Lucky Ted has already been on a few little holidays in his 16 months on the planet – Whitby, Scarborough, London, Centre Parcs – but our September 2018 trip was his first time abroad.
We went to the very lovely resort of Palma Nova, on the very lovely Spanish island of Majorca, for a week.
And – stone the crows – it all went very smoothly. (So much so that we’re heading off again on a weekend break next week. Who the heck do we think we are??)
Not to sound smug (much), but I think the fact that we’d already done a few trips in the UK and had taken a few precautionary measures, shall we say, to make the holiday run seamlessly meant I probably only sprouted one grey hair in advance of our Spanish sojourn.
I therefore thought I’d share the whats, wheres and hows of our little jaunt, in case anyone is feeling daunted by the prospect of holidaying with a little one for the first time.
Fear not! Your relaxing holiday can still be relaxing! Sort of.
1.Consider holidaying with family and/or friends
Before Ted came along, I‘d never really been one for holidaying in large groups. Partner, a small group of 2-3 friends, one friend, even solo – these were always my preferred configurations of holiday companion.
I might have looked a little enviously at large groups of friends and families but I always thought it must be hectic, loud, unrelaxing to have loads of people around.
How do you decide what to do each day, for example? Where to go for dinner? I’m exhausted just thinking about it.
And then I had Ted and it all made perfect sense: more people, more pairs of hands, less stress. In theory, anyway.
My mum and dad came with us to Majorca and it made things much easier. There were still only four adults, so not enough to result in (many) fights about where to go for dinner, but enough spare hands to ensure that we could take it in turns to sleep later/siesta/go out in the evening.
And the airport, flight and transfer were all less stressful to navigate too.
In my experience, it’s definitely a case of the more the merrier when it comes to holidaying with littles. (More adults, not more children, that is. Let’s not make things completely impossible for ourselves, eh?)
2.Look for ‘alternative’ accommodation options
We booked our flights and accommodation separately, around the end of June. This was just before everyone realised we were in for a better-than-average UK summer, when many holiday companies decided to offer big discounts because people were opting to stay at home and not part with their hard-earned cash. Drat.
Because we’d left it quite late to book, but were too early for the unforeseen discounts, we were fairly limited in our options.
We wanted somewhere with a 2 hour-ish flight time (Spain/Balearics/Portugal).
And although we were booking for the beginning of September (so outside of the school holidays), there were still tons of holidays that were out of our price range.
If we’d found a purse-friendly standard B&B/half-board offer at your average resort hotel, then we probably would have booked two rooms and that would have been that.
But everything that looked nice was too expensive. I found cheap-ish flights to Majorca from our nearest airport (winner), so then trawled Booking.com and Airbnb for accommodation, until I found ‘the one’.
I say ‘the one’. It was more ‘the one in our price range that wasn’t in a crap location and didn’t look like it had last been decorated in 1952.’
It was a three-bedroomed, bottom floor of a big building in Palma Nova, just a few minutes from the beach.
Villa Oleander sounds perfect, but wasn’t quite: the bed sheets provided were duvet covers without the duvets (is that weird?), and there was a very smelly cupboard under the sink. (We had to constantly pull Ted away from it, to stop the untoward odour from wafting out every time he fancied opening and shutting the door – which was often.)
But the location was great, the place was very clean, and we had so much space. Our own plunge pool, and seating area, and a large astroturfed space at the front of the house for Ted to run around in. He loved it.
It was brilliant, and so much better than a ‘normal’ hotel/apartment block would have been.
A small room would be fine for a short break with a younger baby, but perhaps not for a week with an active 15 month old.
So, smelly cupboard aside, being priced out of that kind of holiday worked in our favour in the end, and I will always look for ‘alternative’ spaces like this from now on.
3. Check what baby equipment is provided – and don’t be afraid to ask for photos of it
We thought we might need to take our own travel cot with us, but I contacted the owners of our accommodation who advised they could provide one, as well as a high chair. Marvellous.
Unfortunately, when we arrived, late in the day and tired, we saw that the cot wasn’t properly erect (oo-er) on one side. It was sturdy enough and Ted wasn’t able to climb out of it, but it’s not ideal to have a travel cot with one side dipped, is it?
Not only that, when I took off the sheet on the cot mattress to replace it with one I’d brought from home (another tip!), we saw that the ‘mattress’ was actually two cushions taken from the dining chairs.
We had no choice but to put Ted in this rather shoddy set-up, which still makes me feel a bit uneasy. If he’d have been smaller, I wouldn’t have let him sleep in it.
It was all fine in the end: we flagged it to the owners who went out the next day to buy a new mattress.
And I’m sure that, most of the time, if you ask for a travel cot, you will get a (decent) travel cot with proper mattress. But it’s worth checking and even asking for photos of any equipment you need for additional peace of mind.
4. Factor in all travel time – not just flights
This one’s self-explanatory. We flew from our closest airport, our flight time was short (2.5 hours approx.) and Palma Nova is about 30 minutes from Palma airport, so we made things as easy for ourselves as they could have been.
Without wanting to be an annoying twit and state the obvious, a short flight might not be the boon you think it is if you’ve then got a two hour drive at the other end.
Also consider the time of the flights, not just the length of them. Ours were in the daytime, and so didn’t cause much disruption to Ted’s sleep patterns (guffaw. What sleep patterns?)
5. Books, boobs… and organic vegetable straws
We didn’t pack a stupid amount of Ted paraphernalia, but we did take enough of his favourite toys and books to ensure we could finish our meals without a meltdown.
He was mostly great on the flights; he slept and looked at his books, and ate a lot of those organic vegetable straw crisp things, which again were great for ensuring we could finish our meals/have another drink.
I also fed him during take-off and landing, which is supposed to help prevent ear popping. His not mine.
6. Splurge when necessary
We were pounced on by a man from a hire car firm as soon as we got into arrivals, who charged us 60 euros for a fancy minibus from the airport to our resort. We thought we were being extravagant but our attitude was ‘sod it’; we were knackered and wanted to get to our accommodation and to smell that lovely cupboard.
It turned out that it was actually cheaper to pay for a fancy minibus as it was to get two taxis (our only other option, according to Spanish law – i.e. you can’t have four adults and a baby/toddler in one car) but the point was, we were prepared to pay a bit more when we really needed to.
Later in the holiday, when we went on a little excursion to Palma for the day, we got the bus and saved some money.
Swings and roundabouts, as they say.
7. Go with the flow
As I will probably write countless times on this site, the important thing when holidaying/ doing most things with a little one is to go with the flow.
You can’t have the same holiday you would have had sans baby. Obviously.
You can’t loaf about on the beach all day and drink cheap cervezas all night.
You can’t see all the sights and visit every restaurant and still find enough time to read every book you brought, reclining on a unicorn sunlounger and living the dream.
But you can still sightsee, and eat at nice restaurants and enjoy the sun and the beach and all of those lovely things and have a wonderful time and realise that you are bloody lucky and that life is sweet.
I was slightly concerned about Ted’s sleeping, and whether he’d sleep in the evening while we ate and would that affect his night sleep blah blah. Sometimes he had a short nap while we ate (which was never later than 7/8pm anyway) and sometimes he didn’t and mostly he slept well at night.
(He slept very badly when we returned, but that’s another woe for another day, and apparently is to be expected – a week away means a week of disrupted sleep on return….)
I would love to hear your tips and tales of holidaying with little one(s), feel free to drop me a line below.
Bye for now x