‘Here’s What I Learnt From My First Overseas Trip With a Toddler’

Flying half-way across the world (or even across the country) with your beloved family sounds super exciting, no? But like a lot of fairytales (or travel Instagram accounts), we don’t always talk a lot about what happens behind the perfect Instagram plane snaps – or effortless baby beach pics.

For pretty much all parents who decided to go on a holiday with a child under the four (or possibly older – I’ll let you know in a few years), it’s not so great, according to a study generalisation I made last month.

So, like every other naive first-time parent, my husband and I made the decision to book an overseas trip. After months of researching, winning some moments and completely failing others, here’s a few home truths about how to travel with a 2-year-old.

Take full advantage of your checked-luggage.

When we made the decision to book, I knew from the get-go that I didn’t mind spending a little extra to fly with Qantas. Heading to Bali (a 6h 35min flight), we wanted the included checked luggage, and really didn’t want to risk a delay or cancellation (something that was happening a lot at the time with other airlines).

While my mum laughed at the fact that we would be taking 3 completely-packed 15kg checked bags, and two carry on backpacks, I don’t regret it at all. While I could have split my daughters things in our suitcases, organising everything I needed for her (medical supplies, two packets of nappies, and many packets of wet wipes) made me feel super calm when we arrived. And before you say ‘they have nappies in Bali’ – the last thing I wanted was to be searching around a country I wasn’t familiar with for brands I hadn’t used before.

Location, location

For our first trip, I wanted to cap our flight time at 8 hours. We decided on two weeks in Bali — neither my partner or I had been before, and I know it’s a super-popular destination for families. We picked the Kuta and Nusa Dua region, for a week each, and the essentials were a resort with children’s activities, a pool and food.

In Kuta, we stayed at the Iconic Hard Rock Hotel. I booked using Luxury Escapes as I’ve used the platform a number of times and love the interface (we ended up getting free daily cocktails and some other perks which was a win in my books).

The hotel had an amazing kids area and pool, and the rooms (we booked a ground-level terrace room) had a beautiful outdoor setting, where we relaxed and ate lunch while our daughter had her daily nap.

The kid's water park at The Hard Rock Hotel, Bali.
The kid’s water park at The Hard Rock Hotel, Bali.

The big ‘but’, which we only found out when we arrived, was no kitchenette and no microwave. So on nights when we just wanted to cook something for our little girl, or easily warm up her milk, we couldn’t. We were really careful with what we had her eating (to avoid Bali belly), and ended up getting her food from the hotel’s restaurant most of the time.

Our second location, where we spent major of the trip, was the recently reopened Club Med Bali. Already having visited a Club Med before (I went to the incredible Cancun Club Med in Mexico), I was pretty keen to enjoy in the luxury of an all-inclusive resort – especially one that has a huge focus on family.

Club Med Bali is just 30 minutes drive from Denpasar’s Ngurah Rai International Airport (12km from Kuta Island), and spans over half a mile along the beach, holding the title of the longest resort beachfront in Nusa Dua.

 Club Med Bali, from above.
Club Med Bali, from above.

Not only does the resort have an unbelievable amount of activities for adults, but after doing all-inclusive with a toddler, I can’t picture doing it any other way. The food was constantly coming out (and if your child is anything like mine, you know that’s a necessity), the staff are absolutely obsessed with kids, there are baby corners where you can make milk and grab a yoghurt pouch or piece of fruit for a snack, and the rooms come with baby baths, products, a pram (!!) and bottle warmer. Oh, and you don’t have to pull out your wallet. At all. For anything.

Can it get better? Yes it can: kids under 4 stay for free at Club Med.

All hail the kids club

If you are given the option to book a resort with a kids club, do it. And now look, I’m not talking about ditching your kid for the entirety of the trip, but the option to have an afternoon (or day) to yourselves is truly amazing.

