By Guest Blogger Monisha Iswaran
There’s really only so much you can learn in a classroom setting - life experience is the true teacher that we should all make the most of. The more different experiences and types of exposure you involve your kids to the more likely they are to turn out to be well-rounded, mature individuals. Not to mention, travelling as a family is known to be great for bonding and you will likely feel closer to each other by the end of the trip. So bear in mind that vacations are well worth the expense, and are more than just a good time. Here are 5 things your little ones will learn from travelling at a young age:
Want your children to broaden their skillsets and learn to do simple things for themselves quicker? Travel is one surefire way to do so. When you are busy moving in and out of hotels/accommodation, kids often have to occupy themselves or help with the transition process. This results in kids who are more attentive, helpful and involved, rather than sitting back and hoping that adults do all the work. Encourage your kids to help out as much as you can rather than telling them to get out of the way - this way they will learn heaps of skills.
The more different places your child gets to visit, and has to learn to exist in (albeit for short periods of time), the more adaptable they learn to be. This can be in terms of adapting to different living conditions, weather, culture of people, language etcetera. One of the most important skills of any professional or personal setting is being able to respond well and get along with a variety of people, no matter the circumstances. However, especially when your little ones are young, try and make their travel experience as comfortable as possible. Cots are portable and convenient, and having a familiar sleeping spot can be soothing to infants and toddlers, especially if you are travelling for long periods of time.
3. Going Technology-Free
Travelling is the perfect time to go technology free, and teach your kids the joy of tuning out from such devices. The sad thing is in this day and age most kids are overly attached to screens - ipad, televisions, iphones etcetera. Often times when travelling, good wifi spots are few and far between. Therefore, take a technology cleanse as a family - no emails from work, no sending selfies to friends…. And you might just find you teach your kids the art of work-life balance in the process. Dolls are a great way to entertain kids without having to tune into the internet. It’s how kids stayed amused before video games and Netflix so why not go old school?
Who can honestly say that they’ve been on a trip where every single event has gone as planned. Plans get messed up and that is simply life! Going on a trip as a family definitely teaches children the art of patience, particularly when things aren’t going your way. From missing a plane to getting stuck in a particularly bad traffic jam to losing luggage - dealing with disappointments and difficulties is a good skill to have!
Is there really anything more fun than heading out on a great open road, to explore and discover more than you ever knew was possible? Not for those of us bitten by the wanderlust travel bug. For most it is something they want to pass on to their children, as some of the best memories you’ll ever make will be on your first solo trip around Europe, or backpacking with friends, or with a group of strangers you meet in a foreign country and become mates with!
Travelling from a young age as a family treats children to the joys of exploring new countries and unfamiliar territories. Chances are they won’t want to give that up and will be doing exactly the same things with their young ones in a few decades.
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When we go on a holiday we love to spend time together as a family doing things we would not normally do. We have so many cherished memories that have been formed together as a family unit whilst on holiday adventures.
And whilst I love spending time with the kids - I also enjoy being able to have time without them! A family holiday that includes a kids club or child minding has always been a favourable criteria on the list for us when choosing a holiday.
Whether it is the kids club on a cruise ship, a resort child minding program or a babysitter, it is important to balance your holiday so that everyone comes back refreshed and having had a break.
These are my top five reasons for including a kids club on your family holiday.
Whilst I love having a meal with children where I have to clean up their spilled drink, feed them their vegetables, take them to the toilet five times and stop them from fighting with siblings, there is something to be said about a quiet adult only meal. We enjoyed ten years as a couple before the kids joined Itchy Feet Family - the occasional meal together as a couple whilst relaxed and on holiday is almost an essential rather than a luxury.
2. Cultural Experiences for the Kids
I really love the kids being surrounded by locals and learning some of their customs and traditions. Whether it be taking your shoes off before entering a room in Asia, learning to weave a basket and say Bula in Fiji, or having a Cowboy in Texas teach you to ride a horse - the kids gain experiences that are personal and memorable. I have never come across an un-caring child care worker in any of the kids clubs we have utilised around the world and they love to pass on their culture.
3. Opportunities to Perform
Kids clubs love giving kids an opportunity to perform in front of parents and guests and my kids love it! Master 10 emceed a kids end of cruise show in the theatre of a cruise ship, performed a stand-up comedy routine and danced with fellow cruising kids. Miss 7 performed a solo gymnastics/dance routine on stage of the same ships. Together they have performed cultural dances on the Hard Rock Hotel stage in Kuta as well as traditional Fijian dances in front of diners at a Nadi resort.
These opportunities don’t come up for kids every day and whilst they still have the innocence of no inhibitions I absolutely encourage it. Not because I want them to be performers - but I just want them to have an attitude to life that they will give anything a try.
