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Bali… with Baby

Making the decision to travel for two months with Lexi mostly solo was one I hadn’t really thought through when booking the flights. Wade would be joining us for eight days, and my mum and sister later on for ten days.

It was only a few days before we were due to leave that I started to freak out:

How would I manage on the flights?

What if she got sick?

What if I got sick and couldn’t care for her?

Would I get bored on my own with her?

Could I keep her entertained on my own?

What the hell would I feed her?

Would I be able to get the baby essentials she needed in Bali?

Would I have to pack a shitload of stuff?

And if I did, how would I manage it all on my own with Lexi as well?

Would I be tied to a hotel room all the time so she could sleep?

Would she sleep?

The list went on and on and on.

This wasn’t helped by other people’s reactions when I said I was travelling for eight weeks with her – their faces said it all, and I started to really wonder if I was crazy to be undertaking the trip. I mean, there’s adventure and there’s adventure.

On one hand, I wish I could go back to myself before we left and tell myself that it would be up there with the best things I would ever do. But on the other hand, the discoveries, learnings and little aha moments have been so fun as I’ve come across them that I wouldn’t want to take that away from myself.

I’ve had tonnes of questions about how the trip has been, and a lot from parents headed towards Bali with their little ones, so this post is about sharing all the suppliers, hacks and shortcuts I’ve used over the last almost-eight weeks.

Right, strap yourself into your pram – we’re off!

WHAT I PACKED

I won’t bore you with my entire packing list for the trip, however the key things I took were:

2 x onesies for night-time

About 8 short-sleeved vests

Nappies & wipes to last a fortnight

Light summer outfits

2 x hats

Baby swimmers (the cutest!)

2 x blankets

A selection of toys – light, small things

3 x books (we cycled through them each night at bedtime and holy shit can I read them by heart now – my mum brought us new books and the relief was epic!)

Ergo carrier

Light pram (we ended up with two due to an airline stuff-up)

Baby wash

Baby massage oil (when this ran out I used coconut oil)

Breast pump

2 x bottles

3 x stainless steel food containers

Things I didn’t bring and needed:

Milk storage bags (I haven’t found any here so I’ve had to reuse the few I brought)

Thermometer

Aqua nappy

 

What I didn’t need but would bring next time:

Probiotics for Lexi and I. I made sure both of us had something fermented, eg: yoghurt, kombucha, kefir, every day, to avoid the dreaded Bali Belly.   Thankfully we have avoided it, however something consistent would be good for next time I think just in case.

 

EQUIPMENT HIRE

I was planning on taking our travelcot with us, however I was at home on my own the morning of our flight and couldn’t get the stupid thing packed up properly so I could check it in.

As it happened, the Green Field Hotel provided portacots free of charge, so that covered a significant chunk of the trip. For our stay at our villa in Canggu, I hired a cot from Bali Bubs.

It’s worth checking if the hotel/villa you’re staying at has an additional charge for cots, as it can add up pretty quickly (some charge around $10 per day, plus extra for pick-up and delivery).

The Green Field had tonnes of high chairs for breakfast each morning, and the villa we’re staying at in Canggu by luck had one as the owner has grandkids.

You can hire pretty much anything you might need – highchairs, Ergo carriers, prams, breast pumps, sterilisers, car seats.

NANNY

A key part of the masterplan for the time in Bali was to find a nanny that I could trust to take care of Lexi so I could do yoga, have massages and do some work. The problem was I had no idea where to find one!

I figured the hotel would have some kind of short-term solution if I wanted to duck out for an hour or two, however I wanted more of an ongoing arrangement for a few hours at a time.

One of my wonderful Insta followers Michelle recommended Indie & Friends to me, so I immediately sent Indie a message on Facebook and she suggested her friend Asty to me (who funnily enough, also looked after Michelle’s daughter when she was the same age as Lexi!).

I booked Asty to look after Lexi so I could go to a yoga class and was treating it as a trial. I was anxious leaving Lexi behind for the first time – not due to Asty at all, it just felt strange that I was the only person Lexi knew in a new country and I felt that responsibility heavily. I popped back to feed Lexi (and check all was well) after my class and they were getting on famously = massive relief!

Since then for the last seven weeks, Asty has come in three or four days a week for approx six hours a day. It’s purely due to her that I’ve been able to “do the work” on myself on this trip. I trust her implicitly with Lexi and you should see Lexi’s face when Asty arrives in the morning… pure joy!

At the Green Field, the hotel ladies could babysit if I wanted to have a massage at the spa after Lexi went to bed, or if Wade and I or my family went out for dinner when they were visiting. Most hotels will probably have some kind of babysitting arrangement

In terms of costs for childcare, you can expect to pay around $6/$7 an hour and with a nanny you’ll also cover travel time. So basically it’s extremely affordable to have someone to take care of little ones so you can have some time to yourself.

