Travel with Kids
We’re big believers in traveling with our kids in tow because in all honesty, if we kept waiting until the “time was right,” we’d never end up getting to see the world. And there’s so much to see, do, experience, live! Travel is in our bones, it has been since we first started dating and grew exponentially when Ryan chose a career in aviation that provided us the opportunity (hello employee travel benefits!) to travel the world whenever we could. Pre-kids, we traveled around Asia, Western Europe, Australia, Canada, Mexico and the United States by cars (ahem . . sometimes in U-Hauls), planes and trains. Post-kids, we’ve bopped around Europe, Iceland, sailed the Pacific Coast of California and Mexico, taken the kids to Japan as well as visited family in Canada and Mexico. We currently have our sights set on Central and South America in 2018, as well as exploring Eastern Europe and returning to Asia once again. We believe there is far more of this earth to see than we are likely to be able to accomplish in a lifetime, so bring ’em along every chance ya get!
As a result of our shared passion for globetrotting and exploring, our kids have learned to be curious of other cultures, mindful that things are different depending on where you travel, patient (because everything does not happen at warp speed in every other country or culture!) and adaptable to changing environments.
We’ll always be advocates for those with wanderlust and who need (or want) inspiration, advice or just tips and tricks on how to see more of the world with your kids in tow. We hope to inspire you to live in the moment, taking the times to do the things, and have the courage to take that leap of faith. We get it, it’s scary as hell, and even harder to bring the kids often times, but nothing worth having is easy, right? And sometimes the less you know of the outcome, the better. #planlessdomore
Here you can follow our globetrotting adventures with kids in tow:
Try flying stand-by as an airline employee A lot of folks, upon hearing that we enjoy some nice benefits being part of an airline family, comment (with envy), “Ohhh, you must get to fly everywhere for free! How awesome!” And yes, there are definitely some perks being airline employees who can fly on our own airline for “free” and many others for a pittance. But make no mistake, many of our #SAtraveladventures (SA, or “space available,” is code for “You might get on, you might not, but either way be prepared with a backup plan and NEVER lose your shit when you don’t get where you were hoping to go”) are just that–adventures. Last year, we went to Costa Rica on our own airline, which, on an international flight, means we pay the mandatory taxes for the flight (but not much else). Awesome right? Yes. It was. When we finally got there. But let me open the kimono a bit on how getting there actually works out when you’re a family of four travelling to a warm destination when lots of other paying customers (i.e., “revenued passengers” or “PAX”) want to go there too. We drive from our home in Northern California to San Francisco airport. Flight loads (or how many rev PAX, are booked, confirmed, checked in for the flight) look good. But something happens in the 2+ hours it takes us to drive to the airport (in this case, another carrier canceled a flight and rolled their PAX to the flight we were hoping to get on, which, coincidentally, was the last flight of the day to LAX–where we were connecting to our Costa Rica flight). Uh-oh. That means, as we check loads again when we are driving up to the airport parking lot, we see equates with NO seats available on our necessary flight to LAX. Upon checking in with the agent at the departures area, we learn that, as we suspected, there’s no chance in h**l that we are getting on that flight to LAX. And it’s nearly midnight, so no other carriers have a flight to LAX that will get us there in time for our connection to Costa Rica. We walk away from the check in area, which is complete mayhem because the other paid PAX are reeling from this news and frantically trying to ensure they, too, get on that flight…. and begin to figure out how to course correct. The new plan? We frantically book a one-way rental car (before the rental car agencies close for the night at midnight) from SFO and DRIVE to LAX. (We can’t drive our own car there because we were supposed to fly back to SFO and need our car here for the drive home). Yes, drive ALL NIGHT after being up all day, driving 2+ hours to SFO, and hope to get on the early morning flight out of LAX (around 8am) to Costa Rica. Here goes nothing! While the kiddos sleep, hubby and I haul booty down the I-5 South to LAX, checking traffic all the way and hoping we beat the morning LA traffic. We scream into the LAX rental car return center, rush to the check in area, get through security, then sit and hope we get on the Costa Rica flight (which incidentally has also gotten full overnight, Murphy’s law). And in the miracle of all miracles, we GET ON. WOOT! This year for spring break, I decided to get smart and book “positive-space” tickets on our own airline to get to Mexico. This time, I think, “No way I’m chancing my one opportunity to get to a beach since last year.” While I was, by miracle, able to get us confirmed seats on the Seattle-Puerto Vallarta leg of our trip, I wasn’t able to get PST (positive space tickets) for the short hop from our hometown to Seattle. No biggie! (I think). There are enough flights for that short hop, it’ll be no problem. *Famous last words.