Family-with-young-kids travelling solution: Club Med Cherating

Things I miss doing after small J was born #72: Travelling in the most carefree way.

I.really.miss.travelling. More than I care to admit, and more than I dare to admit to others. And it is not that I didn’t try.

I tried travelling with my friends after small J was born, but it was sure tough on my other half. That’s why God made TWO parents – it is extremely difficult to cope for long periods of time if there is only one of you, with no extra help. It is difficult to go to the toilet, or bathe, or eat, or SMS, or sleep. And the parent has to work too.

Daddy J and I tried travelling together, leaving small J with my parents. Not a great option too. Nope, I am not worried for my kid cos’ he’ll survive. I worry for my parents, that they’ll be really tired out. Every weekend, I am tired out watching out for small J, I can’t imagine doing this 30 years down the road for my grandchildren, and a BOY, who is twice as active as a girl, according to books.

Random 5-minute snapshot of what small J does daily: climb up the sofa. jump on the sofa. get an earful from me for doing that. climb down the sofa. jump on the floor. run to the kitchen and touch the cabinets. run to his ‘car park’. ride his scooter forward. backward. 5 more times like this. send his scooter to the naughty corner cos’, according to him, his scooter was naughty… and it goes on! Sometimes I wish we can exchange bodies, surely, I can lose some weight, going around the house at a dizzying rate, like a disco strobe light gone mad. Anyway, as my mum exclaims in Cantonese, ‘it is so tiring just watching him go about like this!’ Welcome to the toddler world!

At that point in time when he was 1 yo, we didn’t even dare to think of travelling as a family cos’ this is what I envision (and I have a good imagination): packing a truckload full of diapers, milk powder, baby food. Getting stared down by others on the plane cos’ small J is hysterical. Spending the morning packing an army pack out of the hotel room just to eat breakfast, and then hurrying back for his nap. Carrying his pram up long flights of stairs. Still being cranky after his nap cos’ he didn’t sleep well in the new environment. Me in a bad mood outside cos’ he’s grouchy, which frustrates me. Quarreling with Daddy J. Returning to hotel after walking around aimlessly about 1 km from the hotel room. Hiding in the toilet to wait for small J to sleep (cos’ he sleeps in his own room at home). In short, paying a few thousand dollars for a trip just to hang around the hotel room and be frustrated. Super lose-lose situation.

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So I thought I will never travel until small J is 7 yo, which is what one of my colleagues did. I went into mourning. Until I talked to my colleagues during lunch about our perennial one-that-gives-us-hope-to-carry-on-working topic: ‘where will you be travelling during the school holidays’? And my colleague shared with me his experience at Club Med Cherating. I was bowled over! I can stop mourning! A quick research showed that they have a new Baby Club, which means that you can drop off your kid from 4 months to 2 yo from 8.30 am-5pm. And they have qualified pre-school teachers looking after the kids. And it is an all-inclusive package in the club – no need to travel out or pay for food or activities (except for day trips outward and their spa). And there is a new budget flight going there, which takes only 1 hour. And there is a 1-for-1 promo. I am sold! Sounds like a good solution to our travelling woes! That very night, I made my booking.

Money matters…

5D4N All-inclusive (accommodation, food, activities) at Club Med Cherating 12- 16 June 2013:

SGD1500, 2 Adults based on the 1-for-1 promo, child below 2 yo is free (Baby cot and toiletries included)

Baby Club: SGD75 per day x 4 days = SGD300

Two way transport from airport to hotel: SGD100

Firefly flights to and from Kuantan: SGD200 for 2 adults, SGD30 for child below 2 yo

Total: SGD2130

Here’s what we did at Club Med Cherating.

Things that made Small J happy and safe!

Baby Club Amenities (Small J was 22 months when he went there):

  1. The indoor play area is air-conditioned and very new, sorta like a smaller version of Hokey Pokey (an indoor playground at Millenia Walk). When Small J first saw that place, he ran in and zoomed in on the big cars that he could ride.
  2. It features a water play area that won Small J’s heart when he saw it! Slides, spout, merry-go-round and waterplay toys… They provide swim diapers too!
  3. An outdoor playground with sand.
  4. A separate nap area with proper cots.
  5. An eating area that you could dine with your child if you wish to.
  6. A good menu of fruit, yoghurt, pasta, rice.
  7. A daily schedule of activities is provided e.g. visit to the Turtle Sanctuary, Play Doh time, Waterplay
  8. And the most important thing for us as parents – great and experienced staff there who made me feel at ease about placing small J there! The manager is a Singaporean who was previously a Pat Schoolhouse teacher and they have a certified nurse as one of the teachers too. They also have proper procedures during registration where you have to pass them your kids’ medical and vaccination records.

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On the whole, I think Small J had a great time as he had so many things to play with! Even though his day would start out with crying due to separation anxiety, the teachers told me the duration that he cried e.g .10 min and what they did to distract him e.g. bring him to the water play area, showed him the refrigerator of snacks and food and got him to choose his own snacks (a sure-win with small J). We could also peep in anytime if we are worried. Most importantly, when we fetched him every day, he was all smiles and very pally with the teachers, which shows that he likes them.

