18 Jan Travel With Children … No Excuses
“Why would you travel around America with young children who will not remember the holiday?.”
“Wow you’re bold; that will be intense, are you crazy? Really?!”
These were some of the responses we had from friends including very close ones in Australia before we jetted off for a mammoth 5 week trip throughout the USA with our five, three and one year old in tow. We hit up Los Angeles, Disneyland, Santa Monica, Seattle, New York, Las Vegas and Hawaii on the way home. We spent a total of three days in an aeroplane with flights anywhere from 4 to 14 hours. We had an incredible time and we’re not afraid of travelling with children; we travelled for a month when our firstborn was seven weeks old and again with our nine-month old boy for a month as well.
You can travel with young children, just go knowing you have to acquire a tonne of patience, a great itinerary and lots of preparation and planning before. Oh and a great pram that is light and can recline the whole way (we used a baby jogger city mini – best ever).
Of course there were a few low points; one came when Miss Five kicked Mr 3 in the lobby of The Venetian in Las Vegas and every pokie player heard the shriek. Mr 3 then refused to vacate the comfort of the pram which meant Mr 1 got frustrated, bit me on the leg and started running down the aisle to the black jack tables. It was all class in Vegas and at that moment I had more people look at how I would handle the situation than looking at the children’s toddler tantrum behaviour.
I started planning the trip ten weeks ahead out, researching where to stay, where the healthiest food stores were and of course some epic naughty ones (one being Shake Shack; the best burgers by far!). I mapped out the hotels and every third night found a great nanny from friend referrals to watch our children whilst my husband and I caught up with friends or discovered great local restaurants and bars. I love travel and have my whole life.
What I can say now being home is my children are more enriched by the experience. We are currently making a photo book based on THEIR memories and not ours; on what they liked most about the trip. “Beverly Hills was boring – we just walked around” whereas we obviously loved the window shopping but rather Disneyland and California Adventure park was obviously the best in the eyes of 5 and 3. The one year old? Well, he’s one, and will forever feel included in our family holiday even if just for the photo memories!
Would we do it again… absolutely? The children saw homelessness throughout the sates and understand what it now means when we tell them some people have no roofs over their head. They laughed at the different accents, how no one in LA honked their horns because its rude to, but in NEW york that’s all they do. They could see how “big” some people were and always would be excited by how huge the meals were when we ate out.
They loved all the movies in the plane especially so given we had disconnected the TV at home three months prior. This actually came in handy when flying home from Honolulu with Jetstar and we didn’t pre-purchase the entertainment ipads so for the 10hour flight home they happily entertained with books and stickers.
They loved the bustle of NYC, the calmness of Seattle, the lights of Vegas, The “BIG SUVs” of LA, and the warm waters of Hawaii. We told them every week we would be in a new house and they thrived on flexibility with limited routine.
We decided not to tell the kids about our trip until 4hours before we flew out. So many people thought we were crazy but the response and sheer excitement telling them just before we took off to the airport was well worth the wait and of course selfishly we didn’t have to put up with the daily countdown questions. The video we captured was priceless; my husband showed them a map and explained what we would be doing. Its crazy and so refreshing what young children teach you. Our three year old only wanted to know how big the plane was and would he get a window seat. Our five year old started singing NEW YORK NEW YORK Frank Sinatra style that we had started playing the months leading up to the trip and our one year old just lapped up the different sights and the energy coming out of us.
For anyone contemplating traveling with young children throughout the states or anywhere in the world, be bold and do it. Travel enriches their soul and builds their experience, their maturity and their patience and builds your capacity. The one year old wasn’t the greatest traveller BUT, we learnt how to entertain him through these times and it was a small price to pay for a brilliant experience. Some advice to truly enjoy a big overseas holiday:
- Do pack activities and snacks for plane rides, have all your technology charged, remember adapters and pre-purchase kids entertainment if there is an option!
- Air BnB is a great way to save money and live it up. In LA we found an incredible cottage with a swimming pool for around $250 a night and the pool time paid for itself. It was my first Air BNB experience and my tip is to look for great reviews by people who have stayed before. It gives you the flexibility to prepare your own meals, not be in a hotel environment and make as much noise as you want!
- Disneyland – Plan well ahead of time and/or book a personal park concierge via http://www.stonesvip.com to help navigate the rides and lines. A guide (actor) is with you throughout the day. They were expensive but worth every cent. We didn’t wait longer than 5 to 10 minutes EVERY ride and this was in peak time. You never need to look at a map and they put you on rides and then they run around grabbing ‘fast-passes’ for the next rides. They minded our baby when we went on height restricted rides and planned our entire day for us. it was incredible and in my eyes the only way to see and do Disneyland and California Adventure land. Who wants to fly across the world to the happiest place in the world and wait for hours for a ride that last a few minutes?!
- DO research and choose the right accommodation and hotels for you; ours were all about location:
Disneyland we stayed at http://www.parkvueinn.com simple and cheap and the children loved watching the fireworks from our room (ask for the second floor). Less that half the price of the Disney hotels and within 300mtrs to the park entrance.
New York http://www.marriott.com Essex House, directly opposite Central park where we explored each day and enjoyed the horse and carriages, squirrels, Central Park Zoo (the children found Alex the lion’s ‘cousin’ – The Snow Leopard. It wasn’t far to walk to Times Square and all of the other amazing sites to see in NYC and the subway system is great for getting down town.
Hawaii http://www.hiltonhawaiianvillage.com. We stayed in the Rainbow tower which is the closest to the beach and pool and has incredible views. There are 5 pools all offering variety including water slides, a man made lagoon and plenty of space on the beach and the water seemed a lot calmer than directly on Waikiki. Every Friday night they have fireworks and every other night movie nights under the stars for the kids.
* Always Order 1 meal between 2 people, American meal sizes are double portions in our language and ask for a small of everything.
* Remember you must tip EVERYONE, house cleaning, porters, taxi drivers, doorman; you name it, you pay for it (just not the customs officer on the way in – they don’t take sarcasm well).
* Research what you want to do and make reservations well in advance – we did this a lot for good restaurants in NYC. There are brilliant children’s museums to visit along with Lego Land, Toys are us with the Ferris wheel inside all are must for kids of any age in Times square. Also check out http://www.timeout.com/kids where it tells you all the free activities and best shows for kids for your stay.
* Check in online the day before you fly and travel light. I had 5 outfits for everyone and we rotated and washed. A good tip someone told me is to carry balloons for transits, they weigh nothing and can be blown up and used for hours of entertainment, also a night light for all the different places you are staying at.
* Be flexible, have no routine and explore. Adventure is what we all seek for in life. Our children did sleep everyday but we had no specific time, sometimes they fell asleep in planes, trains, cars, prams, but if they are tired enough they will crash.
* Take photos, create memories BE a FAMILY, embrace your time and ask yourself before you leave what you want to teach your children on their holiday.