* Saturday, as we are prepping the house to get out of town, do all kinds of last-minute things that need doing and, oh yea, packing for the trip, we check the loads and discover that oh shnikes, the flights from SMF-SEA are horrendous. So we look at every other possibility to get to Seattle. (and I mean every other possibility)—like: SFO, SJC, OAK, Santa Rosa, San Diego, hell, even driving to Medford (Oregon) or Redman (Oregon) –both 5-7+ hour drives from home, to get a flight to Seattle. We check the loads and decide to just go a day earlier (TODAY, Saturday) and pack frantically–throwing things in suitcases, yelling out instructions to the kids to help us get on the road, because we need to leave for the airport 2 hours after checking the loads! Scene at the airport a couple hours later: We are at the gate, the flight is boarding, and it is becoming increasingly clear that many other non-revs have been at the airport all day and are desperate to get this last flight to Seattle tonight. There were 24+ non-revs listed for the previous flight and only 3 got on. So in addition to the 10+ people that were listed for our 8 pm flight, we now have the other 20+ people waiting for the flight we need to make our connection to Seattle. You can see where this is heading, right? We discuss the option of splitting (when the loads are bad, hubby and I discuss which one of us will go, and with which kid, if there are only 1-2 seats available). This, of course happens. Except the option this time is hubby can ride “jumpseat” (or JAX in airline lingo)–he can ride in the cockpit with the pilots and our older kid can ride as an unaccompanied minor in the back (i.e., in a regular seat by himself). Said older son is NOT happy about this option. And hubby points out that unless I’m willing…
In the summer of 2018, we decided to make a last-minute change to our month-plus planned summer vacation (to sail SV Dakota down the California coast and revisit our favorite Channel Island, Catalina) and instead went to visit family in three provinces up in Canada. We started our trip in Nova Scotia, then headed west to Quebec and finally spent the last part of our summer in Ontario. A trek of 3,100 kilometers, we booked some solid tires-on-asphalt time in our trusty rented minivan, sang (pitchless, most likely) along to some old favorites, and gave the kiddos a downright Griswold-like experience truckin’ along Canada’s roadways. One kid lost his first tooth in Northern Ontario (on what would have been his Grandfather’s 69th birthday!), the other celebrated his first double-digit birthday at his first sleep-away hockey camp and the adults celebrated a big (18 years!) wedding anniversary. Old memories were revisited, new ones were made and in between the chaos and kilometers, we reconnected, recalibrated, regrouped and found gratitude in the company of each other.
While we have a lot of goals and big dreams for 2019, I’m going to remind myself that it’s perfectly okay to DO less so we can BE more. #dolessbemore
The kids are out of school (on yet another school break), it’s cold where you live, maybe you’ve already been to Mexico and/or Hawaii and are looking for a place that’s warm, new (to you), exotic, beautiful, easy for North Americans (or English speakers) and fairly easy to get to. The problem? You’ve only got a week. Where do you go? COSTA RICA! Can you really do Costa Rica (or at least part of it) in a week? Yes! Perhaps it won’t be immersive travel, but it’s definitely enough time to visit this gorgeous country and knock a few of the typical tourist highlights off your list so that you can come back another time and do a deeper dive. And it’s an awesome place to go with kids! Quick facts about Costa Rica: Language: The government provides free education to all Costa Rican citizens from preschool through college, so most Costa Ricans speak wonderful English. There are also tons of English-speaking ex-pats who’ve moved here. Great if you’re a tad hesitant to travel to Central America because your Spanish skills are a little lackluster. If you’re like me, and wanted to practice Spanish more, the locals will kindly oblige you in Spanish conversation as well. Environmentalism: Costa Rica is a world leader in environmental efforts as well. The country plans to be carbon neutral by 2021 and was named the greenest country in the world (2009). It did Central America a solid by abolishing its military in the 1940s and began providing energy (solar, wind) to its neighbors (Nicaragua and Panama) to keep up peaceful relations (what a concept!!). As such, you won’t see a lot of garbage or waste in Costa Rica and there are recycling/waste sorting bins everywhere (garbage/aluminum/plastic/compostables). Food: Traditional Costa Rican dishes are typically Gallo Pinto or Casado (iterations of rice + beans with a protein). Admittedly a little uninspired, the abundance of tropical produce and fresh vegetables combined with the inventive + resourceful restauranteurs means you’ll never be lacking in awesome food choices.
After living on a sailboat, several international trips, and backpacking around Europe for 8 weeks with the kids, we’ve learned a thing or two about packing. Plus, as airline employee travelers, we’ve had to become pros at packing carry-ons only, since we never really know if we are going to get on the flight we are hoping for. Even if you do plan to check bags (which I rarely recommend unless you’re bogged down with infant car seats, strollers, etc. and even then I’d consider gate-checking those to avoid the luggage carousel), good packing prior to departure is key for success in getting to your destination with fewer snags (and stress) than necessary. Hopefully you can rip a page from our playbook and learn how we successfully pack for long and short-haul trips, carrying everything we need through security and on-board. So, here’s how you can pack like a boss (especially when traveling with kids!):
To continue reading about our traveling adventures with kids, click here.
For more on our journey sailing and living aboard S/V Dakota, click here.
For a peek at my passion for the written word, click here.