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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 us. 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.
Carolina and her family love to travel but have had to adjust their traveling lifestyle since they had a child born with severe food allergies. Carolina has great advice (and gives everyone hope it DOES get better!) for families trying to travel with a food allergy. They also have a website, A Place You’ve Never Been, dedicated to telling their travel stories.
Tell us a little bit about your family:
I am Carolina and I travel with my husband, Jay (who I call “The Scientist” on my blog), and my two daughters, Willow (age 8), and Indi (age 6). I have always had a huge case of wanderlust! The minute I graduated from high school, I grabbed a backpack and traveled solo through Europe. That really fed my thirst for adventure. In the next ten years I traveled through New Zealand and Fiji, camped the Canadian Rockies, drove from one side of the US to the other 6 times, hiked through Alaska, worked on a crab processor in the middle of the Bering Sea in the dead of winter (yep, it was cold and dark!), worked in Yellowstone National Park and Mt. Rainier National Park, and was a park ranger in Crater Lake National Park.
When Indi was a month old, we moved to Boston. She screamed the whole way there, but I couldn’t even hardly even sympathy for our fellow passengers anymore because I was so spent myself. We managed to explore the amazing city that was our new home, but we could never travel more than 20 minutes from our home in case Indi began screaming again. I thought our travel days were over.
Luckily, we found an amazing pediatrician who was finally willing to consider that our daughter had something other than colic. She tested Indi for the top five allergens—milk, eggs, nuts, wheat and soy. She tested positive for every one. We finally knew why she was in pain, and now we could help her. We removed all of those allergens from our diet (I was breastfeeding and needed to avoid passing the allergens to her). Magically she became the sweet, funny, happy child that she is today!
How has your traveling pattern changed since you have had kids?
I thought I would always travel—solo and then with my future family. But, when that family finally came, it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. My first daughter was a great traveler. She happily flew back and forth across the country in my arms as we made the move from New York City to Portland, Oregon. When my second daughter came along, though, life as we knew it screeched to a halt. Indi was born with severe food allergies, something we didn’t realize until she was a year old. While we struggled to figure out what was wrong with our baby, she screamed almost 23 hours of the day. Yes, she really slept less than an hour every day for nearly the whole first year of her life. It was traumatic for her and for us, and we were all completely exhausted all the time. Our entire world was reduced to the walls of our little duplex.
Where all have you traveled with your children, and what have been some memorable experiences on some of those trips?
Indi has outgrown some of her allergies, but others, such as peanut and milk, have become more severe. We have learned how to keep her safe, though. After becoming fast experts on food allergies, we began to venture out, a little farther each time. We traveled through the Berkshires and down to New York City. Next, we took the leap and flew to Orlando, Florida. We brought along a suitcase full of Indi’s safe foods and chose hotels with mini kitchens so that we could cook her special rice noodles. We found that travel was not only something we could do, but that it was also something that was really good for the girls. They had been so constricted because of Indi’s allergies and they completely blossomed as they explored palm trees and sinkholes…and a glimpse at a world outside their home.
It isn’t always easy. One time, as I was flying to Oregon alone with the girls, we left Indi’s carry-on, full of her safe foods, on the shuttle. We had to quickly race through the airport, 10 minutes before boarding, to find something—anything—that would be safe for Indi to eat on the plane. We succeeded, but now I always stash “Indi safe” power bars in every piece of luggage, just in case.
How do points and miles figure into your family travels?
It also isn’t easy to pay for travel times four! I first learned about miles and points about a year and a half ago after stumbling on a Mommy Points post. As a result of carefully choosing our credit cards, we have stayed in Washington DC on Marriott points and free nights, stayed at Hyatts and Marriotts in Costa Rica on points, as well as free nights on road trips through Maine, New York, and Connecticut. We stayed in New York City over Thanksgiving for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on Carlson and Hyatt points. In February, we flew to Key West on Alaska Airlines points and then stayed a week, using the two nights free nights from the Hyatt card sign-up bonus, as well as Club Carlson and Marriott points.
What future trips are on your horizon?
We are going on a huge, multi-country trip through Greece and beyond—free on a mix of Chase Ultimate Rewards and Club Carlson points. We never could have afforded trips like these without points!
What are some tips for traveling with kids that you have learned along the way?
First, now that we have kids, I make a real effort to choose destinations that have some educational value. In Orlando we skipped Disney and explored the natural wonders of Florida. We studied the rainforest for weeks before going to Costa Rica. We have been studying Greek mythology and world history in preparation for a trip to Greece this spring. The Story of the World book series is an amazing way to introduce kids to world history! On the flip side, we try to choose places that the kids will find interesting and/or fun. I could spend weeks in Europe shopping, going to museums, and looking at architecture every day but that doesn’t work for small children (or at least, not mine!). Instead, we will go to a museum one day and then find a trail to hike. Beaches are always winners, too!
Second, our travel is pretty restricted to school vacations which is of course the most expensive and difficult time for tickets. We do take the kids out for a few days before and/or after a trip in order to buy a cheaper ticket or stay a little longer, but our big trips are usually scheduled during breaks. We have considered taking the kids out of school and homeschooling if we are able to travel for longer periods of time (here is a post from a family that does just that). I would love to do something like that in the coming years!
My tips for budget traveling with kids are:
- Learn something about the country or city you are visiting before you go. It is a great way to get kids excited about the trip and they get so much more out of it when they are there.
- Choose a suite if you can. It is much less expensive to feed a family if you can cook some of your own meals. It also forces you to get out to the local grocery stores (one of my favorite things to do when I am in a new place!), where you are more likely to mingle with the locals.
- Get out on the hiking trails! Kids love to be out in the woods (or desert or jungle) and it is a great way to learn about the local ecosystem. Plus, it is much cheaper than that amusement park.
- Kindles (or whatever your device of choice is). They make long car and plane rides SO much easier. We used to be “old school”, making the kids play games and sing songs during the whole trip. We still do that for part of the ride, but we also allow them to watch movies. We all have a more relaxed vacation that way!
What would you say to other families that are nervous about the logistics of hitting the sky (or road) with the little ones?
Don’t let yourself become overwhelmed with the logistics of travel with kids, even kids with food allergies. It is so worth it when you see your child being amazed by the world. I’ll never forget the wonder on Willow’s face when she spotted a sloth in the tree above us, or when Indi touched a saguaro cactus for the first (and last!) time when we traveled to Arizona. They understand the desert and the rainforest so much more fully than if they had just read about them in a book. I can’t wait to watch them grow as they meet new people and take on new challenges (we’ll be climbing a mountain in the coming year!) thanks to travel.
This coming year we have big travel plans! We will be traveling around the world (we are in the middle of reserving very complicated tickets for four on points), visiting more of our country’s National Parks (we have a goal of visiting them all before our children graduate from high school), and exploring New England and the East Coast. I have started to blog about our travels here: http://www.aplaceyouveneverbeen.com Follow along with us!
Thank you for letting us tell our story! I’d hate to see food allergies prevent anyone from following their dreams. Travel is one of the greatest gifts you can give your children and it is also a great way to bond as a family. Don’t be afraid to get out there and see the world!
Thank you so much to this awesome family for sharing their story and we look forward to hearing about more about their traveling adventures!