This is probably only relevant to a few, but those few will probably welcome these factoids about travelling to South Africa with a baby. If you are South African, this might be obvious: if not, then like me, you will likely grasp at anything that could help flying long haul with a baby, served with the obvious “do it your way and own it” caveat.
- FOOD: Woolworths in South Africa is not where you buy Jason Donavan singles, pick and mix and bird feed. It is like the better, glossier love child of Waitrose and Marks and Spencer with a spray tan and a blow dry. They not only do long-life baby pouches – think Ella’s kitchen – they also do fresh Smoothie-like versions in the chiller section. Also readily available are pre-prepared meals – cottage pie, spaghetti, tuna pasta. Baby food tended to be either very pureed or chunky so we wished we’d bought a masher with us.
- SNACKS: Woolworths – praise be – do have unsalted rice cakes but they don’t have much else in the way of snacks. I am prone to lob anything labelled organic in an orange packet at F at times of extreme hunger or when in a moving vehicle. I didn’t see any of this so probably worth bringing your own to ensure a trail of sugar-free flapjack round the country.
- FRUIT: Little F was in his element as there were no cricket-ball avocados or overpriced unflavoured mangoes. South Africa is the land of plenty in this respect with creamy, buttery avocadoes and the most luscious juicy mangoes. Don’t do what we did and not bring a knife (I know, I know…. It was a holiday).
- DRINKS: It was a bit hard to get water-phobic baby F to drink a lot. I ended up giving him cartons of children’s juice (sugar-free with roibos nonetheless).
- BATHING AND NAPPIES: No baths, not very deep or large sinks. Get the bubba prepared for showers or buy industrial quantities of wet wipes. Clicks is basically Boots but they only seem to sell nappies in packs of 60. Bring enough for your trip or none to avoid having to try and distribute the majority of the pack to people who look like they might have children in Franschoek. They will think you have had too much wine.
- EATING OUT: South Africans love babies. South Africa has space. South African dining is totally relaxed and chilled and calm. It is everything that eating in a crowded London hot spot isn’t. Take the baby. We loved it, bubba loved it and the staff were so darn lovely about it. Lots of places had highchairs and there was room at tables for buggies at almost all. It was a total dream.
- ACCOMMODATION: As ever, Airbnb is your friend. Quite a lot of places state that they aren’t suitable for children because their pools are unfenced. F isn’t fully free-range so it wasn’t a problem. Plus South African beds are truly enormous, meaning that even with involuntary co-sleeping arrangements, everyone got a good night’s sleep.
Now for the important bit. TAKE YOUR CHILD”S BIRTH CERTIFICATE. They won’t let you in the country without it. We know, we tried, couldn’t get the flight and I had to go out on the next flight at bum clenching expense. Also, if you are one parent taking a child into the country, you have to have a declaration form from the other parent. It is available online but there is virtually no information about how to fill it in. It is meant to be notarised but I had it signed as witnessed by a solicitor and it was fine. JUST REMEMBER THE BIRTH CERTIFICATE.