Three's A'loud

Top tips for travelling when you are older - Part 4

Over the past few weeks I have shared my top travelling tips for older travellers. Because, let’s be honest with ourselves here: You do change a little between the ages of 21 and 36.

When we were 21 we simply booked ourselves into a cheap hostel room with 12 other people and started exploring whatever city we were in at the time. At 21 this is a great way to travel. You get to meet some amazing people (by sleeping a foot away from them), you can drink beer from 6AM without anyone batting an eyelid and you pay very very little for your bed.

But at 36, well, it’s not really that amusing when the couple on the bunk beds next to you put up their sheets around their bed to “talk a little bit” while there are 10 other people in the room. Also, sharing a bathroom with the quirky hairy guys from Germany is no longer a “good story to tell when you go back home” but rather just really gross.

Collect memories, not things.

So on our recent trip to Rio and Peru, we decided to have the best of both worlds. Kinda. We booked a 4-star hotel in Rio for some Brazilian luxury and we booked a private room in a Cusco hostel to still have the hostel experience but without the hairy Germans in our shower. Win-win, right?

The funny thing is, in our case the $9 per night Cusco hostel was much cleaner, brighter and more comfortable than our $90 per night Rio hotel. Nevermind the facilities: the service and hospitality in the hostel was 10 000 times better than at the 4-star hotel. I am guessing we were a little unlucky with our hotel and this is not the general rule, but you do get the point I am trying to make: although older travellers might prefer a bit more comfort, be careful of just booking the first 4-star hotel with pretty pictures you find on the internet. A private room in a reputable hostel with a great location might be better for both your wallet and the memories you take back to share with your kids. Just beware that the late night partying of your neighbours might keep you awake. In our case it only made us miss our kids a bit more.

“Let’s go for a walk” she said. “It will be fun.” She said.

Speaking of kids: we decided to have this holiday without our little angels. First of all we could never afford this holiday if we had to buy plane tickets for 5, but we also felt after 10 years of either being pregnant or having a small baby, we really needed some time away on our own. So today I would like to share a few travel tips specifically for (slightly) older travellers that are also parents.

  1. Make the most of the time you have.

    When we were in our twenties, we left for a little UK work experience and ended up staying two years. This time around, at 36 and with three children, we had severe time constraints. To justify our plane tickets across the Atlantic Ocean, we wanted to visit a few different South American destinations. My dream trip was actually a 48 day extravaganza including Rio, the Amazon, various Peruvian towns, Iguazu falls and Buenos Aires. However, we have jobs and, more importantly, we have 3 amazing little humans waiting at home. So we chose our favourite destinations (Rio and Peru) and still fitted a dozen bucket-list-items into a 10 day trip. It’s all about doing proper research (see travel tips part 2) and making sure you book things inside and outside of your comfort zone (see travel tips part 3). As mothers we are used to getting our kids ready for school, putting on make-up, making lunch boxes, getting everyone to school and work and changing the world all before our lunch break. Making the most of limited travel time is just more of what we already do so well.

Two not-so-scary Inca warriors.

  1. Do something special for the kids

    We are so lucky to have amazing parents who were looking after our kids while we were away. Here are a few things you could consider to make the time away easier on both you and the kids:

    1. Calls, WhatsApp calls, Skype and other technology

      We have amazing technology at our fingertips. You can talk to your offspring every day even when you are on the other side of the world. However, do keep in mind that sometimes it makes the time away from each other more difficult if they see and hear you every day but can’t get to you. It all depends on the kids’ ages.

    2. Leave them love letters

      I wrote each of our 3 kids a letter a day for the time that we were away. Just like phone calls, this can be a good thing or a bad thing. In our case these little envelopes full of mommy love made the first 5 days much worse and the last 5 days a bit better, I think. Looking back it might be a better plan for older kids and not so much for small ones. The theory was that they look forward to a letter every evening telling them where we were and what we were doing that day and experience a new continent with us in that manner. In reality it just reminded them that we were really far far away.

    Sorry my darlings. Mommy meant well.

    A few other ideas that can go along with the letters:

    • Give them a map on which they can follow you around every day.
    • Give them “homework” to do every day. Something like a scavenger hunt they must complete or a picture to colour. Just clear it with the grandparents or baby sitters before the time.
    • Give them a few pieces of a puzzle every day (in the same envelope with their letter) and when the puzzle is finished, mom and dad will also be on their way home. Just remember to build the puzzle before and divide it into sections, so each envelope contains a completed block of the full puzzle.

    Our princesses with their completed puzzle the day before our return flight.

    These ideas might show you love them but it might also make things more difficult. In the end the one thing our kids appreciated most was the gifts we brought back for them!

Regardless of what you do to make things easier, the time away from your family will still be tough for everyone involved. When you look at something on your trip and feel all emotional because you realise how much the kids would have loved to see/experience/eat this, just buck up and remind yourself that you deserve this trip and you might as well make every second spectacular. Rather take awe and wonder back to your kids than wasted time and regret.

This winter the kids will be all cosy in Peruvian threads


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