I carried a book. Malcom Gladwell’s Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. I remember packing it abashedly as a last minute thought amongst many other things that I didn’t even get to use because I (very mistakenly in hindsight) foresaw myself finally getting to finish that book; lounging lazily on a beach chair sipping some cocktails with nothing but the blue skies above me and roaring sound of the ocean waves. THAT. DIDN’T. HAPPEN.
Yes. You are allowed to laugh at me at this point especially if you are not a first time parent like me vacationing for the first time with a toddler.
My little daughter recently turned one and I decided to take my vacations with her, my 21 year old sister, a close friend, her 9 year old son, her 18 year old brother and my nanny; travelling some 450km down to the coast. That makes it two grown up adults, two little kids, two younglings
adults and a nanny who generally also needs directions and supervision. We went by road. We stayed for a week at a rented three bedroom furnished apartment.
All things considered we had such a great time! But when you spend 8 hours cramming suitcases and food and toys and diaper bags into your car and then head out of town with kids, it’s not a vacation. It’s a trip.
A vacation is meant to be a time when you get to wake up whenever you want, nurse hangovers, lazily read your unfinished books taking photos of your legs sunbathing by the beach and other such like privileges. When you get kids most things you used to take for granted like these honestly become privilege.
With kids you don’t take a vacation. You take a trip.
On the way, my one year old was nice enough to us to sleep quietly in her car seat most of the way. But there were moments of extreme heat especially at the Coast so we were those half crazy women driving around town with a butt naked baby peering through half closed car windows trying to cool off showing her butt to the world. Without a care in the world. Not to mention, the wails of hunger the day when we got stuck in traffic on Nyali Bridge for over an hour and all the packed food for the day was finished. Nothing could pacify my baby and as soon as we got to the house she was happy to shove whole pieces of left over viazi karai (deep fried potatoes) in her mouth. I’ve never seen anyone that hungry :-D. Getting out the house to sight see was almost impossible. Let’s start with how difficult it is to micromanage and keep time with kids. We were lucky to leave the house earlier than 2pm. Then there was the day my twenty one year old sister was being extra (special) and we fought and just to show us how incensed she was, left the family WhatsApp group and sulked for two days on end. Or the time(s) the nine year old refused to talk to anyone locking himself in his room because his mom postponed the Go-Karting outing… Then the day he almost got lost at the ferry because he wouldn’t let anyone hold his hand. And my nanny who couldn’t resist photobombing every photo with less than cordial poses at the slightest sight of any camera..
Wow! Keeping everyone happy was nothing short of a miracle.
There were so many welcome moments however. We were grateful each time we put the kids to sleep and could finally have some time to do our own thing and the trip finally started to feel like a vacation (for a few hours). All things considered the beach was our favourite go to place. My daughter (and everyone else to be honest) loved the water. It was nice to have this special first moment with her and see her make new friends.
Eating out and Entertainment:
Since we were staying at a furnished house, we cooked in most of the time and ate out once each day. Two restaurants stood out for me, that I would definitely recommend:
A quaint little restaurant in the middle of Mombasa town called Tarboush along Makadara Road off Nkrumah Road in the Central District. Their biryani is everything. If you love local Swahili food, please do not dare to leave Mombasa without dining at Tarboush! There’s a variety to choose from: Chicken or mutton biryani, pilau, beans in coconut sauce and the ever famous Shawarma.. All at a very pocket friendly price.
I also loved Yuls that is located on the north coast along Bamburi beach. They have such great service, tasty foods (their fries!!) and a to die for ambiance. I liked the fact that it has a wide range of water sports that one could indulge in as you wait for your meal (water skiing, jet skiing or surfing). Or the fact that you could just take a walk along the beach and wind down with their ever delicious ice creams for dessert, or sit back and relax with your favourite drink in hand as you release the tensions and concerns for the day. Yuls has a way of relaxing your mind.
We (understandably) didn’t get to sample much of the night life but Tapas Cielo and Club Hypnotica at the Nyali Business Centre, really whet my appetite for dancing all night. Both lounges have really great DJ and service in general. Tapas stood out with its greatly designed interior with lots of contemporary wood finishing and a huge aquarium directly opposite the bar to boot. As far as lounges come, this one makes you feel right at home! Especially if you like nature and airy spaces. I loved the great dynamic crowd and clientele and the fact that they also had a wide variety of cocktails, wines, vodka and whisky selection to choose from their book-sized menu. I just didn’t want to leave.
Some (unsolicited) advice for parents traveling with kids for vacations:
I recommend getting a house when travelling with little kids because you will be grateful for your own personal kitchen where you can heat up or cook anything with convenience whenever needed. Not to mention access to clean hot water and a sink you can thoroughly wash up all the bottles and feeding bowls in.
Please leave as early as you can when travelling with children to avoid them getting too tired and cranky on the road. Provision time for packing if you are going on long road trips and do it the night before you set out. Leaving early saved us the usual truck and buses traffic at Mlolongo and Mariakani. We left at 5am and were at the coast by 3pm.
Also when packing, other than the usual clothing and accessories please don’t forget to carry the following items below that I found come in very handy.
Some people will tell you to pack light. These people do not have young children.
You may have a lot to lug with you, but you’ll thank me when you are mid trip and your baby does one of those messy smelly “number twos” and you have nowhere to dispose the used diaper! Depending on your child’s age and needs and how long the trip is, you may not need all of the items listed.
- Breast Pump & Accessories for those who are still breastfeeding and expressing, formula for those who are not breast feeding.
- Extra Baby Bottles and feeding utensils (forks, spoons, bowls – you cannot clean bottles on an 8 hour road trip)
- Toilet Paper, Wet Wipes On the Go and Hand Sanitizer (Especially for the time on the road)
- Beach Towels (This is if you are not having a hotel stay)
- Diapers (What You Need + MORE!) + Diaper Cream and Sealable Plastic Bags for used Diapers
- Disposable Swim Diapers
- Bib (Plastic-coated so it is easily wiped clean)
- Pain and fever medication but check with your doctor first! (Panadol kid syrup came in handy for the 9 year old when he had some ache on his gums)
- Soap (Don’t Forget Baby Soap!)
It took us a long time to pack and unpack. Also, fitting all our bags in our small car took even longer because we had to be very clever about what got in first and where.
The sun may have set and risen again on our last day out before we packed everything and everyone and got into in the car.
But after we started rolling, we were grateful to God for all the wonderful times we had and the safe trip. It might have taken us all the energy we had to pull this one off but we had so many great hilarious fun moments, and in as much as we questioned every single day why we even brought their quite entitled tushies along, we remembered that we loved our kids and we loved our lives.
As I enjoyed the scenery driving back home trying to drown out the crazies going on in the back of the car, I said a silent prayer of thanks for our lives (not really, but refraining from losing it at your screaming kids and family while on road trips counts as prayer). There will be seasons for vacations, sometime in the future. But right now the season in which I live involves (hectic) trips. And I hope to take more of them if God wills.
So let’s raise a glass to ourselves, you brave warriors who have made it through another holiday trip with your young ones without eating them. You may not have finished reading that book you carried along but you did it! You (ALL) survived.
Stay classy, parents of small children. In it together! 🙂