The third interview in our travelling with children series is with Bethaney from Flashpackerfamily. Bethaney and her husband are semi nomads, exploring the world with a toddler. Check out their blog at flashpackerfamily, follow them on twitter or like them on facebook. Also don’t miss the great series they run about Toddler Travel Tips.
What was your travel style like before you had children?
Before children I was the ultimate single girl backpacker. I loved bumming around South East Asia for months – flirting with saucy Frenchmen, drinking cocktails and enjoying cheap massages. I was also exploring Europe weekend by weekend while Iived in London – I was virtually addicted to snapping up cheap Ryan Air tickets to Italy. Lee was a high roller all the way. Five-star baby! He loved nothing more than spending far too much money in Vegas or snowboarding for months in Whistler. We’ve meshed our travel style to meet somewhere in the middle. We’re flashpackers who like the occasional five-star splurge but only when it’s a good deal.
What ages were your children when you started travelling with them?
Reuben was seven month old when we first started travelling with him. The first flight we took him on was from Christchurch to Brisbane. It was by far the worst flight I ever took. We had extreme turbulence on a packed plane, he cried the whole way and I had a severe asthma attack and ended up in hospital in Australia straight off the plane. Drama!
Why did you decide that exposing your children to travel was important?
Travel was always an important part of both our lives and we knew that Reuben would just have to integrate himself into our lifestyle. We want him to grow up global with a good perspective on how the world works. We also want him to know how to have fun. Travel provides both of these.
What is your travel style now that you travel with children? How did it change from before you
were a parent?
We learnt pretty quickly that travelling with children means travelling slowly. It’s very difficult to juggle the daily rigours of raising a child from the confines of a hotel room or if you’re racing through an airport, bus or train station every other day. The best thing for us to do is go somewhere new and rent an apartment or house for a few weeks or month, taking short side trips before or after.
What has been the most difficult thing about travelling with children?
The most difficult thing about travelling with a child so far has been managing my own expectations. It took me a while to realise that travel would not be the same. I couldn’t keep up the same pace and enjoy the things I’d once loved (goodbye, cocktails and massages… sadface). I found it hard not to be jealous of all the single travellers and childless couples relaxing on the beach, listening to iPods and reading books. You’re still a parent wherever you are in the world and a child’s needs still have to be meet on a daily basis. That means washing bottles, lugging around story books and giving up on planned activities when a temper tantrum ensues.
What has been the most rewarding part of travelling with children?
By far seeing the growth and development that occurs within our child through travel. I absolutely believe exposing Reuben to new and interesting sights, smells and sounds is doing wonders for his brain. We see him observing, processing and exploring new surroundings. His perspective is so much wider than that of a child who just potters around the house with mom all week, going to preschool and visiting friends. I’m not saying those things are bad, I’m saying that on top of that travel adds an extra dimension to a child’s learning and development.
What is your favourite travel memory of travelling as a family?
Seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time as a family unit was pretty special. Lee and I have travelled a lot on our own and the Grand Canyon was the first big thing we all experienced together as a family without one of us having previously visited. It made it a pretty special place for us.
What tips would you offer parents when it comes to travel with children?
Go slow. Aim to do about one third what you would have pre-child. Go three times as slowly. You’ll have to abandon activities when a nap is needed or a tantrum starts – just go with it. Give yourself enough time so that you can say “We can come back to that tomorrow.” A week in an apartment is a lot easier than two or three days in a hotel. Kitchens and seperate sleeping areas for you and your children become very valuable.
Pack light. Don’t take too much stuff. The basics will do. We’re convinced by society that babies and children need so much gear and it’s just not true. Embrace the joy of playing with found object instead of the latest toys. A snuggly, a few books and DVDs are nice to have but you don’t need much. Go for a small travel stroller instead of a big sporty one. Be prepared to donate or throw away things on the road because at least half of the stuff you bring along will be useless.
Don’t be afraid. A baby is pretty easy to travel with. They’re portable for the most part and have simple needs. The earlier you can expose them to travel the better. There shouldn’t be any excuse for not travelling. There are some very inspiring travelling families about who travel with young kids, disabled kids and large families.
Are there certain destination or holiday types you would recommend for parents travelling with
Most places can be kid friendly if you plan accordingly. Try and live like locals. Wherever there are human beings there are parents with kids. Most destinations can child-friendly plan in advance and know what you’re in for. Road trips are great with kids, especially in the US, as it’s easy to just stop travelling when you need a break. If you’re after something exotic, Thailand and Bali are wonderful options as their culture is extremely child-centric. Your little one will be treated like a rock star!
And finally – what are you upcoming travel plans?
We’re spending the next six months in New Zealand, travelling from our home base in Christchurch. A short break to one of the Pacific Islands is on the cards – I can’t believe I’ve never been to any of them! In 2013 we’re planning to live in Colorado for a few months and then head to Canada. If I’m lucky we’ll be able to sneak a Caribbean cruise in between.