4. Forming Friendships
The Itchy Feet kids love a holiday that means they get to form friendships and hang out with kids they meet on holidays. We have had holidays where they jump out of bed in the morning busting to get back to kids club and hang out with their new friends. There have been times where we have had to beg them to hang out with us! But what more could you ask for than your kids being kids hanging out and playing - that is what childhood is all about.
5. Lasting Friendships
With the digital world, kids can now make friendships at kids clubs that continue past the holiday. As we did in the bygone era of writing letters to Pen Pals, kids now exchange Musically or Instagram accounts and continue the conversation post-holiday. Who knows how these connections will pan out - I would love my kids to keep those friendships alive and learn the art of long-distance communication.
What have been your experiences with kids clubs on family holidays - what benefits or unique experiences have your kids had?
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
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I love whenever we go on holidays and hubby says - man I need to pack. Well yes you do however the packing task for him is quite a different experience than it is for me. I wonder if your household is the same?
Packing for me, as the mum, means packing not only my items but also everything required for the two kids. On top of this I also need to load hubbies clothes into the actual case - he only makes it as far as putting things out onto the bed and they magically pack themselves…..
So here are my top five tips from years of experience of packing for holidays that may just help you.
Do all the washing before you pack
Instead of focusing on getting clothes out and into the case I instead focus on doing the washing. In the 3-4 days leading up to a big getaway I will have the washing machine on nightly. My plan of attack is to have everything laundered and in the wardrobe ready to be packed before I even think of getting out a case.
Never pack too early
I am absolutely a last minute packer. As per note 1 I like to have all the clothes in their place so I know what is where when it comes to the actual packing task. I have tried packing a week before and I end up taking things in and out of the case all week because I need them and I forget what I have already put in! I like to pack the day before or the morning of. I do it in one quick sweep as everything is in the wardrobes just ready to go.
Pack laundry bags
I have picked up some great calico hotel laundry bags along our travels, you can never pack too many of these they always come in handy on a trip. I pack underwear into the laundry bags so that they are easy to access. If your trip is taking you somewhere you can completely unpack, like a cruise, packing sections of clothes into separated bags helps with the unpacking task at the other end.
Keep a second set of toiletries
I don’t like to take my everyday toiletries when I travel, the containers are generally too large anyway. I keep a complete set of toiletries in a travel bag ready to go. All the items you need every time you travel - toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, face wash, body wash, shampoo and conditioner - I have a complete set in a travel bag ready to pick up and go.
Keep a travel medical kit
As with the toiletries I also keep a travel medical kit ready to go. All the essentials including tweezers, bandaids, panadol, hydralite, hand sanitiser, sunscreen, mosquito bracelets, gastro health - in a travel bag, ready to just pack and go.
What are your packing tips - do you have any helpful tips to help fellow travellers?
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
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- 24 Hours in Sydney With Kids
- Christmas Cruising - Pros and Cons
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Australia is a great melting pot of nationalities from all over the world. Sydney has a concentration of Asian cultures in China Town and the surrounds - the perfect location for Yum Cha.
When we told the kids we were going to Yum Cha for lunch, they decided they wanted McDonalds instead. We compromised by allowing them McDonalds but they still had to join us for the experience.
To find a good location for lunch we of course checked Trip Advisor, however then asked a shop keeper in China Town which of the shortlist he actually ate at. It was by this process we decided on Marigold - a choice that proved a winner.
In my experience some of the best restaurants I have discovered have not been on main streets or even at street level. But rather on a high floor of a high-rise building in a location that many would never know even exists.
When we got out the lift at level four we instantly knew we were in for a treat. What greeted us was a large bustling restaurant with a great mixture of tourists and locals enjoying the culinary experience of Yum Cha.
Yum Cha ladies dressed in blue pinafores rolled trollies of delights between the tables whilst traditionally dressed waiters in black pants and white shirts seated guests and served pots of Chinese Tea.
Before we even had a chance to sip our tea, the trolly dolly was laying a plate of prawn dumplings on our table stamping our Yum Cha sheet before we had a chance to say Ni Hao!
The Yum Cha trolly dolly does not take kindly when you reject her delicacies - especially if it is the last on her trolley and she is wanting to head back to the kitchen for a reload.
If you have never experienced Yum Cha the process is this - you sit at your table and a selection of food is paraded around the restaurant on trollies for you to pick and choose what you desire. For every plate that is placed on your table a stamp is placed on your table’s Yum Cha Menu.
You really have no idea what each plate cost - nor really what it is you are actually eating no matter how many times you ask the server what it is she is serving.
The food is almost secondary to the experience. However fortunately in this case the Marigold delivered both great food and atmosphere.
The kids regretted the burger that had already made it to their stomach and found room to squeeze in a sampling of prawn dumplings, spring rolls, pork buns and Chinese Tea. Miss 7 enjoyed the challenge of the chop sticks and Master 10 surprised us by his natural ability to manipulate the utensils as if they were an extension of his hands.
