For me travelling with children has never been an obstacle but last year we tried something different and were shocked about the outcome. Instead of travelling together as a family of four, I went on a trip with each of the children (4 and 9 years old at the time of travel). They both could choose a destination but it basically came down to the fact that the place must have a pool and sunshine. We are explorers but sometimes you just need to slow down, switch on flight mode on your phone and read a silly book. For a week.
Little Harry chose Italy. I think he was the initiator of this whole thing because I kept hearing “Can we go to Italy?” from him FOR MONTHS! I wasn’t sure he actually knows what and where Italy is and it did not suit our budget either. Instead, I found an amazing offer for an ultra-all-inclusive holiday in Bodrum, Turkey. Although I had sworn to myself I’d never go to a resort in Turkey, I gave in to this offer as it looked like one of those too-good-to-be-true things. And it totally was too good to be true! I mean, do you know even know what “ultra-all-inclusive” is? I didn’t, so I googled it. Full board, sea-view air conditioned room, Lavazza coffee and ice-cream as a midday snack, pool snack bar, local wine for dinner (I even didn’t know Turkey made decent wine!). Amazing location and facilities. We had found a paradise! When I told the little one we’re going to Turkey, he just asked if they have a pool there. My answer was positive, and he was ready to go straight away!
Bella chose Spain (surprise, surprise…). She always says she’s Isabella, the queen of Spain. I don’t tell her that now the queen is Letizia. You know, just to keep that Isabella story going… Out of all the offers to Spain, one sorted out just fine. A cheap Wizzair flight to London, spending a whole day exploring London and then catching a last minute flight to Mallorca.
So, this post covers two destinations: Bodrum, a district in the southwestern Aegean Region of Turkey, and Mallorca, one of Spain’s Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean (skip the Turkish part and scroll down to read about Mallorca).
TURKEY WITH MY BOY IN MAY
Turkey is a popular holiday destination in our part of the world. It’s one of the cheapest and most convenient. Istanbul itself is a whole world you can keep exploring for weeks but most people will opt for one of the resort areas. There are quite a few depending on your budget and goals but I am not an expert in this field. Visiting Bodrum has been the only time I’ve been to Turkey and this post is more about the experience of traveling alone with a child rather than a trip to Turkey.
We stayed at Goddess of Bodrum Isis Hotel. Booking through a travel agency at a very low moment for the Turkish travel industry last year, it all came up to 700 EUR for both of us (convenient charter flights, transfers, ultra-all-inclusive for 7 days, unlimited non-alco minibar at no extra cost, sea view room with a balcony). The only extra money I spent during that week was for wine to bring home as a souvenir. Other than that, we paid the invoice and lived happily ever after, which in our case was the next 7 days.
What did we do during that week? Well, if you have been in an all-inclusive resort, you know that everything is planned in between the meal times. Breakfast, pool time, ice-cream/coffee time, nap time, lunch time, pool time, dinner time, game time, sleep and repeat. I managed to read a book ( a big accomplishment for my then overloaded mind), get some tan and the little one entertained everyone in the pool. At first, the life guard was very alert when Harry swam into the deep side of the pool. Then the life guard saw that I’m there and that the little one actually CAN swim – with or without any swimming devices on, and on the third day they both were good friends already. I felt happy because there were not too many people around and those who were there were mostly locals. My brain slowed down and went into the relaxing mode.
I’d lie if I said this week was easy. It still is all about your child and on trips like this you don’t have the other parent who’d share the responsibility of looking after the kid when you are tired and want to take a short nap. Or when you really want to go to the jetty to watch the beautiful sunset but the little one announces he’s not going anywhere. I really admire all the single parents out there! At the same time it was one of the most beautiful weeks in my life because I realised how much my children need my undivided attention. Harry kept asking all sorts of questions all week long and they were pretty existential. I tried my best to explain why everyone thinks God lives in the heaven, why some women wear scarves around their heads or cover their faces and jump into the pool all dressed, why people die, why people get married, why all people don’t speak Latvian, why people like party music, why fish live in the ocean, why, why, why… It still hasn’t changed. His “why”s are never an age thing. He’s been asking questions and being curious since he started talking. It can be tiring but it also gives me a huge insight into what’s going on in his mind at that moment. It was that week when I found out he likes the same music I like, he reacts to things the same way I do, he is this introvert type of person that I am, and this is exactly what made everything harder because you are suddently in a place where you see yourself in a mirror and there is no opposite nearby that would attract you and make the whole energy neutral or at least not so tense. But it was also the week when I heard him say: “It’s so good that we came here. Just the two of us.” Boom! It was like a lightning. You think that your children want family time most but it turns out they want just you and no-one else. During this week he didn’t mention his sister. At all. I mean, their bond is amazing and they don’t fight (much). But I realized he’s thinking about other things and feeling more relaxed than ever just because he knows – mummy is there just for him and there’s nobody who can change it today or tomorrow. He called his daddy a couple of times mostly to tell him about the most exciting events of the day – the pool or ice-cream time. But other than that there were just never-ending questions while chilling by or in the pool.
Our room had a lovely balcony and we spent evenings there playing UNO or some other card games. I admit I bought a bottle of wine at the hotel’s minimarket. I wanted to buy a corkscrew as well but the guy said he only had one. Of course, I know how to get the wine out if you don’t have a corkscrew but… I must have looked pretty desperate because the guy offered to open the bottle right there at the shop. I felt relieved and spent the next 3 minutes watching him trying to pull the cork out. It was stuck and somehow didn’t want to move. I’m not going to discuss the potential quality of the wine because you know – sometimes the best wine is the one that you can get at that particular moment. The wine was good by the way. And I was amused. I had never kept other people waiting in the line while a shop assistant is trying to open a wine bottle for me.
