Mom in a Mum’s World: Baby on Board in Bali

bali, Little Aussie

This post is a continuation of my monthly series “Mom in a Mum’s World.” For other posts I’ve written on parenting, click here or on the link at the top of the page. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen I wrote my post about our trip to Bali, I left out all of the travel-with-kid stuff, as it’s a large enough topic to fill its own article. Our trip to Bali marked our first flight, first big trip, and first international travel with our little lady in tow. As such, we researched extensively before we left, reading up on plane travel and Bali with babies. Between numerous websites, advice from my favorite mum’s Facebook group, and firsthand advice from friends, my head was overflowing with information on how to survive – literally and figuratively. Here’s how we stacked up!

The Flights

Later in the year, I’m making the big trip back to the U.S. with Hushpuppy all by myself, so I was very glad to have the chance to get a trial run under my belt with Dad along. We got to the airport insanely early (three hours), and went to the check in desk not long after it opened. I was glad we did because we were offered a bassinet seat. If you’ve never traveled with children, you may not have noticed that many larger planes have bassinets in the bulkhead row that magically fold out from the wall. Everyone told us to get those seats, so I was glad that we were able. We didn’t actually end up using the bassinet on the way over, but the extra room was much appreciated, as Hushpuppy did not sleep for more than 20 minutes of the flight, and found the whole thing so exciting that she couldn’t stop moving. I’d bought her a whole bag full of new cheapie toys and stickers, plus we had Baby Einstein loaded up on the Ipad, but her main entertainment was taking the in flight magazine, safety cards, and vomit bags in and out of the seat pockets. We were pretty frustrated with her by the end of the flight, as she got increasingly tired and cranky, but we made it through.

On the way back, we had the 11p.m. overnight flight, which seemed rather horrible, especially as she was completely cracking it in the immigration line, but it was actually the best possible timing. She was wired and running around the terminal before we boarded, but a few minutes before we got on, she took two steps and then just laid down on the ground. I knew she couldn’t last any longer, so I popped her in the Ergo Baby and she fell right to sleep. She was out the whole flight. We even used the bassinet for part of it, though at her age, she’s really at the edge of height compatibility for it, so she eventually woke herself up, but was right back to sleep in our laps when we picked her up.

The Hotel

We stayed at the Marriott Nusa Dua, and overall, it was an exceptional place for kids. I have a lot of positive things to say, but first, a cautionary tale…

On many of the travel sites, we’d read that Bali balconies are of real concern for people travelling with children, as they are often not kept up to the standards that we Australians or Americans would expect. Knowing that, and being on the 3rd floor, we did a careful inspection of the balcony railings on our first morning. We checked that all the rails were secure, and even made sure that there was no way that our monkey could climb onto the chairs and then the railings. All seemed in order, so we opened the door for some fresh air. That morning, a tailor I’d hired came to meet with me, so we were chatting while Hushpuppy was running around with some toys. She was out on the balcony, and I’d looked away for maybe a minute, and when I looked back, I didn’t see her. I stepped outside, no sign of her. I looked behind the big chairs. Nope. I got a little pit in my stomach, but thought, maybe she’d gone back in the room and I just didn’t see her. As I turned back, out of the corner of my eye, I saw her sitting on a ledge, like it was a park bench. She’d crawled through a tiny opening in the railing and sat herself down on the ledge – a ledge with a three story drop below. I quickly yanked her back (which upset her, as she was quite happy on her little ledge) and quietly had a heart attack which lasted most of the day. This, by the way, was the start to my very ill-fated birthday, which ended at the ER!

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On the left of the picture, you can see the little opening that she snuck through. This was, obviously, taken before the incident.

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Top down shot of her ledge. 3 story drop below. I still get sick thinking about it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To the Marriott’s credit, when we told them about the incident, they took fast action. Within two hours, while we were having lunch, they had soldered another railing in place, completely securing the gap. Still, we didn’t get much enjoyment out of our balcony after that. We were just too nervous.

So, I guess what I’m saying is – check and double check those Bali balconies!

Otherwise, we mostly had a wonderful experience at the Marriott. There were plenty of other families there, and the staff were all so kind, always smiling and chatting up Hushpuppy. The pool had a little beach area and shallow section that was perfect for her.

