If you are one of those parents who believes that travel brings a family closer together, and cannot imagine going on a holiday without your little ones, then you are in sync with the Australian parenting-duo, Andy and Sonia.
The couple is behind the super successful YouTube channel AndymetSonia, and loves travelling with their sons, Jordan (3.5 years) and Levi (1 year) across the globe. In fact, ever since they became parents, Andy and Sonia say they cannot imagine going on a holiday without their two boys, as they don’t want them to be left out of shared experiences.
They want travel to be just like other moments of family togetherness, which create wonderful memories and “good culture”.
Says Sonia, “We like to bring them with us [everywhere] because we think it is important to travel together as a family.”
For Andy and Sonia, the main point of travelling is to have fun and create memories together. One should be able to “look back at photos or video footage,” Sonia says. For example, when their elder son Jordan remembers things they did during their travels, Sonia finds it really special. “You can’t really buy memories…you can’t really do that.”
Having kids doesn’t mean no travel, it means different travel
When you have kids you don’t stop travelling because it becomes more challenging. You just start travelling differently.
Just ask Sonia, who is an expert at adapting holiday plans to accommodate parenthood. For example, in the past, Sonia loved hiking and climbing mountains. Now, with two very young kids, those kind of adventures have to be put on hold. But that certainly does not mean cutting back on travelling.
In fact, the three-and-half year old Jordan has already been to Finland, Indonesia, Greece and more recently Japan (which was incidentally also little Levi’s first international foray).
The kids may have changed the choice of destinations, but they have not slowed down their parents’ pace – the family still travel at least twice a year.
Here are six tips that Andy and Sonia want to share with you, that will help you have a great and memorable family holiday, no matter where you go.
1. Pick a suitable destination
How do you know if the destination you are going to is family-friendly?
Here is a clue:
If locals are friendly and love children, then the destination becomes family-friendly. Bali and Croatia are good examples, according to Andy and Sonia.
Recently, Andy and Sonia were in Bali with the kids. They were pleasantly surprised at how genuinely helpful and friendly people were when they saw them struggling with the little ones.
Sonia appreciated this quality very much—it taught them and their kids how helping fellow human beings makes us better individuals. “We found the same thing in Croatia,” she says. “Everybody was so polite and so friendly to the kids.”
Andy adds that while packing for destinations with warmer climates is easier than packing for colder climates, they don’t let that dictate the choice of their destinations. But you may want to consider the weather of the place you are headed to and if it is indeed the right time of the year.
When choosing your accommodation it is also important to get the choice of hotel right. There must be good service and they should have a menu that caters to your family’s tastes.
For example, during a recent vacation to Osaka (you catch watch the video of their time here at the end of the article), Andy and Sonia stayed at Holiday Inn®. All their needs as a family were taken care of, making their experience at this destination even more enjoyable.
2. Always keep health and safety in mind and know where to pick up supplies in an emergency
Some challenges or common mistakes parents face while traveling include the following:
- Researching baby supplies: Find out where to buy baby formulas and wipes from before starting on the trip.
- Bring your own medicines: “The most challenging thing (during an overseas holiday) is to get sick,” says Sonia. “Once they (kids) get sick, everything is on hold. If you have not brought along your local medicine from back home, it’s quite challenging to find what you are supposed to give them. Sometimes, it might not be in the language you speak…it might be very confusing. We always make sure that we have the first aid kit and we have (medicines) like painkillers and Nurofen.”
- Changing water could lead to little ones falling sick: Drink only bottled water or sterilise the water before using it. In fact, Sonia shares that they had previously carried sterilisers on some of their holidays.
3. Planning the day is key to getting the most out of it
Once at the destination, a good way to plan your stay is to include activities that are relevant to your family. For example, Andy and Sonia planned their daily activities in Osaka around their own interests, and their kids’ habits and schedules.
Says Sonia, “through trial and error, we learned that our children need a nap before any big activity. You must know the routine of your child, and when they are at their most alert and active and schedule the most hectic activities for then.”
