Both my husband and I are school teachers, and in the beginning of time, when we were wide eyed university students, we both knew that having a teaching degree would be one of the best ways we could see this beautiful planet of ours. Just thinking back to those idealistic times makes me all hippy and intrepid, wearing my wanderlust tee and giving in to exploration. And yes, we did a lot of travelling. From snowboarding in Canada, to living in London, to travelling Europe with only 1 backpack between us, to snowboarding in Japan, and horse riding in Mongolia and riding the Trans-Siberian railway. We’ve done a lot and we loved all of it. We’re just like the millions of other Aussies who love to get amongst this wonderful planet we have and learn about people, culture, food and everything in between that travel gifts to you.
And then we married, settled and started raising a family, all while most of everyone else in our lives continued the journey. The travel bug never leaves you though, it’s always there, tickling away at you and sometimes it can just seem so far away from your day to day life that you start to grieve it. But you tell yourself that raising your family is also one of the best journey’s you’ll ever go on too, and it’s true – but what if you can combine the two? Now that’s exciting!
As a kid, we both had families who loved to holiday in different parts of Australia. This is common, I know, and partly what fuelled our travel bug together as we were falling in love. So now that we have our own kids, we get to share the travel bug with them and let me tell you, it’s the best combination of two of the things we love the most. Travelling with kids is the coolest thing we’ve ever done, and even though we’re only starting on this epic adventure, we’re excited about where it will go!
We have taken Archer to some amazing places, the island of Boracay in the Philippines for his uncle’s wedding, Japan to learn to ski, Cambodia to explore the temples, skiing at Mt Hotham and camping in Port Campbell, and most recently we took both Billie and Archer to Hong Kong to visit their grandparents. See, my folks have moved over there and are having the equivalent of a gap year, in their 50’s, and they’re as cute as teenagers in love again!
Travelling with kids is challenging and yet so damn rewarding. It’s a totally different type of travel, and can sometimes get a bad wrap because of the sheer amount of organisation and expectations that come with it. Where we used to cringe at the thought of sitting on a plane with kids, we are now those people with the kids. Where we used to sit in cafe’s for endless hours, or take challenging walks and off track explorations, we now need to think how little legs are going to cope and where is the nearest toilet. It changes, and for good reason, travelling with kids changes YOU. And here’s how I know.
We landed in Hong Kong after a ‘settled’ flight, an excited 5 year old who couldn’t stop talking and a chilled out 4month old who just took it all in her stride, is what I call ‘settled’ and my parents became our tour guides. This trip was very personal and precious to them because they got to show us ‘their Hong Kong’ – all their special little spots that they have discovered for themselves. You know when you travel with just your partner, and you find somewhere amazing and you realise you just want to share it with your loved ones. So you take a photo, explain it away, but it’s just not quite the same as if they were there with you. My parents got the chance to share it with us, from their eyes, and it was wonderful! We went to the wet markets for fresh fruit, veg, fish and interesting types of meat. We ate at beautiful restaurants, and cool cafes, and shopping centres and Disneyland and Ocean Park and the list could just go on. Our itinerary was jam packed and our kids soaked up all of it. Admittedly, Billie was doing a lot of sleeping in the sling and breastfeeding in all sorts of amazing places, but yeah she definitely ‘soaked’ in up! Archer was like a sponge, asking a million and one questions and learning so much about another culture that he fell in a heap of exhaustion each night.
One particular evening stood out to me and will stay with me forever. Mum had booked a beautiful restaurant months in advance (yes you can take babies and 5yr olds to fancy restaurants without Ipads and Iphones- it’s all in the preparation!) We had harbour views of Hong Kong’s laser light show and we ate the most delicious meal, called ‘Double Happiness’ and that it was! As we sat indulging in the feast, Archer describing how the pork was melting in his mouth, and Az sipping on a beer while letting Billie sleep in his arms, I looked over at my parents. They were sitting there, soaking all of this in with a beautiful, proud smile on their faces. For them, this is the ultimate gift. Travel, the best gift of all because it gives you time. Time with your loved ones. And then I had a moment. I was sure Oprah was going to burst in at any time, it was a complete ‘ah-ha’ moment. As I sat there watching my parents, I realised that I too, was in awe of my own children and proud as punch to have the chance to travel with them too. I will never forget that meal, and what it showed me about parenting.
To parent, is to give your time. Give it freely and with as much love as you can. Travel will be a wonderful way to give that gift of time to your children and who doesn’t want that?
I can’t thank my parents enough for giving me the gift of travelling with them, from when I was a child, to now, as an adult. Az and I have vowed to show our children the world and give the gift of travel to them too.
My top tips for travelling with kids:
– Pack light, it’s not a fashion show, it’s about getting out there.
– Have good walking shoes and a backpack. Kids equals stuff, so you want it to be easy to carry around.
– Think about their legs, plan rest breaks, and ‘down time’ activities so they can be charged up and ready for the next big day.
– Go with the flow, you may have a routine at home for your little ones, but this may constrict you when you’re travelling, so take things easy and go with the flow. Holiday’s are a break from the normal, so a change in your routine is good.
– Talk. Talk before hand, about expectations. We played ‘planes’ for weeks before we ride on one, this sets the tone of what is expected on a plane. Talk about food, trying new things, talk about culture – books and visits to the library before hand are great. Talk about people, and the wonderful ones you will meet. Talk about safety and most of all, talk about having fun together. Create that sense of wanderlust in your babes from an early age.
So, where are you off to now? Archer is desperate to see Orca Whales in the wild, so we’re planning that one!