This weeks interview is from Heidi and Alan Wagoner. They are currently living in Spain with their two children while planning their next adventure. You can read about their adventures as well as their experiences as an expat family on their blog. Also check them out on facebook, twitter, and you tube.
Introduce yourself, your family, and you website
I’m Alan Wagoner, and with my wife Heidi, and our two kids Lars and Anya, we are living in Almuñécar Spain. Our goal is to experience as much of the European culture as we can while living here. I’m the techie geek of the family, while Heidi is the driving force behind our travels and our blog. Lars and Anya are our easy-going, intelligent, travel-hungry kids. They’re enrolled in a local public school, and participating in fútbol (Lars) and flamenco (Anya) after school.
Our website ( http://www.WagonersAbroad.com ) is geared towards documenting our travels (for friends and family), as well as to help those families who are interested in moving abroad and soaking in a foreign culture. We have been inspired by other blogs, and hope to encourage others to follow the dream.
What was your travel style like before you had children?
We lived in London for approximately 3 years, and during that time, we were able to travel to France, Germany, Australia, and Egypt to name a few. We actually met in Mexico while we were traveling and scuba diving, so we both have had a bit of wanderlust before we got married.
What ages were your children when you started travelling with them?
We started both kids with traveling domestically in the U.S. at an early age. We lived on the East Coast, and most of our friends and family were on the West Coast, so getting the kids used to traveling was a must. They had their passports by the ages of two and four.
Why did you decide that exposing your children to travel was important?
Heidi and I grew so much during our travels, that we knew early on that exposing the kids to different cultures was very important. Seeing how people across the globe actually live on a day-to-day basis has been very illuminating to the kids. It’s been important to show the differences to our lifestyle. It’s not right or wrong, just different. The kids were naturally curious, so they’ve asked tons of questions wherever we travel.
What is your travel style now that you travel with children? How did it change from before you were a parent?
It’s definitely more expensive now. 🙂 Our travel style hasn’t changed that much. We don’t try to be cheap about everything, but we also don’t stay in 5-star resorts either. We have always liked the flexibility of self-catering apartments/condos over hotels. But we do notice that it’s much harder to find spacious accommodations. We try to keep to a happy medium. In that sense, it’s not much different than when we traveled before the kids. One thing that really works for us is driving around. We like the flexibility of being able to go off the beaten path, and be in control of when we go/leave. That’s afforded us to luck into some great adventures that you don’t read about in brochures or on the web.
What has been the most difficult thing about travelling with children?
It’s probably the stresses and trials of actually getting to our intended destination. Let’s face it, during a nine-hour car ride, everyone is going to get a little stressed. It’s the dreaded “Are we there yet?” syndrome. Luckily we have games/activities that we do to keep things mellow. But sometimes pulling up a movie on the iPad goes a long way in keeping the kids occupied.
What has been the most rewarding part of travelling with children?
Seeing the kids communicate in Spanish with their friends, teachers, or the local people. Seeing how much they’ve learned over the seven months we’ve been here is staggering. There have been some rough moments, but the kids have worked through the problems, and these sorts of life experiences have built up their self-confidence in ways that are hard to quantify.
What is your favourite travel memory of travelling as a family?
That’s a tough one. We’ve had so many great experiences, but I would probably say our visit to El Yunque National Rain Forest in Puerto Rico. After hiking through the hot and humid rain forest, we happened upon a fantastic waterfall that we all were able to swim under. The water was cold, but it was a great place to visit.
Another family favorite was our time spent in Paris. Now the kids want to move there next.
According to your child, what is their favourite part about travel?
Anya: Meeting other people, and seeing new places.
Lars: Getting to see new places and experience people and cultures.
According to your child, what was their favourite place you have travelled as a family?
Anya: Paris! I liked speaking French. It’s fun to speak.
Lars: I liked Paris. It was cool. I liked the language and the city.
According to your child, where in the world do they most want to travel to next?
Anya: I want to travel to Asia because the languages sound so different.
Lars: I’m ready to go anywhere and everywhere.
What tips would you offer parents when it comes to travel with children?
- Know your kids. It can be easy to overwhelm or stress kids out. Plus, kids will take their cues from the parents. If the parents get stressed-out, the kids can see that and act out.
- Being able to go with the flow can go a long way to dealing with those unexpected bumps in the road.
- Be open to the cultures/experiences that you encounter.
- Have your kids participate in the research and planning of the travel destinations.
Are there certain destination or holiday types you would recommend for parents travelling with children?
That’s a tough question. My recommendation would be to determine what kind of travel family they are. We did the cruise thing, and it wasn’t for us. We’ve also tried the all-inclusive type of travel, which was fun, but it wasn’t an exact fit for us for the lack of cultural exposure. Once a family determines what works, and what doesn’t, then that can be used as a great starting point for planning travel abroad.
And finally – what are you upcoming travel plans?
We are investigating traveling through Italy for six weeks during the summer. This will be a change for us, but we like to push our boundaries a bit.