FOOD

Some context for where we were at: At the time we left Lexi was eight months old, and as we prepare to fly back to Australia on Monday, she’s ten months old. She’s breastfed and had been having solids since six months – three meals a days since eight months. However most of her meals were soft or pureed and the solid food she was having was more about her playing with it than an actual source of food.

I was very worried about how I’d manage to feed Lexi nutritiously for an entire eight weeks of the trip. We’ve been doing a blend of purees and baby-led weaning, so I didn’t know how I’d manage to get soft food for her to eat enough to fill her little belly. We also feed her organic food as much as possible, so I didn’t know how I’d manage that overseas. Personally, I don’t go in for the supermarket pouches – however I know a few parents who we met who had packed a week’s worth for their holiday.

The original plan was to move into self-catering accommodation after a week at the hotel, however after one disastrous move to a bungalow and a second attempt to move to self-catering, we ended up living in a hotel room minus cooking facilities for 5.5 weeks.

Our food routine in the hotel worked out like this:

Breakfast

Fruit

Boiled egg

Omelette (I’d request lots of veg and no salt)

Salad and veg

Lunch

I would pack this from the hotel buffet in my trusty steel containers. I’d pack cucumber and green beans in one, rice and veg in another and yoghurt in a third. The cucumber was great for her to nibble at in restaurants, and I’d feed her her rice and veg while I was eating then.

Dinner

For the first couple of nights, I would ask the hotel to make “baby porridge”, as they call it here. I asked for fish, veg and potatoes to be cooked up and blended – no salt. Lexi loved this, however after three nights I was wondering when she’d get bored – even I was bored of it, and I wasn’t even eating it!!

And then my friend Liss put me onto a business that was pretty much created to solve the problem I was having. Mini Muncher Bali creates delicious, organic children’s food from its kitchens in Seminyak. It was started by Silv, who could see the opportunity with parents just like me – travelling in Bali and looking for healthy meals for their kids.

There’s a range of options – from straight-up smooth one-veg/one-fruit purees – to more chunky meals for older babies and handy snack bars for older kids again.

I love Silv’s commitment to reducing waste. The meals are delivered in glass jars, which are then picked up again so they can be reused. The snack bars are wrapped in banana leaf. You can also add handy baby essentials onto your order – e.g: I got coconut yoghurt, mozzie repellent and sunscreen.

I placed an order online for five meals and the next day, a motorbike courier arrived with a cool bag of frozen meals for Lexi – I paid cash on delivery. I stored the food in the freezer compartment of the minibar fridge in our room, and would take out that night’s dinner to defrost each afternoon. When dinnertime rolled around, I would bring a jar up to the hotel kitchen and ask them to heat it up for us.

The food was DELICIOUS! She loved it, and I was secretly hoping each dinner time that she wouldn’t finish it so I would get to eat it… Lexi’s favourites were the chicken curry (turns out she’s a fiend for spices!), risotto, mac and cheese, beef and vegetables, and the lentil casserole.

I struck up an Insta friendship with Silv and when our self-catering plan didn’t work out, she very kindly gifted us a batch of meals. Then I placed another order myself to see us to the end of our hotel time.

I really don’t know what I would have done without Silv and her team. Knowing that Lexi was going to bed with a belly full of super-nutritious food that I didn’t need to go buy ingredients for (never mind tracking down organic meat and veg), brief the hotel to cook (assuming they’d be happy to do that!) and blend it up took the pressure off massively. It’s a genius business idea.

Tip: I thought we’d only be at the hotel for a week and as we were in Ubud, our delivery charge was quite expensive. If I was doing it again, I’d buy a big batch to last us the whole trip and ask the hotel to store most of it in their freezer.

ACCOMMODATION

My first – and biggest by far – tip would be to stay at the best accommodation your budget can stretch to – ESPECIALLY if you’re travelling solo with Baby. I’m not saying five-star is necessary, however there’s a tipping point with paying for accommodation when life becomes a lot easier.

We have split our time between a hotel in Ubud and a villa in Canggu. We experienced a disastrous attempted move to self-catering accommodation (the bungalow we were supposed to move to was beyond basic – there may have been a meltdown…) and a second ok move (kitchen was poorly-equipped, wasn’t near anything), which had us boomeranging back to the safety and comfort of the Green Field not once but twice.

I’d set a checklist for myself next time when thinking about accommodation:

1 – Close proximity to stuff

When travelling with Lexi, it became super clear how much easier it is when the key things are nearby. With the second attempted accommodation move, I needed to get a driver just to get some basics (water, enough food to make Lexi dinner that night) – a key factor in me leaving that same day.

