Dubai as a family holiday destination

We've been back from holiday for what feels like forever now. We got back just over three weeks ago and, as crazy as it sounds, it almost feels like we didn't go.

I know that's stupid, though, because we made so many memories. Memories that will stay with us forever and that we can't wait to share with Peyton when she is older.

She had the absolute best time. She was in her element all week.

She loved the pool. She has no fear when it comes to water and was quite happy jumping in from the edge (to one of us waiting in the pool, of course!) We got some of the slip free shoes for her to wear which I would highly recommend to anyone with a little one. They basically meant that when she was running around the pool she didn't slip. They also kept her a bit more steady when she was walking around in the pool.

She also loved the beach. This is a sore spot for me because, while I love the beach, I hate sand. I have since I was little. 

I think she knew this, too, because she would scoop up big handfuls of sand and come and throw them at me. She also insisted on rolling around in it straight after having her suncream applied and ended up looking like a bloody Krispy Kreme. If that wasn't bad enough, she'd insist on climbing all over me and sharing her new body scrub.

We never lasted at the beach longer than an hour - I would've had a meltdown!

We stayed at a hotel at JBR; JA Ocean View to be exact. When we went to Dubai previously we ended up staying out right near the airport. This was about 20ish minutes away from the Burj Khalifa/mall, and what would probably be considered 'the centre'.

We said when we decided we would go back that we wanted to be more central, and nearer to more bars/restaurants/attractions. JBR is just lined with these.

There were so many restaurants, fast food chains, bars, and coffee shops. It was ideal.

We were half board in our hotel, so we could have our breakfast then either dinner or tea at the hotel. Our hotel was absolutely beautiful! Like everything in Dubai, it was so clean. The service was spectacular and the food was amazing.

It was right on the beach - yay...! - and had a rooftop infinity pool, as well as a small, shaded little pool.

We walked absolutely loads while we were away, something most unusual for me on holiday. Holidays for me used to be laying on a sunbed for 12 hours a day for the duration of our trip. I wasn't one to go out exploring and only liked a day trip if it involved getting a good tan (usually meant a boat trip!)

However, this holiday, I couldn't sit still. Not just because I had a toddler to chase down, but because there was so much I wanted to see and do.

We'd walk all along The Walk sometimes twice a day and enjoyed walking around the Marina, too.

It was at these points that Peyton would have her mammoth naps.

She slept so well during the day while we were away.

When I told people we were going to Dubai some would say they thought it would be too hot for Peyton, or asked how on earth she would cope with the heat.

She wasn't at all bothered, though. She was still running around and was still as active as ever. If anything, it meant she slept more during the day (which meant we got a bit more downtime!)

I was a bit worried before we went about how I'd feel while we were away. It's no secret that I've not been at my most confident since becoming a mum. In fact, I've been so hard on myself about so many things; mainly my body and appearance.

However, since getting to my target weight at Slimming World just before going, I've felt amazing. I wore a bikini everyday and felt so happy, content and comfortable the whole time we were there.

I didn't look and compare myself to anyone else on the beach or by the pool, and I embraced my wobbly bits, stretch marks and mum tum.

I have definitely learnt now how to dress for my new shape - high-waisted is always a winner for me!

We packed in absolutely loads while we were there. We only were away for a week but we had jam-packed days everyday.

Our first day we started at the beach, then by the pool, then went to the mall and had a visit to Rainforest Cafe (Peyton was in absolte awe here!), then watched the fountains. All before going back to the hotel for a late night swim and tea!

When we visited Dubai in 2017 we were only there for two full days before we went on to the Seychelles. On one of those days we did an open top bus tour - one of those hop on, hop off ones - so we saw pretty much everything. We just didn't get to do it all.

So that was our mission this time.

Although, we obviously had to make sure it was toddler-friendly/appropriate.

A few people have asked if Dubai is a place for a family-friendly holiday and I would 110% say yes.

It's like putting a city break and beach holiday into one. I described it when we first went as being like New York and London merging in the desert.