Have you sampled a great Yum Cha in an obscure location? Let us know your top tip for Yum Cha restaurants with a great atmosphere.
Penny - Itchy Feet Family
Book Your Sydney Getaway Today - We Recommend QT Hotel.
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The Itchy Feet Family love to cruise. Our next getaway will be on a 12 night cruise out of Sydney to celebrate New Year’s Eve.
Cruising can be a fantastic family holiday. You can switch off the phone and the wifi, unplug and spend some quality time recharging and reconnecting with your family.
As a family we find cruising provides a great balance of family time and adult time with the onboard kids club providing a great option for that balance.
If you are thinking of, or are a family that are about to head on your first cruise, here are five helpful tips to help yo with your cruise holiday.
1. PAck a Lanyard
All cruise passengers must carry a cruise card. The card is used for all purchases on board as well as identification when you board or depart the ship. The easiest way to carry the card is with a lanyard around your neck. Of course you can buy one when you get onboard, they are the hottest seller on day one, but if you have some at home bring one along.
2. Register for kids club
If you have children that will be utilising the kids club, make it a priority to find the kids club and register your kids as soon as you board. Generally kids clubs do not open until the first day after departure but are open for you to view the facility, meet the staff and complete the necessary paperwork.
The first morning at kids club I have always found to be a bit of a nightmare so getting that paperwork done the day before helps streamline the first morning drop off process.
3. Photograph your daily schedule
Each night you will receive a ship newsletter in your cabin outlining the activities and events onboard for the next day. If you don’t want to carry a piece of paper around all day and you are already carrying your phone as your camera, simply take a photograph of the schedule so you can refer to it at any time.
4. Don’t hold back on luggage
I always overpack on cruise holidays - because I can. Unlike airlines, cruise ships are very generous with their luggage allowance and there is always plenty of storage in your cabin to unpack when you get there. Empty suitcases can generally be stored under your bed in your cabin. Pack plenty of options for your theme nights and get into the spirit of what is happening onboard.
5. Yes to hair iron - no to clothes iron
Portable clothes irons are not allowed in cabins, they are a fire danger. The ship will have a passenger laundry with ironing facilities if you need them. However hair irons are allowed! I know…..
What are your top tips for cruising? We would love for you to share them with us, leave a comment below.
Penny - ITCHY FEET FAMILY
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Christmas can be both an amazing and a stressful day all within hours of itself. I think many of us have a love/hate relationship with the day. We look forward to it and many magical memories are made on that one special day of the year - but it can also be a rushed and stressful time of year.
We have taken two Christmas cruises and whilst we are not doing one this year, I would absolutely do it again. Here are my top three pros and cons to Christmas cruising.
PROS to Christmas Cruising
1. No cooking or cleaning!
When at home, Christmas day means someone has to cook and clean - or you go to a restaurant and pay top dollar for the experience. Christmas Day on a cruise means wake up, enjoy the morning opening and playing with kids presents, get dressed and walk to the restaurant for lunch. There is no rush to get a turkey on, a pork in the webber or a ham glazed, it is all done for you!
The restaurant staff go all out with all the traditional trimmings and it is all there to simply order. When you are finished, the waiter clears the table and you are done! No dishes, no clearing, just nap time.
2. No rushing
The two Christmas cruises we have been on departed on 18th and 19th of December. By the time you get to Christmas day you are chilled and in holiday mode. There is no need for any mad last minute rush to the shops to fight for the last minute ham glazing or any fights in busy shopping centre car parks to get that one last present for Uncle Jim who decided at the last minute he was coming for lunch!
You are on holiday, de-stressed and simply enjoying the moment.
3. No car travel
Many people try to squeeze everyone in on Christmas Day. A trip to visit one lot of parents on Christmas Eve, a brother on Christmas morning, parents at lunch, other parents for dinner. There can be a lot of car travel in that 24 hours.
On a cruise you don’t have to drive anywhere. If you are fortunate enough to have extended family on board the most you will have to do is walk one end of the ship to the other to knock on their cabin door. No-one has to drive, there are no responsible drivers needed at the end of the day and there are no sleepy over stimulated children screaming in the car at the end of a long day.
CONS to Christmas Cruising
1. No Family
Whilst some may see this as a Pro, it depends what your traditional Christmas looks like. Christmas to me means being surrounded by family. Having come from a large family of five children, having a crazy day with lots of family is what Christmas is to me.
The first Christmas cruise we did we had a set of grandparents with us. The kids loved having them with us and it was nice to have them there to share the experience.
The second Christmas cruise we were just the ITCHY FEET FAMILY and the kids really missed having all their cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents around.
When we asked the kids what they wanted to do for Christmas this year they specifically asked NOT to travel. So instead we are going away for New Years.
