Meet Kyla and her “crew”: Randy, Calais and Kacela. Together they are Where is the world, a fascinating blog that is currently taking a travellers’ dream leap year. You might think there are places kids can’t go but Kyla and Randy agree on one thing, as long as you are flexible things can work out. They love travelling off the beaten path and that is the road they are taking their kids. Let’s get to know them.
How was the first trip as a travel family?
We have family scattered throughout Canada and the US, so we did a number of weekend-long family visits after our second daughter was born. Our first real trip as a family of 4 was to Hong Kong, Vietnam and Cambodia. We were originally going to travel for 7 weeks, but shortened it to 4 weeks when we decided to open a business after the trip was already booked! We had no plan B, and nothing booked beyond the first week. Since our kids were so little, we travelled with two large backpacks, one for the parent’s stuff, and one for the kid stuff. The most valuable item we brought was the ErgoBaby carrier. Kacela (6 months at the time) spent a good 90% of the trip in it!
(Our first trip with our first daughter was a week in San Francisco when she was 9 weeks old, and we took her to Iceland for 3 weeks when she was 10 mo old.)
What did you think that was going to be the worst of the trip and turned out not to be that bad? How about the other way around?
We had a vague outline, but no plans going into the trip, which made it a bit stressful. I had my doubts that it would work, but it ended up being great. It allowed us to travel at a pace that worked for our kids, and we could just make it up as we went. Luckily, accommodation was never difficult to find, and flights were cheap even booked last minute!
What is always on your luggage? What don’t you take any more in your luggage but once thought you wouldn’t survive without it?
One of the items that’s always in my luggage is nail clippers. Random, I know!! Even on a 2-week vacation, someone usually ends up needing a nail-clipping!
Something we used to not be able to survive without, was a non-electric bottle heater. Our youngest was super picky, and almost refused a bottle unless it was piping hot (our own damn fault, and we paid for it!!). We had a bottle heater where you pinched a disc to activate it, and them boil it to make it ready for the next use. We could use it in the plane, on a road-trip, even out sight-seeing. It was invaluable for us!
Which tricks do you use to survive on your commute to your final destination?
Now that our kids are a bit older, we employ our electronics. I always pull up google maps and show them where we are, where we’re going, and how long (approximately) it’s going to take us to get there. Often, my youngest will then set an alarm for the estimated time. This way, she doesn’t need to ask how long it’ll be, she has it right in front of her!
When the kids were younger, we liberally used snacks to help us survive travel days. I preferred snacks that took a long time to eat and didn’t fill them up quickly, like cheerios or raisins.
What are your saving tips for these family trips?
We like to travel as local as possible, and find that it saves quite a bit of money. Eating local food is always cheaper than finding a Western-style restaurant. Also, the family owned guesthouses are less expensive than a chain hotel. On top of saving us money, more of the money we spend goes into the hands of locals, which makes us feel good about spending our tourist dollars.
How do you plan your family trips?
I LOVE planning, it’s one of my favourite parts of travelling! We have an always growing list of places that we want to visit, and usually decide based on time of year, and the amount of time we want to travel for. When it comes to picking a destination, almost everywhere is on the table. The most important thing I consider when making the final decision, is what experiences we can expect to have once we’re there. Last year we were planning to visit Egypt, Israel & Jordan, but chose to switch plans and go to West Africa (Togo, Benin & Burkina Faso) instead. Egypt, Israel and Jordan, although cultural rich, have more architecture, history and politics that we didn’t think the kids were quite old enough to even begin to understand, let alone enjoy. The later provided more of a cultural experience, with the opportunity to interact with locals and see some wildlife. We decided that given the girl’s ages (4 & 6 at the time), the wildlife and cultural interactions would be a more meaningful experience for them.
The kids are just starting to get involved in the planning stages, but typically not until we’re at the destination. They get to choose some of the activities we do, and we always talk to them about our transportation options, accommodation options, etc. They’re starting to get more involved as they get older, and they’re both starting to build a bucket list of their own. Calais, our 7 year old, currently had Madagascar and Antarctica at the top of her bucket list!!
When we travel, our luggage is mostly organized by individual. The girls both carry their own clothes and toys. I have my own clothes, plus the girl’s extra shoes, bathing suits and rain jackets. Randy packs his clothes, plus he carries the toiletries and most of the electronic paraphernalia.
Share with us an anecdote of one of those family trips
One of the most memorable travel experiences we’ve had recently, was spending a week on a liveaboard dive boat in Raja Ampat, West Papua, in Indonesia. The kids had such a blast on the boat, and we saw so many amazing creatures under the water. I wasn’t able to participate in all the dives (I had some ear-troubles), so I ended up taking the kids to these amazing, secluded beaches. They’d play in the sand, or snorkel in waist-deep water, and they saw so many fish. They even saw a baby reef shark and a blue-spotted ray. It was pretty incredible.
What destination do you think is a family must? Which would you suggest to avoid at all cost?
This comes down to personal preference, as every family has their own style of travel. Not that it’s a must, but I really love Brittany, in France, for a family vacation. There’s a little bit of everything! It’s rich in culture, delicious food and unique architecture, like St. Malo and the cool houses in Dinan. And to top it off, there’s an abundance of fantastic beaches.
Honestly, there’s nowhere I would say to avoid at all cost! I think every destination deserves a chance, and each destination can change depending on the circumstances surrounding the visit. No two visits will ever be alike. The only destinations that are currently off the table are active war-zones…Somalia, Syria, parts of Iraq, etc…I don’t think taking our kids to a war-zone would be considered good parenting!
What is your next trip as a family?
We’re currently 6 months into a year-long trip around the world. The next big “leg” of the trip is 5 weeks in India. We’ve been talking about going to India for awhile, but it’s never really made it to the top of the list. When I sat down to book flights to Africa, the cheapest connection was through India. Within about 15 min we’d gone from stopping overnight, to staying for a week, to skipping Africa and just going to India! I asked the girls for their opinion and they chose India, to see the Taj Mahal. Because this was a last-minute add-on, I really haven’t had much time to plan. I’d say I’ll spend about a week of evenings reading about it, then we’ll figure it out once we get there.
I’m quite excited though, mainly for the food. I’m hoping the heat will be enough to curb my appetite a bit so I don’t end up gaining too much weight!
What would be your advice to (us) any family that wants to start travelling?
My advice to parents who want to start travelling, is to try to parent in a way that’ll make it easy to travel with your kids.
Travel, especially family travel, requires flexibility. If you’re flexible at home, with feeding times, nap times, nap location, etc, it’ll be much easier when travelling.
Alternately, if a strict schedule is what works best for you, plan your travel around the schedule. Make sure you’re centrally located so you can be back for nap-time, and scope out nearby restaurants so you know’ll where to go when it’s time to eat.
Either way, pack a massive amount of patience, and just go for it!