8 Things You Shouldn't Fear When Travelling With Children

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

I'm typing this post from a spot on a lounger next to our private pool in the pretty courtyard of our villa in the most beautiful of hotels (more on this in due course). We are a week into a holiday in Bali with my husband and sixteen month old toddler, and against all odds (aside from the fact the sun has gone down and I'm being bitten to death by mosquitoes), I'm feeling ridiculously chilled.


I say against all odds, because well, I'm travelling with a small child and we all know what a pain in the how difficult that can be. Plus the holiday didn't start too well.

"You'll find it difficult in Bali with your baby," stated the lady at the check-in desk rather tactlessly as we loaded our bags onto the belt.

"All of the tourist sites are so spread out and it's so hard to get around. I don't think she'll like it much."

I felt like reaching across the check-in desk and messing up her perfectly coiffured bun.


The truth is, I was already pretty nervous about what could go wrong on this holiday. It's not as though Sophia hasn't traveled before, with family trips to the UAE (more than once), Norway and home to the UK under our belts already, but Bali was a different kettle of fish: a culture I wasn't yet accustomed to; an unknown entity when it came to navigating the rocky road of life with a toddler while simultaneously trying to maintain some semblance of a holiday.

 
However, eight days later and I'm rapidly learning that my concerns were unjustified, and that I could have saved myself a lot of stress if I'd just relaxed and gone with the flow.

So, to save you from experiencing the same pre-holiday rollercoaster, here are ten things that you probably fear, but definitely shouldn't when travelling with babies and small children.

1. That everyone will hate you on the plane


OK, when your child's been crying non-stop for over two hours on an overnight flight, some people might. But the majority will look over at you with sympathetic eyes and will genuinely empathise with your situation. Others will offer help, or provide a welcome distraction by playing peek-a-boo from behind your chair. Remember that many other people have been in the same situation as you at some point in their lives.


And don't forget, that as with everything with babies and children, the dire situation that you've dreamed up in your head never turns out to be as bad as you'd imagined.

2. That their routine will be disrupted


A little bit of disruption is inevitable, but if you're strict with yourselves, you can make your activities and excursions work around nap and mealtimes. If you absolutely HAVE to be out and about during their usual nap spot, then try to have some quiet time (on the road, driving between destinations is always a good idea) where they can hunker down for a little sleep when required.


If they have to sleep, they will - even if it's on your shoulder/in their high chair/draped across a sibling!

Be prepared for a couple of sleepless nights if you're in a time zone which is far removed from your own, but you'll be surprised at how adaptable young children are (far more flexible than us adults I swear!) and you'll soon find that they have adjusted and are snoozing away without a care in the world.


3. That you won't be able to find anything you need


I've spoken before about the fear of not being able to find vital baby supplies in foreign supermarkets, but the truth is that every country will have something you require to address your child's vital life requirements, even if it's not exactly what you would use back home.

Sophia lived out her final two days in Bali in Indonesian nappies which smelt like ammonia and were so chunky that they made her waddle (which, let's face it, is actually quite cute!), but they did the job.


Most popular tourist destinations are only a matter of minutes away from a good pharmacy if medicines are required, and many hotels stock child-friendly paracetamol and plasters. If you happen to be miles away from the nearest settlement and require something urgently, don't be afraid to ask another hotel guest or family with young children for assistance; chances are they might have something you can borrow.

4. That 'getting around will be difficult' (I included this one just for you, Miss Qatar Airways)


Before we left, we invested in two key pieces of kit which I will be reviewing in due course: the Urban Kanga car seat, and the Mamas & Papas Acro Buggy. Both of these items are lightweight, fold up small enough to go in the overhead lockers on a plane, and come with their own travel bags. Now, after traipsing through airports, travelling long distances in taxis and crossing rugged terrain with our toddler, I am absolutely convinced that travel is a doddle - just so long as you have the correct kit.


