I pulled the pale blue gingham sheet up to cover my daughter’s 3-year-old shoulders and whispered, “Goodnight, Gracie. I love you.”
“Mommy,” she responded, with her eyes barely open and her matted and stuffed brown pony snuggled in tight to her chest, “Will we still be here tomorrow?”
Wanderlust is defined simply as “a strong desire to travel,” but that is a bit like describing Stephen Hawking as being “fairly interested in science.”
When you have true wanderlust, it isn’t just about quite liking a bit of a vacation every now and then. It is something that lives in the depths of your soul.
My husband and I both have wanderlust. Or as we sometimes call it, “a bad case of the-grass-is-greeners.”
We love too many different places to call one home. The mountains. The city. The ocean. The USA. The UK. France. Italy. Switzerland. New Zealand.
We also have children and while we want them to feel secure, settled and comfortable we are not willing to suppress such an enormous part of what made us who we are because we are parents. We also want to pass our love of travel onto them. So we decided to make it work for us.
The children are in school in New Orleans and they have to attend for about 180 days. Throw in Sundays and you are up to about 205. That means we have about 160 days left to explore the world around us and we do our very best to get that done, including spending 6-8 weeks in London during the summer.
To some people, that might sound like misery; to us it sounds like opportunity. If you too have this itchy foot, take a look. This isn’t an exhaustive how to but it works for us and it should help get you headed in the right direction.
How To Pay for Your Travels with Kids
Let’s get straight to the elephant. Money. You may have every Lonely Planet ever published but without a way to Pay The Man you might as well rip ‘em up and burn ‘em.
Enter The Independent Workforce
Working remotely isn’t as far fetched an idea as it once was.
It is difficult to get exact figures but according to Global Workplace Analytics, the number of US employees who telecommute is growing year after year, especially as companies are looking for creative ways to cut costs.
Make no mistake, it is cheaper for them for you to work from home, drink your own filtered water, use your own loo roll and steal your own pens and copy paper.
Remote workers aren’t just writers anymore either – photographers, musicians, personal chefs, web designers, travel directors, accountants, teachers, tutors, social media consultants, graphic designers…if you can do it on a computer, you can do it on the road.
You just have to get someone to pay you to do it.
The upsides of working remotely are ample: you are able to plan your workload to allow you to make time for important non-work obligations, it decreases stress, saves money for you and your employer and it increases employee productivity.
On the downside, in addition to your skill, you also have to turn yourself into a small business, understanding time management, billing, marketing and administration.
You will still have other people’s deadlines to adhere to and it won’t always coincide with what you want to do.
While your kids are outside kicking a ball around with the Italian landlord’s children and you are locking eyes with your three-year-old MacBook, you might think you’ve chosen the wrong door, but when you shut down for the day you’ll be drinking a crisp white wine on the vine covered veranda looking out over dusty vineyards and listening to the insects chirp in the distance instead of grabbing the 5:32 to the ‘burbs.
How To Do Travel With Your Kids
There are a few logistical considerations that can make or break travel with children.
One key is research
My husband’s and my best trip ever was taken a few weeks after meeting. We both took a month off of work and drove from London to Tuscany stopping in Burgundy on the way down and Monaco on the way back.
We barely had a plan – we knew we had to be in Tuscany by September 2nd and back in London by the 20th. That was it. We drove through France and Italy deciding each morning where we would stay, where we would eat, what we would do. It was both magical and romantic.
It will also never be replicated with kids.
Here are some considerations for travel with kids
Tips for staying in Accommodation with kids:
- Book every night stay in advance.
- Stay in an apartment or house whenever possible. Especially important if you need some work time.
- Confirm parking / arrival information
- Confirm the location and opening hours of the nearest grocery store.
- Request special needs far in advance (extra bedding, microwave, special groceries). Don’t assume that your host, whether hotel, family or B&B will be able to accommodate you at a moment’s notice.
- Plan your meals on travel day. Where will you have breakfast? Do you need to pack a lunch? Will you arrive in time for dinner? Nothing. Nothing. NOTHING ruins travel like hunger. Seriously.
