Our first family holiday with our baby will always stand out for me from all the travels we’ve done since. We weren’t really intrepid explorers before having children, just enjoyed visiting new places, taking time out from busy work schedules to relax and sampling the local food and wines. And we wanted the same kind of thing again. And so, where to go with our 18 month old and when?
Choosing a first family holiday
When was easy, as we were determined to take advantage of being able to book for time outside of school holidays and as our daughter is fair, we chose October so it wouldn’t be too hot. We had enjoyed Spain a few times, and so plumped for Puerto Pollensa in Mallorca. It turned out to be a perfect choice for our first family holiday. It’s family friendly restaurants, safe beach and great climate were perfect for us.
Though now, I can look back and laugh at some of the things we did to accommodate our actually very undemanding 18 month old on holiday. We put restrictions on our holiday activities, that really weren’t necessary, but that with your first child, sometimes you have to go through that learning!
Here’s an insight into what we learnt. If you haven’t taken a holiday with your baby yet, then I won’t pretend that this is a guide to what you should or shouldn’t do on your first family holiday. You’ll do what’s right for your baby and you’ll have a fab holiday, and once you’ve travelled a few times, you’ll look back and laugh at how neurotic you were the first time.
First time on a plane with a toddler
The biggest learning point came early in the holiday. We headed to airport security control with our daughter clutching her precious, never leaves her sight, teddy. We took her out of the buggy to close it down for the scanners and then security control pointed to the teddy in the firm grip of our toddler and asked we put it in the tray. MELTDOWN. My daughter screamed, kicked, wailed, that she wouldn’t let go of teddy. We pleaded with her, begged, bribed, you name it to no avail. Eventually security control frisked teddy, checking him all over, before letting us through. If you only take one piece of advice from this post, let it be this; slip their comfort toy/blanket into your bag way before you get to security control! See our blog post for other tips on staying sane through airport security control with children.
The aeroplane journey with our now calm toddler was relatively uneventful. We applauded ourselves for taking stickers with us. She loved them, and we loved seeing her try and get them from sticker book, to finger, to paper, oops, back to finger again. Not easy with toddler digits.
Flying with a baby is the part everyone fears the most. But let them nap if they need it, take plenty to entertain them, little snacks to keep them going for a while, and ignore the looks from everyone around you and you’ll be fine. Mallorca is just 2 hours from London airports, so not too long for a first time.
First Family Holiday; In the hotel
We had plumped for a fairly standard hotel with a nice pool and a small kitchenette (deluded pre holiday we thought it would be possible to cook with just two portable hob rings and a microwave oven!) and a separate bedroom, for us to sleep in. First night, it became quite apparent that there wasn’t room for the 3 of us in the bedroom. My daughter slept fine through the night but we worried that we would disturb her getting in to bed at night. We heard her every time she turned over in the travel cot that the hotel had supplied as her sleeping bag rustled against the nylon side of the cot. And then, and I know you’ve all been there, as she woke in the morning, she started scratching the side of the travel cot. I have no idea why it’s so appealing to them, but I know our toddler isn’t the only one to do that in a travel cot. Through gritted teeth I whispered to my husband, “don’t move, she doesn’t know we’re awake yet, pretend you’re still asleep”. Fat chance. It’s the earliest wake up I’ve had on holiday ever.
From then on, she had the bedroom to herself, while we plumped for the sofa bed in the lounge. I now search out 2 bedroomed hotels when I can though or preferably 2 bedroomed apartments (so we have a decent fridge and we can cook on the odd occasion) With my girls now 5 and 9, they still need a decent night’s sleep on holiday, while we have chance to relax and open a glass of that local vino.
Eating out with our toddler
Having established that I wasn’t going to be throwing together any gourmet meals in our kitchenette, we ate out every night. I say night, it was kind of late afternoon for the Spanish. Concerned that changes to routine would render our daughter impossible to manage for the rest of her life, we tried to eat as near to her usual times as possible. Of course, that was pretty early for Spanish restaurants, though thankfully as Puerto Pollensa is fairly touristy, we found them all open, and often populated with fellow Brits. All the restaurants were so accommodating to us and my daughter tucked into all sorts of tapas and really enjoyed the attention she got from the Spanish waiters. Over time, we were able to relax somewhat, and later holidays saw us eating out almost as late as the Spanish!
And in Puerto Pollensa, after dinner, a stroll along the promenade is bliss. It’s completely pedestrianised and our toddler loved strolling along, grabbing attention from anyone who noticed her. Subsequent holidays have been more relaxed on this front too and we managed to adjust our eating times to whatever worked via the local timetables. Or, at times, we eat a larger lunch followed by a siesta at the hottest time of the day and then rustle up a small tea later.
Any day is a good beach day
Kids love the beach. Full stop. It doesn’t matter the weather, give them a bucket and spade and that’s them content for hours. We may have been the only ones on the beach during the colder days, but our toddler was so happy. If you have a neoprene suit for them, all the better, but really, they don’t seem to notice the bad weather. The sea in Puerto Pollensa was so serene, perfect for little legs to paddle in. This bit, we got right. We didn’t worry about sight seeing or touring the island, we just spent as much time as possible on the beach. Perfect.
It does get easier
The second time you travel with your family, is never as hard as the first. You certainly don’t feel the need to pack so much (you did that too right?!). Other things will be sent to try you, but you learn to take it in your stride and enjoy your family holiday for what it is; a chance to spend quality time together away from the distractions of life at home and work.
Do drop us a comment below and let us know how you found your first family holiday. Where did you go? Would you recommend it to others?
(photo thanks to Sir Hectimere via flickr.com)