They follow these guidelines when it comes to planning out their day while on vacation:
- It is important that kids follow their normal routine as much as possible. Try to schedule your family’s programmes and activities around your kids’ nap- and bed-times, so you won’t have to deal with over-tired, cranky little ones.
- Optimise “me-time” for each parent in relation to kids’ nap times! For example, while little Jordan and Levi are asleep, their parents take turns to do their own things when on holiday. So Andy goes and gets his coffee and Sonia ducks out to get some shopping done. “It is important that everyone is having a good time, whatever that means. We make sacrifices for each other,” declares Sonia.
- Take advantage of your morning-fresh little ones to head out on exciting adventures such as a trip to the zoo.
- If your child is a picky eater, find a restaurant that sells food your kids might enjoy. “Sometimes, kids are quite picky, so eating out is quite a challenge,” says Sonia. “A lot of the times we would take away and eat back at the hotel. Usually, we would search and see if there is a friendly restaurant or cafe that sells food that our kids might like.”
- In case they were unsure of the food choices available at a particular place, the couple suggests you carry food that the kids are used to eating (they carried rice and seaweed for example) at home, so that they are at ease, and your holiday carries on smoothly.
4. Practice Zen: Keep calm and holiday on!
When travelling with kids, there will be many unpredictable events that crop up that may trigger your anger: stay mentally calm in such occasions.
“In terms of mental space, it is important to stay calm,” says Andy. “Kids can be quite unpredictable. When you are on a plane or even in other settings, children could be very unpredictable. So, it is a healthy tip for parents to stay calm and not be sensitive when you are lacking sleep or lacking food. I think the easiest way is to laugh at each other. Work together as a team.”
“It takes one second to lose it and ruin the rest of the day,” adds Sonia. “That’s a shame. You are on a holiday and once your mood is spoiled, it takes a while to build that momentum again.”
So, be calm and embrace the moment; if something unpleasant happens, laugh it off.
Also, Andy and Sonia’s golden rule of one child per parent will help you stay calm during your family holiday!
5. Communicate with your kids
Part of travelling is learning about different cultures and respecting their traditions. When you are travelling with kids, they may not be sensitive to local culture, customs and traditions.
That’s why it is important to talk to your kids about what they can’t do: as the saying goes, when in Rome, do as the Romans do.
“Tell them and explain to them why they can’t do certain things in different countries because of the different cultures,” advises Andy. A nice thing to do is teach your kids simple phrases in the language of the country you are visiting. It’s a lovely gesture for children to greet or say goodbye to people in their local language.
6. Explore a new destination in a different way
On a recent trip to Osaka, Andy, Sonia and the kids decided to explore the city through their five senses – an idea they got from www.LittleBigTravellers.com. They absolutely loved this fresh, new way of experiencing their destination!
Says Sonia “When you are travelling to a new destination, there are many things that you will just miss, or go about doing the regular touristy things. However when we had to use our senses to explore the city, it made everything more deliberate and intentional.”
As a result they found that their experiences were heightened and made much more memorable, compared to how they could have experienced a culturally rich city like Osaka if they had approached it without the sensorial approach.
We’ll leave you with a quote from Andy that appropriately sums up why you should travel as much as possible with your children: “The world is a big place and there are so many different cities, languages, cultures, food…I think it is like a one big playground. The main takeaway that we have learnt and the kids have learnt is to widen the perspective and broaden horizons in a way to kind of see outside their own country, as well because they are so many exciting things waiting for them all over the world.”
WATCH! AndymetSonia travel to Osaka with kids:
We hope these practical tips by Andy and Sonia will inspire you to plan your next family holiday with more confidence and ease!
This article was brought to you by Holiday Inn®. Explore Osaka for more unique experiences to have with your kids at www.LittleBigTravellers.com. At Holiday Inn®, kids 12 and under stay and eat for free! Discover the Joy of Travel with us today.