I am so grateful to Libryia who was gracious enough to give me access to some of the exceptional women in her Facebook group, Wandering Moms. Because of her willingness to share you can see how easy it is to travel the world with your kids. If they can do it then you can too!
These women are from different parts of the world, they have completely different circumstances and they make travel a priority in their lives and the lives of their children. If their names are in blue please click it to be taken to their preferred social media channel and check out their individual travel styles, tips, and pictures!
What is your secret for being able to travel with such young children? My secret to being able to travel with young children is to take my time, be flexible, and don’t take things too seriously. I have an itinerary, but if things don’t go according to plan, it’s not a big deal. I schedule in plenty of unstructured play time in between excursions.
How do you keep them occupied on the plane To keep my kids occupied on the plane, I pack toy bags. Basically, I buy toys and activities from the dollar store and put them in freezer ziploc bags. Every hour, my kids get a new bag. The bags have items like miniature cars, crayons & coloring books, puzzles, mini dolls, etc. that keeps them busy. The toys should be things your kids haven’t seen before to keep them engaged. Also pack lots of snacks you know your kids will love. This usually does the trick. I also pack lavender essential oil and Bach flower remedy for kids just in case they get any anxiety. But I’ve never had to use it (yet).
How do you decide what you will be doing throughout your days when you travel? Do you give your kids any say-so on what they will get to do? My kids are pretty young but I do ask them what they want to do. I plan my days by choosing one structured activity a day. I alternate between things I would love and things the kids would love. On days where I do something the kids might think is boring, like wandering around the Louvre, I sandwich it between park/playground time. Playgrounds in other cities and countries are a great way to learn about the city from local parents.
I always find a great tip on where to eat or what to do that’s off the beaten path by hanging out at local playgrounds.
Approximately how many trips do you take a year with your kids? I take about 4 trips a year with my kids. Three trips in the states and one international trip. I like to travel every three months…it keeps me sane.
Gabrielle and her family are currently living in Mexico!
What made you decide to move to Mexico with your family?
Following the sudden and unexpected passing of my mother, my husband and I decided that there was no time like the present to begin living the life of our dreams. We were married in Mazatlán just over seven years ago and always talked about moving here. When one door closed, a window opened and we leapt at the opportunity to start a new life abroad. We saw a chance to live more with less, be more present and attentive parents, build businesses we were passionate about and provide an amazing life-changing educational experience for our kids.
How long did it take to move from the day you decided to move until you got on the plane?
We decided to move on July 5, 2016. We signed a lease in Mazatlán that day. We boarded a plane on October 15th, 2016 with ten suitcases and a few carry-on bags. It took us three months to make final arrangements and make our big move. We likely could have moved in less time, but we preferred to move after the rainy season ended.
Do you work in Mexico? If so, what do you do?
Both my husband and I are digital nomad entrepreneurs. I am an author and consultant and I help women seamlessly transition to location independence and successfully navigate the moving abroad process. My husband is a writer and speaker and he is the creative video editing genius behind our family’s YouTube vlog.
What do you do about school for your kids?
We have three children aged 6, 5, and nearly 4. They are currently enrolled in a local Mexican public school. The school is full-day Spanish immersion and they have been students since November 2016. We are very impressed with the level of education they are receiving. Their Spanish is improving immensely, considering they moved to México with very little prior exposure. This has been an incredible learning experience for all three.
You are currently living in Beijing, China. Why are you there and what do you do? I am currently teaching English at an International School in Beijing, China. One day, I decided to stop living a life of fear and pursue my life long dream of teaching abroad.
How long have you been there, how long will you be there and why did you choose Beijing? My seven year old daughter and I have been in Beijing for almost 11 months. We will be here for a total of four years. I initially wanted to teach in the Middle East. However, I was unable to get a teaching position there. After many interviews and failed attempts, I almost gave up on my search. The hiring agency that I used suggested I try China. I had an interview the very next day and was hired by my school.
How did you family react when you told them you were moving to China? My mom and dad and a few friends were a little hesitant about me moving to China. My older brother encouraged me to follow my dream and move. He has even come for a visit.
