It took us two and a half years to find the courage to take Caterpillar abroad for the first time. When he was a baby we took him away in the UK a couple of times as we figured in a car it was only us who had to listen to the crying! Plus, the sheer volume of stuff a young baby requires meant we couldn’t face the packing challenge of travelling abroad either. But five months after his second birthday, off formula and newly out of nappies, we decided to brave air travel and play it safe with a short-haul trip to Ibiza.
I’d been very nervous. Caterpillar’s hand luggage was twice the size of my own and stuffed to the brim with snacks, comforters, Calpol and every possible toy and activity book you can think of. And then he fell asleep from the moment we took off and didn’t wake until we landed, likewise on the flight home. We were pleasantly shocked!
Since the trip went so well we decided to go back to the same resort and hotel this year too, here’s what I’ve learnt from both trips.
Choose your resort carefully
I know lots of people who take their kids longer haul, either off the beaten track or to less child-friendly destinations but for us, the hotel is key. We’ve used a Thomson Family Life resort in Port des Torrent for the last two years and the facilities for children are truly fantastic. From a built-in splash park to kid-friendly entertainment, there is so much to keep Caterpillar happy which helps make it more relaxing for us too.
If you decide to travel to a destination that’s usually snowy and cold, then there are other considerations to make. You want to make sure that the resort you choose is child-friendly and as cosy as possible. It would also help to get a list of things you need for your toddler – like toddler mittens and the best winter coats available. The resort you choose will make a big difference to your experience, whether in a snowy location or a sun-drenched hot spot. The colder locations still have activities and on-site entertainment, there may be less of the splash parks, though!
Pick night flights
Most people thought we were mad when we mentioned our flight times (8pm going out and 12.30am on the return), truth be told we’d only picked those times to be cost-effective but it’s worked out so well. Last year Caterpillar slept through both flights, this year only on the return since he’s a little older but even on the outbound he was in wind-down mode which was handy.
Pay to pre-book your seats
It’s a first world problem & pet hate of mine that you are expected to choose your seats and check-in online way in advance of your holiday nowadays. Truth be told I don’t really get it – surely the point of checking in is to let the airport know you’re actually there? But anyway, these are the times we live in and if you want to ensure you’re able to sit together as a family and share the load of flying with little ones then I recommend the small cost of early online seat selection. Alternatively, if you’d like to intentionally sit apart so you can tag team looking after the little ones then that works too!
Snacks snacks snacks
This isn’t just a tip for travelling but a tip for surviving with toddlers and preschoolers in general. If all else fails, give your little one a snack and it will keep the peace for as long as required – lollypops are especially efficient at this as they can last for a while.
Water is your friend
Our hotel has it’s own built-in waterpark, access to which is included in the All Inclusive package. I was so worried that first year about how we could possibly keep Caterpillar entertained for seven whole days when he was too little for the Kids Club activities but I needn’t have been because the little splash park and slides kept him happy all day every day.
Stop caring what people think
I don’t drive so I already have lots of experience dealing with a screaming baby and then a whining toddler on public transport. I had to force myself long ago to accept that if your child is making a racket there is always going to be someone giving you a snooty look – and maybe four years ago that someone would have even been me! At the end of the day we were all children once and, as long as you are actually doing something to try to calm your child, I don’t see why anyone should get unreasonably upset.
Take a break where you can
To quote my best friend – “it’s your holiday too.” I’m a big fan of kids clubs. We didn’t use them every day but Caterpillar had three two-hour sessions over the course of the week which gave Hubs and I miraculous opportunity to truly relax with a book at the new adult-only infinity pool. Bliss! And Caterpillar had a lot of fun too which eased our guilt.
Manage your expectations
I’ve spoken a lot before about expectations and how my shock at the drastic change parenthood brought to my life may well have contributed to PND. These days I’m happiest when I let go of my pre-Caterpillar life completely and embrace the wonderful, terrifying madness that is life as a parent, and there’s perhaps no time when the difference between pre- and post-kids life is more obvious than when you’re on holiday. But if you completely forget holidays past and throw yourself headfirst into this new way of holidaying it’s much more fun.