Tips for Travel with Kids
Keep in mind that you can’t enjoy travel with kids if your kids don’t enjoy traveling. The way to make travel enjoyable for kids is to never let on that it is supposed to be boring. “Spoof them.” as my husband says.
Flying or long road trips with kids:
1. iPads from the age of 2 (don’t look at me like that) but only use them when traveling – which means road trips greater than 90 minutes and any air travel. Restricting use makes taking trips exciting.
2. Make snack packs the night before departure with their favorite fresh fruits, veggies and crackers that they love.
3. Buy each child a small gift at the airport (under $5) or first gas station.
4. On flights let the kids order their own first drink – whatever they want provided it doesn’t have caffeine.
Packing tips for travel with kids
Ahhhhh, packing. Too little and you and your brood are under-dressed, under-prepared and buying Gap clothes at 3x hometown prices.
Too much and you are miserable, schlepping bags here and there and throwing out your back and getting in fights about No-I-Didn’t-Leave-The-Stroller-At-The-Airport-You-Did.
Here is what you can do:
1. Check the weather – and believe it.
2. Pack 1 bottom and 1 top for each child for each day + 1 emergency outfit. No more.
3. Each child packs one (1) stuffed animal and 1 toy. No more.
4. If, during the stay, your kids don’t dirty something, fold it and put it back in the pile of “clothes that have not been worn” For sweaters, pack wool. Light and easily layered.
5. If you have a baby, circle back to the “research” section. Is there a grocery store nearby? Anywhere you are even considering going with your kids will sell nappies, wipes and baby food. Pack enough for a few days but you don’t need to pack a full week’s worth. It won’t be the brands you are used to, but that is part of the beauty of travelling, isn’t it? If still bottle feeding, do pack your own formula.
How To Get The Most Out Of Your Travels With Kids
Remember that trip to Tuscany?
We stayed in a former monestary built in the 1100s. Several days in we had finally mastered the outdoor wood-burning oven and our friend, Mike H, the experienced chef on our trip, decided that he wanted to fire roast a lamb loin in celebration. Great idea!
We all jumped in the car and headed to Ipercoop, the massive, locals-only, grocery store on the outskirts of the town. It was only when perusing the meat section that we realized none of us knew how to say “lamb” in Italian.
While debating various cuts and wondering what horsemeat looked like Mike slipped away. Two beats later we look over and there is a chubby old man in a white lab coat, standing over Mike who is now on all fours baaaaaing, like a lamb.
The man cocks his head in confusion for a minute but then throws it back and exclaims, “AHHHH! Agnello!” He helps Mike up, throws his arm around his shoulder and guides him to the back to get him the very best lamb, errr, agnello, selections.
That illustrates the absolute most important part of embracing your wanderlust.
Throw yourself upon the mercy of your host location and wrap your arms around them.
Ask for help.
Be willing to try your tongue at their language. Learn a few key phrases: hello, goodbye, please and thank you. That’s a great start. You aren’t expected to know everything but do know something.
A genuine smile and appreciation will get you so far. And that, that is probably the very key to getting the most out of your travelling wilbury lifestyle.
Allow the experience to change you. Allow it to permeate your soul. Allow yourself to think like a local, not a tourist. Open yourself up to local experiences. Stay in touch with the people you meet. Mail them photographs that you take. Email them. Correspond through social media.
Recommend their services to friends.
Order wine from the little wine shop you popped into to escape the rain on that anniversary trip to Burgundy.
Making a life for yourself that allows you to experience the world can be magical. If nothing else ,take these two things away: Do your research in advance and embrace what is offered to you.
It gives you, and your children, riches you can only imagine.
About the Author:
Jessica Bride is a freelance writer and a food, travel and lifestyle blogger for BelleAnnée.com. She spends her time between New Orleans and London with her husband and three children. You can follow her on Facbook and Instragram
Need More Tips on Family Travel?
Check out these posts:
- 11 tips for taking your kids to public places AND enjoying it
- 5 reasons why traveling with kids creates a better travel experience
How do you satisfy your wanderlust with kids?