What have been some of the biggest adjustments to living in China? One of my biggest adjustments has been learning how to survive in a place where I don’t speak the language. I did research prior to coming here and everything I read said it’s not necessary that you learn Chinese. I have since learned that although it isn’t necessary, Chinese will helpful because many people here do not speak English. I’m normally an independent person who doesn’t like to ask for help. This past year, I have had to reach out to my Chinese co-workers and others who speak Chinese for assistance. I plan to take Chinese lessons when we return in the fall.
I look forward to the day when I can have a conversation with the little old Chinese women who look at me and smile. I can just tell they are full of knowledge.
Your daughter is only 2 yet you have traveled to 10 countries with her. Some women think that’s impossible, how do you make the ‘impossible’ work for you? I started travelling with my daughter just before she turned 1. I never saw it as impossible as I had always travelled before she was born and it was always the plan that she would come with me after her birth. As a single mother it just takes a lot more planning as everything falls solely on you. I’ve heard people say that they worry about tantrums and picky eating etc. Yes that is something you will face, but a tantrum being thrown at your local supermarket versus at supermarket in the French Rivieria? What is the difference? To me it is the same difference.
What countries have you taken your daughter to and how does she react to being in such different environments? We have been to France, Monaco, Canary Islands (Spain), Germany, Sweden, Portugal, Japan, Hungary, Seychelles, South Africa.We started off with a short trip to France (I’m in the UK) just to test the waters. When that was fine we ventured further afield. I haven’t taken her anywhere where there has been a drastic culture shock. Everywhere we have been has pretty much had the same amenities that we have at home. I find people are friendlier, more helpful and more open if you are travelling with a child, so that is really nice.
I also haven’t been taken aside for a random check since travelling with a child. I get to see more because I plan more activities because of her. With regards to food she is just as picky at home as she is abroad but the presence of any meat/ sausage solves that issue! I pack rice cakes and oat biscuits, crisps, so that she has something familiar. She loves beach destinations and goes crazy about sand and water.
Why do you think it’s important to expose your daughter to travel at such an early age?
- I think it is important to expose them to travel at an early age so that they know that the world is their oyster and that they are not restricted to the area, city or country where they live. This strikes a cord even more with me now as I see so many black kids around me getting into trouble and institutionalised defending their streets. I wonder if they would have so much loyalty to the few streets around them if they had been exposed to international travel, would they be so wrapped up with getting into petty trouble if they had something more to look forward to, experiences that lift them out of their immediate surroundings?
- I also believe it is the best education a child can get, exposing them in real life to things that they would otherwise only read about or see on TV. I believe travel also contributes to a more openminded child embracing of all kinds of people.
Do you keep your daughter on a sleep schedule and how does she deal with jet lag? What things do you do to keep her occupied on the plane and is traveling with your daughter easy?
- She generally goes to bed at 7pm whether at home or away, which is important for me as I work online in the evenings, however I am not that rigid about it. So for instance one of the hotels we stayed at had a mini disco at 7pm, so her bedtime was extended so that she could attend. I do find that if she doesn’t go to bed at a reasonable hour her behaviour deteriorates so we stick to it as much as possible. For longer flights I choose a red eye so she sleeps most of the time and for shorter flights she sleeps too so I haven’t had to entertain her too much on the plane beyond loading up with milk and snacks. when she does wake up she sometimes watches the airline’s kiddie films or I’ll give her some crayons and a colouring book.
The worse jetlag we experienced was when travelling to Japan with an 8 hour time difference. We were both wiped out for 2 days and I quickly realised that the week we were staying there wasn’t enough time as by the time we had adapted to the time difference it was time to go again. I got around it by letting her sleep in the buggy when we were out so she if she was tired she would just sleep and I’d push her around.
I would say that travelling with a child is relatively easy once you have adequately planned. So once accommodation, flights, transfers, vaccinations, transports, activities etc are sorted out its pretty plain sailing, however if you run into an issue it is a lot more stress to deal with than when you are travelling solo. For instance if your accommodation is not up to standard and you have to find somewhere else it’s much more difficult doing that with a young child to take into consideration. There are also things you need to think about which you may not have considered until you come across an issue, like elevators, balconies, windows, stairs.
