It was school photo day at the boys’ school and we were in the queue for their first ever school photo. The photographer lady had seemingly all the right gear, and she certainly seemed to be taking her time. I had high expectations.
“Now show me those big grins. Great. Open your eyes. And hold it there…”
Both my boys froze like stunned Wallace & Gromit characters. It was a hilarious, but terrible photo of the boys. For novelty purposes, I still bought the photo bundle with pictures of varying sizes, ready for the grandparent’s Christmas presents.
Whilst I don’t consider myself a professional photographer, I’m always snapping away when travelling as a family, and have learnt a few things along the way. So I thought I’d share with you my tips for taking better photos of your kids.
Say ‘wee wee’
This not only makes little ones laugh but naturally brings their mouth into a smile. I often follow with – “Did someone do a smelly trump?” Oh yes, bathroom jokes win the day with projecting happiness through a family photo!
Embrace the selfie
Yes you can pass your camera to a stranger to snap your family pic, but it will be a miracle if everyone is smiling and looking at the camera. With a selfie you can see everyone in the photo, frame it yourself and have better control.
The running shot
Set your camera to sports mode (so lots of photos are taken one after each other and the lens can cope with movement) and line up your kids to race, standing behind them. Give them a point to run to. “Ready, steady, go!”
Embrace the moment
When we visited the Taj Mahal, I really want to get that perfect shot of the boys looking angelic in front of one of the world’s most iconic buildings. This is what I ended up with (see below). Yes, it’s a bit blurry. Yes, they look silly. But they’re happy and the photo is true. It ended up being one of my favourite photos I ever took in India.
See the world from their perspective and avoid taking photos just of the tops of their heads.
Use the timer
Find a quiet spot, set up the camera and your family, ready for a family photo. This one often takes a few goes and I find that a little bribery is sometimes required. Also, watch out for the signal from your camera to give you the warning that it’s about to take the shot, so you’re ready to say “wee-wee”!
Get in front of the camera
I’m the one who takes most of the family photos, and as such I am the one behind the camera. It is therefore rather rare to find a travel photo with me actually in it! I get so hung up on angles and getting the right ‘shot’, that I don’t trust handing my camera over to my husband. However, in years to come, it would be nice to have proof that us Mums were on that trip. So, get over your inhibitions and perfectionism, and get in front of that camera!
Get cameras for the kids
Not only does this help them better engage in their environment, but it also gives them an understanding of how special photography is and how nice it is to have a memory of a moment. I sometimes get us all to take turns in taking the family photo. My 3yo uses a Vtech Camera (view on Amazon), and my 5yo uses a Vmotal Compact Camera (view on Amazon).
Know your camera
I’ve used the same camera for almost ten years now. I should probably upgrade, but I know how to use it and can change the settings quickly. Last thing you want to be doing is faffing with complicated settings whilst the kids are patiently perched on a precarious rock. I love my Sony DSLR (this is the latest model to buy). I do on occassion use my phone, but I use a CUBOT (I like to have a cheap one as I’m often loosing or breaking them) and the camera quality just isn’t as good as my DSLR.
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I’m frequently asked, ” What’s the best country you’ve ever visited?” and always fail to answer with just one country. Every country offers something different. We love to get off the beaten track and take our boys on true adventures, pushing the boundaries of family travel, yet we still love a good European camping holiday or city break. But our favourite travel memories as a family are always amongst epic landscapes or bustling Asian cities where we have stepped out of our comfort zone.
So I’ve decided to compile this list of our top 5 countries from our own experience. I’m sure this will change over time and I plan to update it if we ever visit a country that tops one of these. But hopefully this may provide you with some family adventure travel ideas for 2019.
If your crave epic lunar landscapes, affordable and rewarding safaris, and a true African adventure, Namibiagets our vote as one of the best places for intrepid family travel. Don’t do an organised tour. Hire a 4×4 with roof tents and go it alone! The quality of roads in generally very good and the campsites are seriously fantastic. Add to this a low malaria risk and an amazing climate, and it’s a definite winner in our books.
We fell head over heels in love with Sri Lanka. We visited whilst we were living in Bangalore and although there were many similarities with India, we found it to be cleaner and less chaotic. It’s a relatively small country so travelling between places is easy, yet it still offers enough activities, must-see sights, and fun to keep the whole tribe entertained. Indeed, for a country roughly the same size as Ireland, it manages to offer so much variety – both natural and cultural – that we’re sure you’ll fall in love with it too. Our favourite experiences in Sri Lanka were the incredible beaches and spotting wild elephants.
We had put off visiting Iceland for so long, as we thought it was too expensive. But we were tempted by cheap easyJet flights and photos of those dramatic landscapes. Admittedly the car hire and accommodation are going to be your biggest outgoings, but self-catering will keep costs down, and if you travel independently, exploring Iceland‘s natural wonders and hiking through it’s expansive landscape is totally FREE! Check out these other tips to save money on a family trip to Iceland.
