The fourth installment in our popular travelling with children series is from Family On Bikes. I have been following their blog for quite some time. They are all about epic trips with their children, and have even cycled together from Alaska all the way to Argentina! Read about their adventures at familyonbikes.org. follow them on twitter and like them on facebook.
What was your travel style like before you had children?
My husband and I traveled to very remote places on our bikes every chance we had. We spent a year cycling in Pakistan, India, Nepal, and Bangladesh. Our Christmas vacations (we were both teachers) were spent in far flung places like Mali or Yemen. Even when we weren’t traveling on our bikes, we did active things like backpacking in the Simien Mountains in Ethiopia.
What ages were your children when you started travelling with them?
We were living in Ethiopia when our twins were born. I flew back to the USA for the birth, then headed off to Ethiopia when they were 6 weeks old. When they were 5 months, we flew back to the USA and spent the summer in California, Idaho, and Connecticut. Christmas vacation just before they turned one was spent in Egypt. In other words, they were traveling from the get- go. By the time they turned 2, they had crossed the Atlantic Ocean five times and visited six countries.
Why did you decide that exposing your children to travel was important?
It never occurred to us not to. John and I were living and teaching abroad, so we were around plenty of expat families raising kids overseas. They all travel, so the idea of traveling with kids was normal for us. When we got pregnant, we knew we would continue to travel, just as all those other families we were surrounded by did.
It wasn’t until they were older and we moved back to the USA that I realized how vital those experiences were for my children.
What is your travel style now that you travel with children? How did it change from before you were a parent?
Our boys are now 14, so things have changed through the years. When they were little, we chose beach destinations like Zanzibar, Thailand, and Vietnam because that was easier for us all. That said, we did more adventurous things with them as well – they climbed Mount Sinai just before their first birthday, they went trekking amongst the Vietnamese hill tribes when nearly 2.
As they grew older, we started doing more adventurous things and, when they were 8, we took off on our first family bike trip. We spent the boys’ third grade year traveling around the USA and Mexico on bicycles. Then we spent their 5th, 6th, and 7th grades biking from Alaska to Argentina.
Now, our sons are in 9th grade and we are stationary in Idaho in order to give them a chance to put down roots and have experiences of a different sort.
What has been the most difficult thing about travelling with children?
Nothing, really. I think your parental instinct will guide you. That said, John and I had traveled extensively for many years before we had children and we had the role models of all those expat families to fall back on. I think for families who have never traveled and don’t know others who have, it can be intimidating.
What has been the most rewarding part of travelling with children?
The time together. In today’s society, we are all pulled in different directions. It’s wonderful to travel and have everybody work together toward a common goal.
What is your favourite travel memory of travelling as a family?
I can’t think of one favorite – there have been so many and so different! I think the times that mean the most to me are the times when my children have said something that shows the depth of their learning.
For example, when we crossed into Costa Rica I turned to Daryl and said, “Congratulation sweetie! You just crossed into your 8th country!”
He turned to me and said, “What difference does it make, Mom? A border is nothing more than a line on the map. It doesn’t change anything.”
He was absolutely right. Borders are political divisions that people have created. The people on either side of that border are exactly the same.
According to your child, what is their favourite part about travel?
My boys say they like the unknown the best. “Never knowing what we might find that day.”
According to your child, what was their favourite place you have travelled as a family?
- Liard Hot Springs – delightful natural hot springs in British Columbia, Canada
- A river hike in Belize – we “hiked” along a river through the jungle, but mostly we floated down the river. It was a really fun day.
- Sandboarding in Ica, Peru – we went way back into the sand dunes and surfed down on surfboards.
According to your child, where in the world do they most want to travel to next?
They don’t really care. Anywhere is good.
What tips would you offer parents when it comes to travel with children?
Just do it. Don’t listen to all the blog posts and articles that talk about how difficult it is or all the specialized crap you’ll need. Rely on your instincts and go. It’s easy.
Are there certain destination or holiday types you would recommend for parents travelling with children?
Stay away from “family friendly accommodations”!! One of the main reasons to travel with kids is to BE WITH THEM. There is no sense in paying more for “family friendly” places that have special programs for kids. Sure, the kids love them, but take the time to do things WITH your children rather than leaving them with a babysitting service.
And finally – what are you upcoming travel plans?
Our plans for now include being pretty much stationary during the school year so that our children can take advantage of advanced math and science classes through the local schools and be part of a robotics team. During the summers, we will head to Connecticut where we recently acquired a small cottage. We will spend summers with Grandma, playing on the beach.