I remember in Japan the windows were so low she could have easily just opened a window herself and fallen out. Another place the barrier on the balcony was so low with huge gaps that a young child could easily slip through. These are things I hadn’t thought about until confronted with them.
Now my daughter can walk I tend to stick to ground floor properties especially where there is a balcony!
When did you start traveling with your kids and where was your first trip? I’ve been doing local traveling with my son which is age 10 since he was 5yrs old. Our first major trip was September 2015 to Disney World.
What is it about Theme Parks that makes your family happy? My family and I are big on excitement and roller coasters. Every park we’ve visited has a different experience so over all I would say that what makes us happy about theme parks is riding all the main attractions, interacting with characters and also we love to see how the park is decorated.
You have 3 trips coming up this year, how did you pick those destinations, how long will you be there and what tips can you share that you use when to save money while you’re traveling? I actually picked Washington DC because I wanted to do a more educational vacation for my kids. Snice most trips are focused on excitement. I’ve had my eye on the African American museum for sometime. We will be here for 3 days. Hawaii has been on our bucket list for sometime so when we were able to snag cheap flights it made this Island an easy pick. We will be here for 5 nights. Universal Adventure Island and Volcano Bay were both picked by my 10yr old son. He had such a great time here that he wanted to visit again this year. Snice we have feee tickets compliments to Universal’s understanding guest relations. Trip duration is 5 days.
My tip that has helped us save big time on travel is simply to travel in the off season and be flexible when it comes to booking flights. My bonus tip is to invest in a emergency Piggy bank and lose $20-$50 each pay for 3 months and use this towards your travel expenses. Thank me later.
Where is your first international trip and how involved are your kids in picking your destinations? Our first international trip is Dubai. My daughter is 2yrs old so she really doesn’t help picking places unless it’s Disney or Sesame Place. My son on the other hand has picked 80% of our travel. Dubai is his idea. Once he so the water park at the palm Atlantis he was sold.
You travel often and you have 2 young children. How do choose the destinations and how do you keep your kids occupied while you’re there? Most of the travel we’ve done with our toddlers were based on events we had to attend: weddings, school reunions, family reunions, work conferences, etc. So my husband and I know that one of us has to go anyways and we decide to make it a family trip.
However, last year I wanted to celebrate my birthday in Europe and see some of my close friends and family I hadn’t seen in years. So I made it a priority to look for flights deals to Europe.
We keep out kids occupied while on vacation the same way we do it while at home: we make sure to bring some of their favorite toys/books, we take advantage of public spaces like parks and playgrounds, and we also try to go out to eat and go sightseeing that way they get to discover new things.
Why is traveling with your kids important to you and have you seen any impact in them and the way they think since you’ve been traveling? I grew up in a multicultural environment where I could speak fluently in 4 languages. Travel and culture was just part of who I was growing up. I like it so much that I got a PhD in Tourism Sciences! I’m passionate about cross-cultural understanding and I want my children to be experienced to as many cultural exchanges as possible.
Some people think that they’re no advantage for kids to travel at a young age, but I disagree because although they don’t learn the obvious that an adult would learn, they still learn a lot, from socializing with kids to expanding their taste buds, or even how to behave in a crowded area.
You are pregnant with twins (congrats!) how soon after their birth will you travel with them? The twins will be here by August and I’m planning another family trip for my birthday (in November) to Mexico, but don’t tell my husband . So they will be about 3 months old.
what are your top 3 tips to mothers who think they can’t travel with their kids?
- It’s easier than you think: don’t over stress about what to pack. Chances are you can find exactly what you need for your kids at your destination (diapers, formula, toys…).
- Accept help from strangers: most people will offer you a hand.
- Don’t stress about the trip to your destination (flight, packing, security screenings…) because that’s just a small part of your whole travel experience.
Where do you live and how did you choose that particular destination? I currently live in Abu Dhabi. I received a job opportunity in the area and was interested in moving to Dubai but was excited about the chance to move near the area.