On our 5 day Iceland itinerary we explored the classic Golden Circle, but also ventured off the beaten track and over to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. If you’re a family who love the great outdoors and wild landscapes, Iceland is a perfect destination for you; just ensure you pack layers as the weather is extremely interchangeable.
We love the energy, the ornate temples, the colourful markets, the polite people and the food… oh my THE FOOD! Oh, and of course the incredible beaches! Don’t rush straight to the islands though, enjoy your first few days in bustling Bangkok. It has to be our favourite city to explore with our boys (check out our Bangkok with kids itinerary).
Thailand is one of the most accessible countries we’ve visited with the boys. Many restaurants, even along the once backpacker enclave of Th Khao San, have highchairs, and we found that some beach restaurants in Ko Lanta have toys and kids’ play areas. Also, kid-friendly food is available everywhere; think sticky rice, banana pancakes, and tropical fruit aplenty. Throw in tuk-tuk rides, exploring mystical temples, and jumping in the waves crashing on to tropical islands, and you have the perfect mix for a fantastic family adventure holiday.
Now India isn’t everyone’s cup of chai. It’s loud, chaotic and confronting. But, it was our home for a year and it feels wrong not to include it. Admittedly, it’s not a place to visit with kids for a first visit to Asia. But if you are ready to take on the challenge, India will be one of you most memorable family adventures ever. The tourist dollar goes far here, so you can spend a little more on accommodation to create an oasis away from the chaos. Allow time to drink in the vibrancy and energy of this magical country, and once you’ve finished exploring the temples and spice markets, head for some downtime on the beaches of Goa.
And the runners up are…
It was honestly so tough narrowing it down to our top five countries, but Malawi, Nepal and Morocco are close behind…
Would love to hear what your favourite family adventure travel destination is! Let me know in the comments 🙂
2018 has indeed been an incredible year of travel for us (read: Our Top 12 Travel Highlights of 2018), and I honestly don’t think we’ll be able to top it in 2019. But that’s not to say that we won’t be having any adventures. Indeed, just a month until I’ll be taking on my first solo-parenting trip!
But for those of you trying to work out those new years resolutions, I say – scrap the crash diet on the 1st Jan! Here are 12 New Year’s TRAVEL resolutions that will be fun and benefit the whole family.
1. Start a travel savings account
You need money to travel. Until you win the lottery, put aside a little each month solely for travel. This may mean you have to prioritise travel over material items. But you know it’ll be worth it.
2. Use up all your annual leave
How some people finish the year with leave outstanding, I will never know. Take the paid break from work and go on an adventure and make memories with your family.
3. Be overseas for your kid’s birthday
Kids’ birthday parties can be expensive. Rather than another manic soft-play event, go overseas and make it a birthday that everyone will remember.
Celebrating Ezra’s 3rd birthday in Zambia earlier this year.
4. Travel to a completely new destination in your home country
You don’t have to fly somewhere exotic to have a holiday. Save your airfare and find somewhere new to explore in your own country. Want to make it a cheap holiday? Pack the tent and go camping!
5. All talking family members learn 5 foreign words for each country you travel
Hello. Goodbye. Please. Thank you. Milk. These words go a long way and will guarantee a smile from any locals you encounter. Especially if it’s your toddler saying them.
6. Travel lighter
It just makes travelling life easier; take only the bare essentials. Don’t bother packing any toys, you know they won’t play with them. Nappies can almost always be bought on arrival. This year we visited Iceland with just carry on only! Check out our Iceland packing list.
7. Step outside your comfort zone
Trust me, it will be your best adventure yet! Our overlanding adventures across Africa earlier this year certainly took us outside our comfort zone. There were seriously challenging moments, but they were totally outweighed by the incredible memories we created together; my favourite will forever be camping each night under the African night sky.
8. Make a photo book or calendar
I’m sure I’m not the only one who plans to make a photo book from each holiday. I’ve succumbed to the true realisation that I will never have time to do this. Instead, I try and do one each year. This is much more manageable and they are a beautiful memento. Still don’t have the time? Well in that case, make a travel calendar. There are 12 months in the year, that’s just 12 photos you need from your previous travels.
9. Get in the photos
Getting a photo of the kids is easy. Hubby and kids – also easy. Me and the kids – need to work on that a lot. I’m always the one behind the camera, and I get rather particular about my photography and rarely want to hand my camera over to hubby. But in future years, the kids are going to want that reminder that Mum was on holiday too with them! We also need to work at getting more photos of us all as a family.
10. Eco-conscious travel
Think about how your travel effects the environment. We all see the videos going round social media about the devastating effect of our plastic use – but are you doing anything about it? Use a water purification bottle, pack metal straws and a bamboo toothbrush. Ladies, use a menstrual cup rather then tampons/towels. If you’re visiting a beach, collect any rubbish and dispose of correctly.
11. Forget about social media
This is easier said than done if, like me, you’re a travel blogger. However, we can get obsessed with getting the ‘right shot’ and posting our perfect holiday on to social media, that we forget to live in the moment and appreciate the now. Try leaving your phone at home for a weekend away.
