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Traveling Alone or Family Travel Whether you want to travel alone, or travel with the kids, parents, or granny, this forum is for you!

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Old 05-12-2005, 09:03 AM   #1
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Since a few of you are facing this prospect and think I might have some insight (can't imagine why?) I'll start this topic with a little advice on travelling with little kids:

DO IT.

Ignore all the naysayers: "they're too young" "they'll never remember or appreciate it" "it's such a waste of money" "you must be crazy" "how can you call that a holiday?" We've heard it all, in ever increasing chorus as our family grows and if you're on this site, you have the attitude it takes to ignore these comments and get out there. There is nothing like travelling with kids for seeing things in new ways and opening doors to cultures.

Except in North America and some parts of Europe, where it seems that children are considered best kept quietly at home (or better yet, at boarding school in another country) where they can't bother anyone, in most parts of the world, children are appreciated as the blessings they are, and are more likely to be cuddled and coddled than seen as a nuisance.

In North America, the most frequent reaction to our tribe is "4 kids? You must be nuts!" In most other parts of the world, the more common remark is "4 children? You are rich." If nothing else, travelling with our children has helped us appreciate that fact.

Now I have to engage in the nightly ritual of pjs and bedtime stories. More to come from me, and you too, I hope!
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Old 05-12-2005, 09:47 AM   #2
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More philosophy. Because we have lived overseas a lot, we've also seen how children can open doors that might not open to other travellers. Certainly a blonde, blue-eyed four year old speaking fluent Japanese gets a second glance from most locals, but even if you visit for a short time, taking your kids to a local playground gives them a chance to blow off some steam and, since children communicate in the international language of play, you may get a chance to meet other parents. Even if your interaction is nothing more than a shared smile at the universal cuteness of kids playing together, that can completely colour your attitudes about a place.

Very likely, if you can speak the local language or the other person can speak even a little of yours, you'll strike up a conversation that could range from short pleasantries to a shared meal, even to an invitation to the family's home. This can give you a cultural experience unmatched by all the city tours, galleries and museums you can squeeze in.

One of my favourite experiences in this vein was during our first spring in Japan, when I took the girls (we had only two then, and no Japanese vocab yet) to a beach festival in a small northern town. While I watched them playing with another little girl, her mother shyly struck up a conversation. From there, she invited us to join her extended family for a beach barbecue and we spent a great afternoon eating fresh grilled seafood and entertaining her elderly relatives with my stuttering attempts to pronounce the names of all the mysterious sea creatures we were enthusiastically devouring.

I certainly don't mean to suggest that these kinds of experiences don't happen to people travelling without kids (I've done a fair amount of solo travel and have plenty of fond memories of that), rather to note that having kids along doesn't necessarily cut you off from contacts with the locals.

Okay, enough of my philosophy. Practicalities anyone?
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Old 05-12-2005, 09:54 AM   #3
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thank you for posting these wonderful tales. As for me it dosn't matter seeing as I do not have children yet but it does give me hope that even after I have children I will still be able to travel.
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Old 05-12-2005, 10:21 AM   #4
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Writing lots now, since the computer's free!

Some basic practicalities:

1. We always apply for passports as soon as we get the birth certificates, useful since all our kids made their first international flights within 4 months of birth. The hardest thing is to get the picture with the baby's eyes open. Actually, this is sometimes harder with a two year old than a baby, who just blinks in surprise. Get the photographer to move closer to make sure the head fits the specs, or you'll have to get them taken again.!

2. Diapers: globalization means you can get Pampers (or something like them) just about anywhere. If you're in that "just about" zone, chances are some of the locals have had a baby at some time in the last 10,000 years or so, and there'll be some secret way of coping! Personally, I'd rather have too few clothes and too many diapers at the start of the trip, or any time, really. I know how environmentally unfriendly disposables are, but consider how long you are going to be without laundry facilities before you decide to pack only cloth...how long will you be carting around the "droppings"?

