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While I am always happy to share my own traveling stories with my family, there are tons of other great traveling families out there with kids of different ages, different numbers of kids, and who have had different experiences than me. As part of my “Little C’s Traveling Friends” series, I am sharing different family’s stories so we can all learn from their experiences. If you would like to be a part of this series just shoot us an email at email@example.com.
Can you tell me a little bit about your traveling family?
We were destined to be a traveling family from the day my husband, Lee, and I met! I lived in Atlanta and Lee lived in London for the first 18 months of our relationship, and we saw each other every 6 weeks or so. We traveled between Atlanta and London and met in other cities as well. I grew up traveling around the world, and when we realized we shared a love of travel there was never a question of whether we would travel with our kids, but rather where we would take our kids. Finn, our 5 year old, was born in London, and Lila, 2, was born in the US. They both had 2 passports (US and UK) by the time they were 8 weeks old. My parents instilled a strong love of travel in me (I have been to 55+ countries) and we hope to do the same for our kids. One set of their grandparents live in the UK, so with yearly visits there we try to add in another destination as well, since we are already over in Europe.
How has your traveling pattern changed (or not changed) since you have had kids?
Before kids we were able to be more spur of the moment about travel, but it was also easier living in Europe to be that way. Naturally, we could stay out late and sleep in, and we didn’t have to worry about strollers and snacks and diapers! So while our traveling now may be more planned, and we definitely have way more luggage than before, our kids are pretty easy-going about what we do and where we go.
Where all have you traveled with your children, and what have been some memorable experiences on some of those trips?
We took our first big trip with Finn when he was 10 weeks old, to the Galicia region of Spain and to Portugal. Finn had his first major meltdown sitting on some steps in Porto, and we just had to laugh. Here we were with a baby that we could not calm down, but we were in this amazing city and we just couldn’t get upset about it. Since then we have been to the UK many times, Belgium, another trip to Spain, Amsterdam, Arizona, Wyoming, Yellowstone, Montana, Idaho, Florida, Asheville, Savannah, Washington DC, Charleston, Dallas, Las Vegas, Pittsburgh, Knoxville and smaller trips around Georgia.
One of our goals has been to explore the cities near us on weekend trips as much as possible. We recently were in Spain, visiting family friends, including twins that are the same age as our son. On that trip we spent an afternoon on a playground in Madrid, watching the four of them play and run and chase birds, talking and laughing even though they don’t speak the same language. It made no difference to their enjoyment! This is the value of traveling for us, to experience these kinds of moments throughout the world.
What are some tips for traveling with kids that you have learned along the way?
“Pack light, pack right” has always been a motto in my family. Unfortunately, that motto flew out the window once our kids arrived! We always bring an umbrella stroller and a baby carrier, especially on red eye flights. We have no qualms with sticking our five year old in the stroller while I wear our two year old when we land after a red eye and they are too exhausted to walk. We always try to stay in either suite type hotels or vacation rentals – someplace where we can have our own separate space, since we don’t particularly like going to bed at 7:30! We bring a crib sheet, even if the hotel provides a pack and play/crib, because you never know if they will really have one, and the smell of home will help with familiarity for your children. Window seats on planes can entertain for hours, and riding forward facing on a train is important, especially if your kids get motion sickness at all.
How do points and miles figure into your family travels?
When we lived in London travel seemed more affordable, likely because we could fly to other countries for just a small amount of money. Now that we have to spend more to travel overseas, and even within the US, we have really made an effort to maximize points and miles to get hotels, cars and flights. We put all our monthly expenses on our Chase Sapphire Preferred card, with the exception of airline tickets which we put on our Delta Amex card (we live in Atlanta so Delta is our airline of choice). We use that card for airfare since we get free checked bags and double points on Delta airfare. We signed both of us for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card and each got the 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points sign-up bonus (max bonus is currently at 40,000 points), so we have earned quite a bit of points by using these cards. We also signed us both up for the Hyatt Visa, and between the two of us we earned four free nights at any Hyatt in the world.
We went to Charleston last fall and booked our hotel with the Ultimate Rewards points, and used two of the free Hyatt nights at the Grand Hyatt San Francisco. We also received a companion ticket on Delta with our Amex card and used that to get two Delta tickets to San Francisco from Atlanta for less than $300.
When we are booking flights for the four of us we try to get three airline tickets with points or miles and then buy one, generally mine. We will purchase it with the Delta Amex, get double points, and I earn miles towards Medallion (elite) status. We keep earning some Delta frequent flier miles that way as well. Ultimately I would love to be a Diamond Medallion, which both my parents are, but that won’t happen until our kids are grown! We have a lot of BA Avios points that need to be spent, but I am staunchly opposed to using them on BA with the outrageous taxes and fees they charge to fly into the UK.
What future trips are on your horizon?
We are heading to Seattle and Vancouver at the beginning of the summer, as well as a two week trip to Destin in late July. In the fall we are in the planning stages of New York City, a possible trip to Montreal and Quebec, DC and Chattanooga. We travel to the UK every year, so we have to figure out where that falls into our travel calendar as well.
What would you say to other families that are nervous about the logistics of hitting the sky (or road) with the little ones?
Kids, from babies to toddlers to teens are so much more adaptable that we give them credit for. Don’t let the fear of what could happen – jet lag, cranky children, new places, different food, etc. keep you from exploring the world and having adventurers with your children. Almost anywhere you go can become kid friendly with a little imagination. Find a park, a playground, a museum, and let your kids lead the way. Tour a baseball stadium, or football grounds overseas, visit a castle or let them play just on the beach, even in the cold. Don’t worry about what they will remember about your trip, or even if they remember anything. Some of our best memories have become the things that Finn talked about after we got home, things we didn’t even realize he noticed. I guarantee that taking the time to see things from their point of view, and at their level, will open your eyes to a whole new world!
You can follow more of this family’s travel adventures on their blog Passports and Pushchairs! Thanks again to them for taking the time to share their trips and stories!