Why there's no place like home this holiday season
Holidays are a time to kick back, relax and put your feet up, to slip on the swimsuit, crack open a beer and chill out with your favourite book. Right?
Maybe, if you were single, or even married with no family. But going on holiday with a baby requires meticulous planning and plenty of muscle power to carry all the extra stuff - hardly the makings of a relaxing experience.
We've been on a few holidays with our baby Tom, and while I may not have fully grasped the recipe for success, I am starting to know how to minimise the likelihood of failure. We did two long-haul flights with him last year. If you're lucky, you get a bassinet and your baby will sleep on the flight. If you're not, you're in for quite a time with a little one wriggling on your lap.
So, this year we're picking destinations closer to home.
The advantage of nearby places is twofold: a short flight and minimal jet lag. I have met mums who claim their babies don't suffer from jet lag. How they manage to have these miracle babies is beyond me.
Another mother I know told me to allow a day for each hour of adjustment, and she was spot on. When we went to Britain (a seven-hour difference) last summer, it took my little boy a full week to adjust.
When you have limited holiday time, it seems a waste to spend a week dealing with jet lag. So, exploring closer locales has become our default starting point while Tom's little. Luckily, there are a host of great destinations nearby - the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Taiwan and the mainland.
Then there's the choice of where to stay. Should it be a hostel, hotel or self-catered villa? I favour a small, family-run hotel. That way, you get your meals cooked, and they're generally quiet and family friendly.
We had a fantastic week at one such place in Cebu, the Philippines. The staff were great with Tom, and we came back truly rested. Gold stars all round.
A friend has had terrible luck with her children being ill on holiday, one of them life-threateningly so. Her experiences have made me check where the nearest decent health care facilities are wherever we plan to stay.
I'm now wary of going anywhere that doesn't have a decent doctor or hospital within a 30-minute drive. It seems as if my carefree adventuring spirit has been packed away with our camping equipment. Hopefully, it will re-emerge in a few years' time.
These days, we struggle to cram everything we need into our weight limit. Baby paraphernalia is bulky and heavy. Think about the travel cot, stroller, baby backpack, nappies, and wet wipes. It's enough to make you pull a muscle even thinking about it.
Then there's the food. You need packaged baby food in case you can't cook things your little one likes. Last holiday, I took a hand blender to blend our food plus a microwave steriliser to sterilise bottles - a bit of a change from a camera, swimwear, a sarong and a couple of books.
This year my husband had a brainwave for our holiday. He suggested a 'stay-cation'.
We're lucky enough to live in a beautiful and peaceful spot on Lantau, which we adore. We're also lucky enough to have the most fantastic helper whom we love and who is great with our little boy.
So, this October, we're going to stay at home, and do some long hikes and bike rides. We're going to swim in the sea and have beach barbecues, some with Tom and some just as a couple.
And we will do all of this from the luxury of our own home. A busman's holiday, yes - but I bet it will be our most relaxing yet.