Sally Webb is an award-winning journalist, has authored several Lonely Planet books and, in possibly her most impressive achievement, has travelled extensively with her children Lulu and Archie. Her new book Travel Without Tears includes 645 ideas to help you take on the world with your family – here, Sally shares the 10 questions she’s most often asked. We have 3 copies to give away – for your chance to win, leave us a comment telling us about your worst travel experience with kids. Full details below.
Does the thought of taking an overseas flight with your kids instill feelings of terror rather than joy? Is the idea of a lengthy family road trip something you simply cannot contemplate? You’re not alone, but it shouldn’t be this way. Travel teaches children (and their parents) about other cultures, exposes them to historical wonders, and helps them understand the fragility of the natural world. Travelling also builds resilience and life skills that kids never get in their day-to-day lives. And of course it allows the whole family to spend quality time together. Travelling with your children also allows you to see the world through their eyes. Kids have a unique way of looking at places, people and experiences and as parents we can benefit from their freshness of vision and enthusiasm. You never get first impressions of a place twice but you do get a bit of a second chance if you’re doing it with your kids.
Here are some of the most frequently questions about travelling as a family.
1. What’s the right sort of trip for my family?
For some it might be a simple beach holiday not too far from home, for others it’s the lure of culture and fine food in a European city or the hectic buzz of an Asian marketplace. Think about the age and stage of your kids, understand their physical abilities and plan accordingly. Also ask yourself what type of trip you want – it’s your holiday too.
2. Hotel or apartment – what works best?
Choose your accommodation carefully. Having kitchen facilities is a huge bonus for families for preparing snacks and meals. Apartments are usually much more affordable than hotels when there are several children. Also think about room configurations. Do you need interconnecting rooms or a separate sitting area where you can be comfortable when a baby or toddler is having a daytime sleep?
3. How do I get my kids engaged with the destination before we go?
Spend time talking about where you’re going and researching the must-see sights and then get your kids to nominate the things they want to do. Books – including guide books written specifically for kids – and movies can be a great introduction.
4. How do I keep my kids healthy when we’re away?
Staying healthy starts well before you leave home. Consult your GP or a specialist travel doctor and make sure you have the necessary vaccinations. Understand the health risks of the country you are travelling to – can you drink the water or even clean your teeth with it? – and make sure the children understand them too.
5. What’s the one essential item I should I pack?
The most important item to pack is a sense of humour. After that, a collapsible, lightweight umbrella stroller can be a godsend – it doubles as a highchair and they can sleep in it too. You can’t really travel extra-light with babies and toddlers but beware of overloading yourself too. It’s tricky to manage stairs and stations when you’re dealing with luggage, prams and holding onto a toddler’s hand.
6. Babies often cry on flights. How can I avoid this?
The change in air pressure can be uncomfortable for everyone but for little ones who don’t know why it’s happening, it can be very upsetting. Swallowing helps the ears equalise, as do chewing, yawning, and “popping” the ears by holding your nose and gently blowing out. If you are breastfeeding do it as the plane takes off and again when it starts descending. Otherwise, give your baby a bottle and encourage young children to have a drink.
7. What’s the best way to occupy kids on a long flight?
Don’t rely on the in-flight entertainment to occupy your children for the whole flight. For a start some airlines and aircraft don’t have much that’s appropriate for kids. Bring plenty of books, especially interactive ones for toddlers and pre-schoolers. Raid the $2 shops for compact toys that you can produce one by one during the flight when boredom and fatigue kick in. Wrap them up; the unwrapping kills time and adds a further element of surprise. Load up the iPad with favourite games or movies, and bring child-sized over-ear headphones that are less likely to slip off.
8. What’s the best way to pass time on a road trip?
Bring out the old-fashioned car games, such as “I spy” and “Who Am I?” which can give you a real insight into your children’s developing vocabulary or their understanding of popular culture and current affairs. Stack the iPod with a variety of playlists. Beware of overdoing the baby- or toddler-specific music; the Wiggles on loop will drive you mad. Audio books come into their own on road trips. Stephen Fry reading Harry Potter and Geoffrey Palmer reading Roald Dahl’s BFG are brilliant.
9. My kid’s a fussy eater. What happens if she doesn’t like the food?
Travelling with fussy eaters can be a challenge. Children will invariably eat if they are really hungry, and even if your child goes off their food for a few days, or is extremely picky, it is unlikely to have major health implications. Fill them up on rice, pasta, bread and other staples, offer fruit, and take advantage of hotel breakfast buffets to fuel them up on familiar cereals, pastries and eggs.
10.How can I ensure the kids don’t forget the experience?
Get school aged kids to make a travel journal, where they write regular entries and stick interesting pieces of memorabilia, such as bus tickets or menus. Set up a family trip website and get the children to pull it all together. Get the kids to make a movie or a slide presentation from the footage you’ve taken – there are plenty of apps available.
Visit Sally’s Travel Without Tears website where you can order the book ($19.99, or $9.99 as an e-book) and subscribe for trip inspiration and advice. You can also follow via Facebook.
Leave a comment below telling us about your worst travel experience with kids before 5pm (AEST) Thursday 28 August 2014 to win 1 of 3 copies of Travel without Tears by Sally Webb. You must be a member of Temple & Webster to enter, and you may only enter once. We’ll pick our favourite comments and contact the winners via Facebook or email by Friday 5 September 2014. If we are unable to contact the winner(s) within 30 days we’ll pick an alternative winner. Good luck!