In the first of our interview series, Travel Experts, we speak to travel journalist and mother Sarah Tucker who shares her experience of travelling with children.
Sarah Tucker loves travel, especially the adventurous variety. Currently the Travel Editor of the Richmond Magazine she has been a travel journalist for 15 years. When she fell pregnant with her first child she had neither the desire nor the funds to give up her chosen profession. She continued to travel and then she wrote a book about it, ‘Have Baby will travel’ and it’s follow up, ‘Have toddler will travel’. Sarah encourages new parents not to be afraid of long haul travel and gives us her reasons why.
So just how many countries have you and Tom (Sarah’s 12 year old son) been to?
I would say it was at least 40 but it is hard to know. We have been to 6 continents together; places like India and South Africa. I did an article on the Gold Rush in Canada whilst pregnant with Tom – I think some of my adventurous spirit seeped into him through the womb!
Have you found that some destinations are more child friendly than others?
Certainly. When I first had Tom I was advised that you shouldn’t travel abroad with a child until they are at least 5 years old. The UK tourism board rubs their hands whilst looking at new young families, but you don’t have to stay in this country. I think places like Australia and New Zealand deal with children better than we do. In places like Greece and Turkey if you don’t have children you are the odd one out. I have a particular fondness for Canada, where Tom and I recently spent time on a ranch and Tom learnt how to be a horse whisperer.
What advice would you give to parents choosing a holiday destination?
A holiday starts when you leave the front door. Parents need to think about the journey as much as the destination. I would encourage parents not to be afraid to go further afield as the irony is that long haul airlines are much better equipped to deal with young children. A child screaming for 12 hours is going to be painful for everyone so airline staff are very well trained to deal with this. Time and time again I have seen crew on Emirates, Virgin and BA take a baby and walk up and down the aisle to give the parents a break. Flying is probably one of the only times it is handy to be a single parent as you tend to receive even more help. In fact, a tip for parents travelling with infants is to sit Mummy and Daddy separately, with a child each, as crew tend to give single parents more care and attention.
What is the biggest challenge faced when travelling with children?
The biggest challenge is having the confidence and courage to do it in the first place, especially if you have a young baby. I wrote my book ‘Have baby will travel’ to encourage and inspire, particularly first time parents, to travel. I also encourage them to go further afield because, as mentioned before, the irony is these airlines can help you more.
Has there ever been a situation where you have doubted your decision to bring Tom away with you?
Good question! We recently completed a trip to the Golden Triangle in India to see the tigers in Jaipur. India can be a dangerous place, like all countries it has a side the tourist boards don’t shout about but we know is there. It’s an amazing country though and I believe the key to seeing somewhere like here with a child is by using a good tour operator. It’s essential to feel safe and secure, to know the trip is well planned. You should be prepared to pay extra to be looked after well. As we landed in Delhi I remembered the chaos I had experienced on my arrival as a backpacker ten years earlier; people everywhere, cattle roaming through the terminal. I had warned Tom, instructed him to hold my hand, never let go and stay very close. This time around we arrived shortly after the Commonwealth Games to a glistening, immaculate and calm environment. Tom looked at me like I was a liar!
How has Tom benefited from travelling to these places with you?
Firstly it gets him outdoors and away from the computer but it also gives us both perspective. Tom has learnt that children across the world are not aliens, they have common experiences to share, they share a universal language through music and dance. Children have a common need to play and they learn to communicate without languages. He is not afraid to try things either – he eats oysters! Exploring with him has also opened my eyes. Children can ask the questions you wouldn’t dream of – they constantly ask why even if it is not politically correct to do so.
Finally, do you have any unfulfilled travel ambitions?
I would love to travel around the world with Tom. Maybe do some more train travel. I’ve been across Canada on the Via Rail which was a phenominial experience. I don’t agree that the world is getting smaller. It’s HUGE.
And with that Sarah and Tom are off to see more of it.
You can find more details on Sarahs career and adventures on her website. Our airfare experts can tell you more about the best airlines to fly with children and child friendly tour operators to meet you at the other end. Call 0208 045 4186 to plan your next family adventure.