They have a Kids Club, and though she was too young to go in unsupervised, we were welcome to take her in and stay with her. She enjoyed it, especially the ball pit, and it was nice to have a place to take her once we were done with the pool or beach for the day.

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Enjoying the Marriott pool.

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Ball pit at the kids club.

One of the best parts of Hushpuppy’s Marriott stay was the breakfast. I mentioned in my post how much I loved the breakfast, but it was a daily treat for her, too. We usually got to breakfast early before it got crowded, and we’d take a seat right by the pool. The staff would bring a high chair out for her, and by the second or third day, they’d bring her an orange juice without even asking. The whole staff was so sweet to her, learning her name and talking to her, but she particularly made friends with our waiter named Dharma, who always came over to talk to her, bring her a special cup and straw, and just generally entertain her. One day, she was getting restless, and he took her out of her high chair and walked around with her. From then on, she decided that was the done thing, so after she’d made a nominal effort at eating her breakfast, she’d wait for Dharma to reappear and throw up her arms for him to pick her up. When he wasn’t too busy, he’d comply and take her for a little walk. I swear, Dharma made Hushpuppy’s whole trip.

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On a walk with her friend, Dharma.

Dining Out

Lucky for us, Hushpuppy is a pretty good eater, so we weren’t too worried about not finding things on the menu that she’d take to. Her only issue is that she can’t have dairy, but Indonesian food really doesn’t use dairy, so we were pretty safe on that front. Worse case scenario, she was happy to have a bunch of fruit or (horror of horrors) on a couple of instances, she downed a fair portion of French Fries, which seem to be the staple of kids menus, even in Bali.

Almost every restaurant we went to had a high chair, which was convenient. On the couple of instances where one was not available, we got great use out of this fantastic cloth high chair I’d bought secondhand from another mother. It goes over the back of most chairs, and has a little buckle that secures the child. When not in use, it folds up into itself and you can just carry it in your diaper bag. It’s a pretty great invention, and brilliant for travel.

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And then there was the cafe we went to near the rice fields. Hushpuppy was asleep when we arrived, but we thought she’d wake up, so we asked if they had a high chair. They didn’t, but offered us some pillows. And then, they proceeded to push chairs together and set up pillows, so that Hushpuppy had a little crib. She slept through the whole meal.

Even better than a high chair - a makeshift crib at the rice fields.

Even better than a high chair – a makeshift crib at the rice fields.

 

Our biggest struggle was that she’d often get bored with sitting in the chair, as toddlers do, and very restless. We had to do a lot of walking around restaurants/malls with her while we waited for the food. And, thankfully, the Balinese people adore children, so many of the waiters and waitresses were more than happy to come to the table and entertain her. On one occasion – my birthday do-over dinner – Partner-in-Crime told me he wanted to ask the waitresses if we could hire one of them to watch Hushpuppy while we ate. I was scandalized by the idea, but he was insistent, saying he’d read of such a thing on travel forums. So, he conferred with the waitresses (the restaurant was pretty dead, not busy at all), and one of them happily agreed. She and they had a blast. They walked her around, let her touch buttons on the credit card terminals (toddler nirvana), and at one point we looked up, and they were all taking pictures with her. When we left, I told her to say “bye” to her new friends, and she told me “bye,” instead. So cheeky.

Our Big Day Out

Hushpuppy and Kasa

Hushpuppy and Kasa

We mostly stayed in or near Nusa Dua, but took one day to explore more of Bali (more on our adventures in my original Bali post). Now, normally, travelling around Bali with children, you have to let go of the need for car seats. It’s hard to find a taxi with them, and even if you brought your own, many cars aren’t equipped with backseat buckles. Everyone just carries their kids (which seems far less scary when you see whole families – mom, dad, and a couple of kids – all happily riding around together on one motorbike). We were fine with that for most of our trips, but when we were looking at a whole 10-hour day of travel, we really wanted a car seat. There aren’t many drivers with car seats in Bali, but P-i-C found one. We hired a driver named Kasa from Driver With Distinction. He came in a very comfortable, air conditioned van, and the car seat was all set up, no problems. Kasa was the sweetest man, answering all of our many, many questions, putting up with an occasionally crying baby, and just generally being a lovely person.

Hushpuppy was a champ on this big day of adventuring, though she mostly subsisted on a diet of raisins (her choice), and sometimes didn’t love the idea of getting back into the car after being pushed around in her stroller for ages.

