I remember the first time I took Abby to the shops by myself. It was super-early on because I figured learning how to navigate that was best done sooner rather than later, and it wasn’t long before I was cruising aisles like the best of them. Then came two tiny guys to cart around, and I learned to be a shopping ninja. Get in, get your stuff, get out! Time it so they’re fed and clean and hopefully in a good mood. Take no prisoners and all that.
I kind of went into a recent trip to the Whitsundays quite blindly, very much how I do most other parenting things – I would worry about it when I got there. What do they say? Plan for the worst but hope for the best? I’m a bit backwards, I sort of just assume everything will be fine and if it’s not, well, we’ll figure something out. It has served me well most of the time (I hate worrying, so don’t do it if at all possible!) and I’m pleased to report Pepper and I made it through three nights and four days unscathed and even relaxed!
The itinerary was definitely not for the faint-hearted. It consisted of two planes, two hotels, eight hours of conferencing, a remote beach, several stingrays, four ferries, one helicopter and three nights of dining out. It did not run according to Pepper’s nap schedule (or mine!) and I couldn’t time it so we were out when she was fed and happy, as we were on the go all the time. So why did I go? Well, it’s the Whitsundays, duh. But I also want to take my kids all around the world, and the earlier I make travel a natural part of their life, the better. I want them to be resilient, adaptable and adventurous. I want for this to be normal.
Now I have lucked out and scored two extremely chilled-out kids who are easily portable. But while we had a great time, we also had our moments! These are the seven things I learned:
1. Baby slings are your best friend
I took two on this trip – my Ergo and my BreezeBaby. The Ergo was fabulous for everything. I would pop Pepper in there twice a day at naptime and she would snooze happily. I also put her in there in the restaurant at night once she’d had her dinner and charmed everyone at the table. It was useful for when I needed to be hands-free and meant I never had to bring a pram or anything similar. The BreezeBaby tucked away into the corner of my bag and was perfect for when we took a little trip to Whitehaven beach via ferry. It wasn’t as big and bulky as the Ergo, and you can even take baby into the water in it! I absolutely could not have done this trip without a carrier of some kind. Hell, I can’t even get through parenting without one!
2. Kids are gonna puke at some point
Or have a poosplosion or something similar. Some event that involves bodily fluids and no prior warning! Ours came as we had just sat down to dinner. Pepper had been asleep before we arrived, and woke a few minutes into the first course. She cried on and off for about five minutes, coughed for 10 seconds, then let fly. I tidied her up the best I could, but just wanted to go home. I did have to leave behind the world’s best mojito, but I got to sit and read a magazine in bed with a cup of tea in peace instead. Our accommodation had a washing machine and dryer so the Ergo was fresh and clean for the next day’s assault, and we had no repeat occurrences. Which is fabulous if you hate vomit as much as I do.
3. Selfies are the only way you’re going to know you were actually with the baby when she went on holiday
I took lots of photos of lots of lovely things – we all did. But if you’re solo, then there’s not too many people to take photos of you unless you ask! (Except Beth… didn’t she do a good job?!) And I’m not really into selfies so I really had to remind myself it was OK to do them… my kids are just way too cute so there’s forty-seven thousand photos of them and they look like they’ve been plonked in exotic locations by themselves as I’m nowhere to be seen. But you will regret it if you don’t take a couple of happy snaps of your grinning mug in the aforementioned exotic locations.
4. You will hear every third word spoken to you and miss at least 37% of any important points made
Babies are distracting. And they are constant. Pepper is seven months, and at that age where she eats everything and needs her mama a lot. She was a peach, but a loud one, so I was either fishing a bit of paper out of her mouth or listening to her squeak, squawk and squeal instead of paying attention to whatever else was going on. That can be interesting when you’re trying to learn something new, or someone is trying to find their inner self and make emotional breakthroughs and walk over broken glass. But I knew that would happen before I left – there was no down-time, so everything had to be done with baby in tow. Well except that broken glass bit, I didn’t see that coming!
5. Pack light
This should probably actually be number two. I cannot recommend it enough. I took a lot of clothes and things for Pepper in our actual bag, but for day trips I kept it to a minimum. One handbag and the Ergo, and for restaurants and stuff, just the Ergo (it has THE BEST pockets on the front that fit everything you need!). I can’t carry a million and one things and still stay sane so I pared it down as much as I could. There was always someone carrying my bag all the time (thank you Chantelle!) or hoisting the empty Ergo over their shoulder. All I took in the way of distractions for Pepper was my MummaBubba teething necklace (that she’s actually wearing above – she could chew on it to her heart’s content and it just hung around my neck), a matchbox car, a small plastic dog and a soft bag that had chewy things on it. She found other things to play with while we were away (including half of Emerson‘s toys – they were great at sharing!) and really didn’t require much. She’s also breastfed and isn’t really into mush baby food, so she would just gnaw on slices of fruit or sandwich crusts when the need arose.
6. It takes a village
I got a lot of help. There were plenty of people to palm the baby off to when I needed to grab something, and it was lovely to have someone come and say “here, I’ll take Pepper while you enjoy these spectacular views and eat your lunch with both hands”, for which I was very grateful. She wasn’t a huge effort, but it was nice to zone out for a bit!
She was a bit of a novelty too – lots of people just wanted to squish her for their own sake! And she was more than happy to share the love.
7. Relax and enjoy yourself
Travelling with a baby is only catastrophic if you let it be. Yes it’s tiring, yes, you’d much rather swan about in the Whitsundays on your own with a cocktail in your hand, but there are ways to enjoy yourself with a mini-me on your lap. You don’t want to get home thinking it was stressful and you barely saw anything because you were too busy changing nappies, you want to adapt and be flexible and occasionally set your sights a bit lower as to what is practical and achievable. I honestly had a fantastic time and I can’t wait to take the rest of the family back to both Hayman Island and Whitehaven beach.
Why Hayman? Some of you asked. Well, for me, here’s why:
* The resort is beautiful – lush gardens, white beaches, turquoise water. The rooms are fantastic and all the food I had there was incredible. It ticked all the (fussy) boxes I have about hotels.
*It couldn’t possibly be more family-friendly (although I wouldn’t mind a romantic getaway there, just quietly…) with excellent facilities and experiences for kids. There is also babysitting available, and a kids club which came very highly recommended. We had high chairs and portacots in our rooms, and there was even a little welcome pack of baby goodies for our stay. Every single staffmember was helpful and very good at anticipating our needs.
*As well as activities that you can pay to do, they have catamaran sailing, windsurfing, paddle skiing, tennis, squash, golf putting and chipping, billiards, the gym and fitness classes for free.
*The island has 16 hectares of botanical gardens, native birds, butterflies and wildlife.
*Hayman Island is committed to preserving the fragile ecosystem and the conservation of terrestrial species. The island works closely with marine park authorities and the Environmental Protection Agency to care for the area, and the resort offers a range of environmentally-friendly activities to its guests so they can explore and appreciate the natural surroundings.
Here, see for yourself why I love the Whitsundays so much…
Pepper and I were guests of Tourism Queensland. Huge thanks to Hayman Island, Blue Horizon Resort, Daydream Island, The Whitsundays, Queensland Holidays and everyone who made this trip possible. I’ll be back!