What we’ve learned about traveling with a baby from our first weekend getaway together

I’ve been dreaming about traveling with my child since the first moment I learned I was pregnant. To show him all the places where my parents used to take me, ones where I spent my childhood, to take weekend breaks to locations close to our home town just for a change of scenery, to visit my favourite European destinations and see them through his eyes,… to discover the world together.

The first “bigger” trip for our newly broadened family was planned for spring of 2020. We wanted to drive to Tuscany with our son and our dog, but unfortunately, the pandemic got in our way and we had to not only abandon our plan but also become painfully aware of all restrictions and complications any traveling plans we could come up with would face.

If the year 2020 taught us anything, it is that everything is ever changing and that we should take any chance we get to spend time together as a family. That’s why our decision of having a weekend getaway in Umag, Istria, was made very quickly and spontaneously, fueled by a desperate need to just – go– somewhere. 

Since we didn’t spend a lot of time planning the getaway, we thought of only a short list of items that needed to be checked:

  • A place that is not too far away, so that we can travel to the destination (at least partly) while Oliver is sleeping
  • A place where we didn’t have to take care of the food and cleaning up
  • A place that is close to the sea, with the beach easilly accesible on foot
  • A place that is children-friendly: honestly, I’ve only started to discover the offer of kid-friendly hotels and resorts in Croatia and am only beginning to realize what that even means
  • A place that is not too expensive – because when is that NOT important?

The Istrian resort town of Umag, located on the western coast of the peninsula, and its Hotel Sol Garden checked all of these items. Istria is always our joker card whenever we need to get away for a few days – near so that we don’t have to spend too much time traveling to our destination and it has everything we need – nice beaches, good hotels catering to all kinds of needs, good food and picturesque historical towns that are little gems of character and beauty. Since our plan to visit Tuscany fell apart, this was as close as we could come to that kind of atmosphere. 

Umag is only a very pleasent and pictoresque two-hour drive away from Rijeka. Sol Garden is a complex consisting of a hotel, depandanses and other forms of accommodation. The hotel itself is large, has several pools of different depths, an aquapark for children, animation programs for kids of different ages, a playroom for younger children, a wellness area, gym and many other services. We opted for a semi-board offer in the hotel and the buffet-style meals were tasty and there was a great variety of options.

The beachfront is very close to the hotel, there is a walkabout shaded by tall pine trees running along the entire coastline, it has bike lanes and is stroller friendly. When it comes to the beaches, you can choose from sandy beaches (Oliver wasn’t a fan, and neither were we), concrete parts and pebbled beaches (which were our choice), all in the range of a 15 minute walk.    

This trip was a test in more than one ways.

A test of how well our son will react to sleeping in an unknown environment, spending longer periods of time in hot and sunny weather and in the sea, and of how complicated, difficult and exhausting it would be for us to travel with a small child. And I have to happily conclude that we all passed the test with flying colours. We know that we have an uncomplicated, easily adaptable child, but Oliver made us even happier and prouder with how he reacted to the change in scenery. He loved swimming and collecting pebbles on the beach, didn’t mind the heat very much, slept “like a baby” in his travel cot, ate whatever was offered to him and enjoyed it, swam in the pools, played in the room and on the balcony with his toys and seemed genuinely interested in what was going on around him. We as parents took it very well as well, and even though many parents told us that when you travel with kids, you return home even more exhausted than you were when you left, we actually did manage to relax, enjoy ourselves and recharge our batteries during our short but sweet trip to Umag.

It was not an exotic, life-altering trip to the end of the world, mind you. The idea was, after all, to keep things as simple as possible, but nevertheless, it was a very educational experience. What I needed to realize, as a traveller usually obsessed with planning and attempting to avoid surprises at all cost, was that there is no need to worry about traveling with a child, that such a trip can – and ought to – be a relaxing, laid back one and – what makes me very happy – that I can now start to plan longer and more elaborate family trips.

For this first test of multi-day traveling with Oliver, Frida stayed in Rijeka with her “uncle”, which means that our next challenge will be traveling with both Oliver AND Frida. This endeavour will probably require a bit more manouvering and flexibility, but we are ready to meet that challenge – as soon as possible!

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