How old is your son and how has he adjusted to living abroad? My son is 5 years old and he enjoys living in Abu Dhabi. For the first two months, he struggled with leaving our family but immediately made friends and adjusted to life abroad.
How did you prepare for your move abroad? I joined several facebook groups and asked a lot of questions to people who already were living in the area. Also, I watched several online video chats. Facebook has proven to be instrumental in helping me prepare and adjust to living abroad and the Abu Dhabi area. The article you featured Tanai Bernard helped place the wheels in motion for achieving a life long dream of moving abroad.
What things did you wish you knew now that you didn’t know when you moved? I wish I knew how to speak Arabic before moving to Abu Dhabi.
You have been living in The UAE since August 2016. How is daily life different for you than it was back in the States and how does your daughter enjoy living there?
- When we lived in Georgia, Kiyah went to the school where I taught. Last year, her classroom was right next to mine. This year, Kiyah participated in a homeschool program. She went to a flat right in our housing complex and completed her work online. Her teacher and classmates were amazing, and having such a great homeschool experience made the transition to life in the UAE a lot easier.
- We currently live right next to a mosque. Kiyah did not know what a mosque was until we moves here. Now, she hears the call to prayer several times each day, and can has been able to visit the the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. One of the differences that Kiyah and I both enjoy is the wide variety of restaurants that deliver in the UAE. FoodOnClick.com is very special to us.
- Daily life in the UAE isn’t all that different than what we experienced in the U.S. We go to work/school, come home and talk, Kiyah goes to basketball practice, we eat dinner, take care of household chores, and prepare for the next day. Although we do eat take out/delivery more, and we use a laundry service for our clothes, I chose not to hire a maid, because I want Kiyah to help with chores. I want her to learn how to be responsible.
Is being Black and living in the UAE difficult? Have you had any issues at all since you moved there?
- I don’t think that being Black and living in the UAE is difficult. To be completely honest, I feel like it is easier for me to be Black in the UAE than it is for me to be Black in the U.S.A. The toughest part about it is balancing the sense of relief that I feel because Kiyah and I left the US and we don’t have to deal with an overwhelming amount of racism, and also dealing with the guilt that comes from knowing that many of our loved ones can’t just leave the US. If I didn’t pay attention to the social media pages of people in and from the US, I probably would not think about race much.
I will say that I have had to tell several sales associates in the UAE, “Ummm, thanks, but no thanks. I LOVE my melanin!” when they try to get me to buy their skin bleaching products.
What were some things that were different than what you were accustomed to but now you can’t imagine living without? I can’t imagine not having freshly squeezed juice several times a week. I definitely can’t imagine not being able to have all sorts of food delivered to my house. More than anything, I would hate to have to give up all of the opportunities that we have to visit other countries at an affordable price. Kiyah is now accustomed to flying with Etihad Airways. When we take domestic flights in the US, she gets offended by the lack of entertainment choices.
Your daughter is 8. How do you make sure to keep her entertained on your trips? You are taking her to Cuba and The Maldives this year, did she help you plan these trips and do you have any cost-cutting tips while you are traveling?
As an only child, Kiyah has learned to keep herself entertained. When we fly with Etihad, Kiyah is more than happy to ignore me by focusing on watching movies, listening to music, and playing games that the airline provides. During roadtrips, Kiyah often plays on her phone or tablet. She also reads books to me during our trips. We are both fans of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. Sometimes we play ” The Cracker Barrel Game.” When I was a little girl, my mom drove me and my brother from Michigan to Disney World in Orlando, Florida. My mom lives Cracker Barrel, so everytime we drove by one, she would say “Ooooh! Cracker Barrel!” Now, members of our family compete to see who can spot the most Cracker Barrel signs.
Kiyah was able to help me make our summer travel plans. We both wanted to take a cruise, because we have never been on a cruise. I also really wanted to visit Cuba. Kiyah and I decided to join the two and cruise to Cuba. We are flying to Tampla, Florida to board the cruise ship. When the cruise is over, we are going to visit Legoland in Florida. That has been on Kiyah’s list of places to travel for a long time, so she is very excited about that.
