Frequent Flyer, travel writer and new mum - meet our Monthly Travel Columnist Helen Wright on the highs and lows of being a #travelmum on her year long adventures with her son Finn...
Ga Ga Vroom...
In the first installment of our monthly column, resident travel mama Helen takes eight-week-old Finn to the Brecon Beacons in Wales for his inaugural weekend away.
Slamming the boot shut we’d finally squashed 90% of the things we probably wouldn’t need into the car, strapped in the baby and set off for our first family holiday.
Despite the predictable anxiety about two-month-old Finn sleeping in a strange room for the first time and the five-hour car journey from London, we had decided that the Brecon Beacons would be the perfect setting to gently migrate from new parent bubble to big scary world without too much stress...
With Finn snoring happily in the back, we inevitably passed the road sign equivalent of parent Russian roulette; ‘Services: 3 miles or 33 miles’. Could we make it an extra 30 miles before the milk monster woke up ‘hangry’ and irate? It was a tough one but since we don’t get out much and like to live on the edge, we decided to go for it.
On we ploughed, irrationally huffing at anyone in our path who happened to be driving a mile per hour under the speed limit. Luckily, like most little ones, Finn sleeps excellently in the car so we were able to make good progress along the M4 before needing to stop for essential ‘baby maintenance’.
By this, I mean a half-hour stop for feeding, nappy changing, entertainment and coffee for mum and dad. Then, we were back on the road and finally crossing the Severn Bridge, leaving our stress and apprehension behind us in rainy old England.
Delightfully, the Brecon Beacons National Park welcomed us with boundless green hills glowing under a honey sunset. I couldn’t wait to wake up the next morning and start exploring.
We had booked a cottage for the weekend in an attempt to create a home-away-from-home, as you do. We have big travel plans ahead but this first trip somehow seemed bigger and more significant than our hopes of travelling further afield. After arriving to a beautiful hilltop house with a bottle of wine in the fridge left for us by the owner, we knew it was a good call.
The priority was getting Finn to bed. We’d brought his SleepyHead mattress with us from home so we didn’t even need to negotiate a travel cot. We set him up on a chair in the corner of our room and he drifted off in around the same time as he does at home.
With the baby in bed we poured a glass of wine to toast to a (hopefully) successful trip and then collapsed on the couch and fell immediately to sleep ourselves...
The next day we were up early and headed outdoors. First stop was the ancient Dan-yr-Ogof Showcaves. Despite being over 3,000 years old they were only discovered in 1912. Tours are offered or you can wander around at leisure. Coupled with the dinosaur adventure park that decorates the ground surrounding the caves, this place is a five-year-old’s dream destination. I made a mental note to bring Finn back in a few years.
We stopped for a quick picnic in the National Park and then set off on a planned hike along the Four Waterfalls Walk to the Pontneddfechan Powys Waterfall; a local beauty spot. I love wearing Finn in his baby sling anyway, but it proved to be an absolute essential for this trip. Despite being an easy trail, the route was uneven and muddy so our pram would have conked out long before we did.
The following day we did much of the same. The beautiful area lends itself to wandering aimlessly and allowed us some enforced relaxation. After the experience of birth and keeping a brand new infant alive for four whole months, we really needed it too. Everything had gone to plan and for the first time since Finn’s arrival I felt like we’d stopped to take a breath.
It was wonderful.
For more information about family-friendly activities in the Brecon Beacons National Park, visit the site here Brecon Beacons
Perfect for sleeping through the night:
We rented a cottage through breconcottages, which was ideal for the first weekend away with a newborn. All our home-comforts were waiting for us, including a microwave for sterilizing, plenty of room to set up a sleeping area for Finn and a private garden to enjoy the fresh air of the Brecon Beacons. Our cottage was named Ty-Ver but Brecon Cottages has accommodations to every familytype or requirement.
THE DREAM FEED
A baby-friendly place to grab a bite:
The Changing Seasons Tea Rooms and Restaurant is ideally situated within the Craig-y-Nos Park overlooking a lake. Sandwiches, cakes and afternoon tea are the order of the day with simple hot food like jacket potatoes available. Open from 10am. Changing Seasons Tearooms
WHERE TO PLAY
Fun for little and big kids:
If you are looking for something fun and educational you wont get much better than Dan-Yr-Ogof National Showcave Centre for Wales. Accessible routes through 3000 year-old caves and an adventure park dotted with over 200 life sized dinosaurs. For older kids, download the free Adventure app for a unique interactive experience. Tickets start from £14 for adults and £11 for children (ages 3 to 16).
THE PACK UP
The top three junior travel must-haves for a weekend away:
Finn has slept in his Sleepyhead from birth so it made sense to take it with us for the weekend and it worked like a dream. Compact and easy to carry, we were able to put Finn to bed in an environment that he knows. For our first time awayit made putting him to bed in a strange room no different to being at home.
FIND SLEEPYHEAD HERE>>
Ergobaby Adapt Carrier:
Exploring the Brecon Beacons National Park, including a short hike to a waterfall meant a pram wasn’t going to be suitable and a baby carrier was a true essential. We’ve used this Ergobaby Adapt carrier from birth because it doesn’t need an insert and Finn has always loved being in it – especially as he gets to sleep while we go about the boring tasks of adulting. It was ideal for this trip and there were times we forgot we had the little guy with us at all!
FIND ERGOBABY CARRIER HERE>>
Waterproof Rain Mac:
Finn’s bright red raincoat was a bargain - £8 at Asda! Even with him protected in the carrier we wanted to make sure he was warm and dry and this was the perfect cover up.
FIND RAINMAC HERE>>
If you’ve got your own dribbling explorer in tow, follow our adventures here and if you’ve got any tips, tricks or advice to offer, drop me a line in the talkback comments section below.
Just like skiing, my basic plan is to focus on where I’m going, stay on my feet and enjoy the ride.
Follow Helen and Finn’s travels on Instagram @helenwrites and @passportbaby
Find more travel tips and reviews visit Helen's blog at Passportstamps.uk