Top tips for travelling with babies and kids in tow
Although a relative newbie to this motherhood lark, I’ve stayed true to my have-baby-will-travel aspiration. With 11 trips in my son’s first year, I’ve learnt some important lessons about travel choices…
- Seek luxury wherever possible. Just one hour in a pampering spa, a deep bath and a decadently soft bed will melt away any new Mama tension.
- Don’t be boring, but know your limits. We have spent the last year on all manner of trips; city breaks, beach breaks, ski trips etc. But I’ve learnt it’s not fair to schlep a baby around sightseeing for too long – he just wants to play. So, we pop out for a few hours at most per day but on the whole we have to love where we’re staying.
- While he is young, we’re less fussed about kids’ clubs and activities but we do need to know a hotel is baby-friendly, which includes being able to provide you with the essentials but also, I figure if they have a stock supply of baby paraphernalia then they’re used to the havoc of tiny tots and won’t sniff too much at a little mess.
Trip 11, to Amanjena in Marrakech, was the culmination of a year’s experience and turned out perfectly. The lack of direct flight was frustrating, but ultimately worthwhile. Morocco tempted me with its exoticism, fragrant food, cultural immersion and ideal weather but it was Amenjena itself that was the main draw.
Click through the slide show to learn Jamie’s top three lessons and make them your own.
Where to even start? Dusty red stone colonnades and domed villas set in symmetry around fish filled ponds with a heron perching so perfectly we thought it was a statue at first. Mesmerizing architectural attention to detail with sweeping visuals meant that just walking around the hotel was a constant joy. Our visit was perfectly timed; after the summer throng but before the temperatures dipped too low. Our days were spent lazing by the main pool, luxuriating over breakfast in the poolside outdoor restaurant (with the most attentive, wonderful staff who showered our boy with attention and smiles) and enjoying traditional complimentary Moroccan pastries and tea on the lawns every afternoon.
I mustered up one visit to the gym but then sought medicinal justification for visiting the spa where after sussing out the hammam I had my hair nourished with Moroccan Argan oil in a blissful head massage. By night we dined in the only open restaurant of the season, the Japanese one. Complete with counter seating and a Japanese menu, there is also a traditional Moroccan offering at more private tables. An evocative space with flickering candles and beautiful decorative details, dinner was only let down by the food being a bit too subtly flavoured for us, which the chef rectified instantly when we asked if he wouldn’t mind intensifying the authenticity. Which led to us gorging on the most delicious tagines, slow cooked lamb in orange and almonds and other Berber food. We could have utilized the hotel’s babysitting service and scooted into town for dinner, as Marrakech has a fantastic foodie reputation, but instead chose to linger contentedly in the hotel.
Quite often we just hung out in the room, very content and seeing no reason to leave. With your own walled pavilion, complete with decorative pond, outdoor covered seating area and a signature Aman style beautiful bedroom, why would you? A giant double bed sat underneath an impressive domed ceiling. Complete with day bed, lounging area and indoor fireplace (triggering desperate desire to return for a cosy winter visit), the marble steeped bathroom and wardrobe were hidden behind sliding doors but didn’t scrimp on space. With his and hers sinks and wardrobes, a walk in shower and bath tub overlooking your own grapefruit tree, we felt well and truly pampered and relaxed, despite two nights of bad bedtimes whilst our son “acclimatized”.
It would be wrong to come to Marrakech and not visit the city and its meandering medina. Its proximity to the hotel made it even easier and we did make one afternoon excursion. Snake charmers, artisan shops and tempting courtyards abound and we were content to stroll the afternoon away. There is of course, far more to do in Marrakech, and the hotel can arrange a multitude of excursions including visits to local Berber villages and beyond, but we let inertia win as with an energetic one year old just learning to walk, it was fairer on him and less stressful for us. We loved the hotel and didn’t feel hard done by staying put, and our son loved stumbling around the lawns, climbing around the room, splashing in the main pool and exploring the fountains in the kiddie pool (too cold for swimming unfortunately).
So, it’s clear lesson one and two were in place here, but my main concern with heading to a hotel of Aman caliber was whether we would kick ourselves for bringing a baby to disturb the peace. They had been nothing but obliging when planning the stay and when we arrived, along with the anticipated car seat, cot and high chair, they had also placed a sterilizer, baby bath and baby toiletries in our room. They made food suitable for an allergy-prone one year old and what was even more appreciated, spoilt him rotten. The members of staff were an absolute godsend and made us feel so welcome. They loved our little man and he loved them back; even taking him off our hands for walks around the hotel and to see the local bird population. Other guests with young children seemed just as spoilt; this is very much a hotel that doesn’t just allow children, but positively welcomes them.
That isn’t to say it is overrun with kids. About 20% of guests when we were there had kids but there was enough space that they didn’t disturb the other 80%. Detached pavilions meant no worries about bothering the neighbours and the spaciousness of the resort meant we honestly didn’t often feel close enough to other guests to even consider that we could be infringing on their relaxation.
Which all in all makes this quite a hard review to write. Committing these words to screen is a form of acknowledgement that this trip was probably the pinnacle of our family travels. Sure, we will keep up our adventures, tweaking the priority of my three lessons as our son gets older, but somewhat dismayingly, I have a sneaking feeling that very few hotels will be able to compete with Amanjena. The only conceivable downside was the flight but, truth be told, I would fly five times as far to re-live that trip. The memories we formed are magnificent and ones we will treasure…that is until we justify another visit…
Amanjena, Marrakech, https://www.aman.com/resorts/amanjena, Rates from €570.