This year we decided to do something a little different from our usual beach/villa holiday in Greece and travel a little further (okay a lot!) to experience somewhere completely new and different. I’ll be honest, the ‘we’ I refer to was mainly me. You see, I’m about to turn 42 and having grown up in South Africa and only set foot on a plane age 21 when I flew to the UK, there is so much of the world I’m desperate to see. The opportunities to travel when you have three school aged children are limited to the (eye-wateringly expensive) school holidays so I floated the idea of travelling to Bali this Summer.
Initially Nick wasn’t too keen on flying such a distance, but I am pretty persuasive when I want to be! We started showing the children pictures of Bali and they actually seemed really excited about their first long haul flight. If it meant they could watch their screens endlessly without me nagging, they were in!
We decided to book with Destinology, a company that we have successfully used before. They suggested that we spend a week in Seminyak followed by a week in Ubud and we liked the look of the Alila Seminyak for our first week. I thought it would be nice to stay in a hotel for the first week, then move to a villa for the second week, so we started searching for villas on Airbnb. We found loads of beautiful villas in Ubud, and once we had a short-list of 4, we showed them all to the children and allowed them to choose their favourite. This was the villa we all agreed on.
I was a little nervous about travelling such a long way, so I decided I was going to be the most organised I have ever been for a holiday. I started packing, planning and ordering the bits we needed several weeks before we flew. I made sure that we didn’t pack too much and we managed to fit everything into 2 medium sized and three small suitcases.
We flew from London Heathrow to Doha (7 hours) and then from Doha to Bali (10 hours) so comfort was key and I wore the closest thing to my pyjamas. A pair of light cotton trousers from H&M, my Greek sandals and a very soft shirt from All Saints over a white vest (sold out but similar here) I used my basket bag as my hand luggage and wore my hat (but packed it full of socks in the suitcase on the journey back to London) The journey took 26 hours door to door. It was very long and not the most comfortable (I get very achey legs when I travel) but the excitement kept us going.
When we finally arrived at the hotel we headed straight to the beach bar for a late dinner and the exhaustion from the long journey melted away. Our hotel rooms were a little buggy ride (or short walk) away from the main hotel. We didn’t mind this at all, but it might be something to enquire about if you are after a sea view. Our rooms were in a kind of apartment block within an outdoor courtyard.
We had a very sleepless first night. The three children were staying together in an apartment room next door to ours, but they weren’t interconnecting, so I worried all night that Charlie would wake up in the middle of the night and come looking for us. Sure enough, he did, and we had a little knock on our door at 2am. The sleeping arrangements when you have three children are always a bit tricky and it took a few nights for me to relax in the knowledge that he was perfectly safe.
The sunsets were really beautiful and there was a great vibe at the beach bar in the evenings. We had a few evenings with live music and fantastic people watching before walking along the beach to dinner.
Great cocktails too…
Excellent friendly service by the pool and it was always possible to find a bed.
Breakfast at Sea Salt, the hotel restaurant was a real highlight. You ordered from the menu (I’m not a huge fan of the buffet breakfast) and the fresh juices every morning were delicious.
We really loved Seminyak itself, which is not short of wonderful restaurants in walking distance from the hotel. Many of them a short walk along the beack. We went in August, which is their very high season, so it was really busy and booking is recommended, especially on Saturday nights. A few of our favourite spots to eat…
We loved it so much we ate there twice and I can highly recommend the pork ribs!
Potato Head is situated right next door to the Alila Seminyak. I have read reviews from people that stayed in the main bit of the hotel that it could get quite noisy and you could hear the music from Potato Head at night. This wasn’t something we experienced ourselves but I would say if you are looking for somewhere quiet and peaceful, Seminyak in August isn’t the place!
Sea Circus Bali is a great spot for lunch. The food was good but the service was hit and miss. One of dishes arrived as we were paying the bill!
Address: Pantai Petitenget, Jalan Kayu Aya, Kerobokan, Kuta Utara, Seminyak, Kuta, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80361, Indonesia
Hours: Open ⋅ Closes 11PM
Excellent italian food on the beach front.
Our first attempt to dine at Ku De Ta wasn’t terribly successful. It was Saturday night when it turns into a full on rave and it really isn’t a scene for kids. We returned mid week to a very different scene. Excellent food and the children were very welcome.
Massage and beauty treatments. Seminyak is not short of drop in massage places where you are handed a menu of treatments. Everything from Full Body massages to Pedicures. I made sure that I had as many as I could reasonably justify and afford as they are so cheap compared to London. Milla and I had our nails done a few times and we tried to get at least a foot rub a day. Turns out that she and Charlie love massage just as much as me!
However, for a slightly more spa like experience, make sure you head to Bodyworks. I had one of the best facials I have ever had and was sorry I didn’t have time for a second visit. Booking the day before you want to visit is essential.
If you are travelling with kids, I would highly recommend a visit to Waterbom Bali. We booked the day before online and opted for a package that included a little gazebo. Now I am not a huge fan of Waterparks, but Waterbom was brilliant. Clean, well organised and there’s even a spa for mums who don’t like the rides! (Though I did really enjoy a little ride down the lazy river with Charlie)
We went on Day 2 of our holiday, and unfortunately, both girls started feeling very unwell while we were there. I was hugely grateful for the gazebo, as both fell asleep in the shade and we made our way home after a few hours. We will never know what made Olivia so sick, but poor thing ended up spending 4 days in her hotel room. Some said it may have been swallowing water at the Waterpark when they were coming down the rides (be sure to keep your mouth closed!) but it could easily have been a bug she picked up on the plane.
