Travelling with kids, do you do it, do you not do it. Or do you wait till they have flown the coop, do you wait until your 65, when you have the means, you definitely have the time but you’re probably sick of the sight of each other. You can’t do it when their 16 as the last person they want to be seen with is you. These are the questions you have to ask yourself . Before we started out on this journey we were anxious and fearful of the future and what it held for us, particularly with regard to our children Axel, seven and Elka, two. We were unsure about what we were getting ourselves and them into. The decision was a big one for us and we talked long and hard about the pro’s and con’s of doing a world tour with two young children. We were going to have to take Axel out of school and bring along his sister who was still in nappies. After 6 and a half months on the road we can safely say it is the best decision we have ever made. For any of you who are considering doing something like this the following info may come in useful.
After 6 and a half months on the road we can safely say it is the best decision we have ever made. For any of you who are considering doing something like this the following info may come in useful.
The first thing is packing. Bring fuck all for them, they don’t need it and the more you bring the more you will have to carry. A handful of their favourite small toys, some books, and some DVD’s and your laughing. Bring the same amount of clothes you would on a two week holiday. They grow out of them so quickly at this age you will be buying and dumping clothes as you go along. Prepare for clothing to get wrecked in the laundry and for items to be lost and whatever you do don’t bring white clothes to India ...no matter how new it is after the first wash it will be dove grey .
You don’t have to do this if you have the money, we however due to budgetary constraints have opted to all bail in to the same room. Initially this meant a double with an extra bed for Axel and Elka in her travel cot. But as we have now lost a second travel cot we have had to revise the sleeping arrangements. On a number of occasion’s (especially Japan, expensive, tiny rooms) we have had to sleep in two single beds pushed together, all four of us head to tails. This involves Axel’s toe up my ass and my footh in his mouth, likewise for Lisa and Elka. We have found that two single bed’s pushed together are bigger than the standard doubles a lot of places offer. This might sound like a nightmare, and it is, but you get used to it.
Remember, you are on the road for 365 days x 3 meals a day which is 1095 dining opportunities with your kids. This is even more diabolical than the sleeping arrangements. You know how hard it is to you go to a restaurant with your kids on the odd occasion at home and enjoy yourself, well imagine our plight. Funnily enough we have all gotten used to it but we can’t say the same for the unfortunate waiters and waitresses who have to look afer us every day. We have gotten to the stage now where we carry a food suitcase (small) with some of the staples that they eat. Nobody has so far complained about us plonking some of our own breakfast cereal on the table. Stocking up in a supermarket and preparing lunch for them is a sure way of gettng them to eat and they love picnics , what kid doesn’t . Dinner is an altogether different prospect. They both have phases of eating and not eating but we try to have a supply of bread , vitamins, and fruit with us at all times .
The main obstacle is moving from one country to the next, just as they are getting used to the food we up stick’s and they have to start all over again. Remember they don’t like eating out all the time and we all prefer the familiarity of a home cooked meal every now and again . We purchased a €20.00 euro induction hotplate while in china and we have cooked on average 3 nights a week on it since . It’s easy enough to stretch the extension lead out to a balcony if we have one and cook whatever we decide . It is great for the home favourites such as spaghetti bolognese , pastas , stir frys , risotto , steamed fish and a our saturday morning favourites of bacon and eggs served in a bap . Bringing an assortment of plastic containers , chopping knives . forks , spoons , peelers , bottle and can openers , chopping bord and plastic cups have been invaluable . A supply of the basics makes it easier to prepare food . Eating out is not the epicurian extravaganza that you might imagine as most of our resturaunt selections are more family orientated but we have also had some great meals on streets in China or on balconies in Japan having cooked ourselves which just add to the memories.
By far on of the most onerous aspects of the whole trip has been having to get used to being in the company of your nearest and dearest all day every day, all night every night, all week every week, all month every month.........Am I making myself clear! I have to say it took about 4 weeks of killings to get used to being in each others company all the time but at this stage you notice the absence of one or other of us. In order to allow ourselves a bit of a breather we sometimes split up into pairs and this allows us to share some time with either of the kids in a one on one situation. We also make time for each other to have a have a few hours on our own when needed. Effectively you don’t get a minute to yourselves as a couple or a moments privacy and when the kids do finally fall asleep you are fit for bed yourself.
After the Madalene McCann dissapearance a few years ago I don’t think anyone would leave their kids alone for a second or in the company of strangers . Unless you have trusted family members or family friends joining you on your trip I don’t think you will be comfortable leaving your kids with someone you don’t know .Remember if they wake up they are in a strange room and strange country so don’t add the burden of someone they don’t know babysitting for the sake of dinner “a la deux “. We are hopefully meeting their uncle Craig in August in Thailand and we strongly hope that he will offer to mind them one evening at least ..........while we go out and go bananas!! We are soooo looking forward to having a meal in peace without having to eat it half cold or having to force feed Elka while she shreks that she doesn’t like it !
The adaptability of children is underestimated, they react well to a routine but don’t expect to be able to follow one all the time . Things happen that you have no control over so be flexible and don’t worry about things too much as everything will ordinarilly work out ok. You can be guranteed that your children won’t have much of a problem sleeping wherever you find yourself, be that a train, bus, boat or plane. You might not get any shut eye but don’t worry about them, they will sleep anywhere.
