This weeks interview is from Keryn Means, founder of Walking On Travels. She blogs about travel with her husband and two two young sons. You can also find her across her various social media outlets such as facebook, twitter, pinterest and google+.
What was your travel style like before you had children?
I’m not sure we even had a travel style before the kids came along. If we did it was very disorganized. We would buy a few guidebooks, pick the spot we want to go to, research tickets and hotels a little bit and then show up. We would then consult said guidebook as we wandered around a city. We woke up when we wanted, we ate when we wanted, and we generally ran around trying to cover as much ground as possible.
What ages were your children when you started travelling with them?
My oldest, Dek, who is now 3 years old, started traveling when he was 3 months old. His baby brother Ty, who is now 8 months old, started traveling at 7 weeks. Both have been to more countries and on more flights than my husband and I combined before we were 21 years old.
Why did you decide that exposing your children to travel was important?
It wasn’t a conscious decision to expose the kids, it was more that we wanted to continue a way of life we had started and loved. The fact that the kids learn about the world around them is just an added bonus.
What is your travel style now that you travel with children? How did it change from before you were a parent?
We are a bit more prepared now that we are parents. It didn’t happen as soon as my sons were born though. It has been a slow and organic transformation. With each trip they get older and are doing different things and adjusting to their environments in new ways. We still grab a guidebook and pick where we want to go, but now I have a Post-It note list with two columns- must see and would like to see. If we can hit one “must see” every day I am happy; if we can see two or sneak in a “like to see” I am thrilled. We still wander around a new city, sometimes with no destination in mind. We like to see where the back roads will take us, but now we try to have a little more direction.
The biggest change we have seen in our travels is that we have slowed down. This has turned out to be one of the best changes to our lives as parents. I have always needed to slow down, at least that’s what my husband says. The kids are what finally made me do it. I now actually look at where we are going. I get down at their level and discover details of a sight or city I would have zoomed right past. I’ve seen more sunrises than I care to count, but again, that has been a blessing in disguise. I’ve watched quiet towns come alive as I pushed Dek in his stroller when he was a baby. I got to know the local coffee shop in the morning and explore the menus of the restaurants around our hotel or apartment at night as we would go back over and over again while we try to maintain some sort of bedtime.
The most surprising part of having the kids is that we now travel more than ever. They are our excuse to get out the door and see the world. No more sitting around sleeping all weekend long. We are going to get outside and check out our own city and the world around us.
What has been the most difficult thing about travelling with children?
Maybe not difficult, but a little sad that we now miss out on a lot of night explorations. We are all for pushing bed times, but at a certain point your kids just tell you “no” through their body language and behaviour. Sleep is pretty important for their little bodies. Jet lag is definitely a whole new ball game too. While I would crash for hours after a long haul flight, my kids are ready to get up and go at 3am, whether they have slept 3 hours or 10 hours. Their bodies tell them it’s time to get up and they do. Thankfully they also switch over to the local time much faster than any adult I know, including me, so it’s not tough for very long.
What has been the most rewarding part of travelling with children?
We travel more than ever now that we have kids. We are inspired to get out and go. I see how much my kids are growing because of their experiences. Dek has words in his vocabulary that his schoolmates have yet to hear; words like volcano are no longer just an idea to him, he’s actually walked on one. He has picked up words in the local language effortlessly as we travel. Nothing is cuter than hearing your kids say “ciao” and “buongiorno!”
What is your favourite travel memory of travelling as a family?
The little (and big) milestones the kids have hit while on the road make them all the more momentous. Dek practiced his new walking skills on the Great Wall of China in 2010. We had bets going on where Ty would roll during our European adventure in October 2012. He finally flipped over in Sicily. It’s things like rolling and walking that we will be telling the boys for years to come.
Are there certain destination or holiday types you would recommend for parents travelling with children?
You can never go wrong with a beach or city adventure. Water is a great playground for kids, with supervision of course. Cities offer so much that parents and kids can enjoy together. Parks, museums, zoos, aquariums, fun neighbourhoods and a crazy amount of local food are all we need to keep us going.
And finally – what are your upcoming travel plans?
We will be headed to Kauai (the garden island in the Hawaiian islands) in January for two glorious, and hopefully a little restful, weeks. During this trip I’m hoping to plan a whole lot more, including a bunch of long weekends around the Pacific Northwest and up to British Columbia in Canada. We are already booked for a week in the Outerbanks of North Carolina this summer with family, but the big trip we are dreaming up will be this fall when we return to Europe to explore England, Scotland and Ireland…hopefully.