There's so much to do that you'd never be bored, but there's also the amazing weather so if you do just like to lounge by the pool/beach in the sun, you can bank on it being nice.

We have said we will definitely go back again as, still, there are things we didn't get to do; or couldn't because P was a bit small.

Everywhere is so, so clean it's incredible. One day we were walking along and as a couple got up off a bench, this guy appeared out of nowhere with a full cleaning kit and was spraying it and wiping it down. There were always people out cleaning and polishing the pavements, and you never saw any litter.

All the hotels and restaurants and bars were also spotless. It made me even more conscious about how messy Peyton can be when she eats. I always clean up after her anyway, but I felt like I needed to make an extra effort while we were away!

The people in Dubai are all so friendly, too. Everywhere we went everyone made such a fuss of Peyton, she was absolutely loving life.

A lot of people have misconceptions about it, given the stories that often appear in the media, but it's nothing like people perceive.

The first time we went I wore a long dress with my shoulders covered for when we were sight-seeing, only to see girls walking down the street in hotpants and crop tops, followed by a lady in full traditional dress.

Anything goes, just like it would here.

Of course, it's not the cheapest place in the world to visit. We knew this when we booked to go.

A few hotels do all inclusive deals but we opted to avoid these given 1. their upfront price and 2. the fact that we knew we wouldn't just be staying at our hotel for the full week. We wanted to explore and get out, and I'd feel less able to do this is I knew we'd paid up front for our three meals and drinks for the week.

We were more savvy when we went this time than previously. When we went in 2017 we were on our honeymoon (and pre-Peyton) so didn't bat an eyelid at ordering a shisha pipe or a bottle of wine.

This time, I think we only had three alcoholic drinks the whole time we were there!

We ate out, but didn't go crazy, and we were sensible in our choices of restaurants. As nice as it would've been to have eaten at all the fancy places, it would've been no fun with a wriggling child in tow who struggles to sit still for longer than it takes her to eat.

I think, in total, we spent around £600 for the week. And we didn't miss out on anything in doing that. We were a bit more clued up than previously and were prepared for the cost. However, we said we probably spent about the same as we would have if we'd eaten out everyday in this country and done days out every day in a week off.

We got such a good deal on our holiday itself that we didn't mind the spending money while we were there.

Upon speaking to friends who live there, we discovered we got our flights and accommodation for a week cheaper than they can get one-way flights home. We knew it was a bargain but just didn't realise how good.


Included in our holiday were three (free) tickets to one of the Dubai Parks and Resorts attractions of our choice. Of course, we picked Legoland. (I say we, I mean Tom).

I'm not a massive fan of Lego, it's not something I've really played with or thought much about since I was little, but even I was impressed with it.

It was such a fun day out and it was so nice to see Peyton so interested in everything.

There were loads of rides, most of which she was too small for, but there were a few she was able to go on. There was also a big, shaded play area for little ones which she loved.

We chose to go on Sunday, which is a working day in Dubai, as we thought it would be quieter.

We were practically the only ones there. When we arrived Tom said it reminded him of when Shrek and Donkey arrived in Duloc and there was just nobody around.

It was great, because it meant Peyton could run around without us worrying she was going to get lost/snatched, and also meant no queuing.

It was a super hot day that day, as it's basically out in the desert. However, none of us were really too bothered.

We got a taxi from where we were staying to Legoland. I had looked and we could have got the Metro, then a taxi, but one of the concierge people in our hotel said it was best to avoid that when with a little one.

I was glad she said this as I really didn't fancy carting the pram on a train!

Taxis are really cheap over there, we just used them the whole time.

Our taxi from the airpot to the hotel (which was about 40 mins) was about £30ish, we got taxis into the mall, up to Atlantis when we went there for the day, and to Legoland.

Before we went, I was a little worried about how night times would go.

Dubai is three hours ahead, so I wasn't sure whether to adjust Peyton to Dubai time or keep her on British. I was conscious of the fact that, if we moved her to Dubai time, her getting up at 6am there would be 3am at home - and I was not down for waking up at that time when we got home!

