This was our first vacation as a family of four. With an almost 4-year-old and an 11-month-old in tow, we decided to head to St. Barths. The last time we were there was for our honeymoon. We suspected things might be different this time...
We broke up our travels from Boston with an overnight in San Juan, Puerto Rico. This is a great way to start a vacation, allowing leisurely departure time with no pressure to meet connecting flights. We stayed just five minutes from the airport, arriving just in time for a sunset cocktail by the pool. Vacation had begun!
That first morning, we got a glimpse of our vacation schedule. With two little ones, we would be up with the sun most mornings. So, we took a sunrise walk down the beach and stopped into a local bakery for breakfast. We checked in quickly and headed to Tradewind's private lounge. Ten minutes before flight time, Tradewind came to collect us. Not to mention, with no security lines, it's just a straight shot to the plane. And what a flight it is, cruising over the coast of Puerto Rico and then over all the little islands that dot the Caribbean Sea.
We were met in the airport by our WIMCO concierge for the week. He helped us to the car rental desk and then led us to our villa, WV CHL in Lorient, just ten minutes away. Our concierge walked us through the villa as we soaked in our little piece of paradise for the week. Right on the beach with a sparkling pool, it was even better than we ever imagined!
Over the years, we have learned to do things differently when traveling with kids, like seeking out (and accepting) help. Plus, we arranged with our WIMCO concierge ahead of time to rent a few baby items instead of hauling them with us. Upon arrival, both a crib and high chair were already set up, as well as a beach tent and paddle board. I know some parents worry about traveling with such young kids, but taking WIMCO up on these kind of offers is so helpful. In addition, we also had our fridge pre-stocked with a few groceries...in anticipation of the million and one times we would hear, "I'm hungry!"
We kept our week fairly unscheduled. We spent mornings watching the sun rise over the mountains, then walking to the bakery for breakfast treats. Beignets, fruit tarts, salami baguettes, as well as something we called a "sugar sandwich". Soon enough, one of us was jumping into the pool or heading out for a paddle. Meanwhile, it would be time for my youngest, Calliope, to take a nap. This is what is so amazing about staying in a villa as a family: a nap or early bedtime doesn't pause the fun for everyone else. Baby can be tucked quietly in her bed. On the other hand, others, can enjoy the beach. I just can't imagine vacationing any other way.
|Top 3 Tips for Family Vacation
|Bring only what you must, buy or rent what you can at your destination.
|Find your daily rhythm. Leaving days unscheduled and unhurried can help everyone's stress level.
|Staying in a villa means the party doesn't have to stop for naps or early bedtimes.
We loved being in Lorient. It's a central location. Plus there are several markets in walking distance. Lorient beach is long and walkable with lots of treasures to discover. Not to mention, surfers provide entertainment all day long. Much of the beach has a rocky entrance to the water. But, there is a section that is sandy and perfect for swimming. From our large deck we could see what is left of Autour du Rocher, once home to a chic boutique hotel. Or, as my eldest Hazel put it, "the broken house".
Most days we would head out to explore the island. One day we snorkeled at Grand Cul de Sac, then lunched with our feet in the sand. Another day was spent swimming the calm waters of St. Jean after lunch. Also, it's impossible to talk about St. Barths and not to remark on the food. Each meal was something special, whether it be the fresh local fish, the creative sauces or the beautiful presentation.
Most restaurants have a kids menu. Not to mention, the selections and presentation are several steps above what we see at home. At our Sunday fun-day lunch, Calliope devoured her grilled mahi-mahi. Meanwhile, Hazel dined on a martini glass full of shrimp yakitori. Hazel was craving pizza from day one. However, it appeared every pizza chef was off-island that week. Alas, she powered through on a diet of steak, Camembert, croissants and french fries.
The one thing we had scheduled ahead of time was a night out sans kids. Our WIMCO concierge had arranged for a babysitter and reservations at L'Esprit. The babysitter, Stefanie, appeared with a car full of toys and books, and off Hazel skipped for an evening of fun. So, if you're traveling with children, let WIMCO arrange a babysitter for an afternoon or evening to yourselves. L'Esprit came highly recommended. We had a perfect evening: attentive service and comfortable seating amidst a garden setting. After an amuse bouche, we enjoyed all the french delicacies you would expect...foie gras, sweetbreads and gorgeous desserts.
We arrived in St. Barths during their sale season and yes, I took full advantage of it. The best was Lolita Jaca, where everything from their past season was marked down to 80 euros. In St. Jean I found a wonderful store, Rose Indie. Plus, tucked back in a tiny storefront in Gustavia is Popie's which is adorable. The owner designs all her clothes using Liberty fabric, and designs for women, kids and men. She spends half the year in St. Barths and half in Bordeaux. What a life.
One of the special parts of this vacation was watching Hazel experience the wonders of a new culture. One might think that being surrounded by a foreign language, a child might remark something like "Why are they talking funny?" But really, they absorb it. They think about it and they move forward.
Each day our housekeeper would come for a couple hours. She spoke as much English as I did French, so it was always an entertaining conversation. Hazel adored her and would follow her everywhere, "helping" with the mopping and other tasks. Hazel would speak to her in English and she would respond in French and with a few extra hand movements, they were able to communicate.
Another treat for children (and adults) is the discovery of new elements of nature: the sound the wind makes in the palm trees; the intensity of the starry sky and the moon's changes across seven nights; the stunning colors the sky displays at sunrise and sunset, and the many rainbows it splayed for our amazement. Our villa was visited by so many interesting creatures. All received loving names, like "Herman" the hermit crab and "Dizzy" lizard.
Looking back on our vacation, I can say that traveling with small children is no easy feat. But we kept it simple and thank the kind people of St. Barths who are so accommodating to families. Lastly, my number one priority for a vacation is discovery. What brought a huge smile to my face at the end of each day was remembering a delicious lunch spot we stumbled upon, or a quirky store where we picked up the perfect souvenir, or a beach that was deserted after a rainstorm and became ours to enjoy.
That's why we chose a villa in St. Barths for our family vacation. Days start slowly. Have breakfast when you're hungry. Swim when you get hot. Then we would explore the island and take a dip at the beach. A quick stop at the BBQ spot in St. Jean to pick up something delicious for dinner and then we are back "home". No rules. No schedule. Just an adventure where no two days are the same. We survived our first vacation as four. While only three of us will even remember it happened, it was totally worth the effort.
|Best Beaches for Kids
|St. Jean beach
|Grand Cul de Sac