What was your travel style like before you had children?
I had my first child when I was 30 and before that I’d spent the last decade traveling. I trained to Teach English as a Foreign Language so I could travel and had lived in France, the USA, Paris, Laos and Zimbabwe as well as in England where I grew up. I’d also done a lot of backpacking in the Middle East and Europe which included staying in dodgy accommodation, sleeping rough and hitchhiking. So my travel style then was very different from after I had children. No more sleeping rough or hitchhiking although we have stayed in a few dodgy places when travelling as a family!
What ages were your children when you started travelling with them?
I started traveling with children as soon as I could. I knew it wouldn’t be the same as traveling without kids but I love travel so I was determined to make sure it was still a big part of my life. I have three children who were born in New Zealand. Our first trip together was to England to visit my family. Flying with three children from New Zealand to England is a mission – the kids were six months old, four and seven at the time.
When they were two, five and eight we went to Vanuatu and really got off the beaten track there. Then when the kids were three, six and nine we moved to Central America and traveled round Nicaragua, Guatemala and Panama with them before settling in Costa Rica for a year.
Why did you decide that exposing your children to travel was important?
I want them to have a broad outlook on life, to be able to get on with anyone, from any culture or background, and be grateful for all the opportunities they have growing up in developed countries.
What is your travel style now that you travel with children? How did it change from before you were a parent?
Travel slows down a lot once you have children. It’s much better to visit one or two places where you can hang out safely and enjoy it rather than rushing around trying to see too much.
When you travel with three kids off the beaten track you get a lot of attention from locals and other travelers which is fun. You also gain a different perspective on travel and what’s important in life. For example, in Guatemala we took the kids to see the pyramids in Tikal, we swam in Semuc Champey and boated down the Rio Dulce river to Livingstone, but the thing the kids liked as much as all that and still talk about five years later is a puppy called Scooby at a guest house we stayed in for one night!
What has been the most difficult thing about travelling with children?
Toilet breaks. With three kids there’s always one that wants to go to the loo and at the most difficult time. One time in Guatemala where there are no public toilets Kiara (aged three) was desperate for the loo so I asked a restaurant owner who said no. I went outside wondering what to do and finally had to dash back into the restaurant when the owner was behind the counter and rush into the loo with Kiara. The owner had all kinds of horrid things to say to me when we’d finished but what can you do in that situation? Most people are friendly and helpful but sometimes you come across people who aren’t.
What has been the most rewarding part of travelling with children?
Meeting and talking to all kinds of different people just because you have kids.
What is your favourite travel memory of travelling as a family?
Costa Rica and all the animals, birds and giant bugs we loved watching and learning about together.
According to your child, what is their favourite part about travel?
Luke aged 14 answered these and he says finding new places
According to your child, what was their favourite place you have travelled as a family?
Costa Rica because there were so many monkeys and other wildlife.
According to your child, where in the world do they most want to travel to next?
Africa because I want to see Africa wildlife running wild too.
What tips would you offer parents when it comes to travel with children?
Relax and don’t be afraid to get off the beaten track, you can still do it.
Are there certain destination or holiday types you would recommend for parents travelling with children?
Places where people love children like Fiji, Vanuatu and Thailand are great places to start.
And finally – what are you upcoming travel plans?
I just got back from Uluru in Australia’s Northern Territories. It was a blogger trip so the family couldn’t come with me but we are hoping to have a long family safari in Africa next year or the year after.