I thought it best to, where possible, keep her on UK time. It worked really, really well; on the whole.

At home, she goes to bed at 7pm. This meant that, while we were away, she was going to bed at 10pm.

Typically, our usual routine would be: (on Dubai time)
4.30pm-6pm - Nap for Peyton
6pm - head back to the room to start getting showered/bathed etc
7pm - go down for tea
7.30pm - go out for a walk/ice-cream/drink somewhere
9pm - back to the hotel
9.30pm - milk and some In the Night Garden
10pm - bed

At home, I always put Peyton to bed awake. I give her a kiss and leave her room and, within minutes, she's asleep.

We quickly learnt on the first night that us staying in the room with her didn't work.

She was in a travel cot in our room, alongside our bed.

On the second night we put her to bed and sat on the balcony, leaving her to fall asleep by herself. She slept that night from 10pm until 9am. It was the best sleep I have had in months.

It was also the best sleep of the week because, despite bedtime/nap times/meal times all staying the same as in the UK, she decided a 6/6.30am wake up was appropriate each day.

I gave up in the end and just accepted it. Thankfully, since coming home she's just slotted straight back into her usual routine and didn't start waking up at 3am wanting to start the day.

I think a big part of it was her waking up and seeing that we were there. I would hear her stir and, normally, she'd just go straight back to sleep. But next thing I'd hear would be "mama? Mama?" over and over until I got up.

All in all, though, she adjusted really, really well.

On one of the days we were away we went to the waterpark at Atlantis.

We had visited last time, but it was as part of our hop on, hop off bus tour. So was flying!

Given how much Peyton loves water, we knew it would be money well spent. Thankfully she was free, given the fact she was under two, becaue it was £60 per person for me and Tom.

It was totally worth it, though. As well as water park access we got to visit the aquarium and I've never seen the girl get so excited. She was losing her mind.

The whole day she splashed, played and smiled.

The pools in the little ones area were amazing. One was all rubber on the bottom to stop them slipping over, but also to cushion them if they fell.

There were splash pads and slides and all sorts.

We got there for it opening, so it was really quiet for the first hour or so. It gradually got to be really, really busy, though. But it didn't bother us, or Peyton.

The whole holiday she had the biggest, beaming smile on her face. The picture below was at one of the restaurants at Atlantis. She sat and ate cucumber sticks and hummus while watching Bing and, honestly, I think it's the epitome of her living her best life.

Here's just another picture of me in a bikini, because I was really feeling myself while we were away.

I wish I still looked like this now, I really need to snap out of the 'holiday' mode that I'm stuck in. I'm waiting until after my birthday for that, though!

While we were away Peyton had her first Five Guys and, I think it's safe to say it was a hit. I got us one to share, thinking she'd just nibble at bits - she ate the whole bloody burger! I was left with the bun (because she only eats bread if it's toasted..!) and chips.

Our hotel had a happy hour between 6pm and 8pm - timing in perfectly with when Peyton would be asleep. She usually woke around 6pm, but we had two nights where there was time for a cocktail by the pool, as the sunset, while she slept.

We honestly had the best week. When we booked it, and in the build-up, I thought a week would be enough. However, I think we would've probably liked to have been there a few more days. We were all so chill and just enjoying everything.

The hardest/most challenging thing was, most definitely, meal times. Peyton isn't a fan of sitting still and, once she had finished eating, she wanted to be off. We found the iPad bought us a bit more time, but even then we had probably about half an hour per meal time.

Oh, I have to tell you this tale before we finish...

Our bathroom had a bidet in it (I used to call them bum baths when I was little and had no idea until just then that's how they were spelt). Peyton has obviously never seen one of these before so was absolutely fascinated. All her toys used to end up in it and she would often turn the taps on and off. She soon discovered she could take the plug out, so I moved it onto the shelf out of the way.

One night she was brushing her teeth and toddled off into the bathroom. She was quiet, so I went to see what she was doing... She was only stood ramming her toothbrush, bristles first, down the bloody bidet plug hole!!!!!!