At the Green Field, I could walk to the pharmacy to grab some nappy cream as we lost ours. I could nip up to the supermarket to get nappies. There were lots of restaurants around for us to get food without having to get in a car.

Thinking about those things would never cross my mind in the past, however they make life so much easier when you’re travelling with a baby.

2 – Ease of transport

I’ve never driven a motorbike myself, and certainly wasn’t brave enough to tackle one with Lexi on me – however she did have a cruise through the rice paddies on one with her daddy and loved it!

Our hotel in Ubud had a team of complimentary drivers, so I could get out and about easily with Lexi and I didn’t ever feel we should just stay at the hotel as it was too difficult to get out. And here in Canggu, our villa has a driver.

Having some kind of transport (motorbike, driver, hire car) on hand will mean you can actually get out and do so much more with Baby in tow.

3 – Water provided

This seems like such a small thing, however when you’re drinking 3-4 litres of water a day, you want to have it easily accessible.

At the second self-catering accommodation we tried to move to, they provided two small 300ml bottles a day – and I’d have to provide the rest myself. Lugging gallons of water down the street and up two flights of stairs with an eight kilo baby strapped onto me was more of a workout than I was up for.

At the Green Field and here at the villa in Canggu, large 15 litre water dispensers are provided so I can fill my water bottle easily.

The massive reduction in plastic that this results in is also pretty key!

4 – Having people around

This one is critical if you’re travelling solo with Baby.

As pretty as the Instagram pictures can be, travelling solo can be fucking lonely – whether you’re with a baby or not. There are long periods of time on your own and you are constantly making decisions without the help of the usual partner/family/friends that you would have at home.

At the hotel, we got to know other guests – Lexi is an excellent wingwoman in making new acquaintances it turns out – and it made an enormous difference to even have casual chitchat with a few people. Lexi is also a raging extrovert, so I knew she would need people around to bounce off and charge her little battery.

One of the (many) factors in me not even checking into the first bungalow was that it was so remote – there was no central restaurant to facilitate meeting other guests, and no reception desk or regular staff.  We were a minimum of a twenty-minute walk to a café or restaurant.

I could foresee days where it was too hard to go anywhere and so I’d just stay at the bungalow with Lexi all day and we might go a whole day without speaking to someone other than each other. I was in a pretty fragile state emotionally and mentally at that point, and I knew it would not be good for my mental health – or Lexi’s – to be in that situation.

Here at the villa in Canggu, we are quite remote. However there are staff here every day from 7am until 5pm so we have plenty of company.

If you’re planning a trip with Baby – particularly if you’re travelling on your own – I would strongly advise that you orientate your accommodation with having other people around you.

MEDICAL SERVICES

Unfortunately, we did get to sample the medical facilities while we were in Bali!

About half way through the trip Lexi developed a temperature and was unsettled while she was with Asty one day, so I came home early and found she was hot and uncharacteristically clingy.

I had forgotten to pack our baby thermometer, so Asty watched Lexi while I ran to the pharmacy. She had a temperature of 38 degrees – nothing crazy but it was her first one and I was worried. She also had some small red dots on her hands, that I thought might be insect bites.

I called the hotel reception and they said there was a medical centre nearby, and that the doctor could come to us in about twenty minutes. I explained Lexi’s symptoms and the receptionist said he’d call me back. When he phoned back, he said that the doctor had said that we should go straight to the hospital given Lexi’s age – to which I of course freaked out. We jumped in the car with a driver and drove 15 minutes to hospital.

It was very much a local rather than international hospital – there were no signs in English and the registrar had to interpret the registration form so I could fill it in.   We were seen in just fifteen minutes and the doctor said that I should just monitor her temperature and if it lasted for more than 48 hours, to take her back in. The hospital visit cost $15.

We went home and thankfully her temperature dropped that night at around midnight and she slept peacefully.

The next morning however, she had more little red dots on her skin and the one on her hand had fluid in it. It just didn’t feel right, so I walked us to the medical centre ten minutes away. The clinic was very clean (even a bit fancy) and it was clear they were used to international visitors. We were seen in five minutes and the doctor spoke excellent English. He examined Lexi thoroughly and diagnosed her with chicken pox. He gave me clear instructions on how to look after her, and gave me two creams to use if we needed them. The visit and creams cost $50.

Thankfully, it was a very mild dose and she made a super quick recovery. It was great to have medical facilities so easily accessible, and it gave me reassurance to know that they were there if we needed them again on this trip or future trips.

NAPPIES

There is a wide selection of nappies in Bali – although weirdly pharmacies don’t stock them! The larger supermarkets have lots of options and I found that the little convenience stores had some too.

