Travelling With A Baby (or Why Holidays Will Never Be The Same Again)

I went out and drank wine with Mrs Finlayson and Mrs Watts last night and woke up with a sore head.  Then I discovered Chuy had forgotten the difference between a couch and a litter tray.
So excuse me while I dry wretch,  thank goodness Pip Harry is guest posting today.
I’ve just been to Fiji with my toddler (our first family holiday). We had a lovely time, when I wasn’t in catatonic shock. In my new life, I’m a mum. In my old life, I was former travel editor for Woman’s Day (a sweet gig that enabled me to globe-trot my way, in a decidedly A-list fashion, everywhere from the Maldives to the ski slopes of Japan). When pregnant, I always assumed that my travel experiences would hold me in good stead when it came to family holidays. I may have even smugly thought our first family holiday would be No Sweat. That holidays generally would be Just Like They’d Always Been. Well, I’m here to tell you they’re not. And then some.

LUGGAGE

THEN: An oversized handbag packed with all the travel essentials including gossip mags, noise cancelling headphones and a phone loaded with TV shows and music.

NOW: A battered backpack stuffed with all the travel essentials including soft toys, hard toys, picture books, milk, sippy cup, nappies, wipes, spare dummies, sultanas – and tiny teddies for bribing purposes. No space left for my personal items.

CHECK IN

THEN: Left home in pre-ordered car, swanned into first-class lounge with plenty of time to spare. Sipped from tinkly champagne glass and nibbled on mini quiches whilst swapping exotic travel stories with fellow journos. Boarded flight and sunk into plush economy plus or business class seat. Enjoyed chef-designed meals, uninterrupted stretch of movies and snoozed after imbibing sedative.
NOW: Loaded staggering amount of crap into car (both travel partner and I were sure two hours and a half hours would be plenty of time. We were dreaming). Ran late, panicked and ended up in long-term car park. Waited for two buses to get us to international terminal. Time flight closed: 8am. Time we arrived at check in: 8.02am. Headed back to long term car park after having huge tantrum (me, not toddler)

FIRST DAYS

THEN: Arrived at destination, met by welcoming party and ushered into rock star-style luxury suite. Delighted by thoughtful gift placed in the room (such as a giant cookie emblazoned with: WELCOME MS HARRY!) Relaxed with hot bath in free standing tub, followed by special dinner featuring expensive champagne and exquisite meal fit for royal family. More sleep.

NOW: First two days of trip spent at Wollongong Best Western waiting for the next flight to Nadi. Finally checked in. Ushered wiggling, screaming toddler through snaking customs line by singing Night Garden songs in her ear (‘Yes, my name is Iggle Piggle!’). Lost iphone in the disabled toilets. No time or space to eat so scarfed down Maccas Egg McMuffin, which travel partner snuck onto flight. Entertained toddler with sticker books, nursery rhymes, games, toys, milk, passing her back and forth, encouraging her to take a nap. Which took up first 20 minutes.

INTINERARY

THEN: Action packed. Depending on country, could be on morning trip to local fish markets, a safari game drive, yoga class on beach or a stroll along Great Wall of China. Nap. Exquisite lunch. Afternoon might be (again depending on country) a spot of snowmobiling, swim around a tropical island or bungy jumping. Pre dinner nap or spa treatment. Cocktails and bar hopping til wee hours.

NOW: After dropping toddler with gorgeous Fijian babysitter lay comatose by pool and pretended to read book. Occasionally, crawled to bar to order plastic cup of gin and tonic. Didn’t even dip a toe into Fiji’s legendary clear waters, because that involved walking down to the beach and fetching flippers from activities hut. Only organised activity was a 1 hour massage where I was still able to be comatose. Bedtime: 9.30pm.

CUISINE

THEN: A whirlwind exploration of taste and textures. Imbibed ice wine in Canada, slurped sea urchin in Japan and tucked into vanilla-scented lobster in Tahiti. Wandered local markets and food stalls and ate at chef’s tables in bustling working kitchens. Scored cooking tips from top chefs like Anthony Bourdain and Tetsuya.

NOW: Purchased all-inclusive meal and drink voucher. Ate every meal (delicious, actually) at our resort’s one restaurant after being given a fluorescent plastic wristband. Pre-ordered toddler’s meals for the day including the gourmet ‘moo juice’ (milk), wiggling worms (spaghetti) and fruitilucious sundae (fruit and ice-cream).

ROMANCE

THEN: When travelling with partner, he and I would sleep in, eat a late, leisurely breakfast reading the papers, swish side-by-side on the ski slopes or hold hands whilst snorkelling. After sharing a candlelit meal, we would then loll in private plunge pool or hot tub, chatting. More sleep.

NOW: Travel partner and I wake at 5.15am, forced to surrender bed to wide-awake toddler and fire up laptop with back-to-back Wiggles, Night Garden and Elmo so as not to wake neighbours. Shared midday lunch in the chaotic kids section, grabbed quick afternoon nap while toddler slept. Lolled in the kids’ pool with delighted toddler. Couldn’t help noticing how cute and funny she is and how much she was enjoying her first overseas trip. Realised life’s far more magical than it ever was then. Already planning next family holiday…

 Pip Harry is now working as a freelance journalist and writing her first book. She’s on Twitter as @PipHaz, and dishes up relationship advice as one of the reality chicks at http://www.realitychick.com.au./