That went straight in the bin, needless to say.

She also curled one out on the carpet in our bedroom, but I won't go into full detail about that...!

Shit on the floor and toothbrush down the bidet aside, we had the most perfect week.

Dubai, we will be back!

Travelling with a small person

When I told people we were going to Dubai as our first family holiday, I was met with a few faces of concern. I could see them panicking for me at the thought of an eight-hour flight with a one-year-old.

I was worried, too, I'll admit.

Since stopping breastfeeding she's stopped being such a cuddler. It's like she punished me for taking away the boob by taking away cuddles!

She stopped sleeping on me and wouldn't sit still at all on my knee. I wasn't sure how the flight would go, especially in terms of sleeping, given that she likes her own space for that now.

I was also worried how she'd cope having to sit on mine or Tom's knee; because she's under two so didn't get a seat of her own.

However, I remained calm and confident that all would be well; I knew if I was stressed she'd pick up on that and would be a nightmare.

I was well prepared for our travels. Probably too prepared.

We were able to take a piece of hand luggage each, so I rammed three bags full of toys, changes of clothes, Calpol sachets, teething granules, nappies, wipes and snacks.

And I took wayyyy too much.

But, I would always rather have more than I need than be caught short.

Before we went I bought a 'Keep Em Quiet' bag (here's the link if you want a nosey).

They basically put together bags for little ones for travelling filled with snacks, toys, books etc. They're all based on your child's age and there are different sizes depending on the length of your journey.

I went for the long-haul one which was £19.99. Every one is different, but mine had:
- Stacking cups
- A plastic toy giraffe
- A soft shark toy
- A little bag of snacks
- A wooden caterpillar
- Plastic velcro food
- A 'surprise' toy (it was a rubber duck inside a plastic egg)
- Books
- A Bing colouring book
- Colouring pencils

I have a feeling there was something else, too, but it's that long ago now I genuinely can't remember.

However, I felt it was good value for money. I packed everything, along with other small bits I had bought (a slinky, a little wooden car) and was prepared to get something new out every so often.

In reality, she wasn't at all bothered with toys, really. While we were away, the toys were a lifesaver. She played with them in the room while we got ready and took them to the pool/beach, too. However, for the flight itself, she wasn't too interested.

The iPad was an absolute godsend. I'd downloaded loads of her favourite CBeebies show on the BBC iPlayer app and we watched a few of these as everyone else was boarding.

I got some milk from a coffee shop at the airport to give her during take-off, to help with her ears, but misjudged how long we would be taxiing for and she'd downed it before we'd even left the ground...! She was fine with take-off, though, and just snacked through it (a trend for the whole flight).

Within minutes of us taking off she was asleep.

She slept for almost two hours, I think. I was amazed. And uncomfortable.

My arm went to sleep with her and it took a good while for me to get the feeling back in it.

I managed to watch (almost) a whole film while she slept.

She woke up and we had about five hours left. Five hours which she spent eating.

Honestly, I've never seen the girl put so much away.

I took Quavers, Ella's Kitchen snacks, Kiddylicious wafers - the lot. She ate a whole bag of the melty puffs, a whole pack of melty sticks, two packs of Quavers, two packs of the Kiddylicious wafers... I was actually starting to panic that we'd run out of snacks before we landed.

Thankfully, we were ok!

She was good as gold the whole flight, and I was so relieved.

She got a bit crabby at times, but that was mainly when she didn't want to sit still any longer. Long flights are hard for adults so they must be even more difficult for little ones.

I found that taking her on little walks around the plane helped, and the cabin crew were amazing with her! So were all the people sat around us, actually.

When she was having a whinge nobody glared or was rude or looked like we were a nuisance.

There was a lady sat across from us who kept passing Peyton things to play with and another lady who started playing peek-a-boo with her. And the couple behind us, bless them, had to endure her stood up poking her head over the seat shouting "iya' for a good chunk of the flight. They must've wanted the world to open them up when they walked into our hotel reception and saw us in the queue in front of them. They were lovely, though, we actually kept bumping into them loads!