12. Travel more
Make 2019 The Year of Travel! 🙂
Happy New Year! May 2019 be filled with your best adventures yet. Jenny, Jason, Arthur and Ezra xxxx
You have been saving all year for that amazing holiday, everyone’s burnt out from school and work routines, and expectations are high for a good time! You all need this. The pressure is on. But what if the weather is bad? What if little Tommy is still teething? Whilst there are some things us parents can’t control, there are some steps we can take to almost guarantee a stress-free family holiday.
This gives you the freedom to eat what you want, when you want, and the kids aren’t forced to sit at a table waiting for their food to arrive. If you opt for a villa / holiday-home, it also means that there is a separate space for parents to relax when kids are sleeping (spending an evening scrolling through your phone in a dark hotel room is not really what holidays are for). Plus, many villas come with the bonus of a washing machine, therefore cutting down on your packing.
Villa photos courtesy of Villa Plus
Villas are a great way to get a big group of friends and family together for a holiday, and I love the look of these large villas from Villa Plus.
Go with the flow
Allow the routines of home-life to slip as much as you want. You don’t want to be fighting bedtimes or rushing to get back for mealtimes (although ensure you always have lots of snacks to hand).
Don’t do too much
New places, people and cultures can be a sensory overload for little minds. Don’t try and cram too much into your day. Otherwise you may end up with grouchy, stroppy, overtired kids… and parents.
Remember it’s your holiday too
My kids love playing in the water, especially if there’s a swimming pool with lots of slides. I personally find these days the most exhausting on holiday as my boys are too young to be left unaccompanied. Don’t forget it’s your holiday too! So allow for a cultural day too, with perhaps a little kids activity thrown in. Or even better, get your partner to watch the kids whilst you pop to the spa! Just make sure you return the favour.
Don’t pack loads of toys
We all know that most toys have a novelty value of two minutes. I always pack a small bag of crafts (pens, scissors, coloured and plain paper, glue), a small box of Lego, and their tablets (loaded with all their fave games and TV shows), then throw in a dinosaur or two.
Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post with Villa Plus and this post also appears in their brochure. I have been compensated for my time. However, as always, these are all my own words and opinions.
Jumping head first into the Goan surf and waking ourselves up to the New Year, we really had no idea what 2018 had in store for us. 2017 had been an epic year of travel, and although we had a trip to Nepal booked for February, we firmly believed that we would be living in Bangalore, India, for the remainder of the year and it would be quieter on the travel front… for a while.
Oh how wrong were we?! With changes from Daddy Lynn’s work, we packed up our apartment in Bangalore on return from Nepal in March, and ended up in South Africa just three weeks later to embark on the most epic adventure of our lives – 101 days overlanding Africa in a Land Rover.
We then returned to the UK at the end of June and set up a new life in the Peak District, in the heart of the English countryside. This has given us the opportunity to explore European destinations on our doorstep and already we’ve managed to fit in a week in France, an Icelandic road trip, and a long weekend in Lisbon.
And that’s not it for 2018. We’re also sneaking in a trip to Germany between Christmas and New Year! This will be our thirteenth country of 2018.
At the end of 2017, I published a post – Our Top 12 Travel Highlights of 2017. I think it’s important to look back on a year and take time to appreciate all the good things, so I’m going to make this round up post in to a yearly tradition.
Here are our top travel highlights of 2018…
1. Trekking to the summit of Poon Hill (3210m)
With the help of two awesome porters and their dokos, we embarked on a 5 day trek in the Nepalese Himalayas, staying in teas houses along the way. I cried at the summit. Our boys were only 2 and 4 at the time, and it was much a massive achievement. I think my thighs have only just recovered from all those steps.
2. Camping in our roof tents under the African stars
Our 101 days in Africa brought so many memories and highlights. However, thinking about our nights around the campfire before retiring to our roof tents on the Land Rover will forever provide me with a warm glow.
3. Swimming in the Indian Ocean from Mozambique and India
Two very different places connected by a vast ocean, but nothing beats running into the waves before breakfast; just that in Goa breakfast was dosa with curry, and in Mozambique we were scrambling eggs over the campstove.
4. Spotting lions and elephants on a self-drive African safari
We went on a lot of safaris in Africa and the boys absolutely loved spotting the wildlife and investigating poo for clues (yes, you can take young kids on safari!) We mostly chose self-drive game drives in our Land Rover and camped in secure camp grounds. However, in Zambia we took a boat safari to see the dozens on hippos bathing in the Zambezi. But the best safari in Africa from our travels has to be Etosha National Park, Namibia.
5. Driving on Iceland’s snow roads
Lured by cheap airfares and despite it’s expensive reputation, Iceland is a hot destination for family travel right now (well not literally). I was concerned that it would be too touristy, but Hey Iceland put together a fantastic Iceland itinerary for us and there were times where we felt we were really off the beaten track, particularly on the snow roads. Plus, we realised that a trip to Iceland doesn’t need to be as expensive as you think, and you can indeed save money on a family trip to Iceland.