Bali Belly is something to watch out for. Our hotel gave us bottled water for brushing our teeth and we were very careful not to have ice in our drinks. I was very relieved to have brought both Dioralyte and Activated Charcoal capsules with me. We all experienced a touch of the Bali Belly at some point though Liv was definitely hit the worst.
The Shopping in Seminyak was really good. Too many lovely boutiques to mention them all individually, but I was in heaven the day I went shopping on my own. There are plenty of stalls selling inexpensive basket bags, shell necklaces and (bad) fake designer pieces and lots of gorgeous interiors shops too.
Taxis – only get Bluebird taxis or use the app ‘Grab’ which is like Uber. Taxis aren’t expensive, but the traffic can be quite bad, so we did lots of walking when we could. This isn’t something I would recommend if you are travelling with smaller children. There aren’t any pavements in Seminyak and a gazillion motorbikes that come from no-where can make walking the streets with children quite stressful.
Currency – Indonesian Rupiah – I would highly recommend downloading a currency converter app. It made my calculations so much easier when I was shopping on my own. I used XE currency. But a good starting point is 100,000 IR = around £6.
Weather – It was the perfect temperature for me. Around 25-29 degrees. It can start off quite cloudy but most days the clouds have burned off by about 10am.
Jabs – We all had to have vaccinations – something to bear in mind if you are planning a trip.
Mozzies – The mozzies weren’t too bad in Seminyak (in fact I didn’t get bitten once) but I was religious with my Incognito Spray and only got bitten twice towards the end of the holiday when I had relaxed a bit with my repellent.
We travelled to Ubud for our second week to stay in the villa. The villa came with a driver, which was essential for getting around as there are no bluebird taxis in Ubud. Traffic in Ubud can get very bad, so we walked into town from our villa a couple of times. It was pretty terrifying at times, and it’s not something I would recommend with small children!
I really loved staying in a villa after a week in a hotel. It felt private and peaceful and we seemed to really unwind. We usually did an activity in the morning and then we would return for an afternoon by the pool. Every morning two smiley ladies would arrive to make our breakfast.
After a bowl of fruit, Nick and I would usually have a spicey omelette and the children had the most delicious banana pancakes with syrup.
This was definitely one of the highlights of the whole trip. The Ayung river is perfect for family white water rafting trips in August as it isn’t too rough. There were a few hairy moments and much to the children’s annoyance I screamed quite a bit, but I didn’t ever feel unsafe. There are lots of companies that you can go with, and I found this website with info on the top three. I felt really safe with our lovely guide who explained all the actions and commands before we set off and said that if we tipped over, we should lie on our backs and not try to swim as the life jackets would do their job. (I was very nearly sick at this point and my mouth was the driest it has ever been!) Charlie didn’t paddle, he just clung on for dear life! Be warned there are quite a few steps down to the river (about 300 and they are steep) so if you have bad knees, you may want to avoid!
We were told by a few people that the Monkey Sanctuary was somewhere to avoid, so we very nearly didn’t go. But I am so pleased we did, as the children absolutely loved it and wanted to spend all day there. The monkeys do jump on you, but only if you sit in places where they might use you as a stepping stone (one jumped on Milla’s back) or if you are carrying food or drink in your bag. If you follow the rules you’ll be fine. The forest itself is beautiful and the monkeys are very well looked after. I was quite touched when I saw the monkey graves.
The girls and I loved the market in Ubud. If you aren’t afraid to haggle you can pick up some great bargains and there are basket bags galore. The girls bought jewellery and I came home with quite a few beautiful cotton throws and a shell ornament.
A few places that we enjoyed eating in Bali…
Amazing views and food, but it’s fine dining, so maybe not that suitable for those travelling with young children.
We ate here twice as the food was so good and we all love sushi.
Address: Jl. Gootama, Ubud, Kecamatan Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571, Indonesia
Phone: +62 361 971832
We loved it here. The burgers and cocktails were excellent.
Spectacular views and amazing Japanese Peruvian food.
Overall it was a wonderful holiday, despite the bad start with Liv getting ill. If I were to go again, I would probably want to experience the quieter, less touristy areas of Bali, practise some yoga or perhaps visit a health retreat, so I think it’s a trip I would make alone or with Nick once the children have left home. Much to my disappointment, we didn’t visit a single temple. Temples weren’t high up on the list of things the children wanted to do, and as we all know, as parents we have to make a few personal sacrifices when it comes to holidaying with kids! Another slight disappointment for us, were the beaches. The sea in Seminyak was far too rough to swim in and although we did find a quiet white beach once we were in Ubud, it was a 90 minute drive away. I think that the children and I had imagined Bali to be a bit like Thailand, with lots of white beaches and crystal clear water you could swim in. I am sure that there are plenty of them, but because we stayed in Seminyak and Ubud, we didn’t get to experience them.
I hope you find this post useful, I have really enjoyed writing it as it felt like I was re-living the holiday. Please feel free to ask me any questions, I would be happy to try and answer them.