Where we were sat on the plane was absolutely ideal - we had loads of leg room. I made a little play area for P with some of the toys we took but, as I said before, she wasn't really interested in them. She'd entertain them for a few minutes but really just wanted to be off wandering.

However, the extra leg room was ideal for travelling with a small one. It meant, at times, I could sit on the floor and she sat on my seat. The couple next to us had a little baby who was around 11-ish months and they got a bassinet for him to sleep in. It clipped onto the wall in front of us and was basically a cot for them. If Peyton hadn't been so big (and heavy) I'd have got one for her too, but she was a bit past that.

Emirates were great, though. When we boarded we got a little pack with wipes and nappy cream and stuff in, and also a little blanket and soft toy. They have baby milk on board and baby food pouches. The only downside was, because she was under two, she didn't get a proper meal. But, we didn't pay for a seat so I have no complaints about that! Had I wanted any pouches for her, they would've been able to give me as many as we needed.

All in all, I wouldn't be put off about travelling long haul with a small person. Our flights were through the day time which worked ok. When we were booking it I was insistent we didn't want night flights. We booked it in January when she was still up countless times in the night and the thought of her sleeping through seemed too good to be true. However, now, night flights would have probably been better as she would have just slept the whole way, as opposed to sleeping for a fraction of the time.

Despite this, it wasn't bad at all. She didn't have any major meltdowns, she didn't cry for long periods, and she didn't cause any scenes. She was a bit grumbly when we were landing in Dubai but I think she was shattered by this point, and I had no provisions for her ears for landing.

On the way back, she was a bit more unsettled and restless, but me and Tom were, too. Despite this, there were hardly any tears. Still, she had two sleeps of around an hour and fell asleep an hour before we landed. Despite her burning her hand on our food when it came out (this resulted in a good 15 minutes of screaming) she was as dreamy as she was on the way out.

Incase anyone is set to travel with a small person, or is just nosey like me and wants to know what I packed in my hand luggage, here's the comprehensive list...
- Nappies (x10)
- Wipes (1 pack)
- Nappy sacks
- Cotton wool pads
- Sudocrem
- Blanket
- Muslin cloths
- Change of clothes
- Clothes for arrival
- Snacks
- Bib
- Cup
- Bottle
- Calpol sachets
- Teething granules
- Spoon
- Changing mat
- Toys and books
- iPad

I definitely had too much.

To the point where, on the way back, we said we'd only take two pieces of hand luggage.

We had too many nappies, too many toys, and just too much stuff in general. It was hard knowing which bag we needed for what, and I could tell Tom was regretting sitting on the aisle seat and being the one having to get everything out of the overhead lockers for me...!

However, you can guarantee if I'd gone streamline she'd have had the shits and we'd have all ended up landing in Dubai wrapped in Emirates blankets because our clothes were destroyed and we ran out of nappies.

My top tips would be:
- Pack toys they've not seen before
- Take lots of their favourite snacks - snacks saved the flight for us
- Take a change of clothes for you as well as baby (the lady next to us, her little boy projectile vomited all over her on the way back...! I was so thankful it didn't happen to me because I had no change of clothes for myself!)
- Download a variety of their favourite episodes to keep them distracted
- Try and stay calm. Travelling in itself can be quite stressful and make people anxious, but it's even worse with a small person, too. But I was prepared for every eventuality and kept calm, and everything was plain sailing.
- Give Calpol half an hour before take-off (it helps with the pain of their ears)
- If you can, ask a coffee shop to give you some warm milk in their bottle for take-off (again, helps their ears)

I feel like I've rambled on about a load of absolute bollocks there, so sorry if this isn't the most exciting blog you've ever read.

It's taken me long enough to write, you'd think I could've made it a bit more exciting - but nope!

Basically, don't be put off by long haul flights with a little one because, honestly, it's nowhere near as bad as you think.