6. Winter al fresco dining in Lisbon
It was such a treat to dine outside in warm December sunshine in Lisbon! The pedestrianised Rua Augusta is bustling with tourists and locals, with restaurants spilling out onto the cobbled streets. After a full day sightseeing, it was the perfect spot to enjoy some local cuisine, washed down with a Portuguese wine or three. The homemade ice-cream got a thumbs up from the boys too.
7. Lapping up 5* luxury in Bangalore
Living as an expat in bustling Bangalore, the 5* resorts were an oasis away from the colourful chaos, and also very affordable. I miss being able to pop to the Sheraton for their slap up Sunday Brunch (with bouncy castle and kids face painting), or taking a dip in the heated pool of the Hilton. We also did a couple of staycations, finding last minute weekend deals on booking.com.
8. Showering in the spray of thundering Victoria Falls
You will hear it before you see it, and nothing quite prepares you for the thundering velocity of Victoria Falls after the wet season. We got totally and hilariously drenched. And I will forever remember the old lady who piped up and said to us as we stood marvelling the falls, “They won’t remember it you know”. Totally missing the point.
9. Temple hopping in Kathmandu
Those all-seeing Buddah eyes, turning prayer wheels, starch white stupas, territorial monkeys, ringing bells, and wafting incense. The temples of Kathmandu, Nepal, are a cacophony of sounds, sights and smells to arouse the senses, and simply fascinating to witness.
10. Finding kid-friendly châteaux in the Loire Valley
I remember being dragged around the châteaux of the Loire as a kid and seeing lots of old buildings and paintings. However, things have changed and there are now a handful of châteaux in the Loire Valley that are perfect for kids. For instance, Château du Clos Lucé has replicas of Leonardo da Vinci’s inventions in the gardens to play with, and Château du Rivau have transformed their gardens into a mystical wonderland complete with giants and elves.
11. Running down the crimson sand dunes of Sossusvlei, Namibia
Those crimson sand dunes against the cobalt Namibian sky are so striking. But I dare anyone to not smile and giggle and they feel the freedom of running down one of the world’s largest sand dunes. Namibia was probably our favourite destination this year.
12. Long walks in the Peak District before returning home for a roast and film by the roaring fire
Moving back home to the UK was made all the more easier for moving to the Peak District. After living in Bangalore, we certainly appreciate all the green open space and fresh country air. Our favourite thing do to of a weekend is a long hike in the hills. We do a hike every weekend we’re at home, and I’m sure it’s helped to build the boys stamina and why they were able to keep going for 12 hours on our last day in Lisbon!
And your favourite posts from 2018…
Whilst my posts on Sri Lanka, India and Africa are always popular in Google searches, the posts that regular readers seemed to enjoy most were:
Now I said this at the beginning 2018, but I’m not sure 2019 will be able to top this year of travel. However, we do have a few trips in the pipeline; including a return to Morocco and Thailand, and some solo parent travel with Ez next month to Lanzarote (where we hope to venture off the beaten track and discover a ‘different side’ to the island).
As always, that you to everyone that follows our blog and all the messages and comments you send. I love connecting with like-minded parents and hope that all our adventures continue. Have a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year!
Over the past year, I’ve been sharing family travel quotes almost every Monday on my Facebook page. Whilst I hope that they don’t come across too corny at times, I like to provide a bit of #MondayInspration for fellow wanderlusting and globetrotting families. For me, they act as a reminder to put life into perspective and support my belief that we can, and should(!), travel with our boys.
In no particular order, here are the top twelve family travel quotes. Whilst some of these may be classed as general travel quotes, I find them rather fitting for families. Enjoy!
1. “Not all classrooms have four walls” – It still blows my mind how much our information our boys absorb and how much they grow as individuals on the road.
2. “In the end, kids won’t remember that fancy toy you bought them, they will remember the time you spent with them” (Kevin Heath) – Travel creates those precious memories together that will last a lifetime, much more than the pile of plastic toys in their bedroom.
3. “I have babies, and I’m like… what country am I going to next?” – The original meme of this was doing the rounds and always irritated me. So I changed it.
4. “When you travel with children you are giving something that can never be taken away… experience, exposure and a way of life.” (Pamela T. Chandler) – Hear, hear!
5. “Excuses will always be there for you. Opportunity won’t.” – So many people believe that you should wait till the kids are older to travel. However, as they get older, the excuses just change; they’ll miss their friends, they would rather go to football camp, or you need to convert the loft. Grab the opportunity to travel with your kids from a young age; it’ll certainly be cheaper before they start school! Check out my post – What is the best age to travel with kids?
6. “Once the travel bug bites there is no known antidote, and I know that I shall be happily infected until the end of my life” (Michael Palin) – So let’s start them young! And if you do start them young, those adventures certainly get easier as they get older.
