We’d heard that the Jiuqian Music & Arts Center was just 15 minutes from our Shanghai hotel. But the Chinese-speaking driver just kept driving and driving… An hour passed and we were officially very, very far from the urban, international city of skyrises.
The driver slowed down, checked his map, then pointed out at a field, and looked at me with a very puzzled look. “I’m beginning to think this is a wild goose chase.” Adam, my 7 year old son asked, “What’s a wild goose chase?” I assured myself that this would be a story to tell for years to come. But I also couldn’t stop thinking about how much my family needed a bathroom after a long day out and about in Shanghai. We turned around, nearly giving up but then we saw the address posted on a small gate into a set of four industrial buildings. I’m pretty sure the driver was disappointed we weren’t headed back to Shanghai, & that he was stuck with us out in the middle of nowhere.
We’ve had many conversations surrounding other cultures these last few weeks. We are pulling out maps, talking about language, sharing history and stories. The World Cup is making the world super real for my boys.
I fell in love with my husband in Australia. Since then, we have traveled together through Bali, Thailand, New Zealand, Peru, Italy, England, Germany, Mexico and Costa Rica… And we’re just getting started! As soon as our boys turned 5 and 7, we knew it was time to hit the road again, this time with the boys in tow. We packed our bags and traveled (as a family of 4!) to China and Thailand for an incredible journey. Traveling internationally with children for the first time comes with a bit of anxiety. How will they handle the 13 hour flight? The jet lag? The food? Rest assured, it will all work out one way or another! Here are a few things I learned after 15 days abroad with my family of four.
“mypootle helps travelers discover destinations with soul” and because of this, we thought they would be the perfect partner for our Let’s Go To Morocco Sweepstakes! You read right… we’re giving away a Moroccan adventure to one lucky family. We went there. Now you can, too! This sweepstakes will kick off on Monday June, 2nd and we can’t wait to share all of the details, but until then, mypootle is sharing their top hotel picks for family travel. From African safari’s to Normandy Chateau’s, mypootle has you covered!
Toddlers, tweens or teens, travelling as a family poses some quite interesting challenges. Ever since the mypootle HQ increased its headcount with a pint-sized pootler, trips away have become really rather complicated; once dreamed of havens of stylish tranquility we realize are actually adult only retreats with their doors and swimming pools firmly shut to anyone under the age of 14, although the suite may be roomy with a claw-foot bath, we now seek inter-connecting rooms so that we don’t tiptoe around our slumbering mini-explorer in the dark. Whilst the restaurant may come with all sorts of stars, it’s important that we have a kiddy meal available at 6pm. From baby-sitting to self-catering apartments, playrooms to early dinners, here are our pick of the best places for families; places that will ensure that you’ll all have an enjoyable holiday.
Long haul flights can look a little daunting if you have an active, energetic toddler in tow, but if you are coming from England’s winter then we suggest South Africa. With its sunny climate, dramatic scenery and unbeatable wildlife is top of our list. More Quarters, Cape Town is the perfect city-escape for families with kids of all ages. Super stylish and spacious apartments, the 1-bedroom spaces can sleep 3, the 2-bedrooms sleep 4-5 and there’s even a house for 8! Apartments come with a fully fitted kitchenette, so head to Neighbourhoods Market in the Old Biscuit Mill to stock up on artisanal goodies including organic veggies, cheese, wine, olive oil, pesto and chocolate. Kid plus: See penguins at Boulder’s Beach.
No trip to South Africa would be complete without a safari and Madikwe Safari Lodge is a fantastically kid friendly lodge in the malaria free Madikwe Game Reserve. There are two family suites and a mind-boggling number of activities to keep the little ones busy, from family safari drives and Bug CSI to making molds of tracks, painting and drawing. If your little one wants to squelch around, then they can help the ranger wash the safari vehicle whilst there are also chances to try out their culinary prowess with pizza making in the boma. Kid plus: The Ecohouse will keep them out of mischief in case of bad weather.
Pack the bags and family and retreat to Monte da Vilarinhain Portugal, a hilltop refuge in the southwestern corner of the Algarve, just a stone’s throw from the unforgettable beaches of Costa Vincentia. With a mix of apartments and studios, most with their own kitchen (a few share kitchens) or kitchenette, there is a family friendly spirit at Vilarinha and children (from babes to teens) are welcome. There is no shortage of things to do! Little adventurers can swing, slide and climb in the adventure playground, there are mountain bikes to ride, a lovely pool, over 30 hectares of valley to explore and beautiful beaches close by. Kid plus: For toddlers, there is a playroom with many toys! If you fancy European city hopping, then let us suggest a few seriously stylish children friendly boltholes. In Florence, stay at Casa Howard, an eclectic B&B just moments from the city’s beating Renaissance heart and book the Play Room with its connected sitting room and free-climbing wall. Kid plus: There is a Walt Disney library to pick and choose from, perfect for tired little pootlers at the end of the day. In hip Berlin, Ackselhaus & Blue Room offers a great way to experience the city as a family. Some rooms and apartments sleep 4 and many come with their own kitchenette. It’s leafy and secluded, located close to cafes, parks and sights and breakfast is served until midday, so no need to rush in the morning. Kid plus: iPads to rent – pre-loaded with films, music and books!