2. Packing Presents
Packing gifts for Christmas day can be a bit challenging. If you require a flight to get to the departure point, your airline baggage allowance can put some limitations on what you take.
You certainly can’t have a bike or a swing set under the tree on Christmas Day and you need to be selective with what to take.
We made sure extended family knew well in advance of our travel plans and gifts were purchased accordingly - or left under the tree at home for when we returned.
Thankfully Santa makes his way on board and every child on the ship receives a gift from him - and amazingly Santa also magically left something under our cabin door each year.
3. Missing Out
Because Christmas Cruises in Australia are generally 10 or 12 nights in duration and departing before the 20th December we did miss out on a few family and work Christmas parties.
Sporting club and social group end of year break ups, work break-up parties and the like all seemed to happen in the last week before Christmas.
Most businesses don’t break up until closer to the 25th and this therefore also meant eating into our annual leave more than we would want to. The cruise returns a few days after Christmas and generally businesses are still closed for that week until the New Year which meant we would be returned from our travels but still in enforced annual leave. Annual leave allocations are precious to us as we are always maxing out our allowance and having leave and being at home is not something we enjoy!
Have you taken a cruise at Christmas? What were your thoughts? Would you do it again?
Penny - ITCHY FEET FAMILY
In Australia P&O offer Christmas Cruises departing Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
I often hear people say they put travel plans on hold once they have kids. I have always had the travel bug and was determined that bringing children into the world was not going to mean that I no longer got to explore it.
Travelling with kids is no walk in the park, but there are some simple steps you can take to make sure that both you and your kids enjoy the experience. Here are the three commandments that ITCHY FEET FAMILY always adhere to.
1. Keep Hand Luggage to a Minimum
We have all seen the cute kids backpacks and wheelie cases and think they would be cute for our toddlers. However the reality is that by mid trip you will end up carrying not only your own luggage, but most likely your toddler and that cute spiderman roller case as well.
2. Book Child Friendly Hotels
If you are chasing the sun check the resort has a kids club and a pool. If you as a parent want to relax, a few hours a day of included child care will allow you to schedule adult-only time to balance your holiday.
3. Pace Yourself
Whilst visiting 20 countries in 20 days can be great when you are single, it just does not work with kids. Pace your holiday, pick five destinations and allow for down time when the kids need it.
Penny Reidy, ITCHY FEET FAMILY
As the weather turns cold in Adelaide, my best advice for how to keep the kids entertained is simple. Leave the country - chase the sun!
For the last decade we have managed to schedule family holidays early July to evade the worst of winter, this year we head to Mexico.
Yes the kids take time off school, yes I get the letter every year from the Dept of Education about how detrimental it is for children to miss school. Do I think Miss Six or Master Nine are disadvantaged for missing those winter days in school - No.
What I do think is they are receiving an education in life, culture and the world that simply can’t be taught in a class room.
Take for example a trip to Penang. A heavily muslim populated country, Miss Five thought she was surrounded by Ninjas before I explained to her that the Burkha is a traditional dress for women.
Later that trip I heard her further educate her brother who was edging on the Ninja comment before she corrected him explaining “No, they are not Ninjas that is what the Muslim women wear in Penang.”
Or a trip to the batlefields of Long Tan where we were fortunate enough to hear first-hand from a veteran visiting the site who had personally fought on the day. Upon returning to school Master Eight proudly retold the experience to his young teacher who looked at me blankly - Battle of What??
There is something to be said for experiential learning, the world is a big place and I am encouraging my children to explore it, even if it does mean missing a few weeks of school in the winter.
Penny Reidy - ITCHY FEET FAMILY
Welcome to ITCHY FEET FAMILY. A family of four from Adelaide, Australia, who love to explore the world. We have a passion for travel and count our success by number of countries visited and adventures had. We are always itchy for our next adventure and always have something booked.
After years of travelling, people always ask our advice on where to go, what to see, how to book, tips for travel and more. An avid trip advisor reviewer, I finally decided to take the challenge to launch our own blog site ITCHY FEET FAMILY.
We have plenty of stories to tell about adventures we have taken and will bring many more as we continue to travel and explore the world.
In 2016 we have taken a 3 night family cruise out of Adelaide at Easter, a 3 night Comedy cruise out of Adelaide, a 3-week adventure to Mexico and North America and a long weekend in Kangaroo Island. Still to come will be a New Year's Eve cruise to start the New Year doing what we love - travel!
In 2017 we have so far planned a short cruise in March, our first family trip to Europe to attend a wedding in Germany and a trip to Australia's Top End. But we are always open to new opportunities!
We hope you enjoy our stories and that we inspire you to dust off the passport and get out and explore the world.
Penny, an avid Trip Advisor Reviewer, is the author of ITCHY FEET FAMILY. A family of 4 living in Adelaide, Australia, and taking every opportunity to travel and explore the world.