One thing to note: Being kiasu, I booked Baby Club together with the accommodation, as there is limited availability for spaces at Baby Club, according to the website. As a result, they will automatically charge me based on the number of nights I am staying e.g. 4 nights. On hindsight, I should have booked Baby Club on a daily basis when I arrived. In this way, I would have placed him for 3 days only (SGD225), since the first and last day is basically travelling to and from the airport. Moreover, if Small J cannot adapt, I can draw him out of Baby Club for the rest of the days and bring him around.

Things that made Daddy J and me happy!

1. The best thing about Club Med is that there is no need to travel for all the activities! They are all within walking distance, or a 5-minute tram ride away! This is very important to us with a young kid as he cannot sit still for long, that is why we cannot imagine travelling with a tour group and we did not want to wander aimlessly around the hotel area. The best thing is that there are terribly many planned activities all day… Warning: This is not the place for you if you are a I-must-do-it-all! or I-must-make-my-money’s-worth-since-it-is-all-free! freak, which actually somewhat describes me, so I decided to take a deep breath and be zen about what I shall miss doing.

2. Things that we did:

  • My favourite is the Zen pool, and infinity pool, which can only be reached by tram! It is an M18 pool, and don’t get me wrong, it is not a nudist pool! Kids under 18 yo are not allowed there as it is supposed to be a very quiet pool. And free flow of alcoholic drinks, not that Daddy J and I like to drink but it sure appeals to those who have the I-must-make-my-money’s-worth-since-it-is-all-free! itch.

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  • Sailing (go by tram)

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  • Spa (had to pay for that)
  • Walking on trees
  • Karaoke

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  • Things that we did not do: acrobatics, archery, jungle walk, sports, party at night (only small J partied!)

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3. Good and abundant food:

  • The breakfast, lunch and dinner buffet selection at the main restaurant is stunning and changes everyday. There’s steak, lamb chops, sashimi, salad, yoghurt, ice cream x 100 more things…There is also Gerber’s puree food and fresh fruit for babies below 1 yo. Sometimes, there are performances before dinner!

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  • There is a noodle snack bar if you feel hungry in between lunch and dinner, which is technically impossible, but the snack bar is crowded anyway.

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  • Free flow of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks at the bar from cocktails, beers, mocktails, juices, hot chocolate, coffees. Small J had a field day drinking all the juice mocktails, while I had my lattes, cappuccinos and mochas.

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  • Surprise food parties throughout the day: Chefs teaching people how to cook a dish and food-tasting after that, popcorn and candy by the pool. I love the surprise element. We were swimming in the main pool when they suddenly set up tables by the poolside and they were popping popcorn, with soda, marshmallows, snacks and candy all there.

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  • Seriously good stuff for dinner at Rembulan restaurant, which you have to book at 8 am daily at the main restaurant. I had to run there in the morning cos’ it was booked rather quickly. It really is like fine dining!

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  • Seriously, by the second day, my I-must-make-my-money’s-worth-since-it-is-all-free! mentality waned and it was replaced by the I-could-get-really-fat-doing-this mentality.

Things that made our whole family happy!

1. Performances galore! Every night, there are amazing performances with costumes, lights, dancing and singing. What is more amazing is that they are all choreographed and performed by the staff, or better known as GOs (Gracious Organisers), in a very professional manner. Imagine the look on small J’s face when he saw his Baby Club teacher dancing an Indian Dance on one night and Michael Jackson on another. My favourite show is the Circus themed show, which features acrobatic stunts by the GOs themselves! On Saturday, those children attending the Kids Club (aged 4-7) will perform at night after only one day of preparation.

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2. Things that we did as a family:

  • Visit Turtle Sanctuary

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  • Watch fireworks together on Saturday

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  • Go on a night boat ride to watch fireflies (had to pay Ringgit 120 for 2 adults, free for kids under 3 yo). Small J loved this, when he came back to Singapore, he kept boasting to everyone about this.

3. The wonderful GOs! I am really amazed by them! They are really friendly and warm people, and they are so energetic! At first, I was kinda freaked out when my colleague told me that they are so friendly that they will join you for dinner, which is totally not my style since I am a private person, but after going there, it feels perfectly alright as only people whom you have come into contact with will join you, for us, it is small J’s teacher at the Baby Club. She told us that their official working hours is from 8 am-12 midnight (they are expected to party with the guests), and I was thinking, if they can work from 8 am-12 midnight, they obviously love what they do.

All I can say is that our very first trip as a family was an excellent one – no need to rush back to the room for his naps, no need to carry prams up long flight of steps, no need to travel from place-to-place for meals and activities and less grouchiness from small J cos’ he had things to do! And Daddy J and I managed to have a carefree trip, almost just like the old days! Except that we still had to hide in the toilet to wait for small J to sleep!

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Note: All these pictures are taken using an iPhone 4S. While they may not be stunning, it is a reflection of what-you-see-is-what-you-get-there.

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