If you do want to go the environmentally friendly way, my mom took 12 disposables and 12 cloth on a three week trip to England way back when I was responsible for making them dirty, not clean! She used the disposables for the travel days, and the cloth when she was staying at my grandma's with laundry facilities. Gives you a guideline.

Also good to know, in a pinch: expensive disposables have been known to last upwards of 12 hours in normal conditions...cheaper versions are not as reliable. And swim diapers are great in the pool, but not designed for everyday wear. Live and learn...

Most larger aircraft have at least one changing table equipped lav, but it's also possible to change a little baby in your seat, if you're creative and your neighbour isn't too offended. It seems like almost every female flight attendant has a kid or two, so they're usually really helpful with babies and will even hold one for you if you need to go to the loo yourself. And the airsick bags are just the right size for the droppings.

Many public restrooms outside of North America don't have changing tables (some European countries are better than others, western generally more than eastern in my experience) and often those that do are only in the ladies rooms . Anyway, best to practice your laptop changing procedures before you go... I usually carry a sarong everywhere, and that makes a handy clean surface, if you need one, and is easy to wash and dries quickly.

Sorry, lots of time on that subject, but, if you have a baby, well, you know how important it is!

You'll be relieved to know that I have to hand back the keyboard... Hope some of this is of use!
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Old 05-12-2005, 10:37 AM   #5
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Wow. Honestly, I have to say that your travels with your brood make the prospect of having kids less frightening! I'm not 100 percent sure I'll end up with children (although it if The Mother Unit has anything to say about it I will ).

If it happens, I'd LOVE to do what you guys are doing! Thanks so much for posting this.
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Old 05-12-2005, 11:13 AM   #6
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I have to agree with ya SV! This is VERY interesting! I don't have any kids of my own but I know I will one day and I hate the general concept that having kids makes it impossible to do what you love.

This is really informative!

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Old 05-12-2005, 11:37 AM   #7
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Great info, i traveld with my parents from a young age, kids did not stop them doing all the things they wanted to it just took a little more effort. great info for anyone with kids because i imagin it would be so easy to use them as an excuse, and it must be fairly daunting travaling for the first time with them.

No kids for me at the moment, but one day and there is no way they will escape from travaling.
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Old 05-12-2005, 11:39 AM   #8
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I was one of those kids that traveled around with various family members even before I learned to walk well. It's amazing, but I can remember some stuff when I was about 2.5 years old and learning to ski. When I have kids I intend to travel with them too.

I'm glad to see that some people still like keeping their children around with them during travels instead of sending them to a boarding school or using a nanny 24/7.
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Old 05-12-2005, 11:42 AM   #9
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This is such a relief to read :

Quote:
I'll start this topic with a little advice on travelling with little kids:

DO IT.

Ignore all the naysayers: "they're too young" "they'll never remember or appreciate it" "it's such a waste of money" "you must be crazy" "how can you call that a holiday?"
As you know, I have a baby, and still hope to some day travel some more. All parents I know don't dare travelling out of the province, and even a weekend escapade in the countryside is a big adventure ! Your experience and advices will inspire me a lot !

Thanks !
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Old 05-12-2005, 02:50 PM   #10
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Good Stuff!
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Old 05-12-2005, 04:07 PM   #11
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awesome tales, keep 'em comin'!
we're having our first in september.
we won't stop travelling. there's too much of the world we haven't seen...and we'll have our child along to experience it with us.
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Old 05-12-2005, 05:28 PM   #12
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awsome TW, just awsome
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Old 05-13-2005, 02:46 AM   #13
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Thanks for the kudos, sorry, I have tons more ideas...

dfresh, congrats on the impending baby, you will have the best time! I'd have to say that one of the easiest times to travel with a kid is when they're tiny. Seems odd, when they have just so completely rocked your world, but actually, they're not very heavy and sleep a lot (sometimes at inconvenient times, I grant you) and don't really have an opinion about whether you want to go to this museum or that concert or whatever...