During this week we had everything we could ask for – sunshine, relaxation, great food (gosh, AMAZING food!), nice view, fireworks and all the time in the world just for the two of us.
SPAIN WITH MY GIRL IN JUNE
Our trip to Mallorca started with a really early flight to London. I had been wanting to bring Bella to London for a short city break/girls getaway but somehow it never happened, therefore I was pretty happy to see that we’ll have about 14 hours to kill in London before we catch our last minute flight to Mallorca. The Brits have way too many possibilities to grab great last minute deals! We always have to add an extra flight to the UK. When I manage to get the two things together and they don’t involve spending a night at some crazy airport, I always feel like a champion! Like in this case.
First stop – London Luton airport. We found a corner where baggage storage services are provided, went out, found a bus that goes to the centre (we chose Green Lines just because the bus was ready to leave in a second but there is also National Express) and after an hour or so we got off at Victoria Station stop. Before our trip, I had booked a hop-on/hop-off bus tour tickets valid for 24 hours and we were so happy to see one of the Golden Tours buses waiting just in front of us. We got on and enjoyed the ride. It was a glorious sunny day, not one of those typical London ones, and we chose to sit on the upper deck feeling the wind dancing in our hair and sunshine warming up our noses. The ticket also included a short River Thames boat ride. We got a thematical kids book before boarding, which was a nice surprise and kept Bella busy for a while. During the day, we used the blue bus line 3 times and each time we had a different live guide telling us lots of interesting facts about London. There are 3 different lines but only the blue one comes with a live guide. At midday, Bella fell asleep on my lap and I just enjoyed listening to the guide and getting to know London a bit better during the time when London was preparing for the Queen’s birthday celebration and for the notorious Brexit referendum.
On our first hop on ride, the guide suggested visiting the National Gallery. Since Bella is the artist of the family and since the visit to the gallery is free, we decided to hop off and go admire some paintings. I ended up having my private guide (i.e., Bella) who explained me bits and pieces about painting in general and at the end of our visit she concluded that I don’t understand art. Pffffffffffff… kids, right?
When we arrived in Mallorca, it was a middle of the night already. All we wanted was to sleep. To our surprise, we got a room in a building across the street from the main hotel building but the room came with a fantastic sea view. The following days we would sit on the balcony in the evenings and easily watch the artists perform on the little stage just across the road. We would also talk a lot. About… life.
The bonus of travelling with an older child is having the ability to explore the destination a bit more. We had two entries on our to-do list— visiting Palma Aquarium and Drach Caves.
First, we caught a bus from our hotel Roc Illetas into the centre of Palma. It was a hot day and we basically lived on ice-cream. Not that anyone complained…
You can buy a bus ticket from the driver but it will be more expensive. You are better off if you get a combined ticket for 10 rides from the ticket machines once you are in the centre. We only worked it out AFTER we had been to all the places we had wanted. Oh well, live and learn every day.
The next day we visited Palma Aquarium as planned. Tickets are a bit pricey but your kid is happy. As long as you have the before-we-go-in-we-agree-not-to-fall-for-overpriced-souvenirs-pretalk in place, you’re good to go. The Aquarium boasts the deepest shark tank in Europe, hosts the awareness campaign on bluefin tuna problems, and offers lots of activities both inside and outdoors.
Later that week, after a few inquiry attempts at the hotel’s reception I managed to get us tickets to the caves. As we didn’t rent a car, I opted for a half-day excursion by bus- another thing I had sworn to myself I’d never do… It was a long ride for a distance so short but – hey!- you don’t have to drive yourself and you can admire a casanova-type guide talking in 4 languages along the way. He kindly explained that I had bought tickets not to the Drach Caves but to the other ones – Cuevas del Hams. I was disappointed at first but later I felt happy about the way everything had happened. Both cave systems offer similar excursions and shows. Ours turned out a bit shorter, thus a bit cheaper, and much quieter. Only 4 other people from our bus came to these caves, the rest went to the Drach ones.
Bella felt a bit claustrophobic once inside but she really enjoyed the lights show at the end by the underground lake. Another good thing is that it’s not cold inside these caves although you make a decent descent.
At the end of the tour we were brought to Majorica Pearl Factory that is not far from the caves. We walked around the shop and picked out earrings and necklaces that we would buy next time we stop by with a millionaire. We waited quite a bit for the rest of the fellow tourists to come out. Obviously, there were millionaires inside there already and we just had missed that fact.
Apart from these activities, we spent all of our time at the hotel. Bella lived in the swimming pool (although it was a bit cool even for her pool temperature standards) while I was reading a book lent to me by one of our business partners. I looked at the lady sitting by the pool one day and noticed she had the same book in her hands (mine was in Latvian though). It’s only then I found out it’s the book all girls are raving about.
The weather was wonderful all the time. The location was amazing. The food was fabulous. And they served Brut Nature cava for breakfast. I was happy, Bella was happy. It was a week well spent.
Children love dates with one of the parents – be it a night out once a week, a shared hobby activity or a longer trip. Depending on your child’s needs and character, the time you spend together can be challenging but it is also your chance to get to know your child from a perspective that you miss in your daily routine. From this point of view, long-term travel is a perfect chance to see your children grow and expand their understanding of things and now we are experiencing it on a daily basis but you don’t have to follow in our footsteps. It’s enough if you just go to the nearest beach or a pastry shop together. It’s the undivided attention that counts.