Family Vacation: Take One

An island paradise in miniature, Aruba is the perfect destination for water babies of all ages, as Tom Grogan—age one-and-a-bit—discovers.
By Paul Grogan
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Champagne bottle and a baby on the boardwark, Aruba
PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE: Sundowners at the all-inclusive, and Tom Grogan's first foray in the Caribbean  (Paul Grogan)

I thought Tom would love the ostrich farm. In my mind, an ostrich to a one-year-old would be like Big Bird without the bright yellow feathers. I was wrong. An ostrich to a one-year-old is like a child-eating pterodactyl. Just getting close is enough to set Tom's bottom lip quivering, and by the time the ostrich lunges at him, he's already drawing breath for his first panic-stricken scream.

This, I should explain, is my first family holiday. Or at least, my first family holiday for 25 years. Back then, I was probably the one doing the screaming. But now it's my turn to rise to the challenge: namely—to paraphrase Lincoln—to please all of the family some of the time, but to please my one-year-old son all of the time.

As anyone with a two-foot snot-dispenser of their own will know, this is a tall order, but I've come to the right place. Aruba, the smallest of the Caribbean's Dutch Antilles, boasts mile after mile of powder-white beaches, year-round temperatures in the low 80s, and annual rainfall of just 20 inches (Miami, by comparison, averages almost 60). It's also just 21 miles from end to end, making it the perfect place for budding explorers (and their parents) to find their feet.

But the big question is this: Is it possible to combine serious relaxation and adult-flavored sundowners (plus the occasional ostrich) with the conflicting demands of one-year-old whose energy levels, if harnessed, could power a small town?

It helps that the airport is less than 40 minutes from our hotel. Barely an hour after touching down, we're well into our first piña colada, while Tom, no doubt exhausted from the flight, dozes contentedly in the warm glow of the setting sun.

It also helps that our room directly faces Druif Beach. I say helps because, as we're about to discover, all we really need to keep Tom happy is a paddling pool that stretches all the way to the horizon and a limitless supply of sand, even if most of it does seem to end up in his diaper.

Finally, it helps that the Tamarijn Aruba Resort where we're staying—and for this I make no apologies—is all-inclusive. Normally I wouldn't dream of going for the all-inclusive option, partly because I prefer to do my own thing, and partly because I'm a bit of a skinflint. But needs win out; one year into my lifetime of childcare, I can think of nothing more appealing than having everything on tap. And by everything, of course, I mean every cocktail.

There's more than enough at the resort to keep us busy for the first few days, which is roughly how long it takes to convince Tom's jet-lagged brain that getting up at 4 a.m. isn't the thing to do when you're on vacation. Besides the picture-perfect, half-mile-long beach, there are half-a-dozen pools in which to paddle and no fewer than four à la carte restaurants from which to choose. We sip sake in Japan one night, twirl fettuccine in Italy the next, and drink Belashi beer in the Caribbean two nights running (because you can never have too many coconut-encrusted prawns). And as if that's not enough, Tom sleeps soundly through every meal, one of the fringe benefits, it seems, of starting your day two hours before the sun comes up.

Published: 24 Dec 2008 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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