Club Med’s newly-revamped Kids Programme (called Mini Club Med+) features a range of activities and learning experiences that are actually designed to enhance your child’s soft skills (!!), in line with the principles of Positive Education which, according to the resort, ‘nurtures soft skills such as adaptability and emotional intelligence’.

Mini Club Med+
Mini Club Med+

While this option (which the kids seemed to LOVE) is only available for children aged 4 to 10 years old, the resort also has a Petit Club for children aged 2 to 3 years old (where I took my daughter for a few of the mornings during our stay). Activities included sports, crafts, games, swimming, and strolls around the resort (yes I spied on her), and she absolutely loved it (which is saying something for a kid that hasn’t yet been to childcare).

They also have bed-time and nanny services, where you’re charged and] extremely-affordable fee per hour. While we didn’t end up using it, it was a luxury knowing it was available.

I took full advantage of the Club Med Bali Spa spa while my daughter was at kid's club.
I took full advantage of the spa while my daughter was at kid’s club.

Don’t bother bringing your baby monitor

We packed two monitors: a wifi-based monitor and a non-Wifi one. Neither of them worked.

Because of the incredibly insulated walls (which were amazing when our daughter had a tantrum as it didn’t disturb anyone else, and vice-versa), the non-wifi monitor barely made it 5m from our front door.

As for the wifi monitor, because the hotel uses a non-secure network without a password, the monitor simply wouldn’t work. We tried paying for their super-fast private network that comes with your own individual login, but that was also unsuccessful with our monitor.

With our only other option being purchasing a travel router, we ended up just using the Baby Monitor app on our phones: all we had to do was leave one phone in the room as ‘the baby monitor’ and connect it to the phone with us ‘the parent device’. We set up our own secure password and it worked perfectly.

Getting around

Work out how you’re going to get around and base your holiday around that. Taxi hire in Bali does not give the option of a baby seat (they’re not required by law there), which made me a little nervous, so that’s another reason we picked a resort — we rarely had to leave.

Arranging transfers with Club Med was the better option (you can request a car seat whenever you need and they always come prepared), so that worked well for any tours or local trips.

If you hire a car, you can book a car seat, but again it’s hit and miss as to the size you’ll receive.

You’re in it for the long haul

From the minute you set foot on that plane, you’re stuck — for 6 hours. Those tiny seats with nowhere to go but the aisle and the toilet cubicle that could make a contortionist feel claustrophobic.

If you have a child under two, when booking, request the bassinet seat. Even if they can’t fit into the actual bassinet, you’ll get extra leg room and your child will be able to sit on the floor and play.

We packed activity packs for when the activity packs ran out, and had a new trick (i.e. food) up our sleeves for every impending meltdown. We loaded up on toys (that don’t make noise) and books that we new she would spend longer than 5 minutes with.

Then there’s the iPad. Even if you have a ‘no screen time’ policy for your mini, just waive it for the long haul — honestly, it’s a life saver. Plus you can download some educational games if that’s what you’d prefer.

We had all of this in a backpack bag to keep it all easily contained and squishable under our seats. Pack food. We adults hate airline food, so do they. Crackers, fruit bars, pouches, biscuits, even plain cooked pasta (obviously, dish this up soon after boarding) are perfect, and then at least you have peace of mind they’ve been fed.

In terms of practical packing, if you haven’t got a travel pram, it’s worth it. We found this incredible website called Kindershare where you can rent all sorts of kids stuff from other parents, including prams.

We opted for the Babyzen YOYO² Stroller – it only costed us $60 for the two weeks, and it fit into the plane’s overhead without any issue, and none of the airlines even blinked. At the airport, when you’re on one hour of sleep, trying to juggle a screaming child, luggage, other impatient passengers, having something you can pop open and just carry on is priceless. Plus, it doubles as a trolley.

So, will I do it again? Probably, yes. Will I download more kids videos for the plane? Absolutely.

Source @womenshealth.com.au: Read more at : womenalive.org

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