Planning a Round the World Trip with a Child
By Rowena Mynott
As you may have noticed, 2014 is the year that I embark on a four month long round the world adventure with my three year old son. My life pre-child was very nomadic and despite having taken a shorter round the world trip with Mr 3 when he was just three months old, I was starting to miss the joys of travel: The freedom that it provides, the scenery, the cultures, the sights and the experiences that cannot be recreated in a 9-5 routine at home. In short I was starting to feel stagnant.
When it came time to plan our family trip to visit parents and extended family and friends in England and Canada we were given a reality check when we remembered that my husband now has a ‘proper grown up’, 9-5, monday to friday, two weeks holiday a year job. Up until last year he had been working casually as a chef whilst applying for his dream career. The casual chef thing wasn’t a big hit for either of us – it’s not a job suited to having a family as it involves long hours, working nights and a stressful environment. It did however afford Seb the freedom to take as much time off as he wanted. Now we realised that he was limited to two weeks and that’s not much time to pack in a round the world trip, especially with a three year old along for the ride.
But then in an excited moment of clarity, I realised that although Seb was locked in to a rigid schedule, Mr 3 and I didn’t have to be! I decided to extend the two weeks … to four months! So now what?
The Journey and the Destinations
Well, as it’s just me and my little sidekick on this adventure, and given that he has just turned three, I decided to keep this trip simple. There will be more extended trips in his future to exotic far flung places, but for mama’s sanity, dada’s finances and a three year olds coping ability I decided that we would replicate the trip that we did when Mr 3 was three months old. That was the initial purpose of this journey after all – to see family. Once the time frame had been established, the planning began in earnest. We had to go to England and Canada and hoped to visit either Hawaii, Fiji or Japan on the way back. Unfortunately once we started looking into ticket prices it was going to add a substantial amount to the final cost that couldn’t be justified given the short stay there.
So, the route was decided. Mr 3 and I will fly from Australia to England for 3 months (where we will explore Europe) and then onto Canada for one month (travelling from west to east coast by train) meeting Seb for two weeks of those before heading home.
The hardest thing about planning something like this with a little one at home is finding the time … and the ability to concentrate. I spend around 21 hours a day with my child and the other hours are either work or chore time! It’s hard squeezing it all in! I searched around several different places to find the best deals and finally found a travel agent who has the patience of a God. Whilst booking the flights I spoke to her at least once a day and although there is nothing unusual about that when you are single, adding a 3 year old into the mix ends up in all sorts of chaos. We are just entering the phase of ‘Oh, you are on the phone? But I need your attention … NOW!’. I have had whispered conversations, snuck off to a different room in the house to remain undetected by Mr 3 and hidden behind kitchen benches to dial phone numbers. All strategies that worked at times, but the attention radar of Mr 3 soon picked up on it and there were many conversations where the toddlers screaming for attention obliterated anything that could be heard from the other end, resulting in quickly ended phone conversations, a happy child that immediately went back to playing alone and an exasperated momma!
But we managed it. The best deals on tickets were found and all being well, will be paid off tomorrow! Now it is real and the excitement is mounting. Is it wrong that I am starting to create a little pile of items to take with us already?!
What to Do, What to Do?
Now we get to the nitty gritty, the planning of the finer details. Many years ago when travelling was a little different to today (carrying a 25 kilogram backpack 20 kilometres to the hostel from the bus stop because there are no hostel buses to collect you, after visiting an incredible location having other people you meet say “Where? I’ve never heard of that!” and coming home exhausted, battered and bruised because your travels have been adventurous and not once involved sunbathing on a beach) travel books were invaluable resources. The internet was nothing like it is today and so books, chatting to other travellers and of course blind exploration were the only way of discovering new places, those little hidden gems that are today on peoples bucket lists and shared so easily.
When I first started planning this trip, I went to the local library and picked up a stack of Lonely Planet guidebooks. They are a great place to start to get an understanding of what is in each region you are heading to.