For me the biggest issues with wee babies are diapers (as I mentioned before) and food.

****Warning, this topic is sensitive and is just MY opinion based on who I am!*****

Since I am essentially lazy, I'm a big believer in nursing babies for as long as possible (like more than two years, with each of my last three). I have talked to lots of people who have weaned their babies before a trip so that they don't have to deal with the "hassle" of nursing. But personally, I don't see how carrying along expensive formula and bottles, finding purified water, keeping mixed formula cold and heating up bottles on the go is easier than sitting down and pulling up your tshirt.

Quite apart from all the health, financial and ethical issues (which I firmly support and will rant on if prompted) surrounding the breast-or-bottle debate, I just see it as the easiest option and with kids in tow, easy is always my goal. I have never had to worry about finding formula in a small town in the middle of the night, or had my babies scream inconsolably for 1/2 an hour during a takeoff or descent because their ears hurt. I just feed 'em and they're happy and usually go to sleep.

Of course bottles and pacifiers also help with the ears thing, but we've never gone that route, so maybe someone else can give some suggestions about that.

For privacy, I usually have my handy-dandy sarong nearby so just put that over us and that takes care of that. Also, I know a great source of properly designed nursing clothes that work for travelling. I can let anyone know details if you care.

When they're small, I like to carry babies in a sling. At first I thought they didn't look comfortable, all squished up in a bag, but then I looked at all the babies all squished up in car seats, strollers, and baskets and realized that being all squished is pretty normal for a newborn. The sling keeps the baby close to you, which provides comfort when you're on the go, and leaves your hands free. Also, outside of North America and some parts of Europe, it's a pretty normal way to carry a child, so people there won't think you're nuts...which is nice, sometimes. Obviously, I don't mean to suggest that a sling is a substitute for a carseat in a vehicle, just that it's a good option when you're travelling by bus, train, on foot, etc. Another nice feature, it's adjustable, so mom and dad can share the load!

The biggest disadvantages for me are that having the baby next to you all the time can get hot and carrying even a little tiny baby gets heavy after a while. So you need to rest a bit more often than if you were using only a stroller.

When they get bigger, our kids move into our KeltyKids backpack, which is a trooper. Last summer I carted our 1 year old all over central Europe for a month, while my husband carried the pack with all our clothes. This left us with three hands free for the other kids to hold, and an extra one for water bottles, rummaging for busfare and so forth. Our pack came with a zip off mini-pack which is just right for holding a couple of diapers, a small box of wipes, my camera, some miscellaneous items (pens, toys, a guide book, whatever) and a water bottle. And the frame allows the pack to stand with the baby inside, which is handy at bus stops, train stations and bathrooms when you don't want to take the baby out, but could use a break! Only they're not uber stable, so you don't want to leave the child there unwatched.

We also finally invested in a good little stroller for our fourth munchkin. It is a convertible carseat/FAA approved airplane seat/stroller that has served us well. If you pay for a seat on a flight, you can roll right up to the plane, and if the aisles are wide enough down to your seat, then retract the wheels and plop baby in place. This is really handy if your baby falls asleep en route... It can also be used as a car seat, and then taken out and used as a stroller. Very handy, though with some drawbacks:

1. the telescoping handle is not very strong, so you can't push down on it hard to get over a curb (you have to back over it). Not a problem in accessible places, but a bit of a pain if there aren't ramps.

2. the wheels are small and the clearance is low, which makes for bumpy rides on Olde Worlde cobblestones. Absolutely fine on paved surfaces or indoors.

3. It's not designed for offroading. That's what backpacks are for.

4. People will stop you in the street, demanding to know everything about this miraculous contraption. I've missed buses because of it...

Bottom line, we don't use the stroller every day in Vilnius because of the cobblestones and curbs (and weather) but have used it successfully in Italy, England and in gloriously accessible Vancouver.

