My guest blogger today is Andrea, who has managed to pull off (successfully) quite a few international vacations with her children. She’s also the blogger behind the newly-launched and highly-informative Passports and Pushchairs blog, so set your bookmarks for more of her good advice. It is just coincidence that her daughter has the same red hair as V — I promise we are not related!
1. Tell us about your family & travel patterns.
My husband and I both grew up traveling, and when we met we knew we would continue to see the world together! We have two kids, Finn, who is 5 and Lila who is 2. Finn was born in London, so he took his first trip to Spain and Portugal when he was 10 weeks old! Lila was born in the US so didn’t do her first international trip until she was 8 months, but she was also on plane cross country by 8 weeks. We travel every year back to the UK to see my husband’s family, and always try to add a side trip on since we are already over there. Last year we took Finn to Belgium for Christmas Markets, our last trip we went to Spain first. And then we almost always try to take a trip just the two of us for a night or two, usually somewhere else in the UK. Other than that trip we plan 3-4 trips a year as a family, we always head to Destin, Florida for a couple weeks in the Summer and then again in the Winter, and we visit DC every year. Our other trips are generally either one big one where we fly somewhere or we do some weekend trips to destinations we can drive to. I have had to adjust my ideas of exciting places to travel, especially after living in London for 3 years and taking weekend trips to Italy, France, Austria, etc. Somehow Asheville and Savannah don’t sound as exciting, but the truth is that we have gone on some lovely weekend adventures in the US! We don’t put a limit on where we would go with our kids, in reality we would go anywhere (safety of course is an issue but I believe most of the world is inherently safe) and the only thing holding us back is time, well and money!
2. Last trip you took with your kids?
With Finn in pre-k 5 days a week our time is more limited in terms of when we can take big trips, so we decided this year to add a couple days on either side of his Spring Break and we headed to Madrid and then on to the England. Our next trip is in a couple weeks to Seattle and Vancouver, we are all excited about that!
3. Best travel with kids experience?
Our recent trip to Madrid was really low key, we were there for a family friends 90th birthday, so we skipped all the big sites and just spent time in the area of Madrid he lives in. Everything about it was great – the playgrounds we found, the kids we played with, the way the hotel treated our kids, the family we were with. It was just generally a really pleasant experience from the time we landed until we left!
4. Worst travel with kids experience?
I would say a trip back from Jackson Hole with Finn alone ranks up there with one of our more difficult adventures. We had to take a small plane from Jackson Hole to Salt Lake City, I felt like a pack mule with all our stuff, and the flight attendants were so rude to us that it just set the whole trip off on the wrong foot. Other than that we have had pretty good experiences, both on road trips and flights, long and short!
5. Your three most useful carry on items?
- Ipad and headphones, hands down. All our electronic ‘rules’ are out the window when we fly or go on long road trips, and it is almost scary how much an iPad can occupy Finn’s time and attention! Lila is trickier, she isn’t as in to watching shows but they help in small bursts.
- Sticker books and notepads! We never break out the electronics until we are in the air, so sticker books, especially the kind where the stickers can be removed and placed on another page, are a lifesaver. Finn loves to draw, so a notepad is perfect for him.
- Snacks, snacks and more snacks. You never know what kind of food you will get on a plane, or if you will be delayed, so snacks and extra snacks are good to have. Lollipops help pop painful ears, granola bars give some good sustenance, and chocolate makes every kid happy! Along with the snacks we bring a reusable water bottle for both kids.
6. Best money-saving family travel trick?
You can almost always get an apartment through a site like VRBO or Homeaway for less than or equal to the amount of a hotel, but with twice the room, at least. We like to have separate rooms for us from the kids, so a 2 bedroom apartment is what we usually get, and then it includes a kitchen, which is great for breakfast (which saves a bunch of money!) and dinner if your kids are tired of fussy. And you don’t have to go to bed at 7:30 when you have two bedrooms! We are staying in apartments in Seattle and Vancouver and both include parking, which at the hotels we found was an extra charge per day, and the price is less than the amount of any suite-type hotel we could find in comparable areas. And in both cities we are staying in very central locations!
7. Your favorite travel-related credit card, if any?
We use the Chase Sapphire card almost exclusively. The only time we don’t is if we book a Delta flight, and then we use the Delta Amex, so we get 1 free checked bag and double points. With the Chase Sapphire card we put all our monthly expenses on it and pay it off at the end of the month. We have one in both our names so we got the 50,000 signup bonus for both of us. We have booked several hotels and 3 flights with points and still have lots of points to use!
8. Favorite airline amenity?
Ask for the children’s meal on an overseas flight. It isn’t great food but it is better than the regular food they offer, and always includes fruit!
9. Most desired improvement to the air travel experience?
I really wish airlines would do more to keep families together on planes. Even when we have booked flights and seats together the aircraft is changed or something happens and we get rearranged, and all 4 of us will be spread throughout the plane. I am sure that while it would be nice for Lee and I to have a child free flight, I am not so sure a stranger wants to sit next to my 5 or 2 year old! But if you ask people to move they get all frustrated, because of course they like the seat they are in. It would be easier if there was some sort of way to easily rectify situations like this!