Regarding routine surrounding food you just need to be organised and ensure that you are prepared when on the move. This means trying to eat regular meals and making sure you have a supply of food they like.
Sights , Playtime and Distractions
Tourist hotspots, selective viewings and understanding that you can’t do everything with kids is of utmost importance . Trying to fit everything in will only lead to tears for both parties. Make sure that you know in advance of some things that will keep them interested. Some good advice we were given by a fellow traveller regarding bringing children to sites or museams you may be interested in but they may not be is to make a game of the excursion . First stop should be the souvenier shop where you can ask the kids to pick 5 postcards each with images that they like . Start your game by finding the images of paintings or artifacts that the kids have picked . Whoever finds all their images first is the winner . This way you will be able to do a whirlwind tour of a museum or site without listening to “ this is boring , can we go home now “ . And the winner gets a small prize .
Keeping your eye out on the beach for that other parent with a similarily aged child is also a must, don’t be shy about approaching other parents and introducing your children to theirs. You will find the effort appreciated by both the other parent and the children as the children will get over any shyness they may have quickly and you will get some peace and quiet as they play together.
Bringing along a DVD (electronic pacifier) player will ensure regular quiet periods for you and time out for them.
If you are traveling with young school going children for any lenght of time you will need to bring along their school books. Don’t bring everything, just the basics, reading, writing and math. We have replaced the curriculum english reading books with books we pick up along the way that Axel is interested in.
You will find foreign book stores in most big cities. History, biology and geography will be covered by your everyday travels. They will also pick up along the way a little of the language of every country they go through with a little encouragement. The variety of cultures, customs and religions they encounter will ensure they grow up with a broad understanding of the world they live in.
Planning or lack of, traveling on the hoof is possible. As our journey progresses we seem to be planning less and are more relaxed about where we go and how we get there. We don’t go too far off the beaten track so finding accommodation on arrival in a town is fairly straightforward and finding ways of getting to where we need to go is rarely a problem. High season in some places requires pre-booking to ensure you don’t end up sleeping on the beach. From our experience travelling by train in India and China requires some degree of pre-planning.
As a parent you want to ensure that your children are as healthy as can be and you also want to be prepared for anything. Before setting off we made sure that we all received the necessary jabs for the countries we would visit. We also visited our local GP who was extremely helpful and equipped us with the necessary prescriptions to make sure we would be able to handle most minor medical situations until we could locate a doctor. One thing to be wary of when traveling in hot countries is the use of AC. A couple of times the kids ended up sick from the change in temperture using AC. Whenever possible we prefer to find a room with a fan and keep the AC to a minimum. A supply of vitamins should help with fussy eaters to ensure they get some goodness .
Everyone has heard the horror stories of accidents that happen to kids on holidays where they either end up drowned in a pool while the parents each think that the other is looking after them or some other tragedy takes place . Before we left we had a good chat as to what system we would use to hopefully minimize the chances of something happening especially when we are on the move so much and have a lot of luggage to lug about .We agreed to allocated the different responsibilties of our daily travels and to stick to them . I will take care of the kids and Eric looks after all the bags . Our system has worked so far . The first thing Eric does getting off a train or a bus is to get the buggy open and ready for Elka . Off I get with the two kids and stand in one place with both of them right beside me . Eric hops on and off with the bags and they are piled up around us until either a porter comes with a trolly or we move the bags in relay all the time me staying with the kids while Eric moves the bags . On arrival in a hotel there is a rule that no one goes off wandering to “ see the pool “ and during checkin the kids must be looked after by the same one parent all the time . It avoids confusion and has worked so far ........ hopefully the system will continue to do so for the rest of the trip . It is naieve to think that the levels of safety we are used to at home will be similarily applied in a lot of the countries you visit. You will have to take some risks with regard to the lack of seatbelts in the rear of taxi’s . We have let plenty of taxis pass that do not have them but some countries or towns may not have many taxi options that have fitted seat belts and you may not come across them at all by waiting. Bringing car seats is impracitcal unless you plan to hire a car and drive yourself as you can’t fit them if there are no seat belts . Try to insist on seat belts with private taxi companies though as they will mostly be able to arrange them with a bit of notice especially for longer distances . One of the easiest ways to travel with children is by train. Few queues, plenty of space and lots to see. Children love the adventure of travel and overnight trains in a sleeping compartment are a favourite of ours. Train travel in most countries is relatively inexpensive , safe and a great way to get around.
We never knew what it was to see our children grow till we took this opportunity to travel. Seeing them everyday for the first time in our lives as a family has been a revelation. When we were working our asse’s off and our children were either in school or being looked after by someone else it seem’s that we missed many of the little things in their development. Someone else got to see all the little funny moments. Everyday we get to see or hear something that makes us laugh and smile which is priceless This decision to travel is the best one we have ever made and has brought us much closer as a family. We have seen our children grow and develop as never before.
It has been such a positive experience and we hope that in some way it will encourage others to take a chance and see the world.