end we opted for Sofia as it’s flat, compact and sounds easy to get around. I also liked that there isn’t too much to see and do, so we won’t have to race around to fit things in, which obviously isn’t ideal when you have a little one in tow.
Go for accommodation which suits your needs as a family
When we’ve been on city breaks in the past we’ve stayed in all kinds of accommodation, from hotels and hostels to Airbnb, usually working on the mantra “we’ll hardly spend any time in our room anyway”. But this time it will be different, so we thought much more carefully about where we’d be staying. A good tip someone on Twitter gave me for travelling with children is to eat a nice meal at lunchtime in a fancy restaurant, when baby will be sleeping, and then cook at home in the evening. This seemed like a good plan, as it will fit in with our little adventurer’s naps and bedtime. So we decided to go for an Airbnb with a nice kitchen and a living area for us to chill out in at the end of the day.
We also had to find one which was child-friendly (it’s worth checking on the booking page, as some of them aren’t) and somewhere which provided a crib so that we don’t have to travel with loads of extra stuff. In addition we opted for one closer to the city centre, so that if we have to go back during the day for anything there’s not too far to travel.
Make sure there’s something mummy and daddy will enjoy
Obviously as our little adventurer gets older, our holidays will become more about her and what she’ll enjoy and less about us. But as she’s still only tiny and will be five months old when we go, it makes sense to choose a place we’d like to see. Shikha has already highlighted some of the great foodie places there are in Sofia, and even went on a free food tour, so that’s definitely one aspect of the city Mr A and I are excited to discover.
Be realistic with your expectations
This is definitely one for me. As Mr A will testify, I’m often quite over-ambitious in my planning, especially when we’re travelling. I’ll try to squeeze the most out of every day, feeling I’ve missed out if I haven’t been on an early morning tour and stayed up until late sampling the local cuisine in a nice restaurant. But this time I’m going to have to accept that we’ll be doing things at a slower pace. In the mornings it will take us longer to get going – because why does having a tiny person make everything take ten times longer? -and we’ll be heading home earlier in order to put our little adventurer to bed at the end of a busy day.
The other thing we’ll have to remember is to go with the flow and not to get stressed if things don’t go to plan – something we’re learning on a daily basis. But I’m sure that whatever happens we’re in for an amazing first holiday with out little adventurer and I can’t wait to start showing her the world.