You can follow the route that Mr 3 and I will be taking here. It will change over the next few months as I define our plans and I would love to hear from you if you have any suggestions or ideas, after all, the best local knowledge comes from those that live there.
Here is my bucket list for this trip so far:
- Kayaking with orcas in BC
- Watching grizzly bears feeding on salmon in BC
- Visiting Vancouver Island
- Banff National Park
- Jasper National Park
- Catching the train across country Canada
- Seeing old Quebec
- Fossil hunting along the Jurassic Coast in the UK
- Walking some of the South West coastal path in the UK
- Seeing the Eden Project in Cornwall
- Tripping across to France for some of that amazing cheese, baguettes and wine (Perhaps for Bastille Day)
- Visiting Scotland – With over 26 years spent in England it’s a place I never managed to visit
- Windmills in Holland
- Popping into a few other European countries I am yet to visit properly (Belgium, Luxemburg)
- Tempted by Denmark …
Planning Travel with a Child
Of course planning a round the world trip with a sidekick in tow is different to if you were to go alone … but not as different as you might think. As long as you keep in mind a few simple planning rules to help you out, you should find it fairly straightforward:
- Choosing Countries: If your child is younger you may want to avoid travelling to any country where disease may be a risk. Having said that, many many people travel to India, the African continent and South America with their kids and are fine. For me, Mr 3 is still a little too young to take to these countries but I will most certainly be venturing there in the not too distant future with him.
- Deciding how to travel: How are you going to travel? Flights are obviously an easy and fun way for kids, although long haul flights may be a bit tedious for them. Cars allow you to stop frequently to stretch over active legs. Boats are great although are subject to any bad weather. There are camels, bikes and horses to consider. Don’t limit your mind just because you have a child in tow. There are plenty of families out there travelling by all sorts of ways and means.
- Choosing flights: You will know your child best and the best time of the day/night to travel. Mr 3 is a terrible sleeper and very very energetic during the day but the good thing is that when we travel he will sometimes crash out with the excitement of it all. I sleep pretty well on planes so our flights have been booked for night. We shall see if this helps us keep a routine whilst we are away. Fingers crossed.
- Flexibility: With dates for flights and what you want to see. The more laid back you are the more you will enjoy it rather than getting stressed about flights not available on certain dates or not managing to go for a coffee in a certain cafe.
- Get the kids involved in the planning. Mr 3 has taken great joy in looking through all the books with me and declaring what we will be going to visit. Admittedly it’s been pretty much every image that he came across but over the next few months I’m sure we can whittle it down!
- Deciding what to do: Remember to plan for your child. Don’t make it all about what you want to do. Happy child = Happy parent. Fit in some fun trips to parks, museums or outdoor activities along with your bucket list and you will both have a fantastic and memorable journey. Be sure not to overfill your days though. Pace yourself and don’t be too disappointed if you don’t manage to tick off everything on your list. I will go away with a huge ‘To Do’ list (it’s just in my nature!) but I know we probably won’t achieve all of the things on it. I’m ok with that.
- Be prepared: Further down the track I will look into times of trains and backups if we miss trains, accommodation and backup accommodation in case it’s full. I am a little OCD about planning and preparation but it pays off in the long run. If something goes wrong when you are a single traveller it’s an annoyance, if it goes wrong with a child in tow the situation can go to meltdown mode for the both of you very quickly!
So to make your life a little easier keep these three little things in mind:
- Set reasonable expectations
- Take it slow and steady
- Get the kids involved
- Be prepared
Kids are an absolute joy, they are totally adaptable to travel and are able to teach even the most hardened travellers a thing or two. Watch how travel with your child changes your perspectives as you learn to slow down and take the time to appreciate your new surroundings, interact with those around you and soak in new experiences.
Do you have any advice on where we should go? Have you attempted a round the world trip with a child? Do you have any advice? I would love to hear from you in the comments below.