Last week we had our first family holiday abroad to Ibiza. I had been anxious about it ever since we first booked it. My main worries were James’ fussy eating and how we would keep him entertained. I was right to be worried, but it was also great to see James in a different environment and see how he adapted, especially as we are likely to live abroad again at some point in the future.
We had an afternoon flight, so my husband took James to the park in the morning to give him a run around, knowing that he would be spending all afternoon having to sit still. This allowed me to finish packing, or re-sorting the suitcases to make sure they were both within the 22 kg weight allowance. Going on holiday with a toddler meant we needed to take a lot of things, as well as buying a few new items. This included a new pushchair, as ours was far too big and bulky, some headphones so James could watch the iPad on the plane, some new toys to keep him entertained and a few more summer clothes. I certainly hadn’t thought about all the extra things we would need when we booked the holiday.
We were taking James to an airport, somewhere he hadn’t been since he was 4 months old so I wondered what he would make of it. I thought maybe he would feel scared, all of these people rushing around in an unfamiliar place, but I was wrong. He was absolutely fine. He just sat in his pushchair taking everything in. The only time he wasn’t happy was when I had to go in the body scanner. He screamed, and was not happy that mummy could no longer hold him. At the gate we let James out of the pushchair and let him run around a bit, until he got over excited and just wanted to climb on things, so CBeebies on my phone came to the rescue.
James loves vehicles, so boarding the plane was an exciting experience for him. We had a window seat which was brilliant as it meant James was entertained by looking at other planes, buses and oil tankers. We ended up being on the plane for quite a while before it took off, it was hot and quite noisy with several hen and stag parties on board. We were going to Ibiza after all. He fell asleep just before take off so we thought we were off to a winning start.
He only slept for 30 minutes but he was easily entertained with snacks, the iPad and his new toys. I will add that he refused to wear the new headphones we bought him and would just pull them off in annoyance every time we put them on him, but he was happy to watch it without the sound. James was brilliant on the plane and we were so proud of him, us on the other hand found it quite difficult. We have both flown many times and usually don’t have a problem with it, but it’s very different flying with a child. We were used to being able to watch films and relaxing, however this time we were far more aware of everything going on around us and being on edge in case James decided he was going to kick off. Personally I really didn’t like being in such a confined space with so many people, and being unable to zone out with a film. It turns out James dealt with it better than us.
We booked our holiday with Jet 2 Holidays and after getting our luggage we were met with a Jet 2 rep telling us where we needed to go for our private transfers. We wouldn’t normally pay the extra for a private transfer, but we thought an hour on a bus stopping at numerous hotels before our own could be a complete nightmare, and we didn’t know how James would handle the flight. The private transfer was luxurious and only took 30 minutes. A car seat wasn’t provided so James sat on my lap which he seemed to think was some sort of novelty as he looked out of the window in fascination.
We stayed at Tropic Garden Hotel and Apartments in Santa Eulària in Ibiza, a 4* family friendly hotel. We chose this hotel for a number of reasons – it has good reviews on Trip Advisor, it is family friendly and they were offering apartments with all-inclusive. It was important for us to have an apartment so we could put James to bed in a separate room to us. We know James isn’t good with lack of sleep so we wanted to keep his bedtime as near to normal as possible, and we knew if we were in the same room as him he wouldn’t think it was bedtime. We also paid extra for a sea view as we had read on Trip Advisor that these rooms were quieter when the evening entertainment was on. It was totally worth it waking up to some glorious sunrises. One thing that was great about this hotel was that they actually provided mattresses with their travel cots, and they were good thick matresses, something that UK hotels don’t seem to do.
James’ sleeping on the first night was awful. It took about an hour of crying / whinging before he actually fell asleep. He then woke up at 2:30 AM, which considering he normally sleeps through was a bit of a shock to the system. I was worried something was wrong and also worried how I was going to get him back to sleep. I went into the room he was in and he was wide awake and I think he was hoping he could get up and play. After a nappy change and some water I cuddled him until he was looking drowsy. However, every time I went to put him back in the cot he just screamed. I felt bad that he seemed unhappy and didn’t want me to leave him. What I really wanted to do was take him into bed with us, where I knew he would feel safe. He was in a completely different country, a different bedroom and a different cot. His eyes had seen a lot that day and I think he was feeling scared but also finding it hard to switch off and sleep. It felt like the early days as I was sending What’s App messages to my husband about what tactics we could try to get him back to sleep. As much as I wanted him to come in our bed I knew that in the long-term it wouldn’t do us any good, as James would think he would be able to come into our bed every night. Instead, we opted for the cruel to be kind method of putting him back in the cot and letting him cry, knowing that he would eventually self settle like he does at home. It felt bad doing this in a hotel as I worried he would wake other guests, but as my husband reminded me, it was a family hotel and the likelihood was that there were probably lots of kids crying at some point through the night. James cried to start with, then he changed to whinging and eventually self settled and went back to sleep after about 20 minutes.
