There is no law that says small children or pregnant women can’t holiday far from home. It’s like any other project - it just needs careful thought, planning and attention to detail.
So it doesn’t matter where in the world home is, and it doesn’t matter whether you are small or whether you are getting bigger and bigger - you can still have a great holiday in Phuket.
First Step: the Flight
The first step, and often the most daunting for parents, is the long flight. To start with, plan to reach the plane fresh and relaxed - make sure you don’t rush straight from the office or school to the airport.
Lists and proper planning are essential. Don’t do your packing at the last moment, especially if this is your first time taking a holiday together as a family. Trust us; if you wait until the last moment, you’re going to feel exhausted. You’ll also spend the flight worrying whether you packed that essential whatever.
Planning, too, is the secret to heading off fussing and crying by the little ones while in the air. Small children don’t understand time, but they do understand and detest boredom.
They don’t have to be bored. Cabin crew usually hand out children’s activities sets on request. These will keep your smalls busy for a while. Airlines also usually have special meals for kids. But don’t rely on the airline to do it all for you. Pack plenty of toys, activities and books to keep children occupied, and also bring baby food or children’s food and snacks that you know they like.
And if you want your child to sleep during at least part of the flight, don’t forget to pack that favourite teddy bear in your hand luggage.
Takeoff and landing are often difficult for children, whose ears hurt because they don’t know how to equalize the air pressure. Bring candy or gum for them to suck or chew, which will usually do the trick. In the case of an infant, breast feeding has the same effect.
The only time you might consider postponing a trip on an aircraft is if your child has a heavy cold. Changing air pressures could make it very painful for the child. If in doubt, check with your family doctor.
Once in Phuket
Once in Phuket, protection against the sun is a must for a young child’s delicate skin. It is best to keep children in the shade between 10 am and 4 pm when the sun is at its strongest.
When using sunscreen, don’t be mean. Slap it on. Make sure that the sunscreen offers protection against both UVA and UVB and has an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15.
The SPF is a rough guide as to how long you can stay in the sun without risk of burning. If you usually begin to tan or burn after 20 minutes, an SPF means you can spend 15 times as long in the sun before you start to burn. Don’t rely on this, however; there are many variables such as skin type, how often the sunscreen is applied and the child’s activities while in the sun.
Apply sunscreen to your child (and yourself) about 30 minutes before going out into the sun. Re-apply it several times during a day in the sun, more often if your youngster is swimming a lot.
Note that if you are buying sunglasses (for your children too) you should make sure they block both UVA and UVB radiation.
Expecting a Good Break
Pregnant women are not advised to plan a long-haul flight during the first trimester, when morning sickness or nausea is likely to make flying pure misery. The final trimester is probably not a good idea, either, and in any case, most airlines bar passengers who have gone past 35 weeks of pregnancy.
But that still leaves months four, five and six of pregnancy when flying is both safe and comfortable.
Year-round, the temperature in Phuket varies between 27ºC to 36ºC. The hottest month is usually April – which you may not find too comfortable.
It is in any case a good idea to stay out of the sun while you are pregnant to avoid chloasma or “the mask of pregnancy”. This is the term for blotches of melanin, particularly on the forehead and nose, that are the result of a combination of the sun’s rays and hormonal changes due to pregnancy. It particularly affects women with pale brown skin, and takes a looooong time to fade away.
So forget about going home with a fab tan this time. Slap on the sunblock and enjoy sipping fruit juice in the shade. And don’t forget to drink plenty of water, too, to avoid dehydration.
To be comfortable in a hot climate, wear natural fabrics. No, not wool or your favourite cashmere sweater. The choice really is cotton, cotton or cotton. It soaks up the perspiration and makes you feel cool. Loose-fitting tops with open necks allow good airflow. You can bring linen if you like. It’s comfortable and can look smart in the evening, but it does wrinkle very easily, especially when stuffed into a suitcase. Don’t forget that the warmer climate will make your feet swell slightly, so bring loose-fitting shoes or adjustable sandals.
Pregnant readers will be happy to know that there’s a lot of good stuff in tropical fruit. Pineapple, for example, is a good source of manganese, as well as containing significant amounts of Vitamin C and Vitamin B1. Ripe mango contains about 15% sugar, up to 1% protein, and significant amounts of Vitamins A, B and C. And of course, they’re utterly delicious.
If you forget anything for your kids, don’t panic. You can find everything you need in the local stores. Try the Central Festival mall or the Robinson department store.
When it comes to health care, Phuket has everything you’re likely to need, and to international standards. There are three local hospitals with English-speaking doctors.