Trekking abroad for an adventure with children can be stressful, but oh so rewarding if you get it right. When any of our family clients ask for any travel recommendations, we point them in the direction of Travel Without Tears - founder Sally Webb is the guru of planning a family friendly holiday so we caught up with her to get her top travel tips.
What is Travel Without Tears?
I was working as a travel editor when I had my son, Archie, and I realized pretty quickly that I would have to either change my life and my job or take him with me on my adventures. I chose the latter. Through trial and error and some very funny moments I became a bit of an expert on travelling with kids, but not just travel – really meaningful, experiential travel where the kids really get to touch the culture they’re experiencing. I spent years dolling out advice and encouragement to friends and colleagues – including on destinations that might suit them and their kids for holidays – and it occurred to me that there was a market for this, consulting to families who want assistance in putting an incredible itinerary together or matching them with a travel provider who specializes in travel in a certain area. Ultimately I’m passionate about getting families to travel, especially those who lack the confidence to do it.
How many family focused destinations do you cater for?
There's no set number - we don't do "tours" as such and those on the website (Italy, South Africa, Rajasthan, Lord Howe Island, Vietnam, Spain, Borneo, East Africa and Singapore) are just an indication of places we go/can organise a trip to. We can make it work regardless of destination.
What's the most popular locations families are booking?
I’ve consulted on many itineraries to Italy, as well as itineraries in the UK, Ireland, and the USA, but both India and Africa are proving popular for more adventurous trips.
Any stand out moments from travelling with your own children?
There are many. One that always makes me laugh is the baby into the bassinet incident. This is an extract from my book: “Travel Without Tears: 645 ways for families to take on the world”
The chicly dressed Air France cabin attendant casts a withering look at me and then at 18-month Lulu. Our flight from Paris to Singapore has just levelled out and the attendants are delivering the coveted sky cots to parents travelling with babies.
“Ziz bebe will not fit in ziz bassinet,” she announces emphatically.
“This baby will fit into this bassinet,” I counter. “She did on the way over and she will on the way back.”
Spurred by my very first long-haul flight with Lulu’s older brother Archie, when the sky cot request got lost in the system, I had requested the bassinet right at the start of the booking process and confirmed it repeatedly several times before we flew. There was no way I was going to sit with Lulu on my lap for the entire flight.
The cabin attendant makes tut-tutting sounds and continues to glare. She has a point; set up, the bassinet looks smaller than the one on our last flight and there’s a clearly marked sign – “maximum weight 10kg, maximum length 70cm”. It’s the peril of codeshare travel; there’s a huge variation in the size of bassinets on different airlines. I try to recall how much Lulu weighs – we’d last checked several months earlier during routine vaccinations - I have a nasty feeling she is hitting the 12kg mark. But I’m not letting on.
So we stuff Lulu into the bassinet, her little feet sticking up over the edge. If we push her feet in, her head pushes and rubs against the side. Too much Lulu, not enough bassinet. It’s like Cinderella’s stepsister trying to squeeze into the magic slipper to claim the hand of the prince. Only the princely prize, on this occasion, is a flight where the baby can sleep.
Clearly French babies don’t get fat. And they certainly don’t get long.
Favourite travel apps?
I think of these in two categories – useful planning tools (for me) and educational apps for the kids. In the former category I’d include Tripit which combines all the elements of your travels in one itinerary. Packing Pro is great for getting organised. I’ve just downloaded the XE Currency app. I’ve used website for years but only recently realised they had an app. And I’ve heard good things about Google Translate. You hold your camera up to a sign in a foreign language and it translates it for you – great if you’ve arrived somewhere and don’t know the language. I’ll be road-testing it on our next trip.
I’m not sure why I bother hunting apps down for my kids. At 11 and 9 they are much more likely to find them for me. But I have had success with Duolingo which drills you on basic words in the language you choose. And I want them to start making dairies – so we’re going to give Travel Diary App a go.
If you or someone you know is planning the ultimate family holiday - capture your adventure (like some our recent clients above did!) and preserve special travel memories with everyone in the frame...