Welcome to our family travel series where we interview other family travelers to show you how they make travel with kids a reality.
You’ll hear from budget travelers, luxury travelers, families with babies, long-term travelers, digital nomads and those who fit travel inside a busy family and work lifestyle.
Introducing Aleney from Boy Meets World
I’ve been friends with Aleney from Boy Meets World for some time now and I’ve always been fascinated with her travel lifestyle. She’s a travel writer and editor and so travel with her kids has become a natural part of that.
I love how she balances it with normal life, and is not afraid to take her kids out of school, yet ensures she stays committed and involved in their education. And I LOVE the story of her son Raffles and his dedication and commitment to this travel lifestyle. Read on to discover what he has managed to create for himself!
How do you fit travel into your lifestyle?
It’s my job so my life has to fit in with travel. The hardest part is juggling the kids schooling. To date, the small amount of time each has had to take out of school hasn’t been an issue. But we’re managing it carefully so they don’t fall behind.
Read more: Tips for homeschooling on the road
How old are your children?
Sugarpuff is 5 and Raffles is 8 and about to clock up his twenty-first country.
What’s your travel style?
We’re into immersive travel. We all like to really get to the heart of a destination by doing the stuff locals would do. But because so much of our travel relates to my work as a travel writer and editor, we don’t really follow a set style. We do everything from basic camping to five-star luxury.
We go where we’re told and how we’re told to do it, which is fine by us because it keeps us on our toes and opens up some incredible experiences we may not have previously considered.
When we’re on self-funded travels, we still tend to mix it up and experience a destination from every perspective.
How do you plan for your family travels?
I like to get the entire family involved in the planning. Whether we’re being hosted on a famil or are heading off on our own, we do our research together so we can all have a say on what we’ll do and where’ll we go and make a rough plan based on that.
We like to keep things as fluid as possible because the most extraordinary travel experiences usually pop up only after we start chatting with the locals.
The only thing I’m a stickler about is pre-booking all our accommodation. We made the mistake of spending two weeks on a driving holiday in France and Spain with a then six-month-old Raffles. Though it was off-season, everything was booked out. If it had just been us we’d have happily slept in the car but with a baby along we needed a roof over our head so we spent half of our holiday just looking for places to stay which was way too stressful. Never again.
What about savings and budget – what’s your approach?
We do this on a case-by-case basis. It depends so much on the destination and the time frame. And we don’t plan a trip until we have the funds for it. But travel doesn’t always need to cost a fortune, there’s always a way to make things work.
What things do you sacrifice in order to travel?
Having kids was not an easy path for us. Due to infertility issues, it took intervention and sucked up the best part of a house deposit to have them. But fighting so hard to have them changed my mindset and suddenly owning a house didn’t seem like such a big deal.
As soon as my son was born I made the decision to give up my six-figure salary and designer suits in exchange for working from home and tracksuit pants because I wanted a job that would allow me to focus on my family and give us more freedom to show them the world.
Though some of our trips are hosted, travel writing isn’t the most lucrative of careers, which means living fairly frugally. But it’s my choice. We drive an old car, live in a small apartment and tend to avoid spending money on “stuff” because we’d rather do than have. The kids feel the same and given the choice between the latest must-have toy that’s all their friends have and a trip, they’ll choose the trip every time.
What do your kids think of travelling with you?
They have itchier feet than me. My daughter is enthusiastic about our travels and pretty much happy to tag along where ever we go, but Raffles is so passionate about it that he’s started writing about travel too.
When he announced recently that he wanted to pursue a career in travel presenting, I told him it was a lovely goal but we’d see if that was what he still really wanted when he finished school. The universe was listening to him and not me on that occasion because six months later, he is one of the hosts of a travel show in Asia, with an audience in the millions. That certainly taught me never to put limitations on my children.
Do your children help you plan your travel? How?
Sugarpuff is still a little too young to have much say, though we always let her have a say on some of the activities when we get there. Raffles, on the other hand, is pretty much our main travel decision maker.