Okay, that's plenty for now, I think!
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Old 05-14-2005, 08:10 AM   #14
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Funny comment my son made the other day. As we were walking to school, I told him that when I was his age, I could only speak one language. He looked at me in disbelief and said, "You could only speak one language when you were four?!" I felt like such a failure...
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Old 05-14-2005, 04:38 PM   #15
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Wow! That's some awesome advice! I know my aunt's planning on travelling w/ her 6 month old now, so I'll have to pass on the advice. I didn't get to do that much travelling as a child, but I was always jealous of the children who did. You're kids are so blessed by the opportunity that you are giving them. Damn......I need to get started on learning my 3rd language....
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Old 06-28-2006, 06:01 PM   #16
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This is my first post on here so first off...Hi!

And I wanted to say, wow, thanks for all those great tips! And it is very inspiring to hear your travel stories. I have a 3 year old daughter and I am getting ready to pack everything up, sell the house and start travelling with her...! I have been getting nothing but shock and awe reactions from friends (luckily my family is supportive). They can't believe that I would just "throw away" the comfortable life we have for travelling around and having to "start all over again" as they say... My opinion is that I have been itching to start travelling again and I want nothing more than to share the experiences with my daughter!

Anyways, thanks again and keep those tips of kid-friendly places to visit coming... I hope to add some of my own soon.

Cheers!

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Old 06-28-2006, 07:04 PM   #17
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What can I say... WOW ! I hope we'll hear about your adventure abroad. Where are you planning on going ? For how long ?

I have a 20-month-old daughter, am a full time student at university, am a single mom. Despite all that, we're going in Moscow next year for a semester. The logistic will probably give me headaches before leaving, but I'm very excited about it.

I look forward reading about your experience !

And... welcome to travelpunk.com !

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Old 06-28-2006, 09:44 PM   #18
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Welcome to the boards!

Wow, selling everything and hitting the road with a toddler in tow - that takes a lot of guts, congratulations.

Where do you plan on traveling, and for how long? Do you plan to live/work/go to school (you or your daughter) overseas, or travel around for a while and then head back to wherever is home?

Sounds like you've done some traveling before, it'll be interesting to here your impressions on how different travel is with a child. It's so fascinating to see things through their eyes, and to hear their observations.

Holler for suggestions about what to take, how to survive long flights with sleepless children (or jetlag with lively ones!), where to buy cheap clothes/shoes for growing girls...

Keep us posted on your plans, and it's great to have another travelin' mama on the boards.

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Old 06-28-2006, 10:29 PM   #19
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Couple more kid-friendly places we've picked up on recent trips:

Paris: The Louvre sells a hardcover book called "My Little Louvre" for about 10 Euro, with glossy colour pages and lots of details about selected works throughout the museum. It's kind of like the post card treasure hunt idea, but with a lot more info (and more expensive). No kid's pack, though. Kids are free, and if you have a stroller, you get to take a cool elevator into the museum from the glass pyramid.

(Incidentally, the British Museum also sells a great kids guide in their bookshop, but they have free kid's packs as well - the Louvre doesn't.)

Musee d'Orsay also has a "My Little Orsay" book, but they also have a kid's pack - currently it features the relationship between the museum and trains, highlighting architectural details of the building, paintings of trains, etc. There's a kid's guide and a separate parent's guide with lots more info (and the answers), but it is only available in French. They do have other museum info in English, just not the kids' stuff.

Musee des Arts et Metiers is an interesting technology museum - not a science centre - with lots of old scientific instruments, mechanical things and some hands on exhibits. The staff were not overly friendly, but there's some fun stuff there. Lots of interactive computer exhibits as well, with comfy chairs. Again, not all the information is available in English. This is the home of Foucault's Pendulum (it's in the church) and an early scale model of the Statue of Liberty. The cars and motorcycles are rather tempting to climb on, but don't. Blissfully, this place was virtually deserted when we were there.

