Blueprint for Traveling with Kids: Candy Kids in Canberra Day #1
So many young backpacking couples have told me:
“We love that you’re still traveling as a family. When we have kids we want to travel them too.”
Having experienced both child-free travel and travel with kids I recommend the former. If you have a choice do most of your traveling before you have kids. It’s faster, cheaper and more fun.
It’s not that travel with kids isn’t fun. Travelling with kids gives you a whole new perspective on the people and places you visit. But it also means less time touring the party islands of Greece or Thailand and more time spent in toilets you’d have rather avoided.
Kids bring responsibilities. Gone are those carefree travels with months spent playing backgammon on beautiful beaches and evenings while away sampling the local laughing grass.
So now you’ve read the health warnings here’s how to make your dream of traveling with your kids bearable, or maybe even fun, for the whole family.
This is how I handled my brood of three aged 14, 11 and 7 on a recent weekend in Canberra. I was in solo parenting mode too while the Mucho Man had a lovely quiet weekend at home. That should tell you a lot about traveling with kids too.
#1 Put the kids first because happy kids mean happy parents
As soon as we stepped into the Clifton Suites in Canberra we ran round taking the photos before we messed up everything. We had a massive two bedroom apartment, with two bathrooms and a lovely big balcony with a view.
I don’t think the kids appreciated that as much as I did but they liked the goodie bags with toys the Visit Canberra team planted for them. They also liked their bedroom and beds, so much so that they even agreed to pose for a photo.
If you want your travels go smoothly forget all the things you’d like to do on your travels and do what will make your kids happy. It’s better for everyone that way.
#2 Bathroom stops are the worst
With three kids in tow there’s always one that wants to go to the loo and always at the most difficult time.
One time in Guatemala where there are no public toilets our youngest, then aged two, was suddenly caught short. I asked a nearby restaurant owner if we could use her bathroom but she said no. Being desperate to avoid an accident I rushed into the loo with my girl anyway.
The owner had all kinds of horrid things to say to me when we came out but what can you do in that situation? Most people are friendly and helpful when you travel with kids but you will come across people who aren’t.
Even when you have two lovely clean bathrooms as we did in Canberra one of the kids will do their worst in your bathroom (not theirs!) as soon as you arrive.
#3 Forget safety
Despite being under strict instructions never ever to let anyone into the house or room if Mummy or Daddy aren’t there when tested the kids failed. Miserably.
When I left the room for 10 minutes a male housekeeper arrived to check we had enough towels. Kiara happily opened the door and let him in whereupon he wandered around while her brothers didn’t bat an eyelid.
Of course the Clifton Suites employees were fabulous and no harm was done but the point is you have to let go of all safety concerns when you travel with kids and just do it anyway. Otherwise you’d never go anywhere.
Kids are just as likely to come to harm at home as they are when traveling so don’t waste time wondering what’s the worst thing that could happen?
#4 Be spontaneous
As part of The Human Brochure tour group we had a busy weekend ahead of us but when in Canberra you really should see the Houses of Parliament (pictured up top), Old Parliament House and the Aboriginal Tent Embassy.
So on the spur of the moment I frog-marched the Candy kids to the largest grassed rooftop on the world at the Australian House of Parliament and did roley poleys down its grassy banks.
#5 Feed kids regularly
Like many children mine are bottomless pits and they are happiest with regular feeding times.
Stick to those feeding times even when you’re traveling unless you want to deal with endless moaning and low-blood-sugar-induced temper tantrums.
#6 Little things please little minds
You think you know what your kids will love when you travel but you soon discover all kinds of other things they also love.
Kids are easily distracted so leave time to explore the little things that fascinate them but which would never have made it onto your radar if they hadn’t stop your kids in their tracks.
My were strangely fascinated by a hole in the wall shop in Canberra and of course we simply had to nip into a party shop they spied with their little eyes.
#7 Teach them life’s not fair
This is probably the biggest life lesson I wanted my kids to learn from traveling. I want them to know that sometimes you get what you get and you don’t get upset but that other times there are injustices in this world that are worth fighting for.
Travel has allowed my children to see the huge gulf between the haves and the have nots.
We took time to look at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra and talk about the struggles of indigenous Australians and the relative ease of life many other Australians enjoy.
#8 Low expectations create the best experiences
“Leanne says the War Memorial is boring,” Kiara kept telling us. Apparently, of all the things there are to see and do in Canberra the Australian War Memorial impressed Kiara’s BFF little Leanne least.
So my kids weren’t happy to learn that the Australian War Memorial would be the first stop on our tour.
Indeed, when I told my own friends we were off to Canberra for the weekend the most common response was “Why?”
