Taking a career break and travelling the world as a family. You can do it, we have. Some thought we were mad, sometimes we agree! Whether you are considering a 2 week holiday or something more long term, either way read on, because travelling with your kids is the best thing you can do!
If you don’t know already, we are a family of three from England. Mummy (Nay), Daddy (Steve) and little Betty, who is two and half. We decided to head out on a long trip around the world, to give Betty the experience of seeing and doing things she wouldn’t have been doing back in England at nursery and with both of us stuck at work.
We have travelled a lot. Both before Betty was around and since she’s been around. Between us all we’ve been to 80+ countries, with Betty having now been to 21! In that time we have stayed in all types of accommodation and travelled on modes of transport we didn’t even know existed!
It’s not all ‘one big holiday’ travelling the world. There will be nobody else to share the load. No grandparents to help and no friends around the corner to have a playdate with or go and chat with over coffee. It will be hard at times but with a few tips to help along the way, those testing times should be a little bit easier.
Top Tips for travelling with children:
Hand bag travel tips:
- WATER – Essential in every climate
- Wipes: antibacterial and the bottom kind if you can!
- Tissues / toilet paper
- Antibacterial hand gel
- Nappies (age dependant)
- Snacks and small change in local currency for street snacks
- Crayons & paper
- Fan / shade making thing
- Camera, gotta capture those moments
- A hat for the little one. They might not like it to start with, however keep trying and all should be well.
- Torch, for those dark times!:)
- Sarong or similar lightweight throw. Multiple uses!
Travelling with children transport tips:
Whether aeroplane, car, bus or boat some essential pieces of advice:
- Travel with an age appropriate travel system. Be that a buggy, carrier or sling. We left home with nothing and learnt our lesson. However we bought a second hand carrier on the road which served us well and is still going strong.
- Don’t be surprised by the kindness of local people sharing your bus (train or jeepney) especially travelling with a child. Often people will give up their seat, offer snacks and even assume the role of babysitter for an hour or so, obviously under your watchful eye! Cultures around child rearing and parenting are very different outside of the ‘Western World’. In return for this kindness the selfie sticks will appear and the whole bus may want a picture, all in good fun.
- Research the flights between countries: How long, what’s at the airport, do we need to change money etc? We once took a flight from Sydney to Manila like we were catching the bus. Two hours in, we asked the stewardess how long was left, to which the reply was another 7 hours! We were lucky Betty slept most of the way.
- Visa Run: Seriously consider the pros and cons before deciding whether to make a visa run rather than extending your visa in country. We did both and in our experience financially, time wise and for the sake of your sanity extending is more often the better option.
- If you are unsure of your route before heading off and are anxious about arranging visas before you leave home, try not to be. As long as you do some research before leaving about what paperwork you may need, most visas are fairly straightforward to arrange.
- See ‘Hand bag travel tips’ above for essentials. In addition to these we recommend packing some
emergency sachets of calpol,
- Headphones: That your child is comfortable wearing for iPod, iPad, TV whatever
- Entertainment: Crayons and paper, stickers, snap game, doll, puzzle, anything that will keep you all sane when the batteries run out
- Portable Charger: Very handy, however check before traveling through airports because some won’t let you have them in your hand luggage! (China)
- Try and carry your laptop, camera, medicine and any valuables in your carry on bags rather than your hold luggage. Bags do go missing sometimes, but usually turn up quite soon after.
Very Very important SICK KIT:
We’ve had many a travel sick emergency to deal with and nowadays we have what we call our ‘super slick sick system’. What you need:
- 2 x plastic bags (1 if you are in time to catch the sick an 1 for sick clothes)
- Change of clothes for your child
- 1 x unisex top for an adult puke victim
- A smile and a reassuring cuddle
To avoid travel sickness we recommend:
- Don’t be too hungry or full before setting off
- NO SWEET FOOD or DRINKS for at least 3 hours before leaving, if you can.
- When possible always face forward or at least out of the window
- Where possible keep the temperature comfortable i.e. open or close the window, wear layers
Surviving transport hubs with children:
Airports, ferry ports, bus stations, taxi ranks all present the same problems – lots of people, lots of hanging around waiting and quite often, lots of hawkers trying to sell or steal your stuff. Its quite an exciting place for children and they will want to explore, run around and touch things we don’t think they should!! It can be a very unpleasant stressful experience and thats even before you become trapped in a moving vehicle for further challenges, so here are our top tips for survival:
- Take a deep breath and remember you will survive!
- If there is more than one adult, take it in turns to watch your things and rest while the other one entertains!
- Entertaining may involve engaging with other parents / grandparents while your children have some quality interaction with each other.
- Distract your children by looking at the different boats, aeroplanes etc.
- Choose some snacks together and sit down for a ‘snacknic’, like a picnic but not!
- Rock out some colouring / iPad action.
- Don’t worry too much about disturbing others and have a game of chase, depending where you are most people love kids and are also fed up and bored so are happy for some light entertainment which doesn’t involve them moving!
- Remind yourself of your child’s age and try not to be too hard on yourself or them if they throw a strop.
- Music! There go those handy headphones again!!!
General tips for a better travel experience:
- Have a sense of humour
- Be mindful of where you are and have patience
- Endorse your adventurous side
- Be organised and research important parts of your trip like accommodation. The party hostel isn’t ideal for families on the road
- Talk with and listen to locals advice especially on things for kids to do, quite often their knowledge won’t be found in a guide book or on the internet
- Take time to learn and teach your children ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ in the local language, this will be very much appreciated by the locals
- Use your imagination, your environment can become a game or distraction which is the best form of keeping a child entertained! (examples: shadow shapes and monsters, eye spy, hair dressing, hide the toy, take some selfies…)
- Be open minded, the little one can learn from every adventure, long journey, dispute etc
- Use honesty to explain and understand your environment, children appreciate the truth
- Learn from your mistakes, everybody makes them it doesn’t make you a bad parent or traveller
- Don’t worry about their learning. They will have plenty of time to catch up, what they may be behind on when you return, they will be far ahead on in other areas!
Remember, wherever you are, parents all over the world are experiencing parenthood, so don’t panic you WILL find nappies, formula, cots etc just ask and be open to using different brands. You will have ‘challenging days!’ when you are all tired, ‘h’angry’ (hungry and angry, know it?) and fed up REMEMBER tomorrow will be better! Your child will touch things and put thing in their mouth that make you want to cry. Don’t! Take a deep breath, keep a watchful eye, carry antibacterial wipes and hope for a strong immune system!! You may change your views on all manner of things and this is true with how you raise your child. Spending every minute of every day together for months on end can be challenging at times, but it is a privilege to be able to do so and forms a strong family bond, one which will hopefully give Betty a strong foundation from which to flourish in this fast changing world of ours.
If you are considering travelling the world as a family don’t be afraid just do it! It will be the best decision you ever make.
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