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Caribbean and Baby

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Baby & Me
Caribbean Beach Vacations

    After two family trips to the Caribbean, I’ve learned a few things about taking a beach vacation with a baby...
    First, although you and your spouse may adore spending long hours on the beach, chances are that your toddler may be overwhelmed by the rough-and-tumble waves and peeved at the wet and dry sand coating his or her feet and hands. If your child gets panicky upon approaching the beach (like ours did), one solution may be the compromise of using a pool at your resort.
    On our trip to Barbados last year, we were lucky enough to have a swimming pool just steps from our door. I hadn’t considered what an advantage this was until we traveled last February to Grand Cayman Island. Despite happily playing on the beach all summer long, Alex – who was one-and-a-half during our Cayman trip – suddenly took a major disliking to the beach. In Cayman, our hotel – though steps from a quiet beach – did not have a swimming pool.
    No matter. One of the beauties of Grand Cayman is its extremely relaxed nature. We took advantage of a kid-size wading pool, one of a number of pools at the nearby Treasure Island Resort. Alex stomped around in the ankle-deep water and eventually even gained the courage to lie down on his belly and blow bubbles!
    On this year’s vacation, however I plan to book a place that has both easy access to the beach, plus a swimming pool – preferably one with a wading area for kids.
    In terms of picking a suitable hotel, there are a number of requirements when traveling with a toddler or baby. One of the biggest for my husband Joe and me is that the guest rooms have a patio or balcony. For example, once the baby goes down for the night, mom and dad still need a place to hang out – to read, chat, and eat dinner. The least expensive solution is one room with a patio or balcony, and preferably one with a view.
    The importance of having a view became clear to me after our recent vacation in Grand Cayman. While our studio apartment was homey, the front patio opened onto a small parking lot, and just beyond that, a small but busy road. The ocean, located beyond the road, was visible only when standing.
    I couldn’t help but compare this unpleasant set-up to our situation a year earlier in Barbados where our large patio opened onto a lush garden area surrounding the swimming pool. This was accented by a shapely palm tree perched at the edge of the patio and the ocean just beyond. This scene along with the soothing sound of the waves was immediately relaxing. Enjoying the evening air after baby Alex had gone to sleep on the other side of the sliding glass door is one of my fondest memories of that trip.
         Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about our nightly respite in Grand Cayman. Those hours were punctuated by the sound of passing cars and trucks and offered too little in the way of pleasant scenery. Next time I will research more carefully the entire resort and its accommodations.
    On this latest trip, I also formed some new opinions about the logistics of traveling with a baby. I came very close to bringing a car seat with me on our trip to Grand Cayman but I’m now glad I didn’t! My friends with little ones had told me that a car seat was essential for the airplane ride. Even when traveling alone, they said, they had brought one along, lugging it along with all their other possessions. They put baby into it to sleep during the flight. Later, they used it in their rental cars.
    I was a little dubious about how valuable a car seat would be to me on the flight. I knew my baby Alex could easily fall asleep in my arms. And if he was unwillingly strapped into a car seat, he could make a lot of noise about it. Plus, I hadn’t reserved a separate seat for Alex; since he was still under two he was flying for free on my lap. I knew I would only be able to use the car seat if we were lucky enough to be on a plane with some empty seats.
          When I made a quick call to a car rental place in Grand Cayman and found out that they also rented infant car seats, my decision was made. The car seat would remain home. This turned out to be a great decision: Alex slept in my arms; there were no empty seats around us anyway, and car seats could be rented in Grand Cayman for only $2 a day!
    Always, the question of renting a car while on vacation is a big one. Will it be worth the expense? After this latest trip to Cayman, I find myself more in favor of renting a car, especially when a young child is involved. My husband, Joe and I are not the type of couple to kick back and hole up in all-inclusive resorts for a week. We want to see the sights and experience the local cuisine and culture as much as possible.
    While in Barbados last year we made do with taking long walks to nearby beaches and villages. We would strap Alex into the Baby Bjorn. Since there were no sidewalks and at times we had to walk close to the street, this was a good way to keep him out of harm’s way.     
    By the time we went to Grand Cayman a year later, Alex had graduated from his Bjorn to a stroller. Even though I knew any walks we took would likely be complicated by the lack of sidewalks, I held off on renting a car.
    As it turned out, our hotel in Cayman was somewhat isolated. Given the island’s spotty bus service, we determined by our second day that a car was a necessity.
    We rented one for about $200 for the week. We were able to get a feel for the entire island and see all the sights it had to offer.
    In West Bay, a little over a mile from our hotel, there was a turtle farm where Alex touched baby turtles with coffee-colored, mosaic- like scales that Joe fished out of a large vat.
    Less than a mile from the turtle farm is “Hell,” a cleverly named striking landscape of black coral rocks spiking upward from the ground. Although a tourist trap pure and simple, we got some great pictures of baby Alex sticking his head through a life-size cutout of a devil.
    Later in the week, we drove to the other side of the island to play at Rum Point, a beach where windswept trees provide shade (and support for dozens of hammocks) and where the waves create barely a ripple. Along the way we stopped
to marvel at the blowholes that shoot up 12-foot sprays of water through natural openings in the rock abutting the ocean.
    All in all, we had a much easier time in Grand Cayman navigating the island and doing it at our own pace than in Barbados. In Barbados, we took occasional trips by taxi to see some sights, in one instance paying about $60 each way to get to some underground caves! The taxi expense, combined with the stress of trying to keep Alex safely buckled in with a Bjorn and a seatbelt since we didn’t have a car seat, are reasons enough for us to rent a car.
    Finally, the biggest lesson I learned after two Caribbean trips with an infant is to make sure to take the baby’s birth certificate.
    On our trip to Barbados, we forgot this all-important document and ended up missing our flight while Joe raced back home to get it. Alex behaved remarkably well on what ended up being a 14- hour journey, but that experience made its mark. On our trip to Grand Cayman, Alex’s birth certificate was the first item to
be packed.

 

Tip #1
Book lodging that has both easy access to the beach and to the swimming pool.


Tip #2

Determine whether you’ll need your baby’s car seat while traveling.
 
Tip #3
 At your resort reserve a room  with a view from the patio or from the balcony.

Tip #4
Bring your baby’s birth certificate or passport when traveling out of the country.         

-- Chris Costanzo

 

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