What happens when you ask five of the world’s top family travel bloggers to share their dreams, nightmares, tips, tricks, and family secrets? There’s painful honesty, a lot of fun, and endless motivation to travel, travel more, and travel with your family. Here’s what five of the best said about travelling with their children and how it’s changed their life.
Meet the bloggers!
Talon Windwalker is a single dad slowly traveling the world full time with his 12-year-old son. They have been traveling continuously since May 2011. They are currently in Romania and planning on exploring Europe for the next several months. You can follow their adventures on their blog at http://1dad1kid.com.
Sonja Everson blogs at http://readysetpack.tumblr.com/ and is passionate about soccer, food, and cooking. She and her family are currently exploring Southeast Asia.
Lance Wiedower, the publisher and editor of http://tripsbylance.com/, travels frequently with his wife and 7-year-old son. Lance and Stacey enjoy discovering the art, culture and food of a locale and diving right in, experiencing the place like locals. More and more they find those couple’s getaways now include their son, Colby.
Erin Bender blogs at http://travelwithbender.com/. Her husband and two kids have been on the road for nearly 600 days, leaving Australia behind for Bali and so much more!
Elaine Schoch began writing http://carpe-travel.com after leaving the corporate world and beginning as a self-employed PR consultant. Along with “Husband”, “Princess One” and “Princess Two” (who was adopted from Russia), they are a well traveled family, who haven’t slowed down the two little ones in their life.
Q1: What is the most rewarding thing about traveling with your children?
Talon: Seeing my son grow, evolve, and change. Having experiences together that will be lifelong memories. Spending massive amounts of time that we wouldn’t otherwise have.
Sonja: Seeing the world through my children’s’ eyes is absolutely priceless. It helps me see the world in a different light as well. It’s less jaded and more fresh and open..the way it should be. I love it when they recapture their adventures years later and reminisce moments that I’ve forgotten or simply saw with a different perspective.
Lance: We believe the educational opportunities of experiencing other cultures, unique restaurants and meeting fascinating people is just as important as what our son learns in school. It’s especially gratifying to see him studying maps before, during and after our trips, and also watching him sketch paintings he is looking at in art museums.
Erin: They see the world in a whole different way to us. They help us see the world better. They keep us young.
Elaine: Seeing the world through their eyes. We get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives that I don’t always stop and look at how they’re seeing the world. Traveling with them opens your eyes to things you may have seen or known about but get to experience it for the first time all over again with them.
Q2.) What is the most difficult thing about traveling with children?
Talon: Sometimes you need a break from being a parent. As a single parent I don’t get that, and since we’re on the move I don’t have my friends and network to help give me a break. I rarely have a room to myself anymore, and I miss having that level of privacy.
Sonja: It’s much easier to travel as a single or a couple. Travelling with children adds a new dimension of emotions to contend with. I don’t mind traveling by bus or train for hours on end…another member of the family might loathe it or suffer from travel nausea. There are so many more factors to consider before deciding on a destination, mode of travel, accommodation or sights to visit.
Lance: For me it’s dealing with a grumpy only child who is no longer getting his way. He and I are both very strong-willed people, so we argue like brothers. The only other real obstacle is visiting bars late at night and nicer restaurants that we don’t feel like having our child interrupting the romantic dinner of another couple.
Q3.) If you could share your best travel tip with other parents, what would it be?
Talon: Technology is your friend. Travel days can be LONG. If they have things like a Kindle, netbook, and/or video games, it makes it a LOT easier. Make sure everything is fully charged before a travel day.
Sonja: Toilet paper (aka: pooh tickets), snacks, and water are essential. Everything else is a bonus for us. It’s great to have novels, drawing paper and pencil handy as well. We’ve really cut down on our daypacks and the kids haveadjusted to it really well.
Lance: Whatever the child’s interests are, have things along in your daypack that reflect them. For our son, that has meant lots of paper and crayons, so he can draw what he sees on the trip. But it’s also included having movies he likes saved on both our iPhones along with headphones. That usually gives us peace in nicer restaurants.
Erin: For potty training on the road, grab a cheap shower curtain ($1 in Malaysia) and place it under the sheets and above the mattress on the places you visit. Also ALWAYS carry wipes or hand sanitizer, they tour the world with their hands, not just their eyes.
Elaine: Always have tissues, hand wipes, a change of clothes and a snack in your bag. Keep your expectations low and be flexible and you’ll be pleased with the outcome of the trip. When you try to overdo and over plan with kids, you’re bound to be disappointed. Hiccups happen when you travel with kids, it’s how you handle them that will determine if you enjoy the trip.
Q4.) What advice do you have for parents who find travelling with children to be stressful? (This can be either practical or more philosophical)
Talon: Don’t plan too much and take things slowly. Schedule in downtime every single day. It’s easy to get fried when you’re moving around a lot or doing umpteen activities a day. You wouldn’t go all night and day at home, so don’t do it during travel.
Sonja: We were pretty frank with our kids. We all have sensitive buttons that are easily pushed. It’s key to recognize someones weaker points and be mindful of them. We need to be honest with each other when we’re feeling stressed, unhappy or angry because those are real emotions that we need to respect and if we’re supportive we can all get through it together. It’s not just the amazing experiences that are out there, it’s the day-to-day ones that we need to respect as well. It’s not always easy sharing one room for four days on end.
Lance: Six months from now are you going to remember how your son wouldn’t eat anything in the nice restaurant in Paris, or the joy on his face when he stood in the wind at the top of the Eiffel Tower? The little stressful moments are short-lived. The big moments are memories that will last forever. I need to remind myself of this from time to time.
Erin: Go slower. Don’t try to tour the whole city in a day or if you are going to jump on a Hop On Hop Off bus so the kids can still nap while you tour. But go slower, allow them time to play and to rest. And allow yourself that time too. Stressed parents make stressed kids.
Elaine: My husband is a business traveler who buzzes through the airport at the speed of light, but with kids, especially little kids, you can’t really do this. It’s important to make sure to give yourself enough time – for everything – packing, getting to the airport, parking, walking through the airport (and all the potty stops) and getting onto and seated on your plane. Keep in mind some airlines won’t let you check kids in online so you typically have to go through the check-in line at the airport. More time you must set aside.
Q5.) What has been your favorite family friendly destination?
Talon: Cuba. The people are lovely, and it’s a culture that expects children to play and use their imagination, so when your child is climbing everything in sight or making noise they think it’s cute. It’s an extremely safe country, too, especially for families.
Sonja: Each of us will answer this one differently. I think Guatemala, Australia, China, Czech Republic……that’s a real toughy.
Lance: Scotland was such a great place to explore with a child. The people are so welcoming, and what young child wouldn’t enjoy exploring a couple of castles? Surprisingly, we also found that Paris worked well for our son. We hope to take him to explore New York City soon. We’ve been many times, and feel like he should explore this great city too.
Erin: Just one? But there are so many! Turkey stands out as a recent trip we just did. Every few metres it seemed there was a playground and the people loved kids. They also had some pretty amazing hotels and restaurants that catered for kids.
Elaine: We’ve done Disneyland and Disney World, which are the ultimate kid/family destinations. But you’re usually alway going, leaving little room for downtime and relaxing. My absolute favorite family friendly destination – so far – has to be San Juan Puerto Rico. We stayed at the Hilton Caribe, which is rated the top family friendly hotel in San Juan and for good reason. I could seriously just sit on the beach for hours while the kids played on their private beach. There were kid activities throughout the hotel – and the city – so we could go and do but we could also just lounge and rest while the kids exuded all their energy.