As much as we’d all love to be @thebucketlistfamily, the reality of travelling with a toddler can be quite daunting! Planning our trip to Bali was equal parts exciting and stressful- we were looking forward to two weeks of sunshine, swimming and nasi goreng, but preparing ahead was a must for me.
When I travelled pre-baby I loved to fly by the seat of my pants. Book accommodation when I reached the destination, talk to the locals about where to eat, and spontaneously discover daily adventures. Knowing that I was travelling with my almost two year old, however, brought out the super organised (bordering on OCD) in me. Suddenly thoughts of bali belly, kidnapping, scooter accidents, jet lag and ‘what the f will happen for nap times’ were plaguing me!
I spent a month researching and planning. I spoke to a few amazing instagram mamas who had travelled to Bali with young children, googled the heck out of “Bali with a toddler”, spoke to friends of friends and I ended up with an incredible, safe and fun family holiday planned. Yes, we made a few rookie errors (like the red eye home. Never again.) But all in all we had the most amazing holiday.
Let’s start at the very beginning…
You do not need as many clothes as you think. Repeat that as you pack your own things. Clothes can be reworn, you will spend a lot of time in your swimmers, and 2 kg of washing will only cost you $10-$15.
Try to take items that can be repurposed. (A muslin swaddle can be used as a light blanket, a comforter, a shade cloth, something to sit on at the beach or folded up to use as padding in a high chair or baby seat.)
What you may want to sacrifice space for are your preferred brand of nappies and wipes. The brands in Indonesia are different to Australia and personally the thought of dealing with an allergic reaction or nappy rash while on holidays was not worth it. We took 2 sleeves of nappies and 2 boxes of wipes. The great thing is that as your trip progresses the nappy & wipes bag gets lighter. Swim nappies are difficult to find so make sure you have enough of them!
Be sure to take some baby panadol, nurofen, insect spray and enough sunscreen for your whole trip. (A decent sunscreen let alone a kids sunscreen will be expensive to buy over there! We spent $33 AUD on a 50+ toddler sunscreen towards the end of our trip. I was kicking myself remembering the two full tubes I’d left at home!)
Basically, less is best- aside from the essentials!
If you’re planning to move around throughout your holiday, soft suitcases are much easier to handle than hard shells. But then hard shells feel much sturdier and more secure… We took one of each and this was perfect. Remember that it will probably be; one of you in charge of BOTH suitcases, while the other is in charge of the toddler and carry on bags. So pack as light as you can!
Everly has a Trunki ride-on suitcase and it was as much fun as it was helpful. Toddler hops on, you drag them around the airport/hotel lobby. No hassles with walking, holding hands or carrying a 12kg+ kid. Everly loved the novelty of it and I was glad for the hassle free transport! The Trunki is carry on size for most airlines, so we used this for her toys, spare outfit, nappies, wipes and snacks. Chris and I shared his satchel style nappy bag as our carry on. (Gone are the days I need 3 books, a neck pillow, sleep mask and an ipad for a flight. I was lucky to get through four pages of the inflight magazine.) This meant that once the suitcases were checked in, one of us carried the satchel and the other pulled Everly around on her Trunki. The more hands free you have, the better!
Less. Is. Best. Say it with me.
Flying with a baby has got nothin’ on flying with a toddler! Babies don’t move. They sleep, eat, sleep and poop. The aircraft engine doubles as a white noise machine and, if you’re lucky, baby sleeps through your flight and you arrive at your destination feeling like a relatively normal person. We’d travelled to Tasmania and New Zealand previously when Everly was a baby, and were lucky enough to have had relatively easy flights. Toddlers, however, can walk, run, climb, undo seatbelts, talk, yell and need constant entertainment. Remember those days of watching a movie with your second glass of chardonnay in hand? Those days are over.
Rookie mistake #1 getting an early morning flight to Bali.
Rookie mistake #2 getting a red eye flight home from Bali.
Yes, you generally go with the cheapest available, but if the budget can stretch to it, try for a midday flight- nap time! I don’t know how or why I thought that;
A. Everly would sleep when we arrived in Bali at midday the first day. (Of course she was exhausted, but “BALI! NEW PLACE!” All the smells, sounds, unfamiliarity= she was revved right up. No nap.)
Or B. That on the night we left, she would sleep on me at the airport for a few hours, transfer to the plane with no issues and sleep through until we arrived home the next morning. Even sounds dumb when I type it out now.
So, aim for a midday or early afternoon flight, but whatever time of day it is, you’ll need entertainment. You may think “There will be a tv screen, she can watch a movie”. If your 2 year old will sit through two, two hour movies then I want to know your secrets! We were gifted a gorgeous activity bag, called a Very Busy Bag, and it lives up to its name! Water colouring and finger puppet books, super washable markers, play doh, wheely toys, stickers, sensory toys AND an adorable little plush toy made this the ultimate ‘toy box’ for Ev. Not only was it useful on the plane, it also kept her entertained at the airport, on buses, in taxis, hotel lobbies, by the pool, in hotel rooms. All I added in were her two favourite books (for reading before bed) and a couple of extra plastic toys for playing in the pool.
Our first night’s stay was at the Grand Mega Resort. Here we come to what could have been Rookie mistake #3 if it hadn’t been for the foresight of the hotel. The wonderful Concierge said they had placed us in the room nearest the pool and dining area just in case it would help. Turns out, it did! We set up the baby monitor, put Everly down to sleep and then crept out to a table by the pool to have dinner. The monitor worked perfectly so we were able to have a few hours of adult time while also in range of the monitor and in sight of the hotel room door. Winning!