Our first stop was the Monkey Forest, and I was a little nervous about it. I’d asked on my Facebook mum’s group whether the Monkey Forest was a good bet for toddlers, and I got a fairly resounding, “I wouldn’t!”. There were concerns that the monkeys can sometimes get aggressive or it might be scary for a young child. I was conflicted, as the Monkey Forest was the one and only item on my “must do” list. Thankfully, a good friend sent me a private message suggesting that we try it, and she gave me some good tips (make sure we don’t have anything the might look like food, don’t let Hushpuppy have any toys with her, and don’t put our hands in our pockets). We didn’t bring anything extra along, kept Hushpuppy in her stroller the whole time (thankfully, it had a good path), and definitely didn’t buy the bananas to feed the monkeys. It was really fun, and felt entirely safe. Hushpuppy was very intrigued watching the monkeys from her stroller, but I don’t think she would have wanted to get out, even if we’d offered her the chance. I’m very glad I let my “laid back mom” side guide me on this one. I would have been sorry if we’d missed the monkeys.

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Watching the monkeys from the safety of her stroller.

We spend most of the afternoon in Ubud, which was pretty easy with Hushpuppy. We let her run around the grounds of the temple, which was a good break for her. The only tricky part came when we needed to deal with some diaper business, and I ended up changing her on the floor of a fairly dirty public restroom where she tried to swipe the toilet bowl brush. But, hey, she hasn’t come down with any mysterious diseases since we’ve been home, so I’m sure it was all just a boost to the ol’ immune system, eh?

Odds and Ends

Reading all the travel with kids sites and Bali advice pages really gave us a great overview of what to pack and how to prepare. Just a few things I’d mention:

  • For the flight over, I only brought one bottle, as I wasn’t sure about the 100mls of liquid rule. In reality, you can bring as much liquid/food for a baby as you need. Even though Hushpuppy doesn’t usually drink more than 100mls of milk at a time, I think she found it comforting, and would have definitely had more if I’d packed it, which might have helped lull her to sleep. Next time, I’ll prepare more bottles than I think I need (others have advised that you just get milk from the flight crew, which is probably a good idea, except for our dairy intolerant kid, who can’t take it).
  • The Great Stroller Debate: Several friends told us to definitely not bring our stroller along, as the sidewalks in Bali can be shockingly bad. I think that’s probably true in a lot of Bali, but in Nusa Dua, which is the resort area, the sidewalks were generally really good, and even in the tourist area of Ubud where we went, we had no problems. We bought a cheapie used umbrella stroller from Gumtree to bring along, which I think is a better idea than bringing the big, “good” pram. I also brought the Ergo Baby, and I was glad to have both, as there were times when it was a more appropriate choice.
  • Pack all the snacks you want. We ran out of raisins and most of Hushpuppy’s other go-to snacks by the last day, but we had a hard time finding things that we could really count on her eating. Though she’s pretty rock and roll about food, she’s still a toddler, and particularly in unsettled times like going on the airplane, you want to have the food that you can rely on.
  • A few of our must-pack items for toddler: Bug spray, sunscreen, hats and sun covers, distraction toys/crafts for sitting in restaurants, beach toys, lovey stuffed animal or blankie, swim diapers. We also brought along a good stock of medicines, though thankfully, we didn’t need to use any for her. Oh, and did I mention raisins?

We adored travelling to Bali with our toddler. It was exciting for us to get her the first stamp in her passport. Though she won’t remember the trip, everything about it was a good experience for her, and manageable for us. In particular, Bali was easy with a kid because the Balinese seem to love children so much. Everywhere we went, Hushpuppy was treated like a star, and our needs were easily accommodated. So, parents of toddlers, if you’re thinking of going, I’d say check those balconies, pack plenty of raisins, and enjoy a marvelous time in Bali.

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Four Around The World

2 thoughts on “Mom in a Mum’s World: Baby on Board in Bali

  1. Kelli

    It sounds like a great adventure, minus the terrifying ledge incident! We loved visiting Bali and it’s comforting to know we could go back with kids and have a great time 🙂

    1. Cristin Post author

      Kelli, your two monkeys would be rock stars in Bali. Come back for another visit – we’ll meet you there!

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