Most families would dismiss the Maldives for a holiday – it’s only for honeymooners, right? But travel specialist Willa Bennett has just returned from the Maldives with her young family and debunks the myth that these picture-perfect islands are only for couples. We catch up with her as she answers some burning questions…
Why should the Maldives be on your list for a family holiday?
The Maldives always seems to exceed my expectations in terms of a beautiful, luxurious and relaxing break and this was still the case when we took our one year old with us. All of the accommodation we sell is either overwater or beachfront bungalows, the latter being the preference for a family. We really appreciated being able to open our villa doors and allow our son to enjoy the sand under his feet in a safe environment. We just needed to keep a close eye on him with the water close by, but not all toddlers would be quite so obsessed with swimming as he is! The staff are all so welcoming and this became even more noticeable when our son was involved. If you choose the right island (which we can help with) they will have everything you need from a baby seat on your bike to plastic plates and cutlery. Even if it’s a little further to travel to with young ones, the Maldives is more than worth it when you get there.
Staying at two islands in the Maldives as a family – yes or no?
The islands are all so different, so experiencing more than one island is not only interesting but provides great variety in terms of activities, dining and the surrounding views. It can also be hassle-free if you get it right. Seaplanes generally don’t confirm their schedule until the day before flying and therefore a direct seaplane transfer cannot be confirmed in advance.
However, we requested a direct transfer from one island to the other and it was a simple 15-minute seaplane flight. I would definitely recommend staying at two hotels in the Maldives – you just have to be a happy packer!
You stayed at Niyama Private Islands. Why is great for both families and couples?
Niyama really is nature’s playground, making it the perfect place for families and couples. The hotel is made up of two islands (Play and Chill), where they encourage families to stay on one side and couples on the other. This isn’t a strict rule – it’s mainly for the ease of getting to appropriate facilities! For example, the Explorers Kids Club is located on Play and the spa is located on Chill. The two islands put together are large enough so you don’t encounter too many other guests, unless you’re enjoying a meal in one of the restaurants. So many of the villas have private pools, which encourages in-villa relaxation.
What are your three top tips for travelling to the Maldives with a toddler?
Be prepared with some snacks. The thought of travelling long haul with a toddler is likely to make anyone turn green, but having returned from our wonderful family holiday in the Maldives, I now have a different view. However, there are important things to get right! Admittedly, I have a hungry one year old, but I found having a stash of familiar snacks on hand was invaluable both while we were travelling and in the hotels. You never know if you will be delayed without suitable food nearby for your little one. The hotels we stayed in were so amazing at providing childrens’ meals but with children needing to eat a little more often, having snacks to give them relieves the stress of your toddler getting worked up.
Pack some specialist items of clothing. If you are travelling somewhere sunny and hot, it’s well worth taking a long-sleeved rash vest and hat to wear with your child’s swimming costume, as it avoids having to reapply suncream too often. We also took some wetsuit-like socks and shoes for our toddler, so he could walk on the beach without stepping on something sharp or the hot sand. This also allowed him to paddle in shallow waters.
Try and keep your child on a different timezone. It’s not always possible, but in order to have a holiday ourselves I kept my son on a different timezone (in our case, two hours behind the time we were on). This has a number of benefits, as not only did this give us more of a lie-in in the mornings but it meant he could eat meals with us, too. For example, when it was 2pm for us it was 12pm for him and when it was 7.30pm for us it was 5.30pm for him. It did then mean us having an earlier bedtime at around 9.30pm, but it’s a real bonus when you don’t want to pay for a babysitter in the evenings and your toddler is sleeping in the room with you. It’s also a benefit when you’re returning home, as the jet lag was not as severe!