This actually set the bar for the rest of our accommodation over the trip. As we checked in to each place we explained the baby monitor situation, and each resort was (luckily) able to place us in accommodation near the dining and pool areas where we could see the room door and be in monitor range. This meant that during nap times and when we put Everly down for the night, we were free to leave the room and enjoy some baby free time while also feeling completely at ease about Ev being safely tucked away, close by.
If this sounds like it would work for you, then contact each hotel/villa prior to your trip and request accommodation as close to the dining or pool area as possible! Alternatively, make sure you have a balcony or outside sitting area that you can hang out in while your kiddie sleeps.
Unless you co sleep or your toddler is old enough to be in a big bed, you’ll need to request portacots at each place you stay. These are not always the most comfy models out there- once or twice we asked for an extra blanket or beach towel to put underneath the topsheet for a bit of extra padding.
Another option would be to use a hire company and hire your own cot or porta cot. They deliver to your accommodation for a very small fee and the hire cost is around $10-$20 a day. If you’re settled in one spot for more than a few days, I think this would be an excellent investment. I actually wish we’d done it for the final week when we were based in Seminyak for 8 days! You could even wait until you check in to see the quality of portacot that the hotel provides, and then give someone like Bali Baby Hire a call if you think that you (and your toddler) would be more comfortable with something sturdier or with a proper cot mattress.
Request a mosquito net, or take one with you. They WILL get in to your rooms no matter what lengths you go to!
Getting around and day to day
Some taxis will provide baby seats in their vehicles but you need to request them ahead of time. You can most definitely request them through private drivers, or you can hire one youreslf. Surprisingly (for me!) I was comfortable enough keeping Everly on my lap in the back seat for our taxi rides. To be honest we didn’t have too many of them, so it wasn’t a huge issue. The only time I did wish we’d paid the extra for a car seat was when we had a 2 hour trip to the zoo. It wasn’t a concern about road safety, it was more that it’s not super comfortable having a toddler on your lap for this long!
Definitely get to know one driver or one company while you’re there (I’m happy to pass on the details for the driver we used!) It’s always nice to get to know someone personally, and even nicer when they greet your child in the morning with, “Hi Miss Everly! Did you end up finding out where the green sheep was?”
For day to day use you can hire a plethora of things like cots, monitors, high chairs, bottle sterilisers, toys, car seats, sun shades, etc etc without worrying about going over your 20kg bag limit. Again, these will also be delivered to your accommodation so they’re ready and waiting for you! Your Reds Baby may be your pride and joy but for cripes sake do NOT take it with you! We were lucky enough to snap up a super light, easy to pop up and down stroller from Bali Baby Hire and it was a godsend! I was adamant that we weren’t going to take even our tiny travel pram with us- with two suitcases and two carry on bags I knew we’d already have our work cut out for us- there’s only so many hands you have free when wrangling a toddler onto a boat, into a horse and cart, onto planes and into taxis! Do yourself a favour and leave the pram at home. Remember the mantra? Less Is Best.
Food, drink and the threat of the dreaded Bali Belly
Having a toddler who I consider to be one of the world’s fussiest eaters, I was incredibly nervous about the food and drink sitch while travelling. If you’ve got a great eater then you won’t have any probs! But if yours does turn up their nose at yoghurt one day and then eat 1kg of it the next, you might want to take note of the following:
Take snacks. We took 10 packets of pureed fruit, 10 packets of custard, 1 tin of Bubs toddler formula and a few packets of arrowroot biscuits. When we arrived we stopped at the nearest convenience store and bought coconut biscuits, dried fruit and vege chips. This meant that wherever we were- in the hotel for the day, or out and about- I knew I had at least one packet of something (fruit or dairy) and some dry food snacks that Everly would eat. That combined with a cup of formula each day, meantthat I wasn’t stressed if she refused everything offered to her for lunch, and only ate two spoonfuls of the strange pesto pasta for dinner. We did have some great days where she chowed down on local food all day (mild satay and spring rolls were a winner!) But we had an equal amount of times that she hands down refused ‘real’ food- so I was grateful I had formula, packet food and dry snacks for her.
My top tip (apart from taking snacks with you) is to load up your toddler at breakfast. Almost everywhere has brekkie buffets with cereal, fruit salad, toast, eggs, pastries. Food that they’re used to. We let Everly go nuts at every breakfast. “You want baked beans with your watermelon? Go ahead. Toast and a custard pastry? All yours. You won’t eat your eggs but you want my (exactly the same) eggs? Go for gold.” If they eat a decent breakfast then half of your work for the day is done.
If your kiddie isn’t yet drinking confidently from cups (like Everly is not), be sure to take a few of their preferred sippy cups. Almost every one of our holiday pics has Everly holding a Bbox in it! Dehydration is one of the main reasons that babies and toddlers are admitted to hospital in Bali so I wanted to stay vigilant about hydration! Not only was Everly doing a lot more exercise through the trip, it was also hotter and in 70% humidity! We usually had one Bbox in the fridge full of milk or formula, one in my bag filled with water, and another floating around the room or pool with juice.
Now, obviously we all know that you can’t drink the water in Bali. But another thing to remember is that you can’t eat any food that may have been washed in the water. Fruit (unless it’s been peeled), salad (unless you know absolutely that you’re in a reputable venue and they’ve washed the food in purified water) and you can’t wash things like sippy cups or dummies with tap water. Ask the hotel to clean these for you with purified water- they do it all the time for guests, it won’t be a problem!
While you don’t want to ruin your holiday by being overly paranoid, you do need to remember how much smaller and less developed the kiddies digestive systems are. Just be careful. As my GP said, if you exercise common sense plus a bit of extra caution around their food, you’ll be fine!
I hope a few of these tips have been useful, stay tuned on Friday for a post on the places we stayed and visited!
I’ve linked as many mentioned products as possible- some of these were gifted to us for the trip, others are simply linked for your benefit! Any words and opinions on gifted products are entirely my own.