Cara G Mcilroy – model, host, mum and universally loved Instagrammer – has a pretty picture-perfect life, and 65,000 people on Instagram agree. But anyone who’s had to listen to a screaming baby on a plane knows that being a mum doesn’t come easy, so when Cara took her family to Koh Samui for a recent holiday, we had to ask her: how does she manage with two little ones, and another one on the way? Turns out the answer is plenty of pool time, copious snacks, and enlisting lots of help.
How was it travelling in Samui with kids?
It was actually really wonderful, it’s a super easy flight from Hong Kong, so it’s a pretty good holiday destination that’s not too far, but still really different. It’s a great place to travel with kids and we really had an amazing time there. There’s lots to do with kids – we went to an elephant sanctuary, and we had lots of time in the villa and lots of swimming. The food’s great for kids, so we loved it.
What do you always have to pack when travelling with India and Freija?
It would definitely be swimsuits; they love swimming and being outside in the pool, so if we’re going anywhere that’s remotely warm or that has a pool, we have to have swimsuits. Sunscreen, because you’re out in the sun. Bugspray, too. And of course their little teddy bears. India has a little rabbit called Bun Bun, and Freija has an elephant called Ellie.
How did you manage with a little one on the way as well?
It has been a little bit challenging travelling while pregnant this time. Other times, like the time I was pregnant with India, it was also challenging but not as bad, even though I had a baby, because I wasn’t feeling nearly as sick. But this time around, I’ve been feeling quite ill so it’s a little bit challenging when you’re not feeling well and you have to entertain two little kids the whole time. But I had lots of help from my husband and I also had my brother-in-law and his girlfriend there, and so, we made it!
Once you get to the villa and they can play in the pool, then it becomes a lot easier. It’s mainly the plane ride that’s quite exhausting. Even though Koh Samui is only 3 hours away, it felt like a really long way with the kids and everything.
Do you have any other tips for mums travelling with little ones?
Pack lots of stuff for entertainment on the plane. We always carry colouring books, playdough, bubbles, pencils – as much entertainment as possible, and loads of snacks! Once you get to the villa or hotel, I think it’s really important to have something familiar to them. So I have a little blanket or their teddy bear or something like that. We do try our best to keep to a similar bedtime routine, but that also helps to make the kids not cranky during the day. I also brought pool toys and everything!
Are India and Freija excited about their new sibling?
They were so excited about having another baby in our family. They’re obsessed with baby dolls and other people’s babies and babies in general, so the news to them was really really exciting. The only thing is that, a pregnancy is such a long time for a little kid, so they’re probably wondering when it’s coming out.
Did the kids get homesick? How did they like the villas?
No, our kids didn’t really get homesick at all. I think they were just really excited to be with mummy and daddy 24/7. Because you know, we work a lot in Hong Kong, so they were just happy to be with us every day. And obviously their bedtime wasn’t as strict and they got a lot more ice cream and candy than they usually did, so they were loving life. Our girls especially love hotels and villas; they get really excited when we say we’re gonna stay in a villa or hotel. They get really pumped, and they choose out their bed and where they’re gonna sleep and yeah, they love it.
What’s your favourite part about Samui?
We really love Thai people. My mum’s part Thai and it holds a special place in my heart, especially. I really love elephants. I’ve travelled to Thailand a lot and this was the first time that I was able to take the girls to see an elephant sanctuary, which was really special. I also think I love Koh Samui because of the water – it’s such a beautiful island and the food is really easy for kids. Lots of pad thai and yummy stuff. It’s easy to be there, and you feel comfortable, I feel really at home there when I go. Not just Koh Samui, but Thailand in general.
What family-friendly activities in Samui would recommend to other mums?
Samui Elephant Sanctuary. Do make sure that it is the right one because I’m very against elephant rides or shows or anything where the elephants are not just being elephants. This park is a new one, it’s a sanctuary for retired elephants that have been working in the trekking industry or the logging industry. Basically, you just visit these elephants. You can get up-close and personal with them, you can feed them, but you cannot ride them, they don’t do any shows. And you learn about their history, which I think is important for children, to understand why you shouldn’t be riding them, why you should be treating them with respect. It’s just beautiful to see these elephants finally be able to relax and enjoy life and not have to work for tourists anymore.
Cara and her family stayed in Baan Asan and Baan Chang while they were in Samui.