7. “The world is your playground” – Jump in rivers, collect sticks, skip along pavements and search for fairies and dragons. Both cities and countryside provide a wonderful opportunity for play.
9. “People forget the years and remember moments” – Those early years especially can whizz by in a sleep-deprived blur. Do something amazing and create those memories to cherish for a lifetime.
9. “If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine; it is lethal”(Paulo Coelho) – So make the most of those school half terms and holidays! It’s amazing how just doing something different, refocuses your energies.
10. “Blessed are the curious as they shall have adventures”(Lovelle Drachman) – What better way to feed and grow their minds than to travel.
11. “Let curiosity lead the way” – and watch them grow in confidence a they become explorers.
12. “Two of the greatest gifts we can give our children and roots and wings”(Hodding Carter) – And what better way to do that, than through travel? Travel helps you appreciate home, but also gives you the experience to try new things and explore new places.
I hope you enjoyed these. Do let me know if you have any favourite family travel quotes that I’ve missed!
We believe you can travel with kids at any age and should definitely start them young. Admittedly those sleep deprived early years are somewhat challenging, but babies are much more portable than teenagers! Though people do keep telling me it gets easier as they get older. Is this really true? I certainly feel that it’s easier travelling with my boys now they are 3 and 4 years old. But, is there an optimum age for that once in a lifetime trip? What is the best age to travel with kids?
We love travelling in the 0-2 age bracket! Many first time parents are intimidated to travel with their baby but they really shouldn’t be as in my opinion the toddler years are harder!
We love the fact that travelling at this age makes you travel slower, and you see and do things that you perhaps wouldn’t have done pre-kids. On the plus sized too – children under two can travel for free on airplanes!
Under two your child is pretty portable which makes destination planning pretty easy! Yes you will have to take some paraphernalia but even then you don’t need to take as much as you think!
Our favourite experience was travelling around Japan with our under two taking in the beautiful outdoor spaces, gardens, temples and even giving her her first taste of Disney. Also, at this age a good travel stroller is an essential and we recommend the Familidoo!
For us, the days of hunting down nappies in markets and ensuring we always have milk handy are thankfully behind us. There are still the occasional meltdowns and tantrums when they’re tired, but this age is so beautifully inquisitive about the smallest things and they don’t need expensive excursions to keep them entertained; just ensure you always have snacks handy. Schooling is not yet an issue which means that you can travel off season for the better deals, and they learn through everyday play; what better way to do this than through travel?
They still need a lot of sleep at this stage and when travelling, we always ensure we have some downtime during the day (which is always very beneficial for us parents to take a breather too!) Furthermore, they don’t have that attachment of missing friends from home and are happy just playing with mummy and daddy (although it’s always a bonus when they make a new buddy in the playground).
I never pack toys for my boys as they seem to have a novelty value of two minutes. Maybe the odd dinosaur or car. But toddler scissors and glue are always packed (they love cutting out brochures and sticking leaves together), and we always ensure we have their Amazon Fire Kids’ Tablets with all their favourite TV shows and games downloaded. Perfect for that much-needed downtime.
We have travelled with all of our children since they were infants, and although there were ups and downs along the way, we got through those tough toddler years and we have finally seen the light! Travelling with primary school age children has brought about so many more fabulous opportunities.
We could start with how much LESS gear we need to bring with us – we have carry-on only in our sights now we are no longer traipsing along strollers, car seats, portacots, boosters, slings and lord knows what other essential supplies that we apparently couldn’t live without (we are still working on cutting back the number of teddies that apparently need to see the world!)
Now we will never be full time world schoolers so we do fall foul of needing to book our major trips during school holiday time. However, for this age group travel has been the perfect supplement to what they have learnt in the traditional classroom setting. Our oldest daughter has a learning difficulty and has struggled with book work at school. By combining what we can find online and actually being able to visit many of these places it has opened up so many opportunities for her to learn in a different way. We have visited Jerash in Jordan where the Romans were brought to life for her; now she is studying Ancient Egypt and we will be visiting Luxor and Aswan over the winter. Being able to see, feel, smell and taste the real thing while you are learning is absolutely priceless to watch.
Another huge advantage of this age group, other than their fabulous curiosity and a bit more patience (let’s be honest, a lot of travelling is actually waiting!) is the ability to listen. I wouldn’t say it’s all the time but understanding instructions on safety, why we do things a certain way, knowing where the boundary is makes travel in many ways much safer and more manageable, particularly as we are a larger group and the children outnumber us!
The most important item our kids pack at this age is colouring. We always make sure there’s a fresh note pad or colouring book in their packs. It’s perfect for filling down time, sometimes they are inspired to start journaling or drawing their adventures. And yes, our younger boys still do bring teddies everywhere and we still need to include them in our rounding up headcount at least 12 times a day. At least they DO carry their own packs and are a lot more responsible for their belongings.
