When you live beside the beach in Abu Dhabi, travelling abroad with a young child is sometimes an unnecessary chore.
Travelling with Kids: for a real break, stay at home
"I'm not going to be one of those people who have a baby and their life stops," someone told me recently before regaling me with would-be travel plans around the region. My colleague's comments came days after I casually suggested to my husband that we should spend our next holiday at home. He agreed rather too quickly and we both paused and looked at each other, silently acknowledging that I'd raised the white flag of surrender.
Far from being faint-hearted, stay-at-home types since the birth of our daughter 18 months ago, we've been passport-happy. There have been numerous local weekend breaks (lots of luggage but no tears); a long trip to London and Italy weeks after baby was born (friends said this was suicidal); a city break when she was nine months old (my sister waited until her children were five and seven before travelling anywhere without a kids' club); and a driving tour of Cyprus (timing long drives to coincide with afternoon naps). I recently agreed to go camping in the dunes for a friend's birthday only a month after my next baby is due - hardly, or so I like to think, the act of a coward. However, I have to admit that after every foreign trip, as interesting and unmissable for a myriad of different reasons each has been, I've been pleased to unlock my front door and too exhausted to unpack for a week.
Disheartening as the realisation is that I no longer go on "holiday", it's good to know that I am not alone in my misery. Friends have just departed for 10 days to a beautiful beach in Sri Lanka, hiring someone to help look after their baby on arrival. The mother confided to me that this is the first trip she has actively looked forward to in the past year and it's no coincidence that her son is coming up to his first birthday.
So what's going wrong? The answer, of course, is that I am travelling with a tiny tot. Family time without the twin crutches of a coffee machine and a roomful of favourite toys is as much like work as play. Then there's the shopping for unfamiliar foods, cajoling baby to sit still in restaurants, ordering meals you don't want just in case baby doesn't like what you've ordered for her, and evenings spent indoors minding our most precious possession. The constant quest for entertainment is another ordeal. During our last holiday, I spent more time than I care to remember at the children's playground by the local supermarket and I was grateful for the distraction.
That's not to say that any of the above is begrudged even though I'm doing a very good impression. My daughter rewards all our efforts with smiles and evidence that she is learning and growing in skills and confidence every day. It's just that, living beside a beach, she will have the same great time holidaying at home as away. When will this change? Who knows.