Safari in Kenya’s Northern Frontier at Sabuk Lodge. Set slightly apart from the main lodge, the Eagle Cottages come with 2 en-suite bungalows (one king and one triple), a sitting room, plunge pool and a dedicated team to look after you. The lodge itself is still a family home and inside is comfortably, elegant and rustically stylish, there are sofas with colourful cushions to throw yourself onto, woven rugs and through it all runs gnarled wood, stone boulders and makuti thatch. There is no minimum age, a baby listening service and early meals for those with early bed times are available. Kid plus: Camel trekking! Live like an aristocrat and take the family to a French chateau in green gastronomic Normandy. Chateau de Saint Paterne is brilliantly child friendly; some rooms come with a little side room with both single and bunk beds while baby monitors can be provided. The gardens are home to a gorgeous pool, trampoline, badminton, croquet, Ping-Pong and plenty of run-around let-off-steam space. With the delights of Normandy to explore, its idyllic villages, beaches and rolling hills, a short stay here may not be long enough… Parent plus: A little port decanter sits in the bedroom.Dar Les Cigognes is a supremely stylish boutique hotel in Marrakech. The riad, which takes its name (“house of storks”) from the long legged birds that circle their nests on the palace ramparts just across the street, is a former wealthy spice merchant’s house which has been extensively redesigned by the architect Charles Boccara transforming it into a luxurious and stylish Moorish retreat. This hotel has large central courtyards complete with fountains, citrus and palm trees, numerous little salons and staircases and is one of the few riads to offer inter-connecting rooms. Irresistibly calming, Dar Les Cigognes is the perfect place to retreat to after a day spent haggling in the souks or sipping mint tea and taking breakfast on the terrace is breathtakingly lovely. Kid plus: Helping to make the yummy pastries… or maybe the best bit is actually eating them!
“Can you find Iceland on the map? I’ll give you a hint, it’s in the North and it’s in the Atlantic Ocean.”
We’ve been traveling since our kids were very small and now that my twin boys are nearly six, we’re finding it’s getting a lot easier and a lot more fun… and they’re really curious about where we’re going to go next! Our last trip was a European trip which included Iceland and Denmark that were new to both my husband and me, we weren’t sure what to expect. But, that is the adventure in traveling with our family and all of us learn a lot along the way. For me, the toughest part of packing is realizing I can’t bring 5 pairs of shoes or outfits that I “might” wear… that space goes to an extra pair of shoes for the kids or a just-in-case outfit for them if they spill or have an accident. We like to travel lightly so that we can take public transportation and walk with our luggage if we have to. But every family travels differently! For us, here are a few of our favorite tips and maybe they might be helpful to you too:
The first thing we do when we book a trip is find it with our kids on a map we have in our office. We talk about how many hours it will take to get there by plane or train and discuss where it is in comparison to other places we’ve been. We wonder together if it will be hot or cold and if there will be swimming pools or animals to see. We think about the food that is grown there and what we might like to eat.
Then we buy books. Sometimes I buy them online so they show up when we first start talking about a trip, or the kids and I go to the library or bookstore to pick them up together. We like picture books that are set in the place we’re visiting or travel books about the place. If we can find a family-friendly DVD we do that too. For our recent Iceland trip, my guys enjoyed the travel clips on the Tourism Bureau’s website. We also like the Dodsworth books by Tim Egan -we’ve read them for Paris and Tokyo and we’re curious where Dodsworth will travel next.
If the country speaks a different language we make sure we know at least “hello” and “thank you”. Dover Publications makes coloring books that are in French, Spanish and English and Usborne Books have great 1000 words books in many languages too. We’ve found that if the kids can say “hello” and “thank you”, many people are much more receptive to us bringing our kids almost anywhere.
A couple days before the airport we buy a small toy that’s under $10. This saves the panic of having to find souvenirs or treats for the kids when we get somewhere to entertain them, and it gives them something to look forward to after they nap on the plane, or get to the airport or whatever the agreed pact is for opening the toy.
And when the travel day arrives, we think of some kind of walking/running/energy-burning activity before the flight – especially if it’s a long one! We wake up extra early if we want don’t want a late night in our destination or we nap if we want to keep them up to get our family on a new time schedule if we cross a couple time zones. We’ve found that walking and taking public transit to the airport from our home in Seattle gets a lot of pre-trip energy out and saves us a few extra dollars for coffee at the airport. Which is definitely another travel must for my husband and I!