Having a baby may clip your wings somewhat, but as Oliver Driver discovers, it is still possible to get up and go.
This is the end, we thought. No more big city adventures, no more island escapes, no more drinking Coronas under the Mexican sun or exploring the streets of Rome, greasy slices of pizza dripping down newly purchased pants. Forget about music festivals in foreign countries, full moon parties on foreign beaches, and belly laughs and shenanigans with foreign strangers in foreign bars. You are home-bound now, parents of a child, and that child needs things – all the things you have in your house.
And even if you are bold enough to pack bags and venture out, where are you going to go? All those resorts you used to pick because they didn’t allow kids now DON’T ALLOW YOUR KIDS! Adults-only resorts seemed like such a good idea before we were parents; no screaming, crying, wailing tikes under your feet. How we used to look down in disgust at the families getting off the boat at the family island, with their 45 suitcases and nine different types of sun block.
But now we would be them and some younger, more beautiful, versions of the we that we once were would be looking down their well-tanned noses at the us that we have now become. The horror – who could face that? Not us, we thought. No more travel for us. From now on our holidays will be New Zealand beaches and occasional trips to Rotorua to see mud, which is hot.
But then, hope. Light at the end of the international tunnel: a buggy built for the traveller, they said. The nano, another liberating design from Mountain Buggy, could apparently fold up small enough to go in the overhead luggage compartment. And it came with a thing called a cocoon; a portable darkened cot for baby to sleep in, which could be attached to the nano. Who knew baby equipment could bring such promise? Could we travel again, just like we used to? No, probably not. Well, not quite – but almost.
First we went to Sydney, a hop across the ditch. Baby was just four months old but we had the nano and the cocoon so we felt pretty good. The flight was a pretty simple affair in the end. The nano lived up to its claims and folded like it was origami, sliding with ease into the luggage compartment above our heads. We carried on just a nappy bag for the baby, and that was enough. We fed her as the plane took off and she slept for an hour. The plane ride was short, so whenever she started to cry, we reminded each other that everyone was wearing headphones and, besides, anyone who was annoyed we had a crying baby didn’t have a crying baby, so their lives were pretty good and they could just put up with it.
We found a couple of days in Sydney to be quite manageable. Baby slept each night in the cocoon, and – the joy of babies that age – once she was asleep, we discovered we could take her out to restaurants and wheel her around the streets of Sydney. We even enjoyed a huge light festival one night and she stayed asleep the whole time.
It was hard at first because we wanted this trip to be like the ones we had had before baby, but babies don’t actually work that way. Sometimes they get upset right when you want to look round a gallery. Or start screaming at the breakfast buffet when you have a plate full of crispy bacon, and you have to stop and remember that you are a parent, and maybe today you don’t get to go to that gallery or have that second helping of holiday bacon.
Once we got into her groove we were an awesome little team. We went on ferry rides and sat in the sun drinking bottles of champagne and milk. We saw friends and shopped for clothes. Baby laughed for the first time as I was trying on jeans, which made my fat belly laugh and laugh along with her.
The flight home was harder but not so hard as to scare us off. We can do this, we thought. But that was just a three day skip across the Tasman – what about a week? On a beach, on an island. Would we need 45 suitcases and nine types of sun block?
You need to pick your holiday destination with kids in mind. None of those fancy remote resorts will do any more – you want somewhere that has supermarkets that sell emergency nappies for when you run out of nappies. Which you will.
Rarotonga is perfect. It’s paradise for a start, but it’s both an affordable one and one filled with families, so you fit right in. Occasionally you might encounter the single young things, but they are outnumbered and they know it, so they show some respect.
We stayed at Moana Sands Beachfront Villas and this is, without a doubt, the place you should stay in Rarotonga if you have children. The villas are more like apartments, each with two bedrooms, two ensuite bathrooms and a fully equipped kitchen. They're really spacious – handy when travelling with baby and associated gear – with a living area and balcony boasting great views of the lagoon.
As the name suggests, the Moana Sands Beachfront Villas are right on the beach – one of the most beautiful beaches on the island. Plus, they are literally a thirty-second walk-up-the-drive away from a supermarket loaded to the gunnels with nappies and everything else you could possibly need, like ice cream and chocolate and wine. There is a restaurant just up the road and opposite that is a shop where, if you stand in just the right place at just the right time, there is enough WiFi signal for you to check your emails while rocking your baby back and forth in a buggy on the sand.
Travel with a baby is like anything else with a baby: shopping, parties, yoga, the supermarket, the Easter Show … it’s all possible, but harder than it was. More planning is required, and you need to take way more stuff, but it’s better – because you’re a family now, and that’s a different kettle of fish to being single or a couple or really anything else. Two plus one makes more than three. That’s the thing I never understood when I looked down my young nose at that dad, as he struggled down the beach with his 45 suitcases – how happy he was. He didn’t wish he were me, for he already had been and now he had more than a tan or a six-pack, or sleep-ins and parties. He had a daughter walking beside him, wearing nine types of sun block, looking up at her Dad being so strong.
WHAT TO TAKE:
■ A Mountain Buggy nano travel stroller and cocoon
■ Baby monitor
■ Carseat (unless you can hire one)
■ Portable black-out blinds/shade covers
■ Wipes – more than you think you’ll need
■ Swim nappies
■ Small bottles of hand sanitiser
■ Multi-purpose healing cream/nappy balm
■ First aid supplies (Pamol, antiseptic, plasters)
■ Plastic bags for dirty nappies and clothes
■ Changing pad
■ Lightweight blankets and wraps – can multi-task as change mats, burp cloths, shade cloths, breastfeeding covers, play mats etc
■ Portable night-light
■ Baby carrier/sling
■ Portacot (or check if the hotel has one)
■ Spare everything: dummies, bottles, sippy cups, spoons, bibs, sunhats...
■ Favourite toys and comforters
■ Two outfits a day for baby, so you don’t need to do any washing
|Oliver Driver directs TV, film and theatre but also owns a bar, two dogs and a motorcycle. He became a dad for the first time last year. Oliver and his family stayed in Rarotonga courtesy of Moana Sands Beachfront Hotel. Book your family's stay at moanasands.co.ck.|
Photography: Top, Driver family. Bottom, Moana Sands Beachfront Villas