We’ve recently come back from the most lovely, long-overdue family holiday in Grand Cayman to celebrate C’s 40th and to kick off our farewell to this part of the world.
Getting to the Caymans from NYC
Southwest of Cuba and Northwest of Jamaica, the Caymans is a really manageable distance from NYC (one of our criteria when traveling with three young kids) less than four hours direct flight on either Jet Blue or Cayman Airways.The girls were excited to spot giant posters of the Queen and Prince Philip at the airport, as the Caymans is a British Overseas Territory.
J did his first flight to Mexico at under two months old and breastfed in silence the whole way. This flight was harder as he’s physically a lot stronger and able to twist on my lap to have a good gawp at the passengers sitting behind us. We struck lucky with the lady next to us – a Kindergarten teacher who also happened to be a grandmother. Hurrah.
T has been working hard on her writing, and came home from school one day with a sealed envelope addressed to “The Pilit” [sic]. She insisted on giving it to the pilot (without telling us what she’d written), so handed the envelope to the JetBlue stewardess as we boarded. That lady then hammered on the cockpit door so that T could give deliver it herself. The super-pleased pilot invited both T & B to see all the instruments and dials, explaining they are trying to encourage the next generation of female pilots. Once everyone had taken their seats, the pilot then came to the front of the plane to read T’s card over the tannoy. “Morning everyone. Welcome to JetBlue. Now this is how you travel. I’ve received a card from a young lady, aged six, and is says: “Dear Pilit. Thank you for flying my family to the Kay Mans. Have a safe flight. Love from T.” The passengers applauded, which thrilled T and has encouraged her to keep practising her writing. It was a lovely start to our holiday.
We chose to splurge and stay at the newly opened Kimpton Seafire, as C had stayed at the Kimpton in Washington and enjoyed its boutique vibe and quality of service. It was a fantastic choice for our family as it’s extremely child-friendly without being all about the kids, if you know what I mean. The staff were fantastic and the décor was v stylish and Instagram-worthy.
For me, the best part about the whole holiday was the hotel room. Plenty of space and, wait for it, hidden bunk beds for the kids, with a great view of the famous Caribbean waters below. Makes a change from our usual loathing of being stuck in a hotel room in the dark trying to get the kids off to sleep.
The hotel restaurants all provided reasonable children’s menus, such as a $10 all you can eat breakfast buffet at Ave, and kids under 5 ate for free. Once we got into our rhythm, the amazing buffet breakfast set us up for the day, followed by a huge early supper by the beach at Coccoloba.
As the hotel is basically brand new, everything has been carefully designed to be accessible, so it was v easy to take the little pushchair around with us, heavily loaded up with the ridiculous amount of stuff required for three young kids. You could even use a path over the sand to get most of the way to the water, and then park it in the shade of the beach side restaurant, Coccoloba. There was also an air conditioned bathroom right there too, v handy when the kids give you two-seconds notice that they’re bursting for the loo.
Every restaurant had high chairs, and there were several bathrooms with baby changing tables round the hotel.
Ah, the water, the water, the water. We spent every morning either on the beach or in the hotel’s kids’ pool. The design was really sensible – a long but very shallow sloping pool (no higher than my knee at its deepest) with a little waterfall and fun squirty sections kept all of ours happy for hours at a time. We did also take them into the main pool a couple of times to practise their swimming, but we found the non-slip surface of the pool was too scratchy.
The Seven Mile Beach
The beach was fantastic. The Seven Mile Beach is literally made from white coral sand, with coral and shells a plenty to search for and decorate sand castles. We took it in turns to borrow some of the beach toys including a small kayak and paddle board, enjoying mucking about in the water while C and I took turns to look after J.
I remember our first beach holiday as parents. What a shocker. One baby hated the sand, and the other was freaked out by the waves. C and I looked at each other in horror, but the girls did eventually learn to enjoy the beach, and we’ve softened our expectations of being able to, I don’t know, actually relax at the beach. Now we’ve learnt to take it in turns to play while the other chills out or goes for a walk. At one point J lay asleep in his stroller on the beach while I and the girls were in the shallows – I had to constantly adjust against the water to make sure I had all three kids in my sight at all times. Not relaxing. But the kids had fun.
The hotel can provide childcare. Babysitting was $25 an hour, or for kids aged 4 – 12, you could send them to Camp Seafire for either a half or full day at $50 or $90. Full disclosure, the hotel comped us a half day for the girls as I asked to try it for the blog. This was the only freebie. The Camp is v stylishly designed with an ocean theme, there are huge cushions that look like giant pebbles, and v convincingly life like stuffed toys in the shape of sea creatures.
The girls had a fantastic time and enjoyed a welcome break from the beach-side heat in the camp’s air conditioning. They enjoyed dancing to a steel drummer, and had three corn rows braided (plaited) into their hair which lasted almost a month before I insisted they untie them for a proper wash.
Camp Seafire staff also provided a range of really good toys and games in the hotel lobby every evening during happy hour (5-6pm), when they served free glasses of wine. This was ace, obviously.
We’ve truthfully never stayed anywhere with such friendly, welcoming staff. The hotel policy is not to tip each meal as this is covered in the $60 daily resort fee. So instead of the tip, C encouraged the girls to dedicate their coloured-in children’s menus each meal to the waitress that day. Some of them reciprocated with gifts of colouring books, shells, toy turtles and even hand written thank you notes to the girls. We were v touched.
We also did a couple of fun daytrips during our stay. The Turtle Farm was fantastic, just the right size for young kids on a baking hot day. They were able to learn about the life cycle of the sea turtle, see the hatchery and the ‘Genesis Pond’ (where turtles mate and lay their eggs). Best of all, you can snorkel with them! This wasn’t all that great for our particular family as J was too young, and B thought the seaweed was poo and flatly refused to go in. But if your family is a little older, this is well worth doing. If you go in November, you may also be able to see their annual Turtle Release. The hotel staff can help you time your visit to avoid the cruise ships, as these can make it overwhelmingly crowded for young families.
Highs & Lows
- Going on a splash-out holiday
- Relishing the time to switch off and read my book in bed for a few hours each day in the lovely hotel room
- Having more time to get stuff done now that J has started daycare. So good to concentrate on something without looking up to discover he has nipped up the steps to T’s top bunk bed, or clambered up onto the air conditioning unit and is banging podgy hands on the window THIRTY EIGHT FLOORS UP
- Saying goodbye to friends and locations, as it is finally time to head back to the UK after three wonderful years here. I’m planning a separate piece about this shortly, so I won’t say more now
- Realising J had been fishing in the toilet bowl, given away by the puddles of water and his wet arm. Yuck yuck yuck
- Enjoying buying some lovely new summery clothing for the kids, and then walking to the podiatrist to get my new orthopaedic insoles fitted for my bunions and flat feet. Oh the glamour. The hard New York sidewalks haven’t done my feet any favours, it would seem