Careful planning, a good natured baby and a little luck of the Irish made this family’s trip to Ireland with their 5 month old a breeze.
The No. 1 item that made our trip pleasant was an ingenious little product by San Diego’s Podee Inc.
Some friends and acquaintances thought we were either very brave or a little crazy for taking our 5-month-old baby girl on a nine-day trip to Ireland. But our thinking was this: Why not go while I’m still on maternity leave, and God only knows when we’ll be able to make an overseas trip again. A far-away trip with a toddler is not our idea of a good time.
I scoffed at the naysayers, but secretly I was a little afraid we’d be cooped up in a car with an inconsolable infant or up all night in a bed and breakfast desperately trying to keep Faith from waking the household. But my fears were unfounded, partly because she is such a good-natured baby, and partly because of good planning.
The flight from Los Angeles to Dublin was a breeze, even without the Benadryl Faith’s doctor recommended. Aer Lingus provided us with bulkhead seats and a cardboard bassinet that is strapped down on a shelf that you pull down from the wall in front of you. The return flight was a little harder because we left during the day, but Faith was still able to make use of the bassinet for naps.
The No. 1 item that made our trip pleasant was an ingenious little product by San Diego’s Podee Inc. The Podee Hands-Free Baby Bottle is a bottle with a Velcro strap and a tube leading to a nipple. I laughed when I saw it at Babies R Us, and then I went back a few days later and bought it for the trip. You strap the bottle onto the stroller or car seat and put the nipple in baby’s mouth. That way, you can enjoy dinner in a nice restaurant while baby feeds herself. Also while you’re strolling around Medieval towns and baby gets hungry you can feed her without having to find a place to sit down. (OK, it’s a little impersonal, but you will be very glad for it.) The device impressed numerous Irish parents and grandparents who had never seen such a thing and wanted to know where to buy one.
As for what you put in the bottle, we took enough formula with us to last the trip, mostly 8-ounce cans of Similac that don’t require mixing, although we took some powdered formula too and mixed it with bottled water in our room at night. The cans are heavy, but my husband telephoned Ross, the maker of Similac, before we left and they recommended bringing it with us since the Similac in Ireland is different from the U.S. stuff. Besides, the load gets lighter as you go and frees up suitcase space for those inevitable souvenirs. As it turned out, I never even saw any American brands of formula in the drug stores and grocery stores; they have brands like Cow & Gate, Farley’s and SMA, which I’d never heard of. (The last thing you want is to change baby’s diet in addition to everything else.)
Diapers are easy to come by and they have Pampers and Huggies available at comparable prices. For instance, in a supermarket in Galway, on Ireland’s west coast, a bag of 46 Baby Dry Plus Pampers, size 2, was priced at about $10.40. A package of Pampers Wipes, 72 count, went for about $4.70. In a small pharmacy in Dublin, a package of 40 Huggies diapers for 11- to 22-pound babies was about $13. We brought our own since we didn’t know what we’d find, and, again, as the diapers disappeared we filled the void with our purchases.
For older babies, Heinz baby food was available in grocery and drug stores, and at prices similar to stores here.
And if you need baby clothes, blankets or towels, a chain department store called Penneys (no relation to our own JCPenney) had really good prices on those items. The one we stopped at on Dublin’s O’Connell St. (close to the General Post Office made famous in the Easter Rising of 1916) had packs of three onesies for $6.50, sleepers two for $9, outfits for under $8, hooded towels for $2.60 and blankets for $5.20. Another chain store called Mothercare, which only sells baby clothes and paraphernalia, had higher prices but stocked everything from clothes to strollers. (Their strollers come equipped with plastic shields for the rain. We tried to buy one in Dublin but our strollers don’t come with the grips to hold them in place.
Fortunately, the rain abated and we only experienced drizzles after that.) The two clothing items we were really glad we brought along were a little rain jacket with hood and a fleecy pram suit with hood for the colder (late March) days and evening walks to and from restaurants. Both stores had fabulous ”parent and baby rooms” equipped with changing tables, bottle warmers, sinks and comfortable chairs for nursing. Penneys even had a diaper machine and a sink and toilet off the main room for mom or dad.
Speaking of changing diapers, most places we went to, beside the above mentioned and Dublin airport, which had a changing room and a nursery full of things to occupy toddlers, didn’t have changing tables in the bathrooms and many restaurants and other places didn’t even have large enough counters for the job. So we became very brazen about whipping off a diaper on anything flat: picnic tables, booth benches in pubs, back seat of the rental car. We were discreet and no one gave us a sideways glance.
The tiny, compact Avis rental that was part of our Brendan Tours self-drive vacation package (which included air fare, car rental, two nights’ hotel in Dublin and vouchers for B&Bs the other six nights) was so small we couldn’t fit more than one suitcase in the so-called trunk. We had to upgrade for $6.50 a day so there wouldn’t be luggage flying around in the back seat with the baby in the event of an accident.
We brought our own infant seat with us, though they did have ones you could rent for about $45. (Babies R Us sells a nifty nylon bag with a strap to pack the car seat in for air travel for about $20.) We also brought along a BabyBjörn front carrier and an umbrella stroller compact enough to take on as carry-on luggage. Both were essential. The carrier for trekking up and down castle stairways and the stroller for the days we walked around Dublin, Galway and Kilkenny seeing the sites, and also for restaurants. For older babies, most restaurants had highchairs available.
The Irish in general are known for their friendliness, and Faith brought a smile to many a stranger’s face. We ran into no problems taking her wherever we went, including fancy restaurants, although the man at the desk at Kilkenny castle politely suggested the hour-long tour might betoo long for a baby. But by then we’d already been to Blarney and Bunratty castles and didn’t mind skipping the tour.
The B&B book provided by Brendan Tours, which listed the places that would accept our vouchers, also indicated which B&Bs would provide cribs, or as the Irish say, ”cots,” and other details such as whether smoking is permitted or televisions provided. For the most part the cribs or playpens worked fine, although the crib at one place in Galway was so old that the slats were dangerously far apart, the paint was peeling and you could have stuffed a leprechaun between the mattress and the bars. Faith slept with us that night.
We did have a couple of sleepless nights when we returned home trying to get Faith back into our time zone, but, all-in-all, the luck of the Irish was with us on our trip.