Cite des Industries is the science centre. Lots of fun, some of the info is in English, but not much. Doesn't matter, though. The place is huge. Great choice for a wet day.

Musee Marine is apparently the oldest maritime museum in the world. I don't know. Anyway, it's not very big, but has some fascinating exhibits if you're into things nautical. They have displays about scientific vessels (including subs) as well as the more usual war and merchant ships. Currently two great exhibits - one about polar explorations (both Poles = bi-polar?) another about a guy who lived and sailed the Red Sea from Somalia up, at the turn of the century. He was a gun runner, spy, diplomat, explorer, spent time in jail...and his kids traveled with him on these adventures! The museum is just a hop skip and a jump from the Eiffel Tower, and is a great break from the crowds. Also, the bathroom downstairs is gorgeous, and one of the few with a place to change a diaper.

Paris City Museum of Modern Art. This is not the Pompidou Centre, which is also fun, though most of the exhibits were closed for renovation when we were there, so I can't say much about that. Located across from the Fashion Museum, which we didn't visit, though we picnicked in the back yard, it has a few Picassos and Matisses and some interesting video and other exhibits - we liked it better than what we saw at the Pompidou, but that was probably just bad timing. This is also the home of what may be the world's largest painting, at 10x60 m, if it isn't the largest it's still mighty impressive. It also happens to be by my favourite dead painter, Raoul Dufy, so I'm not a hard sell. Anyhow, the painting is called "La Fee d'Electricite" and is sort of a history/hommage/critique of electricity and industrialization. There are portraits of famous names in electricity, and we had our kids do a treasure hunt within the painting for gods, goats, ships, bicycles, and all sorts of things. You can also try identifying the world capitals depicted.


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This is not a museum, but it is a fun place to spend the day with kids, in the eastern Netherlands. A little village, full of traditional thatched houses, all laid out along canals. There are no roads in the town, just canals, bike paths and bridges. You can bike/stroll or rent a boat and punt, row, canoe, kayak, motor or take a guided tour, and if you're on the water you can explore the canals that go out into the surrounding fields, as well. It was fairly crowded when we were there last weekend, but mostly with Dutch visitors, it's not high on the foreign tourist radar. We drove and parked a few hundred metres from the path to town, 3 Euro for the day. Boat rentals seemed pretty reasonable, too - I think about 10 Euro for a small motor boat for the day. Canoes and kayaks were less, but might be dodgier with little kids.
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Old 06-29-2006, 01:53 PM   #20
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Thanks for the welcome mommas

I am also a single mom and am planning to head back over to Europe, to start with. Ideally, I'd also like travel through India as I've never been there and soooooo want to go but that might have to wait for awhile!!

The aim is for Jan/07... but depending on how quickly my house sells, it may be a little sooner or (hopefully not!) a little later. And I'm thinking a year or so, depending on what happens and how we're feeling and where we want to settle down.

I am Canadian so I am obtaining the Working Holidaymaker Visa which does allow me to live and work over in the UK and my brother lives in Poland with his g-friend and their new little munchkin... We'll make one of those places out "home base" (I'm leaning towards Poland!). I am planning to do some work over there to support our excursions throughout the continent (my brother does computer contract work through the UK while living in Poland and has graciously offered me some work with him~)... plus the money that I make off selling my house should mean that I can chill out with work for awhile (or at least just take on some part-time gigs) and get out of the rat race that I'm stuck in right now...!! Especially if we are spending some significant time in Poland where the cost of living (with GBP or Dollars) is so much less!!

I just feel that ever since graduating university it's been CAREER CAREER CAREER and no quality time with the babe! I am just looking for some time to not really focus on "getting ahead" in that sense and just enjoy the experience of living life with my girl. Especially before she has to start real school and we'll be somewhat more tied down to one place and she won't be quite as portable And we might as well experience different people, places, cultures and languages while we're at it.

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