We all know by now that I love to travel, but through the wonderful world of blogging I have been able find other like-minded real moms who travel. I have decided to launch a series of Guest Posts for the #realmomswhotravel series written by real moms who really do love to travel with their kids.
The last guest post I featured was by the lovely Juanne from 4 Sticks And A Bundle. Her post was very well received. She wrote about the reasons why we travel with kids.
Today’s guest post is by the lovely Liberty who blocks at Liberty On The Lighter Side. Liberty is a South African mom of four living in Ireland. Here is her contribution to the #RealMomsWhoTravel series.
Introducing Liberty & Her Family
We are a half South African half British AND South African couple with one South African baby and three Irish babies! Does that make any sense? Basically, the six members of our family were born in three different countries. We have moved house and travelled to many places, either visiting family or going on holiday, more times than I can count on all fingers and toes in the past 16 years since we started a family.
It’s possible that we love travel because it’s normal for us, I have lived in over 25 homes in my life and as a couple we were on the move long before our kids were born.
It could also be because we feel the need to escape the humdrum of everyday life and the tensions of living under the same roof with four other half-humans (otherwise known as children). It’s a tricky one though isn’t it, have you ever noticed that if you bring your kids with you on holiday, you bring the under-the-same-roof tension along with you too?
Expectation Vs Reality
Children’s expectations of an ideal holiday are often very different to their parents. I have found that as long as I feed mine and give them a body of water to mess about in, they are generally content. Just give them a puddle and a picnic!
I can forget about the museums, the architecture and the gorgeous scenery. I can also forget about a quiet coffee in a quaint café or a peaceful beer overlooking a cityscape sunset. Sigh!
However, if we leave them at home for an anniversary weekend as a couple, I end up feeling guilty on the first day and I miss them on the second day. I think there’s about a three-hour window midway when I declare ‘Oh yes – this I what it used to be like in the days BC (before children) – cheers, clink!’
In other words, travelling either with OR without kids has the potential to make me really miserable. I don’t like puddles, or feeling guilty.
Having said that, we have had some brilliant holidays as a family in the past 16 years, in the USA, across Europe and in South Africa. If I was to pick just one, I just couldn’t so I picked two!
Funnily enough, these trips were both only one week-long, maybe the brevity of them made me appreciate each day to the full. They were very contrasting trips, one was to the Isle of Skye and the other was to a campsite in Brittany, France.
The self catering bungalow we stayed in on the Isle of Skye was remote and there was not much to do apart from explore the area around us on foot – mainly because our car broke down! It was a slow holiday. We swam in the icy sea in our private cove, climbed the hills behind the house and played board games in the evenings. The nearest shop was 40 minutes drive away so we only went there once on the day we arrived and stocked up sufficiently (thankfully seeing that we had no car!!). It was the perfect break away from civilization. The shortness of it made us want to stay longer when we left.
Camping In France
The French camping holiday was in a tent on a large busy campsite near Nevez which had four or five big swimming pools with waterslides. The kids swam while we read our books beside the pool and we braaied (barbequed) every evening. We were fortunate to get a spot in the campsite right at the edge so it was quiet and our neighbours were all very friendly. The kids made friends and we felt like part of a big congenial community.
We had brought a badminton set along which was brilliant for crossing the language barrier with other children. We also brought the kids bikes which made it easy and quick for them to ride to the ablution block. Because we were in a tent and not a mobile home, I didn’t worry about clean floors or stuff breaking; and being in Brittany, it wasn’t too hot in the afternoons for us to enjoy being on the campsite.
Age Matters – Here’s Why
There are many places we would still love to travel as a family. Now that they have passed the toddler stage it is way easier to travel further and for longer.
Our most recent trip this past summer was a month-long road trip around the USA. This was the longest holiday we have had as a family but I still felt like it could have been longer. There was still so much to see, the USA is a huge place and I wanted to see everything in all the places we visited. I had high expectations!
Of the posts I wrote about it on my blog, the most revealing was the interview I did with my kids about what they enjoyed most and least about the trip. It just goes to show how everyone has a different view of the same trip.
We Want More
We have never been to the East or South America and my son would like to go to Japan and Mexico but the rest of us have different ideas. I would love to go back to the Okavango Delta in Botswana or to the Drakensberg Mountains in South Africa. My husband wants to go to the Kalahari or Rome (again)! We have also spoken about a skiing holiday but I’m a bit nervous. There are too many places and not enough years left with our children at home.
Our upcoming trip will be to the UK to visit family, but next year we are hoping to do a home swap in the South of Spain. We have done swaps six times before in various countries and they have all been a huge success.
My Advice As A Real Mom Who Travels
My number one piece of advice for planning a holiday is to know your family’s expectations and limitations and plan accordingly. Depending on the age of your kids, you might be able ask them before you go what they’d like to do and do your best to fit in each person’s request.
For example, because my kids love swimming but my husband and I love sightseeing, I try to find locations where we can do a bit of both.
Another example is, if you long to take a holiday from cooking for your family, plan your budget to factor in some takeaways or eating out. Even better, if you can afford it, book an all in one accommodation package that includes meals. (We haven’t done that since our honeymoon!)
I have found it really helps to know myself and recognize my own holiday ‘failings’. I get really irritable if there’s a big mess everywhere, so on the Isle of Skye I gave the kids little prizes for tidying their rooms. Now to try to avoid the chaos of six managing six people’s belongings, we aim to travel really light and pack minimal clothing. Doing this means we are not as stressed over our things as much and have more time to enjoy what’s around us.
Often the kids are happiest with simple things and I am definitely happier when they are. The opposite is also true. If I drag them around a dozen art galleries and along miles of quaint cobbled streets, their misery eventually seeps on to me. It’s all a matter of pacing ourselves to accommodate us all.
It’s not easy finding the balance, especially if you have a large family. Isn’t that the reason why we always take loads of photos on holiday but only keep the nicest ones to remember the best parts of the trip? We have certainly had some bad moments which include emergency doctor’s visits, missed flights and broken down cars more than once but those will never deter us from going again and discovering new places.
As our kids have grown we have learnt to try different types of holidays. Time is passing so quickly – each year opens up new possibilities for us. Our world is so big and there’s so much to explore, I don’t want to give up travelling until way after I’m not only a mother but also a grandmother and a great-grandmother too. That’s when I’ll have all the time in the world for art galleries, and in the meantime, I’m working on enjoying those puddles.
That time Liberty was a guest on the Migration Generation Podcast
Fast forward a few years from when I published this post, and I have launched a podcast discussing the issue of immigration from Southern Africa, and I had Liberty on as a guest. If you want to listen to the podcast, then click the image below.
If you’d like to read more about the Henwick family holidays and adventures or just their everyday lives, you can find them on their social media here:
#RealMomsWhoTravel Thanks you!
Liberty, thanks so much for your very experienced contribution. I can’t wait to follow more of your family holidays and family travel adventures. If you want to see the other time I had Liberty share a parenting story on my blog, check out Parenting Win vs Parenting Fail – Liberty on the Lighter Side.