Holidaying with a 9 month old - Lopesan Baobab
Back in April Phil went back to Dubai on a lads trip (total liberty I know) and my sister had some time off work so we decided to book a week away with Bella. Now, I need to be honest about where we stayed: before having Bella I would probably not have booked this hotel. Phil and I used to seek out smaller hotels and we would love to go out for dinner and explore the surrounding areas. Now that I have Bella it's only natural that my priorities and what I want from holidays have changed. In short we envisaged a stress free week with everything we needed around us, this was about quality time with Alexa and Bella.
Before going to the detail of the beautiful resort we stayed at I wanted to mention the practical side of holidaying with a 9 month old and the lessons I learnt. I have written about flying with a baby here but I want to talk about the actual time away. When we went to Dubai Bella was 5.5 - 6 months old and in my opinion the younger the baby the more flexible they are. They sleep and feed more frequently but although it was an entirely new experience I actually found the Dubai trip easier. She was also still mainly breastfed so could have the food she needed at any point without having to worry about finding a highchair at a specific time to give her lunch. Back in Dubai she was stationary (other than rolling around) - but on this trip was crawling which is a game changer.
Sleep and food routine
Bella has always been a very good sleeper, I think it's a bit down to judgement (routines from early on) and a lot of luck. She has been sleeping through since she was six months old, which has been amazing but I am by no means complacent and know that could change at any point. In Dubai when she was coming up 6 months we would do the bedtime routine (bath and feed) around 7pm as normal. But instead of putting her to bed in a cot we would put her to 'bed' in the buggy with a snooze shade over and go out for dinner. We would then do the 'transfer' to the cot about 11pm. This worked the majority of the time and meant we could enjoy a nice al fresco evening meal, a bit of what holidays used to be like. Maybe I was naive but I expected to do similar this time around at 9 months but it was evident on the first day that plan was not going to work. I had not considered that Bella was now a lot more aware and there was not a chance she would snooze in a buggy the whole evening. In the end we decided to go for dinner early at 7pm and have Bella eat with us. We would then go for a quiet drink and head back to the room to put her to bed about 9pm and then have another drink and chat on the balcony. As she was going to bed later she did lie in a bit so I just pushed her whole routine back by an hour or so in the day. So breakfast at 9am rather than 8am at home, lunch in the pool bar at 2.30pm rather than 1pm and so on.
This worked really well, I think the key was although we changed her routine slightly from home we then kept it the same the entire week we were there. In effect we had a mini routine for the week and luckily she slotted straight back into her old routine when we got back. Some people have said to me to be more relaxed and 'go with the flow' more on holiday, but I personally don't feel that would work for me and Bella and would indeed have the opposite effect of being 'relaxed'.
As I mentioned Bella is a great sleeper at night but napping in the day is not her forte. She's been a bit better lately as she is crawling non stop and always on the move so I think she's knackered. But at around the 6 - 9 months there were days she would not nap at all. I shouldn't complain, I would personally still rather her sleep a solid 11-12 hours at night. Some babies are great nappers but a lot of the babies I know rely on buggy walks or car journeys for napping in the day. With this in mind I would say make sure you pick a resort that is either really big OR you can easily walk about the surrounding areas. Also don't pick a hotel with stunning views on a cliff face as you are not going to enjoy carrying the buggy up and down lots of stairs. I walked around that resort a great deal twice a day to get her to sleep. Once she was off I would dash back to my sunbed and that was my window to really feel 'on holiday' napping, reading or listening to music and it was heaven. We even squeezed in a cocktail / iced coffee for lightweight mama...
Alexa was fantastic and also took on nap duty a couple of times which was such a treat for me. I think if you are away as a couple or with another adult try to split the nap walking so that at least one of you can have a bit of chill time. But then again let's be honest in this setting it was hardly a chore...
Location, location, location....
We decided on the Canaries as we wanted the temperature to be mid twenties and felt the Med can be a bit hit and miss at that time of year. We did look at the Caribbean but decided against it due to the long flight time. Other requirements included it being 5* (sorry but Mama wanted a treat while Dada was giving it large in Dubai) and of course it had to be child friendly.....
Taking on board what we wanted from our holiday Alexa found an amazing deal for the Lopesan Baobab in Gran Canaria. We decided on half board so that we had everything we needed right by us. I wanted to stay in a large resort with lots to entertain Bella and the Lopesan had a great kidzone with a pool and indoor play areas. As I mentioned before it was also important that there was a lot of space to for me to walk around when trying to get her to nap.
A big resort also meant that even if we stayed in the resort every day we could set up camp in a new location each day providing a bit of variation whilst still enabling us to keep to that all important routine. The grounds were simply stunning with beautiful pools and vegetation aplenty. The lazy river was a great spot to cool off.
Even in the evening the resort looked stunning with the speculator lighting:
We stayed in a Junior suite which was enormous and had a great terrace to watch the sunrise from, something which pre Bella I would not have been up in time for:
Think about hard surfaces
On the whole I am more of a beach than a pool girl but lets be frank the Canaries are not known for their beaches. On the first day we strolled to the nearest beach but was not very pretty and ridiculously over crowded. The pools were a stunning alternative but I was quite anxious about Bella crawling around on the hard floor by the pool so we were delighted to find the hotel had a couple of fake beaches. We set up a little play area on the sand in the shade and I didn't have to worry about Bella toppling over on a hard surface. This is definitely worth thinking about, if you're the type of person who normally stays round the pool remember it's going to be less soft and baby proof than sand. The Lopesan provided towels but if where you are staying doesn't provide them take a few spare to set up a play area in the shade.
Once in the pool we enjoyed floating about on our respective floats
As we were half board we ate in the buffet restaurant each night which whilst was of a 'good' standard, if I'm honest I think it was the only part of the hotel that didn't reach the 5* rating.
The staff were incredibly helpful and friendly and made us feel so welcome. I'm often quite conscious of Bella being noisy (as babies are) particularly in a restaurant, but they were so lovely and interactive with her. It also helped that there were lots of other children making a right old racket at meal times so we fitted in nicely.
In summary, I can't recommend the hotel enough for a young family. The kidzone was amazing and if you do want to venture out there are restaurants, bars and supermarkets right on your doorstep.
Bella absolutely loved being away, never underestimate the novelty and stimulation of a new environment
and I think Alexa enjoyed her first holiday with a young baby....