Last week we headed down to Brighton on our first road trip as a family. The plan was to stay at a nice hotel on seafront, wrap up warm and take a long walk by the sea with a mooch around the shops if we had time. It turned out that this destination had more in store for us than we had planned for and our lives would be changed by the time we went home.
As new parents, there would be no more throwing a small bag together and buying toothpaste at the local garage if you forgot it. Lack of sleep makes one’s judgement a tad wobbly, so even at home, preparing for all eventualities with a baby means the difference between a quick and painless change of the nappy with minimal crying or an utter meltdown that can be heard from miles away. You need nappies, baby wipes, nappy sacks and nappy cream at the very least if you are heading into the outside world. Staying the night away? Well then you’ll need a bed, spare clothes, pyjamas, a sleeping bag for the baby, spare blankets in case it’s too cold. I breastfeed my baby so am a walking snack bar, but the list would go on if I had to cart bottles and sterilising equipment around with me too.
We seemed to be able to fit it all into the Moses basket that we would taking for baby to sleep in by being smart with the packing. A baby gym could be taken apart and folded into the curve of the cot and also make a handing changing mat in the day. Nappies (and we took a lot) could plug the gaps between everything. Packing things into things seemed to be the trick here and it meant that we only took an extra piece of luggage with us (the basket) and the baby’s pram.
As regular readers may have seen, we have recently bought a family car so it easily can fit us, luggage and a baby seat in the back. Our baby has been travelling in her cat seat since she was born as we have a lot of family outside of London, so she’s pretty used to her seat. I fed her just before we left in the morning so she slept for most of the way as we shuffled our way around the North Circular and then down the M25 andM23.
It’s pretty typical for us to book accommodation for a road trip just a few days in advance or even on the road as we’re driving. Most of the places we stayed at in Iceland were found as we went around the island and booked the day before we planned to arrive and we didn’t even know if we’d find somewhere to stay that night as we drove through India. However with a baby, I know that we can’t leave things to chance any more. What if we rocked up to a hotel and they weren’t child friendly or didn’t have any rooms at all? The alternative of sleeping in our car wouldn’t even be considered an option when you have to put a baby down to sleep! Admittedly, Brighton is not the Indian countryside but it would be a good chance to see how easy it would be to find a baby friendly place to stay.
I found www.childfriendlybrighton.co.uk was a really helpful resource here and eventually ended up booking a room that was on offer at The Grand – the majestic Victorian hotel that looks out onto the sea. We booked a Classic Double Room for £149.00 per night – rates that would be double if staying in peak season.
There had been a multi-million pound refurbishment of The Grand completed in 2013 and so neither of us had seen what it had previously looked like from the inside. Stories of the classic hotel in ruin with peeling wallpaper and tired staff were long forgotten as it was beautiful on the inside. A enormous spiral staircase is at the centre of the reception area and although you’d be mad to walk the whole way up it, it evokes a feeling of arriving when you walk down it’s steps.
I made sure that I emailed The Grand prior to the trip to let them know that we would have a baby with us, so that on arrival they would have prepared another bed in the room which we could place the travel cot on. They kindly did that and we had plenty of room to spare and the main bed was so big that all three of us could easily sleep on it.
What to do
There’s so much going on in Brighton all year round but no visit is complete without a quick visit to the beach and the pier. Baby slept right through us playing the Penny Falls machines in the amusements arcades, which was probably for the best as we didn’t win a thing.
We had pre-booked afternoon tea at The Grand prior to arriving and spent a pleasant afternoon there scoffing sandwiches and cream cakes. Book early enough and you may even get a seat in the conservatory at the front just like we did, which makes the afternoon that little bit more lovely as you can watch the sea as you while the hours away over tea.
We walked east down to the beach and remembered how you have to fish a stone out of your shoe afterwards and we got slapped in the face by the March wind as we walked back. Brighton is bright and breezy for sure and we love it here.
We would have visited so much more but our time got taken up with looking at houses. Yes, we spent our trip away house hunting! It was all very sudden really as we didn’t think we’d be leaving London. Ever. Yet here we were pushing forward with a plan we thought we would do in a few years. It’s quite common to see Londoners browsing the windows of estate agents as part of their weekend visit but we were actually seeing places do, having made appointments in advance. We found a place on the first day and put a deposit down (so much quicker when you are a renter!) and all of a sudden Brighton didn’t feel like a holiday any more.