A trip to the Maldives has been on the top of my bucket list and my travel vision board for the past 3 years. Kiyah was not interested in a trip to the Maldives until I showed her the overwater bungalows, and told her that the Newman’s, our favorite family in the UAE would be goinjg to the Maldives with us.
I love a good deal. I encourage parents who like to travel with their children to shop around for a great travel deals. In addition to being a teacher, I am also a travel agent. People often shy away from using a travel agent because they think it will be more expensive. Using a travel agent save you a lot of time (and time is money. Plus, a lot of the agent’s “pay” is just the money Expedia, or another third party would receive).
Kiyah and I pack a lot snacks for our trips, because it is a lot less expensive than buying food at a resataurant. I also encouage people to try to travel with travel compatable friends to save money on gas for roadtrips and to split the costs of booking a hotel and sharing a room.
You will be traveling with 4Deep Travel Travel Trip led by Tanai Benard (Who was first featured here) how did you hear about that trip and is train travel something you do often? Yes! I am part of Tanai’s 4 Deep Train Travel trip and will be joining her and other Wandering Moms in Washington DC. The trip starts in Sacramento and will make stops in Denver, Chicago, Niagara Falls, Washington, DC, and Atlanta. Tanai reached out to me because she knew that I ran my own travel agency. I helped organize the trip and book train travel and hotel rooms along their epic journey.
I don’t let his diagnosis stop us from travelling anywhere. I first started travelling with my son when he was 2 months old, before he was diagnosed. After his diagnosis, I bought him a t-shirt that said “Be patient with me; I have Autism” and that became his travelling uniform. Every time we travelled by plane or cruise, he wore that shirt. I would go to airport and airline staff show them his shirt and ask that we get expedited service through Security and early boarding on the plane. We have never been turned down. And on many occasion, even fellow travelers would look out for my son. If he attempted to wander away or wasn’t following me closely, other passengers would get my attention or even direct him to me. And he always would have his “fun backpack” that was full of snack and items to entertain him.
Now that my son is older (16), he still travels with his “fun backpack”, which contains his iPhone, iPad and 3DS. He still has difficulties when we have down time (i.e., waiting, lining up, and standing in line). So, when we have down time, I allow him to play on his electronics. We have Global Entry and TSA pre-check, but I still ask for expedited service. In February 2017, for our flight to Copenhagen, I told the gate agent about my son and asked to board the plane first. He said “No problem. I understand…my aunt has Autism”…I wanted to give him a hug!
How do you navigate making sure your son has what he needs while you are traveling?
I always plan ahead and make sure my son has something to occupy his time. Most people can tolerate standing around (we will zone out, take a nap). But for kids with Autism or ADHD, standing or sitting “doing nothing” is very difficult for them. It’s like they have excess energy that needs to be burned off.
When I see my son getting antsy, I’ll tell him to walk around or he will walk in a circle or do some light pacing. It may seem weird to others, but it’s what he needs.
What tips would you give another mother who has a child with ADHD and/or Autism but is afraid to travel with her child?
Advocate for your child! Don’t be afraid to tell necessary people about your child’s challenges. I find that people in travel/tourism industry are very receptive to the needs of travelers with various disabilities. Be mindful that sometimes you can’t do the cheapest or easiest route for your child. If you are landing at CDG airport, taking the Metro to get to the city center is the cheapest/easiest/quickest way to Paris. But it requires a lot of walking from the terminal to the Metro station and can be very crowded (and potentially stressful for your child). So instead, maybe you splurge on a car service or Uber.
I always make reservations for sightseeing in advance; this lessens the amount of time waiting in lines. My son likes hop-on/hop-off tour buses. It’s a nice way to sightsee while travelling above ground and he can relax (less stressful than metro/subway).
We also have a deal; every day we try to do one activity for him (science/museums/zoo/aquarium/amusement park) and one activity for me (art museum). It’s a great way to introduce your child to be able to endure activities they may not like or are “boring”.
Why is it important for you to travel with your son?
Due to his disabilities, my son spends a lot of time by himself. I see traveling as a chance for him to explore outside our home and get exposure to different places. It’s also an opportunity for him develop independence skills by learning to navigate an airport, communicate with non-English speakers, and experiment eating different types of food.
