The “babymoon” is a concept with which some people may not be familiar. Taken as a getaway before a couple’s first (or second, or third, or fourteenth!) child arrives, it is a wonderful opportunity to connect and rest before the long days and nights ahead. Not everyone can make the time or spare the expense to be so pampered. And that’s why it’s called a luxury.
Still, luxuries needn’t break the bank. Here are some tips on how to have a beautiful, stress-less babymoon without dipping into Junior’s college fund. (I know: what college fund?!?)
1. Pick somewhere decadent. Linda, our fearless founder, recently revealed that she spent her babymoon in Cabo San Lucas several years ago. “We were at the Marlin Bar and everyone was doing upside-down tequila shooters,” she laughed. “I wanted to participate, so I did upside-down lemonade shooters.” With her big belly. Hilarious.
My babymoon was spent in beautiful Ojai over Valentine’s Day last year. Ojai is notoriously posh – and pricey – but we went a decently inexpensive route and kept the itinerary breezy.
The trip started with a leisurely drive from San Luis Obispo to Ojai, with a stop in Santa Barbara to have brunch at Tupelo Junction Cafe on State Street. After indulging in their vanilla-dipped French toast with homemade berry syrup and fresh cream, we hopped off the 101 to Hwy 33, which travels alongside a bike path from the beaches of Ventura all the way east to Ojai. The 15-mile (one way) ride is absolutely gorgeous, draped in eucalyptus trees and perfect for an easygoing ride. If I hadn’t been seven months pregnant, we would have loved to try it.
2. Stay in clean, comfortable, BUDGET accommodations. Of course, we would have loved to stay at any one of Ojai’s incredible resorts. Who wouldn’t? But in trying to save our pennies up for our upcoming adventures in parenthood, we opted for the decidedly less chic – but still very comfortable – Casa Ojai Inn. We really liked the Inn’s proximity to everything downtown and its eco-friendly agenda, with recycling bins in every room, environmentally safe and non-toxic cleaning products, energy-efficient lighting, and water-saving fixtures throughout. (Casa Ojai is certified with Green Suites, iStayGreen, and the California Green Lodging Program.) Sure, they don’t do room service, but we spent many sun-kissed hours lounging by the pool, reading trashy magazines and sipping iced-tea.
3. Find the fun free stuff. With the gorgeous Topa Topa Mountains overlooking the Ojai Valley, hiking is a no-brainer. One morning, we awoke early, caught breakfast at the warm and bustling Ojai Coffee Roasting Co, then drove out to the Shelf Road Loop, a 4-mile round-trip hike perfect for novices and big-bellied pregnant ladies. The loop is a favorite of locals who bring their dogs and their travel coffee mugs out to walk with friends and take in the stunning Mediterranean-esque view of the Ojai Valley. We stopped along the way to munch on oranges from the orchards that run alongside the trail.
Ojai is well-known for its thriving arts community, which makes walking the downtown strip a treat. Numerous galleries invite window-shoppers in, as do upscale clothing boutiques, quirky consignment shops, and jewelers. Our favorite shop by far was “the world’s largest outdoor bookstore,” Bart’s Books. It’s easy to see why this sprawling, open-air compound of books was called “an intellectual haven” by the L.A. Times. Throughout the peaceful bookshelves, readers young and old can be found engrossed in the pleasures of a good read.
4. Go gourmet at lunch. Go simple at dinner. No one goes hungry for good food in Ojai. While we decided against sleeping in the famed Ojai Valley Inn & Spa – truly one of the greatest luxury properties in the world – we chose to have lunch at its Oak Grill beneath a vine-covered pergola overlooking a grove of 200-year-old oaks. The service and the cuisine were both, unsurprisingly, superb. We shared the artichoke flatbread, with truffle pecorino cheese, tomato and arugula, and I ordered the rosemary chicken Cobb salad. (It is a heath spa, after all!) And since we were ordering off the lunch menu, we could afford to splurge a bit. For lunch the following day, it was all about the new American cuisine at Feast Bistro, where I had a gorgeous Eel River organic beef burger with cheese and talked food with Chef Susan Coulter through the open kitchen while she prepared our meals.
On the other end of the formality spectrum, we went to the warm and fun Boccali’s Pizza & Pasta for dinner on the outskirts of town. This is a true Ojai original, with red and white checked tablecloths, house-made wines, fresh-squeezed lemonade from Boccali Ranch lemons, and al fresco dining when weather permits.
Don’t forget the beer and wine! While I chose not to drink during my pregnancy, I still wanted to visit the Ojai Beverage Company to see their selection of international beers, wines, and artisan soft drinks. I sipped on an Australian ginger beer for happy hour, with complimentary snacks and friendly conversation at the bar.
5. Pamper yourself conscientiously. I would have loved to partake in a facial, mud bath, or hot stone massage at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa. But again, in the name of saving up for diapers, I chose to have a prenatal massage at the Day Spa of Ojai, just down the street. What a treat! The spa eminates serenity and relaxation, with a quiet garden in the back and the scent of essential oils on the air. After an hour of rejuvenation and peace, I floated out of the Day Spa despite the enormous weight of my bulging belly.
Needless to say, it was tough leaving Ojai’s stunning views, warm atmosphere and delicious eats. I felt rested and energized to take on the rest of my pregnancy and start of my new life as a mother – without having to take out a loan! I would highly recommend a babymoon to anyone seeking a break before hitting the ground sprinting with a new baby. You’ll thank yourself for the treat when you’re nursing at 3am and changing nappies 24/7.