I packed enough of our usual Ecoriginals to last for the first fortnight, then switched over to Pampers. Word of warning: they’re pull-on ones here, then to take them off you rip the sides open then use the little blue tab to bundle up the used nappy. Took me a while to figure that out!

I had a Chemist Warehouse order delivered to Wade the week before he flew over with a month’s supply of Tooshies by Tom – he had some explaining to do for Indonesian customs as to why he had a suitcase full of nappies and no baby!! Then for the last week Lexi has been in the Sweeties brand (half the price of Pampers and no lotion/goo added to them).

GETTING AROUND

Baby carrier

Your baby carrier is your BFF4EVA here in Bali, where the footpaths disappear at a moment’s notice and you’ll likely spend your days pottering through markets and temples. I have used the Ergo every day I’ve been out with Lexi, and it’s been a godsend in airports, settling her on flights (Extrovert Baby gets extreme FOMO on planes), and helping her sleep when she’s unsettled at night. I’ve used it so much that I couldn’t even send it to the laundry for washing as I’d miss it too much – so it’s due a deep clean when we get back to Oz!

Pram

We ended up with two prams coming into Bali, and I’ve used one just twice. Once to walk through the rice paddies and once to navigate the airports on our 22-hour visa run to Kuala Lumpur – although most of the time Lexi was in the carrier and our overnight bag was in the pram!
I wouldn’t bother bringing a pram next time. The footpaths are just not conducive to prams as they are uneven, have random man-sized open holes in them or someone will have parked their car right on it so you need to step down onto the road anyway. I saw one couple battling with a double-pram on an Ubud footpath and I murmured under my breath: “Poor fuckers”.

Another factor is that there are a lot of dogs in Bali – all perfectly friendly and Lexi loves them – however I felt better with her up high in the Ergo when they came to say hello rather than easily accessible in the pram.

On the road

You get used to seeing entire families on one motorbike here in Bali – and my sister even saw a woman breastfeeding while riding one! I see tonnes of Western parents cruising around their babies in carriers, and one American woman I met told me that her eight-month-old son has his own litte helmet! As I said, I was not brave enough to venture out on a motorbike with Lexi, so having a driver was essential for us to go anywhere beyond walking distance.

I sat in the back seat and wore Lexi on my chest in the Ergo – I threaded the seatbelt between us. When I posted about this on Instagram, a few people messaged me with links to drivers with car seats – however it just wasn’t practical for us to book a driver 24 hours in advance, and we had drivers already on hand.

I have never felt unsafe with her in the car, particularly as we rarely get above 40km an hour with Bali roads and traffic. I also find that we’re jumping in and out of the car a few times each trip, so having to buckle her in and out of a capsule each time would be annoying for her and for me – and would dramatically cut short whatever daily adventure we were on.

If you’re planning on hiring your own car, you could check your own one in or hire a car seat for Bali Bubs. An Insta follower also shared a portable car seat with me that she uses to get her and her baby around Singapore in taxis.

LAUNDRY

Most hotels and villas will use an external laundry service, which is super cheap and quick – usually less than a 24-hour turnaround. This meant that I could bring a capsule wardrobe for Lexi and once I made sure I was on top of the laundry, we had enough with a few items.

Next time, I’d avoid bringing anything white or special and pack some laundry soaker to soak clothes in the hotel bathroom. Clothes come back from the laundry beautifully clean, dry and immaculately folded (it makes my heart happy every time), however they understandably can’t tackle baby-related stains – so some of Lexi’s clothes have a date with the Napisan when we get back to see if we can save them…

EATING OUT

The Balinese LOVE BABIES!!   Lexi is like the lovechild of Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber wherever she goes – and we’re very used to people stopping us in the street to talk to her.

I have gotten into a habit of asking as soon as we’re scoping out a new restaurant if they have a baby chair – learning quickly from finding a table, scooping Lexi out of the Ergo and sitting down, only to find there were no baby chairs… and having to strap her back in again and set off in search of another place.

Generally speaking, Ubud was a lot more set up for babies than Canggu – in terms of easily-available high chairs and the restaurant staff level of welcome for little people.

If I haven’t got a packed lunch with me for Lexi, I find that having a small container of fruit or veg buys me extra time while we’re waiting for food to come – she has definitely inherited by propensity for hanger.

STERILISING

We had stopped sterilising my pump and Lexi’s bottles by the time we got to Bali, so I would wash out them with castille soap and scalding hot water in the hotel bathrooms, then leave them to dry overnight.  I’ve only ever sterilised by boiling items in hot water for ten minutes, however I’m sure there’s some kind of a travel-friendly solution available.

So that’s it, my guide to Bali with Baby!  Please drop any questions you might have below – and do share your travel tips as well.

Happy travelling!

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