We’ve always travelled a lot but it wasn’t until our kids were older that we really started exploring the world together. Just last year we returned from a nine month round the world trip with our three boys. Here’s why we believe travelling with kids aged 10 -14 is the perfect age to travel and adventure:
They learn so much while travelling – kids are like ‘sponges’ and at this age they’re learning and remembering it all. Our boys have learnt so much from their travels around the world. Alongside their learning they’ve become confident, adaptable and worldly wise.
At this age they’re old enough to enjoy and participate in most experiences – we’ve experienced river rafting, snorkelling, zip-lining, sea kayaking and hiking as a family. Shared memories that will last their lifetime.
They can carry their own stuff – a definite plus! They carry their own stuff and are responsible for keeping it organised. A great life lesson in itself!
Barriers are broken down – travelling with children means that everybody talks to you! Kids can be a great ice breaker. We’ve met and chatted to so many people as a result of the boys.
Consideration at this age has to be give to schooling. We decided to take our boys out of school for ten months to travel the world but we continued their schooling with daily lessons and learning through travelling. They’re now back in school and our travel takes place in the holidays. There’s actually plenty of holidays throughout the year, you just have to smart about where you go and booking ahead for the best prices. For some families, the teenage years can be a transition period where they miss their friends back home and don’t necessarily want to travel. We haven’t experienced this yet!
My boys would all say their must have items for any trip would be their kindles, for hours sent travelling, and some card games for playing with mum and dad. I have to mention the dreaded electronics at this age, whether it be phones or iPads, but actually our boys travelled the world for almost a year with iPods, only using them on travel days!
We have been travelling with our kids from the moment they were born, and can easily say that travelling with teens has been our favourite age. The years of packing multiple bags, hauling all of the gear, and dealing with meltdowns is finally behind us (for the most part). It has been rewarding to see how our tiny travellers have grown into self-sufficient, thoroughly engaged companions who have their own opinions of what travel could and should look like.
This age group gets a bad rap for constantly being “plugged in” and their inability to enjoy the moment. That may be true for some, but we’ve found, our kids are actually able to set some boundaries when travelling, using the phone for photos and sharing, but enjoying the rest of the time as a family. There can also be a “fear of missing out” factor, as in, all of their friends at home are doing something, and they can’t be there. If this describes your teens, leave the phone at home. We’ve done it, and it’s amazing how much it can change a vacation. Teens will complain the first few days, but after it all sinks in, they really enjoy the experience.
With regards to favourite vacations, I think every teen will be different, but ours really have enjoyed unplugged, adventure vacations. Think Costa Rica and Colorado dude ranch. These both offered a healthy dose of adventure, delicious food, and education, and were far enough out of their comfort zones to convince them to go in the first place.
My teens would easily say their favourite item to bring along is their phone, but I’m a big proponent of leaving those behind. We only get so many years to travel with our kids, so if these are some of the best, why miss out on them? The teenage years heading into adult hood have been some of my favourites, and I plan to enjoy every minute.
So… what is the best age to travel kids?
From reading what my fellow bloggers and globe-wanderers have to say, I’m not sure there really is a ‘best’ age for travelling with kids; each age has it’s pros and cons and no age really stands out as a ‘winner’. So my thinking is, why wait for that ‘perfect age’?
But what do you reckon? What do you think is the best age for travelling with kids?
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The boys have been in school/preschool now for three weeks and they are absolutely loving it. I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t enjoying my kid-free mornings, but I am so very grateful that we had so much quality time together before our eldest started school. We always wanted to travel with them as much as possible before this time, and I think we did alright thanks to our year living in India (which also included trips to Nepal, Sri Lanka, Qatar and Thailand) and then four months traversing sub-Saharan Africa.
Many parents believe that family adventure travel should wait until the kids are older. We don’t believe this whatsoever and actually think that the preschool age (3-5 years) is perhaps the best age to travel with your kids. Here’s why…
This is the most obvious reason. School terms are when generally when travel is cheapest and you get the good flight deals. Plus, European destinations in particular, are far less crowded. Admittedly this isn’t a problem if you homeschool when your kids are older, but this isn’t for everybody on a long-term basis.
They still need their sleep
They are still of an age when they need a lot of sleep. We even found that when travelling they sometimes still need a nap in the afternoon, or at least a bit of downtime. This enables parents to enjoy some much needed downtime too.
You can slow down
Slow travel is the best way with this age. They find the smallest things fascinating – from cracks in the pavement, to stones on the beach, to animal dung (always a favourite topic with our boys). You don’t necessarily have to pack lots of planned activities into your day – perhaps they’ve found a fountain to splash around in, or a sand dune to run down. It’s wonderful seeing the world through their eyes.
Barriers are broken down
We find that travelling with young kids breaks down any cultural barriers with strangers. People are often inquisitive of children travelling at this age and want to chat to us; even the hardest haggler in India cracks a smile with the boys around.
They’re out of the baby stage
No more nappies or night time milk demands, and they’re (hopefully) sleeping better at night. The baby stage does have it’s benefits as they’re much more portable, but there are those interrupted nights for many, and babies come with so much stuff! Plus, pre-schoolers are at that stage where they will sit and watch Blaze and the Monster Machines on loop for those long flights (I will never forget the hours I spent walking up and down the isle when we flew London to Bangkok with Ezra aged 18 months).
