Family Travel: Long Haul to the Caribbean

A nine-hour flight to meet her partner in the caribbean with just her baby and a G&T for company. Was Antigua worth it? We talk family travel with art director Laura Johnstone, from Sussex…

Art director Laura Johnstone, 31, lives in Sussex with her partner Corin and their 17-month-old daughter Wren. At the beginning of the year, they flew to Antigua for some winter sun

Where and why?
We went to the village of Five Islands, on the north west coast of Antigua – an island in the West Indies. We wanted winter sun, a direct flight from Gatwick and a brilliant deal on Airbnb.

How did you get there?
We flew British Airways. My partner had been working in LA for six weeks and had been promised two weeks off in between films. Although the idea of taking a nine-hour flight with a little one on my own by choice seemed a tad daunting we thought it best we met on holiday somewhere in the middle to try and minimize his jetlag.

I had travelled around the UK a lot with Wren, following my partner’s work, since she was a couple of weeks old – including a short flight – and trusted that the two of us, as a team, could combat the long journey by amusing ourselves.

Our flight was booked from our nearest airport for mid-morning departure with the flight bang in the middle of the day so I planned to carry on like a normal day, with the exception of sitting still, and deal with the time difference once we were there.

We took a taxi to the airport and unloaded at drop-off. The trickiest part was balancing our luggage, buggy and car seat with baby attached firmly in papoose with a single pair of hands but after a bit of bag Jenga we got there.

Tell us about travelling with a baby in tow…
I didn’t seek much advice in the lead-up to the flight because I wanted to embrace all that was in store as it came, and thought I needed to just get on with it. Sure, I was prepared for the inevitable but dosing Wren up with Calpol etc felt out of character.

We didn’t rush to board first. I bought a small selection of toys which I don’t think even came out of the bag. She was content looking out of the window, fiddling with my seatbelt and playing with a lovely old couple sitting behind us, whilst on my lap.

I left her to it, enjoyed a G&T and went with the flow. She took a few naps and a few aisle-side crawls and seemed to handle the journey well.

The return journey was a little different with my partner joining us to fly home. It was a night flight and we sat up front with a good deal of space. We made use of the bouncy seat that British Airways supplied. The trouble with that was every time the seatbelt light flashed up she had to be transferred back to my lap and buckled in, and this happened a lot.

And the accommodation?
We stayed in a beautiful self-catering villa in Antigua hosted by a great Italian guy who had moved out to Antigua 10 years back.

I love Airbnb when travelling as a family. We communicated well in advance and checked the villa had everything we needed. We got a great sense of what we needed to bring ourselves to make our stay as comfortable as possible too. Our host sorted all local car hire along with car seat etc.

Highlights?
The villa was stunning and private with fantastic views to the ocean. We had been in the middle of a house build at the time so getting away to a warm, quiet, undisturbed paradise was pretty much it.

The ultimate highlight was being somewhere together, just us three, under the sun among rich, ripe and juicy nature – and this destination smashed it for us.

Any difficulties?
With an 11-month-old, our days were still governed by naps so we chose beaches nearby and were able to lounge about comfortably by the pool while she slept.

Would you recommend this trip to other parents?
I would highly recommend a trip with tots to Antigua because of the direct flight, warm tropical atmosphere and abundance of beautiful beaches.