When our good friends invited us to their wedding in Paros, we were convinced they said “Paris”. I mean, it made sense. She’s French, they’d met in Boston (where the civic ceremony was held), and he’s from a beautiful part of Romania called Timisoara (I love you Romania, but Paris… is Paris). So when talk started circulating of warm climates and beach vacations, we were a bit confused. It was only when we received the official invite that we realized they hadn’t been talking about Paris, at all.
Paros: Greek Island. Not French Capital.
Paros? The first thing we did was Google it. Long behold, nestled somewhere close to Naxos, floating in the middle of the Aegean Sea, was Paros. After 2 wonderful days spent lounging in Santorini, we took a 3 hour(ish) ferry ride to Paros. The ferry, by the way, operated by Blue Star Ferries, was BY FAR, the best ferry ride I have ever, ever taken.
First of all, it was enormous. There was no cramming in between fellow passengers, running to get the first seat, or panic that you might be left standing for hours on end. Second of all, it was luxurious! Of course, this is coming from the backpacker who camped on the floor under a table on the ferry from Helsinki to Stockholm – so maybe take my opinion with a grain of (sea) salt. Tons of space for everyone to sit on couches, with tables on every level and a restaurant/cafe smack in the middle of things. Not to mention, the bathrooms which had walls facing out to sea and undoubtedly the best view on the boat.
Vacations with a baby can be stressful, but they can also be fun – if you have everything you need on site to make it as hassle-free as possible.
After coming back from two holidays with a three month old, I’ve learned a thing or two about questions you might want to ask the hotel before making your booking. Going away with the wee one? Here’s a checklist of questions to ask before you leave, to make sure you holiday with a happy baby on your hands:
Where will your baby sleep?
Before you go, double check that the hotel can accommodate whatever sleep pattern you’ve worked so hard to establish at home. If your baby co-sleeps with you, then ask for a king size bed. If your baby is already in a crib, call in advance to see a) if your hotel offers cribs to guests b) if you can reserve one (sometimes they have limited numbers available) c) if they also provide sheets, or if you need to bring your own linens.
Where can you find medicine or get access to a doctor?
On a recent trip to Mexico, my daughter’s arm got caught between elevator doors and we had to call for the hotel doctor to see if her arm was broken – a new parent’s nightmare. Thankfully, the doctor was available for consultation, but I won’t hesitate in the future to call ahead to see if there is a doctor on-call at all times, just to make sure. It’s also good to know where the nearest hospital and pharmacy are, in case you need anything, from aloe vera to diaper rash cream. Of course, I also recommend taking along a mini-first aid kit for emergencies. Think of bringing things like: Children’s Tylenol for pain relief (thankfully I brought some with us to Mexico, and we used this to soothe her after her poor little arm got crushed); probiotics or over-the-counter medication for gassy tummies; syringes for giving medicine; thermometer to check for fever; a few band-aids; and anything specific to your little one.
Where can you find baby food?
Our Mexican holiday was certainly an adventure! Now breastfeeding moms won’t have this problem, but if you’re formula feeding, you’ll definitely want to take note! During our one-week holiday down south, not only did we have to call on the hotel doctor, but with a full day left on our trip, we ran out of formula! Before leaving, I made sure that I knew where the next major city was – unfortunately it was an hour away, so when formula started to trickle down, my mind started racing! What do I do? Risk it and hope we have enough? Head to the village nearby and see what I can find? Or head to the city directly in search of something safe for baby? As it happened, there was one pharmacy open in the village nearby, offering two types of formula for newborns. Unfortunately, neither of them were lactose-free which meant an afternoon of tummy troubles. Lesson learnt: Next time, I will absolutely locate a store carrying the type of formula we need – before arriving on-site.
Of course, formula isn’t the only thing you could run out of. Scouting out local shops where you can stock up on diapers, wipes etc. is also a good idea, but at least with those you can improvise!
How will you sterilize both water and bottles?
If your baby is sensitive to cold formula, then it’s a good idea to inquire as to whether or not your hotel has a microwave on hand. Of course, this isn’t the only (or necessarily recommended) way to heat a baby bottle, but it sure does make things easier (plus you can also boil water and sanitize nipples in there, if you’r really stuck). If there’s no microwave available, you’re going to want to ensure there is a kettle on hand for purifying water and sterilizing both bottles and nipples – especially if you’re traveling in a region known for poor water quality. It’s also a good idea to inquire about where you can purchase bottled water for formula. Remember to buy water with the least amount of minerals, as those aren’t good for your little one and can do more harm than boiling the questionable water from the tap.
How will you keep formula/breast milk cold?
If you’re not making formula on the go – and especially if your baby is still getting up in the middle of the night to feed – you’ll want to call the hotel beforehand to make sure that there is a fridge or mini-bar in your room, suitable for storing formula that you can make ahead of time. Asking about an ice machine is also a good idea, since that will allow you to make and store bottles whenever you want to pick up and head off the resort.
Hotel dining: Know what to expect
While it may seem as if you can dine anywhere you go, having a little one does complicate things. In Mexico, for example, thanks to hoards of mosquitoes that decided to infiltrate the open doors of the dinner buffet, my husband and I took turns rotating between taking Luna back to the room, and bringing drinks and desert back to share. Had we known that mosquitoes were a particular problem that time of year, we probably would have looked for a hotel which restaurants that were better insulated. Instead, we ended up rushing through nighttime meals and scratching ourselves to sleep. Besides the mosquito issue, dining was never too much of a problem, until we went to book dinner at one of the “a la carte” restaurants available on-site. Never had it crossed our mind that children would not be allowed into the restaurant, but that’s exactly what we faced! Not to say that would have changed our decision to book where we did, but knowing how open resorts in places like Cuba are to families with children, it would definitely cross our minds the next time we looked at choosing between Mexico and other hot destinations.
One last suggestion? Scout out the bar as soon as you get there (if not before) and figure out where you can get coffee first thing in the morning, and wine delivered to your room at night. You’ll thank me later. Happy travels!
Whether you want to trace Holden Caulfield’s coming-of-age journey through Manhattan or follow Jack Kerouac on his iconic travels through the country, traveling is a reward in itself. You’ve now decided on forging your own travel story, but how does one prepare for a trip that’s worthy of a story?
Whether you’ve just bought your first car or have outfitted your old bicycle with saddle bags for a cross-country odyssey, the first step on your trip may be the hardest. You simply have to pack your bag and go. Once on the road, you will find a community of travelers that will embrace you and a life full of adventure.