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