I was asked to chat with the Cosburn Mumnet Group in Toronto’s East end about family travel, and today’s that’s just what I did. I showed up amidst an intense, sweaty workout (these ladies are fit) hence no photos.
After everyone helped themselves to some yummy yogurt parfaits and fresh fruit, we all dove into a deep discussion on family travel. I love doing these talks because it’s a great way to find out what you are looking for on my site.
Here are some of the top questions from today’s discussion:
(1) Favorite place to travel with your family?
Honestly, it depends on what you want to get out of the trip. If it’s a vacation that’s all about the kids, Beaches resorts, family all-inclusives or themed attractions (like Disney, Great Wolf Lodge and Niagara Falls) are all great spots. They cater to parents and kids alike offering babysitting services, fun meals, entertainment, story time and so on. If you’re after a balance between high-strung family activities and low-key peace & quiet, I’d suggest renting a vacation property (via VRBO, airbnb or booking.com, for example) in the city of your choice. That way you can explore a new culture and the entertainment and then retreat to the peace and comfort of your home away from home.
I also recommend thinking locally. I like to pick flights that are three hours or less in duration and within the same time zone. It makes travel with kids easier and therefore more enjoyable.
(2) What do you think of using resort or hotel offered babysitters?
Like all things foreign, know where you’re going and that the reputation is of that place. Are you going to a high end resort in Aruba with offered child-care? Or, are you heading to a 3-star hotel in Mexico that brings in outside sitters? I am definitely not opposed to the service and would likely use it when my son is older. But, we’re talking about leaving your kids alone with a stranger so do your due diligence. Don’t trust the front desk attendant’s word…cross reference before you head to the destination and read reviews.
(3) What if my baby doesn’t sleep on the over night flight?
Sleeping and keeping kids entertained while in transit are two of the most common stresses when it comes to family travel. I’ve heard success stories of babies who crashed out hard in the airline bassinet and barely made a peep until morning. I’ve also heard the opposite where kids get so stimulated by the whole airport process (security, check-in etc) that they miss their bedtime cues. For more on overnight flights, read my full write up here.
(4) Road trips? Yes? No? What is the longest distance you’ve traveled?
Definitely embark on road trips. They’re one of the most entertaining, economical ways to see the world — plus you get to do it at your pace. Having kids help pack up the coolers, snacks, the car and their own little travel bags can make the adventure even more exciting for them.
But, in my particular situation, my baby doesn’t sleep in the car. We’ve done 9/10 hour journeys to the United States and had little success. In order to make it work for my family, we find it easier to drive 4-5 hours, find a cheap hotel and stay over night, and then continue the next day (it’s worth the $100). Some families can make it all the way to Florida without stopping (hello ipad movies and books on CD) but not us. Do what you need to do to make it work for your kids.
(5) What about going to somewhere like Rome with an infant and toddler?
The popular train of thought here is that babies are free on airlines so travel everywhere and as often as you can until they’re two years old. The reality of the situation is that once your child is within the 5 months – 21 months age range, they’re not the best to travel with in terms of time changes, long flights and to quiet, historical places (cobble stone side walks, lots of stairs, ruins etc). By this age, they’re ready for infant stimulation and excursions — sights and sounds — yet not necessarily old enough to reap the rewards of a Disney excursion. If you can bring along “grandma” to help with the baby during nap time and early bed time (you can’t count on kids adjusting to the time change) then do it. That way, you can spend the money on a Rome/Paris/Norway vacation and still enjoy it. There’s nothing worse than booking a trip only to watch it all out of your hotel window while you accommodate your child.
Thanks again for a fun, informative morning.
Please send along and of your travel tips, thoughts on the above and questions.