Discovering baby-friendly BaliAugust 7, 2017
Bali is the stuff of Instagram dreams, all pools looking out over lush jungle, private villas, surfing on beautiful beaches, temples, waterfalls and sunsets. But how does that translate to a family holiday? Especially when you have a baby in tow?
We visited Bali, flying from Dubai, this summer, with two-year-old Phoebe and four-month-old Tabitha and I wasn’t sure what to expect – this was our first trip as a family of four, and our baby’s first flight. Accommodation was the first challenge, and as gorgeous as the many villas on offer looked, we needed as many facilities as possible, with a kid’s club to keep the toddler occupied and some buffet options to help deal with the stress of her fussy eating. I needed this to feel like a holiday, so someone turning over the room, bottled water whenever we needed it, and zero trips to the local supermarket did make a difference to my relaxation. Access to a hotel doctor was also reassuring (and we did require their services when our baby woke up with a rash and eye infection), plus advice from a concierge on local attractions proved to be useful.
One day we’ll return to Bali and go exploring, visit the Gili islands, try rafting and horse riding and diving, and stay somewhere decidedly baby-unfriendly, but until then, five-star resorts, home comforts and all the help we needed made this one of the best holidays I’ve ever had.
Where to stay
One of Bali’s best-loved hotels, The Westin is around 30 minutes from the main airport, and they were able to provide a pick-up service with carseats. This is a proper resort, with huge buffet breakfast (you could have everything from fresh juices to tacos, dim sum to croissants), a great choice of restaurants and little touches to make your stay as easy as possible.
Upon arriving children are given a flask which they can have filled for free with juice, water or milk from anywhere on the property, and kids under three eat free. It really is aimed at families, and the kids’ club is outstanding, with a toddler room, section for older children, outdoor play area complete with trampoline and climbing wall, and activities all day long – Phoebe tried fishing in the hotel pond and making kites, and loved every second. There’s also a shaded baby pool, and large pool with water slide, which is guaranteed to tire them out. Babysitters from the kids’ club can also be booked.
When it comes to dining, we loved the Prego Sunday Brunch, with a children’s buffet, entertainers, and games outside. Visitors from all over the island come to the hotel to try it, so booking a table is a must.
For parents, a trip to the Heavenly Spa will get rid of any kinks from the plane. Of course, you must try a Balinese massage, but be sure to leave plenty of time before your appointment to try the the complimentary steam room, Himalayan salt-sauna and hydro pool. In-room treatments are also available.
The hotel is located on a beach, and there’s a lovely track that runs along the shoreline, perfect for a pre-dinner stroll, or morning run. If you plan to travel outside of the resort (though I confess we didn’t!), taxis can be arranged.
Be sure to book a room in the newer wing of the hotel – you’ll have access to a smaller, quieter pool, and breakfast at Prego is just downstairs.
One of Bali’s newest hotels, the Movenpick is seriously stunning, with a lobby that overlooks the pool and beach beyond. Jimbaran Bay, with its seafood restaurants, is a short walk away, and the property is next to a shopping and dining plaza, where you’ll find a gourmet supermarket (useful for stocking up on snacks and nappies) and choice of eateries, including the Movenpick café for ice-cream. We booked childcare one night and escaped up to Above Eleven, the rooftop bar and restaurant, for cocktails and sushi with an amazing view.
The swimming pool is the main attraction, with a lagoon surrounded by sunloungers and cabanas with hammocks are suspended above the water (get up early to nab one) and a beach area with sand. There’s a fantastic splash area for little kids, with non-slip flooring, fountains and a shallow water, plus a mini waterpark, with two waterslides. The kids’ club doesn’t disappoint either, and little ones will love the ball pit, slide, cinema room, upstairs area for older children, arts and crafts activities, and nap room. Guests get four hours free per child, and you can also book the staff for babysitting either for supervising younger ones, or for the evening. The kids’ club is also linked to a dining area for children in the all-day dining area, where they can eat dinner (I loved the healthy options on offer, with veggie wraps, vitamin-packed smoothies and fruit skewers).
Movenpick hotels all over the world now have a family-friendly initiative to help with your stay, offering extras like strollers and bottle warmers, free dining for under sixes (and 50% off for kids aged seven to 12), and discount on rooms.
This is truly a relaxing resort, and it’s easy to spend days on end chilling out in a cabana, while the kids play in the pool or on the little beach. The shopping plaza means everything you need is close at hand, and I can’t thank the hotel enough for their help with the on-site nurse and affiliated clinic, who helped with our baby when she wasn’t well – she was seen within five minutes, and the doctor turned up with all the necessary medication 15 minutes later. That kind of peace of mind when travelling with little ones is incredible.
If you have the Entertainer app you can use it to get buy-one-get-one-free on nights at the hotel.
What to do
If you’re travelling with a baby, you need to realise that you probably won’t get to see everything that Bali has to offer, but you can still explore. We went to Ubud for the day and visited the monkey forest (be sure to take a baby carrier rather than a stroller as there’s lots of steps), had a lovely morning drinking coffee and shopping in Seminyak followed by lunch at the famed Potato Head Beach Club, and spent an afternoon checking out the surf destination of Uluwatu, eating pizza at Single Fin Café. We also really enjoyed Bali Safari Park, where you’ll see animals from all over the world and tour the grounds in a bus (again, take a baby carrier).
We couldn’t have toured the island without Bali Baby Hires. This fantastic service provides drivers with car seats (both for babies and toddlers) that can be booked for half or full-day tours to the main attractions, or just wherever you want to go. Make sure you ask for Lembi – he was incredibly helpful and so sweet with the girls. They also provide babysitters, hire out carseats and strollers (which are delivered), can assist with airport transfers, and even fit fences around the pool at your villa, for keeping little ones safe. Payment is via PayPal.
If you’re flying from Dubai, I highly recommend getting assistance from Marhaba, who can help regardless of which airline or terminal you’re using. Baby and toddler seats are provided in the car that picks you up, staff are waiting outside the hotel to take bags and offer strollers, before checking you in and escorting you to the Marhaba Lounge, where you’ll have a private room. Then you’ll be whisked to the gate, with a porter to take your bags. It’s an absolute game changer with travelling with children.
Emirates flies direct (taking approximately nine hours) or you can go via Singapore or Bangkok, stopping off to break up the journey.
Have you been to Bali with kids? Would you go again?