Tell us a little bit about your tribe and your holiday style.
We are a Canadian family of 5, currently living in Melbourne, Australia. Our kids are 5, 7 and 9 years old. When I was 14 my parents pulled us out of school and we sailed to the Bahamas for a couple of years. This laid the foundation for the wanderlust that fuels our family’s travels to this day. My husband lost his parents at a young age and this also provides us perspective on what we want from our lives and reinforces the message of not waiting until retirement to do what you want to do.
We believe firmly that there is no one best way to travel with kids. We have done short holidays, lived overseas twice as expats, backpacked in developing countries and taken a 6-month career break where we sailed around the Bahamas. We do tend to travel on a budget ($100 US for our family of 5, all in, while in developing countries).
We have lived overseas in Malaysia and Australia and really love to explore our new countries, while still maintaining a home base with regular routines.
What has been your favourite family holiday and why did you love it?
It is so hard to pick just one favourite family trip. My favourite has to be the five months we spent sailing around the Bahamas in 2015. Of course there were beautiful beaches and amazing islands to explore, but it was the slower and simpler way of life that makes it the most memorable for me. When living on a boat, you have to be self-sufficient. You have to ration water and electricity, you have limited access to supplies and food and you are far removed from our commercialised society we live in. Life was slower and simpler. We didn’t have access to internet every day, we didn’t have lots of toys on board and we didn’t have distractions. Most nights after dinner, we would play card games together as a family and we were 100% focused on each other and the present. When we returned from that trip, we tried to maintain these things, but it is difficult in this whirlwind pace of life we live in.
Another really memorable trip was the month we spent traveling through Sri Lanka. We loved how diverse this little country is and there are so many amazing places to visit and experience. We were travelling with babies (3 kids under 4) and so for the first two weeks we hired a car and driver, which is really inexpensive. Usually we prefer to travel independently on local transport, but having the car and driver was really convenient. We stayed in budget accommodation ($50/night).
We visited Sigiriya and climbed to the top of this magnificent rock fortress. Since we were traveling in July we were able to experience the herds of elephants at Minniyera National Park. Next up was seeing Dambulla cave temple before heading to the lakeside town of Kandy. From there we took a train through the green, lush tea fields and mountainous region. We finished up our time with our driver doing a safari through Yala National Park. We spent some time on the southern beaches at Tangalle and Unawatuna to wrap up our trip.
We loved the fiery curries, friendly people we met, the rich culture and all the stunning landscapes. It is definitely a country I am eager to return to.
What 3 destinations are top of your family travel bucket list?
Our bucket list is always expanding and growing. Some of the top places on our list right now are the Philippines, Myanmar and China. I have seen so many beautiful photos of Palawan’s powder white beaches and turquoise waters that I need to see it for myself. The Gili Islands in Indonesia are another beach loving place that I would like to vis
it on our next trip to Bali. My husband went to Myanmar years ago with a friend who works for an NGO there and it is a country I would like to see. We haven’t been to China and it is on my bucket list, but I have to admit that it doesn’t excite me as much as other destinations. It is somewhere I feel like we need to experience, but I know it will require a lot of work and patience.
If you had to pick one travel item that makes travelling with kids easier, what would it be? My favourite travel item when traveling with kids is packing cubes. I know it isn’t very exciting but I started using them last year and they help us stay organized so well. I have colour coded ones for each family member and now the kids are old enough to find their clothes in their cubes each day.
I am a bit paranoid about mosquito borne diseases in developing countries and so we travel with lots of mozzie deterrents. I love the Para’kito mosquito bracelets with natural essential oil refills. We also use plug in ultrasound mosquito repellents that emit a sound that humans cannot hear, but helps keep mosquitos away.
Another item that we love and all travel with are Keen sandals. If traveling in tropical countries, we bring two pairs of shoes: Keens and flip flops and that is all we need. We hike in our Keens, we walk cities in our Keens and we love them!
Lastly, we love audiobooks for keeping the kids entertained on planes, trains and buses. Our kids can get motion sick, so audiobooks keep the entertained while keeping their heads up. We use our local library’s system to download audiobooks onto iphones or ipads and the kids will spend hours listening to these stories.
What’s your best piece of family travel advice that you can share with the Our Tribe Travels community? I have three things I recommend for family travel: go slower, involve them and be flexible. The first tip is to slow down and travel slower with kids. In our backpacking days we could cram a lot into a day and didn’t think anything of taking a 10 hour bus trip. With kids, we find it is best to be somewhere for at least three days to settle in. We also build down time into most days where we aren’t sightseeing. We like to play games together, read, hang out by the pool or beach and sometimes even do some school work.
Since our kids are getting older, our second tip is to involve them in the trip and itinerary planning. I find they are much more excited about the trip when they feel like they have some ownership over it. On our last international trip, we had a few days planned in Southeast Asia and we let our 9-year-old research and decide which city to visit: Singapore, Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur. She loved reading about each of the cities online and then selecting which one we would visit. Before going on a trip, we try to read books, watch movies and discuss the country we are visiting. Our next major trip is Japan and the kids are getting into anime, Japanese foods and culture already.
The third tip is to be flexible. I am a planner by nature so this can be hard for me. I think it is important to have flexibility in your plans. If the whole family is really enjoying a place, can you stay longer? If an opportunity comes up to go to a unique late night festival, go for it, even if it might throw off sleep patterns. I research trips to death, but try to only plan out the first few days and allow us to adapt our plans as we hear tips from other travelers and figure out what we want to do.
Dawn Nicholson loves traveling and blogging about her adventures traveling and living overseas with her three kids (ages 5, 7 and 9 years old) at 5 Lost Together. Dawn has visited over 50 countries and believes strongly in traveling now with kids by whatever and any means possible – backpacking, sailing or living as expats overseas.