5. That they won't be able to eat any of the food


In my experience, the assertion that you need to offer a child a new food fifteen to twenty times before they like it is a fallacy. Most (with a little coaxing, and maybe a few lies such as "Upsy Daisy eats this for breakfast!"  thrown in for good measure) will at least attempt to try it, and even if a lot of it ends up on the floor, you can be sure that your child will still be getting most of the nutrients they require when they are trying foreign food.



Try to be a little flexible, and order items from the menu that include ingredients your child usually likes, and bear in mind that if there's any time to relax your rigid rules about sticking to a limit on their daily salt and sugar intake, out of necessity, now is the time to do it.


(If all else fails, there is always Ella's Kitchen and granola bars. No child ever starved while living on these staples*).

*May or may not be an actual, bona fide fact.

6. That you won't be able to do anything adventurous


I'd like to offer the proverbial middle finger to anyone that's ever said you can't go on adventurous holidays with young children in tow (and an even bigger one to people like this guy who say that you shouldn't).


Yes, your child's safety and happiness is paramount, but if you're intent on wrapping them in cotton wool to the detriment of allowing them to explore and experience the world, then in my opinion you might as well stay at home every day and not do anything at all.

 
In Bali we've traversed rivers, climbed rice terraces, visited monkey forests, swum in the ocean, explored temples and had a lot of fun in the process. I've seen Sophia flourish so much since we've been away (more on this shortly) and I am certain that these new and exciting experiences are the cause.


7. That something terrible might happen


I have to admit that this unjustified worry is the one which plagued me the most of all. I had a recurring dream that Sophia was abducted while we were in Bali, and the police couldn't find any leads, so I ended up spending the rest of my life there trying to track her down. It sounds silly recounting this dream now, but at the time, it was a very real fear, and I'd be lying if I said I haven't been looking over my shoulder a little more than I would normally since we've been here.


But let's put this in perspective. The chance of something drastic happening while you're travelling really is just as slim as it is when you are at home. Just so long as your child is vaccinated, and you're cautious around strange people and dangerous animals, just as you would be when you're not travelling, everything will be absolutely fine.

**looks over shoulder one last time before continuing with the post...

8. That they won't have fun


And finally, we come to the most absurd of all of the worries on this list. If one thing's a certainty in life, then it's that new experiences and adventures are like discovering hidden treasure to a child.

In the UAE, Sophia's first dip in the pool made for a magical experience. In Norway, while we complained about the cold, Sophia embraced it with curiosity. In Bali, she's just been delirious.

 
Travel satisfies the insatiable curiosity that all children are born with. It helps them connect those million neural pathways per second that their incredible brains are busy building. It helps them to grow and develop in ways that they could never achieve if they stayed in the same environment throughout their life.


It's safe to say, travelling as a family has given us all a lot of fun memories to take away with us. And as for the fears, well on our type of holidays, we're usually not too far from a poolside cocktail to help calm the nerves.


What fears do you have about travelling with children?

For extra tips on how to travel with a baby, head here.

For some useful products that you should invest in before travelling with a young child, head here.

For all of my posts about our family travel adventures, head here



Achieving Hygge at the Storfjord Hotel

Monday, 17 July 2017

For those of you that are yet to become acquainted with the Danish word, 'hygge', allow me to fill you in. It roughly translates as 'cosiness', and although the Danes have been perfecting the art of hygge for centuries, the term has only gained worldwide attention since the spotlight has been shone on Denmark in recent years for the excellent quality of life it offers its people, for their long life expectancies and impressive health and happiness indices.


In essence, hygge encompasses everything about the Danish way of living and the warm atmosphere that entails: from sharing special moments with special people, to taking a slower pace to life so that you can really savour the goodness that comes with it.

So what does this have to do with the secluded luxury boutique hotel, which is perched on a hillside in the tiny hamlet of Glomset, overlooking the Storfjord, on the west coast of Norway?