So of course, because we expected nothing we were delighted with what we found at the War Memorial in particular and in Canberra in general.
#9 There are learning opportunities everywhere
Don’t worry about taking your kids out of school. The education system’s terrible just about everywhere these days so you’re probably better off spending time with your kids teaching them about social skills, creativity and happiness.
Yes, you can learn stuff in schools, libraries or museums but at any tourist destination the real action take place behind the scenes. Poke around behind the back wall of the Taj Mahal in India and you’ll see the real Agra, escape from your tour group at the pyramids in Giza and you’ll see a slice of Egypt the other tourists will be hurried past.
So during the course of my usual pokings around behind the scenes I discovered the clever catering team beavering away to make sure The Human Brochure launch party at the War Memorial was a success.
#10 Sleep matters most
When it comes to children’s bed times I’m a traditionalist and our trip to Canberra reminded me why. After a very early morning, a very late night and a lot of excitement in between Kiara had a major meltdown as soon as we got back to our hotel room.
When traveling with kids give them plenty of down time and get them to bed early to keep them on an even keel.
Failing that let them have a lovely long lie in the next day.
Because getting a good nights sleep is key to making sure that you love traveling with kids as much as childless people love the idea of it.
We were guests of Visit Canberra and stayed at the award-winning Clifton Suites during our travels in Canberra. To find out more about traveling to Canberra, with or without kids, check out The Human Brochure website.
Amen – you’re singing my tune! I love to travel with kids (and only occasionally miss those backpacking single days)!
Yes, traveling with kids is a whole new ball game isn’t it?!
Oh all true Annabel, sometimes I’m horrified at what the kids eat when we’re away. They’re equally horrified to re-start the veggies when we get home. My four are such different characters and ages that I have vowed never to travel with all of them again, not on my own anyway. I LOVE going away with just one, it’s so great to have an adventure 1:1.
Oh one on one would be fabulous. Which is probably why two adults and two kids works well – too late for us now though:)
We didn’t do much traveling when the kids were younger but even the short trips we had could be difficult. This is excellent advice Annabel. My son and his wife are taking their boys to Tulum Mexico over the holidays and this may help them.
Car journeys are the worst! Thank you for sharing this with your son and his kids – I hope they have a brilliant time. I’d love to go to Mexico – with or without the kids;)
as kids my brothers and I were happily trailed around all over the world. Loved it. My kids haven’t done as much travelling as I would have liked – mostly ’cause the way we set up our life some other things took priority and travelling is something I’m looking froward to taking up again… one day … soon?
I’m glad you enjoyed the bits of Canberra you visited. The place has a bad press and there are no theme parks, but it is a family friendly place and there is a lot to do. Don’t come in winter – too cold. Don’t come in summer – too hot (Canberra relocates to the coast). Spring is great (visit Floriade) and autumn is better.
I understand that priortising and hope your travel plans happen when they happen:)
No theme parks in Canberra is a bonus for me. They are so faceless it’s not really travel. I love the heat and wouldn’t mind visiting in winter as my kids have never seen the snow and you can ski nearby. But yes, the shoulder seasons definitely best and we had the perfect weather.
Absolutely agree on all points there. C x
I agree with all of that Annabel, I basically boils down to slow travel, that’s the way to go with littlies in tow.
The war memorial IS great, I was taken, against my will, I really enjoyed it, I know the kids would love it. You didn’t mention the science museum place, that’s a brilliant day out for us homeschoolers, and all kids. (But, whisper it quietly, I only visit my relatives in Canberra if I absolutely have to, it’s just not for me.)
I’ve backpacked Asia with the kids several times already , they are 8 and 6 now and I’ve flown all over the world with them, I took them to the UK and Florida without Dad last year, what a great trip! Next year we go back to full time, indefinite travel, can’t wait!
Loo, don’t worry, we won’t tell the rellies. The science museum came on day two of our trip, will be writing about that soon:)
You sound like a brilliant traveler – what lucky kids!
Fantastic post Annabel, you’re so on the money. Travelling with even one child has its challenges but my daughter is evolving into my great travel buddy. She’s great at assessing hotel rooms now ;)
Lol, mine are getting that way. I worry that they’re getting spoilt these days. But I think they’ve done enough roughing it to appreciate the nicieties when they get them.
This is just so nice. I like the way you relive the events as vividly as they happened. I also like the way you are a keen observer of every little thing the kids do. Well, in Kenya we do not travel that much yet we have a great country unless when visiting the rural areas which is mostly in December. However, your story has just captivated me. Annabel, you are simply a great writer, I love this article.