How did you go about getting your job in Dubai and what made you want to move?
I obtained my teaching position via a recruiting agency for international schools. I utilized the access to their database of private, international schools and I began applying. I have a friend who currently lives in the UAE and she always has great things to say about the life there. I joined multiple FB groups related to teaching abroad and living abroad, many posters shared similar sentiments in regards to the UAE. Overall, the savings potential is high and the opportunity to travel is in abundance.
I just completed my 5th year teaching in a public school system and starting to feel the burnout. I figured, why not? Why not try something COMPLETELY different? Living abroad would be an opportunity of a lifetime and my daughter would have the ability to attend one of the world’s top schools. I was blessed to obtain a position at a top school in Dubai.
Your daughter is 11, how does she enjoy traveling with you? Have there been any moments where you though, “Wow, this is why I travel with her so she can experience/feel this.”
My daughter loves to travel. I took her on her first airplane ride (to Disney World) when she was 5. She was very intrigued by the airports and excited to be flying so high. That feeling made me want her to see and explore more of the world. I believe those experiences will make her a more well-rounded individual as an adult.
My family rarely took family vacations and I was 18 before I flew on an airplane for the first time. I want my daughter to be globally-minded as she grows up and what better way than to show her the world?
How do you go about saving for your trips and how do you decide where to go?
I save for our trips by utilizing payment plan options. For awhile, we would travel to Disney World every other year because it took me that long to save and pay for the package (flight, hotel, park tickets, meals, souvenirs, etc). I have taken her on cruises, again I utilize the payment plan options offered by the cruise lines. Several travel websites, like BookIt.com offer the ability to make payments on everything including flights, hotel, excursions, etc.
We always collaborate on where to go. I give her a list of options, we research possible activities, then compare our notes. She selected New York City when she was 7. That was an awesome trip because she was at an age where I was able to turn a lot of the encounters (like riding the subway and hailing taxi cabs) into teachable moments. She had learned about several landmarks, such as the Statue of Liberty and the 9/11 Memorial in school, this made her eager to see those landmarks in person.
How has travel changed you and your daughter? (Or how has it made you better)
It has strengthened our bond for sure. I’m a single mother and majority of our trips are just me and her. She knows the sacrifices we make at times so that we can travel and explore.
I involve her in the planning process and we always debrief after each trip. It gives her a sense of confidence she can take with her as she grows up and continues to travel.
Often, our friends and family comment on how lucky she is to have so many travel opportunities. I know she may take it for granted now, but I’m hoping those travel moments are some of her most memorable moments as she grows up.
You took your first international trip with your son while he was breastfeeding. Were there any challenges to traveling internationally with such a small child? If so, how did you overcome them?
The only challenge I experience was carrying him around in my arms while exploring downtown. Even though he could walk, it began to take a toll on me and what I had to do was buy a portable stroller to push him around in.
You are raising your son to be bilingual. Why is that important to you and how are you making sure he is completely bilingual?
It is important to me that my son is bilingual because I started learning a second language at a young age and I see how much opportunity it has provided me and others. Also his dad speaks Spanish as his first language so it’s important to me that my son is able to connect with the father’s side of the family. I am making sure that he is completely bilingual by speaking to him (since he was a baby) as much as I can in the second language and exposing him to it as much as possible. Also I make sure that I read to him in the second language and have him watch cartoons and movies in the second language. Another thing that I will do is have his child care provider speak to him in Spanish only.
You plan on moving out of the country, what preparations must be made to do something like that?
For me some preparations that I must make before I move out of the country will be to first secure a job and housing for my son and I. The second will be to find him a great school to attend and to know a little bit more about the place that we plan to live. Another preparation will be to downsize and take only with us what is needed.
A personal thing that I want to do before we leave is to buy investment property so that while I’m in a different country, I will still have income coming in from the USA.
What advice would you give to parents who want their kids to speak another language but they have no idea where or how to even start?
If possible, find your child a child provider that speaks the 2nd language. Buy books and show videos and music in the 2nd language. The more input and exposure the child has to the 2nd language, the better!
What do you think of these phenomenal women? Do you travel with your children?