Learning through play
This age is all about learning through play, to build self-confidence in their abilities and develop their social and cognitive skills, all whilst having fun. What better way to do this than through different environments; drawing shapes in the sand, counting tuk-tuks, spotting wild animals, and playing with other children across the globe.
They still want time with you
Not that I have older kids, but my understanding is that as they get older, they crave their independence (well it’s certainly my memory of being a teenager!) and have strong attachments to their friends. Preschoolers love time with their parent(s) and are unlikely to whinge about being bored; although the tired whinge is still a guarantee, and in that instance there are always snacks and their Amazon tablets 😉
So do you agree? Is the preschool age the best age to travel with kids?
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Instagram… those beautifully edited squares on your phone, that summarise every day life with a filter. I love photography and I love being able to share my photos and stories to Instagram (you can follow me here). But what I also love about Instagram, is that constant inspiration of travel adventures on my feed from other families.
I wanted to share with you some of my favourite UK family travel bloggers on Instagram. These bloggers provide me with my daily boost of inspiration and curiosity for places we are yet to explore, particularly around Europe. Most of them have kids in school in the UK and are keeping their travelling life flowing successfully around school terms; although they’re not too worried about taking their kids out of school on occasion 😉
My partner in crime with the Fearless Family Travel monthly link up, is making me extremely jealous with her current US road trip. Having a focus on luxury family travel, means that her travel experiences have a bit more flair than ours; just to increase the jealously ratings.
Her Instagram grid is full of fantastic family travel inspiration from hiking the Great Wall of China to experiencing luxury in the Middle East with everything in between from their recent Round the World Trip!
Katy started her blog around the same time as me and I’ve been following her journey ever since. Her Instagram grid is all about life outdoors, camping, glamping, adventures and family travel, and sometimes a beach and a pretty door thrown in for good measure.
I only got to know this family once they returned from their round the world trip. But Nicky has thankfully been been sharing lots of photos from those adventures including Bhutan, China and Myanmar (which are the places that really piqued my interest) since their return.
More recently they have been exploring Norway and Nicky has been posting some seriously epic photos, such as this one above taken after climbing the 4444 steps of Florli. This photo was so good that it was recently featured by the Lonely Planet!
Living life as a British expat in Doha, Emma squeezes all she possibly can out of school holidays. But what I really love about her Instagram channel is her stories. There is no filter on travel life with young kids in tow for Emma and she keeps it hilariously real.
There’s also a good helping of fun at home in gorgeous Devon in the South West of England. The cheeky smiles of her two daughters, aged five and three feature a lot, but Claire is also partial to an epic view.
Based in London, Ting is another Mum who demonstrates how you can continue a travelling lifestyle with kids in the picture. Her little ones have seen the Northern Lights in Iceland and she’s even taken a baby on safari in South Africa.
Donna loves a bright coloured photo and has an eye for seeing something different. You will be sure to find snaps from all over the world as well as plenty of London historic sights, bars and restaurants.
Being a Jennifer myself, I reckon this is a pretty cool name for a travel blog. The Jennifer behind Jenography is a US-born, London-based journalist who celebrates family travel with flair, from camel-riding to cocktails.
Amanda, the Tall Fella and their two girls (9 and 16) share images of their family adventures both close to home and further afield, and are a little bit obsessed with Disney! However, it was those special European spots they stumbles across this summer, that particularly caught my eye.
Our boys went on their first safari when they were just 1 and 3 years old. It was to see the elephants at Udawalawe National Park in Sri Lanka, and I remember being ridiculously nervous. Would the boys get bored? Will they keep still in the jeep? Will we have to return early and it be a waste if of money?
As we returned from our first morning’s safari I couldn’t help but wear a beaming smile and feel a little teary. Our experience with a mother and her calf had been intimate and truly magical. The boys instinctively knew to be quiet and were totally engrossed. I also learnt that snacks are the most important thing to take on any safari.
Since then, the boys have been on umpteen safaris. Their next one was seeing the rhinos at Chitwan National Park in Nepal, then more recently on our 3.5 month Africa road trip through Sub-Saharan Africa where countless days were spent on safari and we even camped overnight in parks with our Land Rover with roof tents. Through these experiences, we have learnt a few tips along the way.
If you’re wondering – is it safe to do a safari with kids under the age of 5? Have a read about what I have to say about it over on the Lonely Planet Kids Blog. And if you’re wandering which is our favourite safari with kids under the age of 5? Well it has to be Etosha National Park, Namibia!
Here are our top tips for doing a safari with kids under the age of 5.
1. Don’t wait until they’re older
Well this is our motto for all adventure travel with kids. But safaris in particular are something that parents think they need to leave until kids are older to appreciate. The thing is, you never know how life pans out and there is always a reason not to do things. But what I can tell you is that my boys certainly appreciated the safaris and loved them; watching the excitement on their faces as a herd of elephants crossed the road in front of us, or when they realised how tall a giraffe really is as it ambles alongside the car. Truly magical experiences.