Well, apart from the fact that the hotel is a short hop over the border from Denmark in Norway (something I am going to overlook for the purpose of this post, because who said that hygge had to be exclusive to just one of the Scandinavian countries?!)...everything!

SETTING


The moments in life that come close to achieving true hygge, are characterised by simplicity and casualness, where the individual is usually not too far from nature. Set high on a hill overlooking the Storfjord, with the stunning backdrop of the Stunmøre Alps beyond, the hotel prides itself on being a 'slow life hideaway', far from the bustle of urban developments and the stresses of everyday life.


The beautiful scenery, and expansive landscape calls to be explored. There was nothing else to do other than don our hiking boots and thermals, and get amongst it. The feeling of togetherness, and of truly living in the moment as we picked our way along previously unexplored trails as we hiked our way down to the shimmering waters of the fjord below us is something I won't forget for a long time.



 

FURNISHINGS


Simple, functional, but beautiful design is central to the hygge philosophy. Particularly if the design assists in making you feel cosy, comfortable and warm.


At Storfjord, all of the rooms are spacious, yet somehow manage to retain a feeling of cosiness throughout. Works of art, rustic furniture and antiques have all been carefully selected for the sole purpose of guest's comfort and relaxation.


The bedrooms (including a number of brand new rooms which were being finalised as we stayed) have all been individually decorated, and remain sympathetic to traditional Norwegian design.


I fell in love with our pastel-painted four poster bed, and pretty wooden dressers in our room.

And of course, the soft furnishing and roaring fires in each of the main reception rooms.


LIGHT


Low, warm and cosy lighting creates instant hygge, and there aren't many light sources that do so more effectively than candlelight and an open fire, both of which are employed throughout the hotel.

 
The fireplace in the dining room was a welcome sight first thing in the morning as we ate breakfast, warming us up for the day ahead, just as it was last thing in the evening with dinner, as we wound down for the evening and started to feel ready for bed.



My favourite fireplace however, was in the expansive sitting room. We would retire here after a long walk, make ourselves a coffee, kick off our shoes, and enjoy the serene state that the low, flickering light and warm ambience bestowed upon us.


Some of us embraced the tranquility more than others...


FOOD AND DRINK


A central tenet of hygge is great food and drink - the kind of meals that, when eaten, feel like your soul is receiving a big, warm hug.

This also happens to be my favourite kind of food.


We were spoiled at Storfjord. The breakfast spreads were extensive, and included everything from traditional Brunost (brown, sweet cheese) to Norweigian meats, customisable waffles, pancakes and eggs.


 
But it was supper time when the chefs really came into their own. All of the food served in the hotel is made from locally-sourced and largely organic ingredients. One evening we had duck, and our waiter told us that it had arrived earlier that day from a farm just around the hill. 

Every meal was delicious and hearty; not complex, but rustic and tasty. I could have licked my plate clean every time.


ATMOSPHERE


Lastly, arguably the most important dimension of hygge is how you feel inside.

For this reason, natural materials such as wooden carpentry and traditional craftsmanship are always more hygge than modern architecture and machine-built artefacts. This is where the handcrafted log walls, and 'log cabin' vibe of the hotel comes into its own.


Natural views also make you feel more 'hyggeligt' (hygge-like) than urban cityscapes. Anything that is warm, while it's cold outside; allows people to slow down, when usually they'd be rushing around and brings people together to talk and share stories when usually they would be lost in their own world in front of TV, laptop and phone screens...all of this brings about the serene and comforting atmosphere of hygge.



We spent two days in this blissful hygge-like state, and it was some of the best therapy I have ever received.


When can you recall being at your most 'hygge'?

Two Minute Teaser: Astor Grill at the St Regis Doha

Sunday, 16 July 2017

 

Astor Grill in a nutshell:


A low-lit and atmospheric restaurant, the Astor Grill at the St Regis offers diners fresh fish and tender meat, with an excellent range of starters, sauces and sides. The restaurant's steak has gained a reputation as some of the best in town, and rightly so: the prime cuts of beef are carefully sourced, and the menu changes regularly, not only to keep things fresh and exciting, but also to ensure diners are able to sample some of the best cuts from around the world.


