While our tans from our recent holiday in the Maldives have seemingly faded, our memories haven't at all and I'll talk at great lengths about how fantastic our holiday was to anybody who shows half an interest in it. It's funny though, because as we share the happy times from our holiday with friends and family (who are invariably a little miffed at having to hear about our time in a tropical paradise) the response we often received is, "I always thought the Maldives was a honeymoon destination."
Yep, me too. Or at the very least, I thought it was only for ridiculously rich romantic types. But our stay at Kandima proved me wrong on both counts. While yes you need a decent budget to go to the Maldives, and you can certainly enjoy it A LOT as a couple in love (or even in lust, or a lukewarm relationship) there's a lot for families to enjoy. I would also say that going to the Maldives with very young children is a great idea because they don't need as many "big" activities as older children do. The following tips for heading to the Maldives with a toddler (12+ month old) should explain why I think it's such a great destination for families, though many of these tips could be applied to a younger infant too.
Pick a family-friendly resort
First thing's first, you're not going to have the holiday of a lifetime if you, your partner and your two kids under two rock up at an adults-only resort that has no babysitting facilities. Of course, you'd not get past the booking page of the resort's website, but do take time to research islands that welcome families. Find out if they have a kids' club, a kids' pool, babysitters, and check that they provide cots in rooms. If it's not clear how family-friendly a resort is, email them and ask. (And just FYI, Kandima Maldives does tick all of these boxes!)
There is definite strength in numbers in luxury resorts as you don't want to be the only young family with the loud toddler in a room otherwise full of well-rested honeymooning couples. We shared more than a few nods of the head in solidarity with fellow parents of young children at breakfast in Kandima and it makes all the difference.
Pick appropriate accommodation
Aqua villas are wonderful for honeymooning couples but they are arguably the worst idea in the world for a family with a toddler, thanks to the whole sheer drop into the ocean feature. For that reason we chose a beach villa at Kandima though we had beach access and our own pool so we still had to keep an eye on our little monkey.
Don't expect a honeymoon!
When I told people I was going to the Maldives, they told me how jealous they were, they told me to "relax and enjoy" and they asked me how many books I was going to take. I resisted the urge to reply that my toddler wasn't going to magically disappear once we boarded the plane. As a parent friend of mine said, when you go on holiday with little people it's just the same old sh*t in a different location. This is true even in a tropical paradise. Our boy still threw tantrums, still filled his nappy with poo, and still woke us up every morning at 6 o'clock (or earlier). That said, there is still plenty to enjoy while travelling with little ones in a place like the Maldives; the views are still outstanding, the sea is still warm and clear, and you can still catch a glimpse of a beautiful sunset... before running after your toddler as he escapes down the beach.
Let your little one find the fun
Speaking of toddlers running off down a beach, we found that sometimes all the entertainment Baby Bird needed was a toy car and the sand that was... err, everywhere. On the beach, in the "garden" of our villa, on the floor of the beach bar we drank cocktails in, he was often happiest when he was just playing in the sand. On other occasions he found it fun to collect shells (and then we took them back to the sea) and we spent one morning "watering" the wild flowers near our villa with a water bottle of sand he would refill. When you're surrounded by so much nature, the Maldives is a great place to just let your little one wander and explore... in other words you don't need to worry that much about entertaining them.
Get them used to wearing sunglasses
Now we get to the more practical tips. So, at the risk of saying something stupid, the sand is very white in the Maldives and the sun can be very strong, and this means that everything can be a bit bright. While my partner and I would just put our sunglasses on to counteract this, our boy struggled to understand that wearing sunglasses would help him dull the brightness a little. He also has a rather small nose so they would invariably fall off as soon as he moved his head which he did a lot because he was trying to block out the bright light... It was a bit of a struggle and while a sunhat helped it didn't solve the problem. In the end we had to hold him and cover his eyes with our own hands until we found shade, or we would sometimes choose to avoid the brightest times of day completely. I wish we'd got him some sunglasses with elastic that go around the head and maybe got him to practice wearing them before we'd got to the island, but hey, coulda, woulda, shoulda....
Have more than enough nappies
If you're little one is still in nappies, I strongly advise you take more then you think you'll need. We brought as many as I thought we'd need and it wasn't enough. The Maldives is not like other travel destinations where you have a supermarket down the road. Supplies are shipped in from other islands (or even countries) and this can be expensive or you may have to wait a few days to get what you want. We got lucky and had a kind staff member on Kandima get us some within a day of asking. So take more than you think you'll need - of nappies, or whatever you need for your little one. Especially formula, special foods they like or need, or medicine that they may need.
Don't expect the same foods at home - and not the same every day
Again because islands rely on deliveries for their food and supplies you may find that you won't get exactly the full range of foods your little one is used to. This is normal because you're in a different part of the world, but if you have a fussy eater (like we do!) this could pose problems so bear this in mind. Our little guy is addicted to bananas but they didn't always have them so he had to wait a few days sometimes - no bad thing! - but this may mean you want to bring more snacks from home with you.
Prepare for rainy days
We went to the Maldives at the end of August, which is still technically rainy season. And it was... I would say we had as many rainy days as we had idyllic sunny days. But we knew this (and it's why it was more affordable!) and we prepared with lots of games, sticker books and toys for our son. Also, when the rain wasn't so heavy, we still played outside or splashed in the pool because it was still actually warm and we're lucky (?!) that our boy loves to play in the rain. Of course, we also took full advantage of the fantastic kids' club on Kandima where there were many rainy day activities for him to enjoy, and that was when my partner and I would slip away to the gym or the spa for a few hours.
Don't be put off by a long transfer
I read a lot of posts about travelling to the Maldives with young children and they all recommended going to an island close to Male so you only need to get a boat transfer. While I understand this logic, for us the seaplane was a big part of the adventure and I can imagine for older children (3 years or above) this would have been a huge event. As it happened, our little guy wasn't that interested in the experience (he'd already done a few planes by that stage!) and squeezing earplugs into his ears was a bit of a challenge, but he almost immediately fell asleep meaning we got to enjoy the amazing views uninterrupted. There must be something about the seaplane's noise and vibrations because this happened on both in- and outgoing journeys. I can also imagine that a longer boat transfer would also be just as exciting to some young children.
Once in a lifetime experiences are just as amazing when you have children....
If not more so. I strongly believe that while you may not relax as much as you would without children, and you may not sleep as much, or tan as much, going on a once in a lifetime holiday with a child (or children) is just as "once in a lifetimey", if that makes sense. If anything my memories of our time in the Maldives are extra special because of all the things we did together as a family. The photos I have of our son playing in the sand, or splashing in the pool, are some of my favourites of him, helped of course by the fact that the surroundings are so astonishingly stunning.
Frances M. Thompson
Londoner turned wanderer, Frankie is an author, freelance writer and blogger. Currently based in Amsterdam, Frankie was nomadic for two years before putting down some roots with her Australian partner and having a baby boy in July 2015. In 2017, she launched WriteNOW Cards, affirmation cards for writers that help build a productive and positive writing practice. When not writing contemporary fiction, Frankie shops for vintage clothes, dances to 70s disco music and chases her son around Amsterdam.
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