And if you’re wondering if you can even take a baby on safari, check out this post from My Travel Monkey.
Many parks in Africa allow you to self-drive. This is ALWAYS our preferred option as we are on our own schedule, can be flexible to how the boys are, and we don’t have to worry about disturbing other tourists if someone is hungry or needs the loo. However, if self-drive is not an option (such as in Sri Lanka or Nepal) then we opt for a private game drive (which can often be pricier, but kids under the age of 6 are often not allowed on group game drives). Or if the it’s a river safari, a private boat means your little ones may even get to drive amongst hippos!
3. Snacks and more snacks
Whether you are hiking in the hills, on a long train journey or just popping to the playground, parents always have the snacks handy to prevent ‘hangry’ kids. Same goes for game drives. Often you will be out for at least 3 hours, and my boys certainly can’t go that long without eating.
4. Pack the travel potty
As a general rule, you are not allowed to step out of the vehicle whilst on a game drive; probably good advice to follow when lions and leopards are around. But as parents, we know that when you’re little one needs to go… THEY NEED TO GO NOW! Make sure you have a travel potty on hand and for boys who just need a wee, this portable urinal is very handy.
5. Get clued up on poo!
My boys are obsessed with poo. I’m guessing they’re not the only ones? There can be quite a wait between animal sightings on safari and you don’t want them to get bored sat in the car. We would find little things to point out to them like nests in a tree, or branches that had been broken by a big elephant. But what was always most successful is spotting a pile of poo on the track and pulling up alongside in our Land Rover for inspection. What shape is the poo? Is it big or small? Can you see grass or berries? Is it wet or dry? What animal do you think it’s from? There is a lot of conversation that can happen around poo.
6. Binoculars, camera and an identification booklet
Providing our boys the tools to search for animals was a great way to maintain interest. The VTech KidiZoom Duo Camera (purchase here from amazon.co.uk) goes everywhere with us and the boys loved ticking off what animals they had spotted (from the park HQ in Etosha we picked up an indentification booklet).
Although more often than not, my eldest would borrow my camera!
7. Be selective in your park choices
There are a number of criteria you need to consider when deciding on which park to visit with young kids:
Can you see the animals clearly? Some parks are thick with vegetation and wildlife spotting hindered.
Are the campsites fenced? If staying overnight in a park, you need to know that wildlife won’t be wandering around your camp with your curious toddler.
Is there a pool at the campsite? An afternoon at the pool after a morning’s game drive is always a winner with my boys!
What are the park fees? Many people think that the best place to see wildlife is in the Serengeti in Tanzania. However, it is EXTREMELY pricey and we decided against it as we didn’t want that added pressure whilst on safari with kids. You may want to read why we found Tanzania hard work with kids.Namibia, South Africa and Malawi had MUCH cheaper park fees.
If you’ve ever taken your kids to a zoo, they may be under the impression that it’s easy to see wild animals. We found we needed to explain what ‘wild’ really meant to our boys and that they will need to do a lot of searching and looking to find animals. Zebras and elephants may be easy to spot, but lions (and most definitely leopards) take a lot more work. Coincidentally, we haven’t taken our boys to a zoo since returning to the UK.
9. Don’t do too much
We found that four hours on a game drive was more than enough for our boys. You can be tempted to keep going a little further in the hope of spotting something amazing, but we found that every time we did that we saw nothing and the boys got grouchy. Similarly, we learnt that 2 days on safari at a time was enough for the boys; we would spread this across three days (Day 1 – afternoon game drive, Day 2 – morning and late afternoon game drive, Day 3 – morning game drive). Park entry fees usually work on a 24 hour system, so if you enter at 12pm on Day 1 and pay for 2 days, you need to be out of the park by 12pm on Day 3).
10. Safari in your pyjamas!
Anyone who has been on safari will tell you that the best time for wildlife spotting is first thing in the morning as dawn is breaking over the horizon. However, all parents will tell you that to get their child dressed, washed, up and out with a full tummy quickly in the morning is a mammoth task. Now imagine doing this whilst packing up camp and getting out before sunrise? Impossible.
What we ended up doing is putting this kids straight into their car seats with a bowl of cereal still dressed in their pjs, whilst us parents packed up camp. A couple of hours into the game drive, we would find a picnic area to get dressed and washed. Easy.
Have you been on safari with kids under the age of 5? I would love to hear about your experiences!
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. Should you click on a link to purchase, it is at no extra cost to you, but I get a small commission which helps with the running of this blog.
I'm Jenny - a travel addicted mum to my two boys (aged 3 and 5). As a family we try to push the boundaries of family travel and dispel the myth that adventure needs to wait until the kids are older!
After a year living in India and 4 months traversing Africa in a Land Rover, we have recently moved to the Peak District in England and now plotting affordable adventures across Europe and around school terms.