Why is it worth it?


The restaurant hits the nail on the head when it comes to creating a warm and calming ambience that's both romantic and conducive to the enjoyment of your food. You can watch your creation being brought to life in the open kitchen, and ask questions of the knowledgeable waiting staff, who are incredibly knowledgeable and helpful.


It feels like a special occasion restaurant; somewhere to head to for a date night or celebration.

What was the best dish?


We devoured a juicy Australian Rangers Valley Wagyu Tenderloin from the Josper Grill, which was as soft as butter on the knife. However, I've also heard that the 21-day aged cuts are phenomenal.


What will it cost me?


Express Lunch: QAR 100 for 3 courses
Supper Menu (Saturday - Thursday): QAR 195 for 2 courses; QAR 225 for 3 courses
A la carte: Mains are on average QAR 200

Family friendly rating:


Medium.

(Not the most obvious restaurant to bring children to, but the staff were incredibly sweet with my baby and kept her entertained while we were there).

The details:


The St Regis Doha, Doha West Bay, Qatar.

Call the restaurant directly on: (+974) 4446 0105 or head to the website to reserve a table.

To read about the rest of the restaurants and promotions in my Two Minute Teaser series, head here.

I Love You More This Year

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

I loved you a lot in 2012 when we first 're-met' and started to date. I loved you more in 2013 when I missed you so much that I moved out to Doha to be closer to you. Our love was amplified in 2014 when you knelt down in the sand and asked me to be your wife. Then in 2015, we got married and we vowed that we would continue to love each other forever.


But it wasn't until 2016 when our first baby was born that I began to love you as I do now.

It sounds like a cliché, but seeing you with Sophia made my world complete. You're the kind of daddy I wish every young girl could look up to. You're the supportive husband that I wish every struggling mum could lean upon.


Today, on our second wedding anniversary, I wanted to let you know that I will continue to love you more every year.

Life is better with you by my side.

Two Minute Teaser: Noodles & Ribs at the Four Seasons Doha

Sunday, 9 July 2017


Noodles & Ribs in a nutshell:


A unique promotion that's running every weekend throughout the summer months in the Four Seasons' acclaimed restaurant, Elements. A concept that is as simple as it is inspired; you can watch Chef Ding and his team hand-pulling noodles and concocting an array of bespoke noodle dishes from around Asia in the restaurant's open kitchens, or select from the range of delicious and flavoursome ribs on offer. Plus there's sushi, salads and a big dessert buffet to boot.

 

Why is it worth it?


Because it's difficult to find authentic, hand-pulled noodles in Doha. Because it's even harder to find halal ribs that are actually tasty. Because over the summer, there isn't a lot going on on the food scene in Doha, and this is truly exciting.


What's more, children under 12 can enjoy a free meal from the kids' menu, and the over fours can join the kids' club for free for the duration of your meal!

What was the best dish?


A difficult one to call, as there is a lot of variety (four different noodle dishes, even more noodle soups and four ribs that I counted), and the Four Seasons have maintained their usual high standards with this one.

However, the Zhajiang Miang noodles, which are served with ground beef and slightly salty, fermented soybean paste were sensational, and the tender and aromatic Arabic-spiced short ribs were like no ribs I've ever tasted before.



What will it cost me?


QAR 200 without alcohol.
QAR 310 with selected beverages.
Free for children under 12.

Family-friendly rating:


Excellent.


The details:


Fridays & Saturdays, 12:30 pm - 4:30 pm.

Four Seasons Doha, The Corniche, Doha 24665, Qatar
Contact Dining Reservations on:  (+974) 4494 8600 or email: dining.doh@fourseasons.com
DESIGNED BY ECLAIR DESIGNS