The rest of the holiday he slept really well and by the end of it he seemed to enjoy going to bed. He also napped really well. We kept his nap routine pretty much the same as it is at home. He naps at about 1PM for anywhere between 1 – 2 hours. The first day he only did 40 minutes, but then the rest of the holiday he was doing 1 1/2 hours most days. We found going back up to the room for his nap worked really well for us. It got him out of the midday sun and allowed us to either sit on the balcony or watch some TV. On the last day we had to give him a pushchair nap due to check out time being 12 noon and having an evening flight. This was hard because it was hot to walk around at that time to get him to sleep and he then only slept for 30 minutes.
The weather varied greatly from thunderstorms to glorious sunshine. We would adapt our day to suit the weather. If the weather was good we would go to the hotel pool, and if it wasn’t so good we would walk to the nearby marina. On the first few days James loved the swimming pool. There was one small shallow pool which probably came up to around James’s waist. It was nice because he could walk around it in and we knew he would never be out of his depth. The second pool was shallow to start with and got deeper very gradually. James preferred this pool and especially when mummy and daddy were sat in the shallow end and he could run around us. We also bought him an inflatable with a steering wheel that he could sit in and we could push him around. His favourite part was when I would bump him into daddy. He thought this was absolutely hilarious and definitely put him in a good mood.
However, as the days went on James became hard to manage around the pool. He was losing interest and every time we would go into the pool he would scream, cry or walk out of it. It was getting quite embarrassing when all of the other children seemed to be having a wonderful time splashing around and our child was kicking off. We would alternate by going in the pool and then giving him a snack or some TV time on my phone on the sunbeds. However, it was becoming clear he just wasn’t liking the pool, which was a shame because we did. When we would go to pick a sunbed I felt sorry for the people who were next to us because I knew that in a few moments James would be kicking off and they would be wishing they were sat somewhere else. It appeared that what James actually wanted to do was walk around the pool areas exploring things. He wanted to walk over a bridge numerous times, look at the chairs and run his fingers along them to see what they felt like, or even crawl around the edge of the pool. The pool area became very slippy when it got wet so we would always hold his hand, which he wasn’t too happy with. I think he was also getting increasingly frustrated by not being able to tell us exactly what he wanted to do.
James has always been clingy to me, but recently has been a lot better. However, on holiday he resorted back to being very clingy. He often didn’t want to be left with my husband and would scream if he realised I wasn’t right by him. He was in an unfamilar environment and he felt safest when he was holding on to me. I could understand that, but at the same time I needed my own space. I wanted him to go off and play with his daddy so I could have a break and relax on the sunbeds, and his dad wanted nothing more than to play with him.
On a couple of days we walked to some of the nearby beaches. The last time James went to the beach was when we took him to Bournemouth. He wasn’t very keen on the sand and took a while to adjust but then ended up loving the sea as the waves would chase him up the beach. I was hoping for that sort of reaction in Ibiza. Unfortunately, James just clung to me every time I went to put him down. When I dangled his legs in the sea he would just cry. He was fascinated by watching the sea, but just didn’t want to play in it, which was a shame.
One thing he did love doing was running along a promenade near the marina. It was great for him to run along because there were decorative barriers in between the pavement and the road, so he was always safe. We just had to make sure he was looking where he was going and not about to run into people. As soon as we got to this stretch of pavement he would start trying to get out of the pushchair to let us know he wanted to run around.
This holiday was very different to the holidays we used to have before James. Gone are the days where we used to lie on sunbeds by the pool for hours on end reading or listening to music. This time if I was on a sunbed I had a toddler sat between my legs, climbing over me or lying across me, which does nothing for a good tan. I also learnt that bikinis and toddlers really don’t mix. The number of times my husband was laughing because James was putting his hand down my top or trying to pull me along by my bikini bottoms. We noticed that most families had brought the Grandparents along as well and we could totally understand why. We were envious of the free time the parents were getting to relax while the grandparents played with the children in the pool or took them for the night so the parents got a night off – now that is the way to go on holiday with children!
We came to the conclusion that although the holiday was stressful and hard work at times, it gave my husband a break from work where he could completely switch off from a stressful job and we were able to all spend time together. It took James out of his comfort zone and to be fair to him he did adjust to things quickly. We realised that he likes to explore things more than just playing in a pool and that he is brilliant on a plane. We are thinking that he may enjoy a city break more than a sun holiday by the pool, so that may be the next holiday for us to try.
James’ eating – well that was probably the most challenging and stressful part of the holiday, so my next blog will be all about that, if I can bring myself to relive it all to write about it.