What was your travel style like before you had children?
What ages were your children when you started travelling with them?
3.5yrs and 5yrs
Why did you decide that exposing your children to travel was important?
Both my husband and I love traveling and had hoped to be able to continue doing it even with ‘kids in tow’. Furthermore, we feel that our society is too materialistic and has lost perspective on the truly important things in life. In our quest to be happy, we often forget that it’s the little things that count. We felt that exposing our children to different cultures was an important step to having them truly understand their place in this world.
What is your travel style now that you travel with children? How did it change from before you were a parent?
Our travel style had to be upgraded a bit! Air conditioned rooms and ‘cleaner’ rooms were now priorities, whereas the former didn’t even make it on the list pre-children. We had to make our day to day choices about where to eat, what to do, etc now based largely on what would be suitable for the children too. We couldn’t just do what pleased us (mom and dad)!
We also tried to break to overland travel up into more sizable chunks, although we didn’t always succeed with that! (We once did a 14hr travel day which was more than we’d bargained for!)
Also if given the choice in travel times, we’d opt to travel by day versus overnight (which we’d previously chose in order to save money on accommodation!) as it was easier on the kids.
What has been the most difficult thing about travelling with children?
Keeping their needs first above the uncertainties of independent budget travel.
Before children, if you wanted to walk from morning until night, you could. But now, typically we’d only spend a few hours each day walking as the kids couldn’t manage more than that and we didn’t travel with strollers, etc.
We tried to find playgrounds or other such child centred activities wherever we were (which at times were challenging in SEA). We tried to achieve a delicate balance of kid and adult focused activities, which usually worked to keep everyone happy.
This also included being aware of the need to feed the kids good healthy clean food on a regular basis! For instance, sometimes on travel days, you don’t know (due to language barriers) if and when you will be stopping during long distance bus journeys and what food options there would be along the way that would be suitable. As adults, you can just ‘make due’, but harder to placate a starving child 😉
What has been the most rewarding part of travelling with children?
Seeing a place through a different perspective.
As adults, typically you wouldn’t bother with seeing a circus, or visiting a zoo, or amusement park. But by incorporating these visits, we could also see a side of the society that we’d previously wouldn’t have taken any notice to yet have missed some great attractions too.
There were a few destinations that we’d been to previously before we had kids (like Bangkok), yet on this trip, we had a very different experience that was very good also.
What is your favourite travel memory of travelling as a family?
Hiring a motorbike and all of us just jumping on and taking off for the day to explore.
We did this a few times, such as in Mui Ne (Vietnam), Battambang (Cambodia), and in India. It was very liberating and gave us an opportunity to see more of our surroundings.
According to your child, what is their favourite part about travel?
5yr old: Having dad around all the time.
4yr old: The amusement parks.
According to your child, what was their favourite place you have travelled as a family?
5yr old: India (likely because we spend the biggest chunk of time there)
4yr old: Vancouver, Canada (because her favourite cousin lives there)
According to your child, where in the world do they most want to travel to next?
Queensland Gold Coast (because that’s where all their school friends go!) or back to Vancouver to see their cousin.
What tips would you offer parents when it comes to travel with children?
Be patient and allow plenty of time in a place or to get to a place.
By keeping the kids’ needs in the forefront, you’ll likely find that it can take you 3 days to see the same attractions in a place whereas a person/couple without kids would be able to do it in 1. But there’s no sense rushing a kid or forcing them to do something/go along somewhere if they are just tired and cranky and have had enough.
Are there certain destination or holiday types you would recommend for parents travelling with children?
I think you can make almost any destination or holiday type work with children, as long as you take into consideration the ages/physical abilities of your children.
For instance, we decided against visiting Nepal at this point as we didn’t think that with our kids (at their age then), we’d be able to make the most out of the ‘trekking’ nature of the destination. Ditto to Sapa (Vietnam). We could be wrong though as the kids have always exceeded our expectations of them in other situations, such as a rugged 6hr hike down through the rice terraces in Banuae (Philippines)!
Recently a reader of our blog asked whether we’d recommend a backwater trip in Kerala (India) with a 18mo old. I replied that I didn’t think that a day long trip such as that would suit an active toddler on a small boat, but that’s not to say I didn’t think a trip in Kerala wouldn’t be a good idea. So most destinations would be ok depending on what you planned to do while there.
Destinations where there is civil unrest would be where we draw the line though I think!
And finally – what are you upcoming travel plans?
For the time being, as the kids are in school, we are limited to small holidays. We’re flying to Bangkok at the end of June 2013 for 3 weeks, although from there we’ll likely head either south or possibly to Cambodia or some nearby country.