When we have the opportunity to choose our destination, it’s usually based on his latest obsession. He researches, reads, watches videos and, more recently, has started Googling pictures and information. And when it’s time to put together a rough itinerary he helps me map it out. He’s currently fixated on Cambodia, so maybe that will be next.
Want help with planning a travel experience the whole family will love? Click the image for immediate and free access to the toolkit.
Do you have a funny or horror travel story to share?
We’ve been blessed that our only real disaster while travelling with the kids has been a trip to the local ER to get Raffles stitched up after what will be forever known as the “great ping pong incident of 2015”. The poor kid ended up badly concussed and bleeding after banging his head during a lively round of table tennis! Who knew ping pong was a blood sport?
How do you cope with the challenges of family travel?
I don’t find travelling with the kids challenging at all. My kids are very flexible and we all travel light. They’re great flyers (better than me in fact, I’m the nervous one and they usually have to look after me) and are usually more cooperative on the road than when we are home.
The biggest challenge is minimising the impact on their schooling. We try to take as little time outside of holidays as we can, though given my day job that can be hard. But we ensure any days off are filled with learning and use commute time to work on math and literacy skills.
What do you love most about travelling with your kids?
Seeing the world through their eyes. It’s magical.
What do you hate about travelling with your kids?
Nothing really. I hate travelling without them.
What are your top tips for making family travel work?
- Pack light. These days we try to pack everything we need in carry-on luggage. It’s surprisingly easy and not only makes transit faster and less tiring for the kids, it minimises the risk of luggage going astray.
- Be reasonable and have a little consideration for your kids, especially if they are younger. You may be keen to visit that priceless glass museum but your kids, and its curator, would most likely prefer you didn’t. Nor are they going to want to lay around a pool with a novel and a jug of margaritas. Choose activities that offer a little something for everyone.
- Making family travel a stress-free experience isn’t just about planning and packing – though these are important – it’s about having realistic expectations and being prepared for the worst, while hoping for the best.
What are your biggest fears with travelling with kids and how do you overcome them?
They’re mostly the same fears I have when we’re not travelling… that they could fall sick, be hurt or get lost. I’m a pretty overprotective mama and at least when we’re travelling they are with me the whole time, so I am better able to protect them and manage the situations they are in.
Why do you travel with your kids?
I see the world as my children’s classroom and the people we meet on our travels their teachers. It’s so true that travel broadens the mind and when that mind is as spongy and absorbent as a child’s, it offers an unbeatable opportunity for us, as parents, to fill them with colour, culture and a world full of ideas and ideals.
While kids as young as mine won’t necessarily remember the details of every experience, everything that they’re exposed to is being filed away in their growing brains and teaching them valuable life lessons the most important of which is to be global citizens with respect for all people, places and ideals.
Do you have any great resources you can share for helping people travel with their kids? Places to find great deals etc.
I love reading, so along with following a lot of travel blogs, I enjoy travel magazines like Holidays with Kids for family destination inspiration.
Both the kids love the wonderful Lonely Planet kids books and Raffles also loves Bound Round, a cool travel review site by kids, for kids where he can see what people his own age think about the activities at a destination. We turn to Skyscanner for flights, but invariably end up flying Scoot into and around Asia because they’re cheap, reliable and offer great service.
Read more: 14 books to inspire kids to travel
What are some of your dream destinations to travel with kids or where do you think is a great destination for family travellers?
We’ve yet to find a destination that doesn’t have something to offer kids. I believe everything is what you make it. Embrace the unusual, embrace change and you’ll find magic everywhere.
Top of my family travel wish list at the moment are Myanmar, Nepal, and Bolivia. The kids both have their own bucket lists. Top of Raffles’ list is Cambodia and Norway, both of which are eminently doable.
Sugarpuff’s though is littered with imaginary places like Arendelle… to visit a certain princess or two. That may be trickier for us to pull off!
Where can people connect with you?