I interviewed Laura as one of our #Mastersofmany previously. She’s the brand director for Kid&Coe, a company that specialises in self-catering properties that are family friendly. However, with her background in journalism for travel, and the flexible approach that the company provides on holiday (as much as they like as long as they get the job done), she was perfect to include as one of our interviewees who incorporates travel into their working existence. I caught up with her to find out more…
Tell us about how travel fits in with your family & work situation. What have been some of your biggest trips?
When I was a freelance journalist specialising in travel/lifestyle (3-4 years ago) I travelled a lot (at least monthly). I always had a bag packed. Then I had a baby and was still working as a hotel reviewer and writing spots for travel sections and magazines and tried to keep that up. I did it for a year, but my husband's job isn't as flexible as mine, and we don't have family nearby, so the childcare was almost impossible. You can't go away and leave a 1-year-old on their own, and taking them away while you're working is really, really hard.
Currently I have a 6-year-old in school and a 2-year-old part time in nursery. We don't tend to travel in term time (like anyone else who has kids in school) but as I'm writing about travel and working in the travel industry, it's all I think about!
While in my youth I spent months abroad researching and writing travel books, especially in Iceland, I now try to find ways for us to get away 3-4 times a year. Last Christmas we went to Essaouira, Morocco, somewhere I'd always wanted to be. My eldest ADORED it. She kept talking about how she felt like she was in a dream as we walked around heady souks, and saw camels on the beach. I knew what she meant. The youngest was a cute little blonde-haired baby that was stopped on every street corner by someone or other just because of the colour of her hair. This summer we went to a forest in Sweden and just spent time together as a family and it was wonderful - we swam in a lake, rode mountain bikes in pine forests and ate fantastic ice cream. Swedish ice cream is right up there as one of my favourites...
Occasionally I get to go away and travel solo, but with 2 kids, everything in our house is a negotiation and I need to make sure everyone is happy if I go away. For now, I'm happiest planning a quirky holiday every time we get a chance to take time away. I like it if we can visit a new country or a new place every year.
What were you hoping to gain from these trips?
A fresh pair of eyes and a new perspective. I live to try new things - and love being thrown into an unfamiliar situation. It's fun for the kids to see something new, try new food, and see a different side to their mum and dad.
How do you make it work alongside your job?
We don't travel in term time so it fits into annual leave. I often take my laptop with me when we travel - sometimes I will be viewing properties for the Kid & Coe website, as in Morocco and Sweden, and reviewing their suitability and highlighting what makes them great for families. It's pretty amazing to be able to try out some of these properties and to discover that they are not only as good as I thought they might be, but actually even better. In Sweden, our experience made us love Scandinavia so much that we've put plans in place to move there.
The recent experiences I've had inspired a book I'm writing about how different children's daily lives are around the world.
My work set up is flexible - we have a policy where we can take as much leave as we want, as long as our work is done. This typically leads to many of the team taking their laptops with them when they travel. We are a tribe of digital nomads to some degree. I find that because my husband has a more traditional job, we can't make the best use of that, but we do get away when we can (and when we can afford it).
Why is travel so important to you?
I think the world is an infinitely beautiful place and staying in one place, never seeing it, would be a crime. Maybe I get bored easily, too. I love new people, new places, new things and want to get out there and experience them. I have a fairly nomadic family. My sister has lived in New Zealand and Nepal, my brother has lived in Boston, my sister-in-law lives in the USA and my parents-in-law live in France.
What do you hope your kids will gain from travelling?
An open mind and an open heart. An appreciation that while there are people out there like you wherever you go, there are people out there who are not like you too. Empathy, sympathy, gratitude, and the ability to make new friends wherever you go. A global mindset. I think the real question is, why would you not travel with your kids?
What's the best experience you've had with your family while travelling?
Our week in Sweden was fantastic. It was in a lake house with no WiFi and no TV, set on a private lake with canoes, a sandy beach, trails through a forest with blueberries everywhere, and bikes to borrow. We spent all day together, doing active and fun things, and didn't miss the technology at all. Exploring local towns, cooking in the kitchen, playing with each other, looking for deer in the forest - it was a fantastic bonding experience and we'll treasure it forever. I know it doesn't sound all that exciting, but I think it was the sheer lack of excitement/sights to see/things to do that made it great. Sometimes just being together and remembering how much you like each other is enough.
And the worst? The biggest challenges about travelling with kids?
We took a trip to Venice with Olivia when she was 8 months old. On the way there my husband felt sick. By day 3 I was sick too. We were vomiting on and off for days and trying to look after our baby, who was in a huge heavy pushchair. Venice is on the water, obviously, and has a humungous number of bridges. Stepped bridges. So we were carrying this huge heavy pushchair up and down bridges all day, feeling weak and sick, and struggled to find anywhere we felt we could eat. (Venice is not known for its foodie scene even if we had been feeling like we could eat). It was a bit of a disappointment. Lesson: Don't get sick when you're looking after kids, ever. It's just awful!!
In terms of challenges - I stress about the hours sat on the plane, worried the kids will get bored and be naughty/loud/annoying. I over pack carry-on luggage with things to do and it's always just about manageable.
Your best tips for others wanting to travel with children? Things you'd wish you'd known and learnt the hard way?
I interviewed the great Sara Wheeler (travel writer) once and she told me about how she'd travelled in the arctic with her young baby. I instantly felt assured about my family's travels - people have children all over the world and wherever you go, you're not a pioneer. There will be nappies, milk, food, spare clothes. So, there is no need to panic!
My main tips are: Don't go for priority boarding unless your kids are going to enjoy being strapped into a plane seat for an extra 30 minutes. We board last and use that extra time to get the kids to expel extra energy in the terminal.
Also - pack light. We typically just take hand luggage when we travel. My youngest is still in nappies and we buy them when we arrive. It's quicker to get in and out of the airport and makes everything simpler. If you have the use of a laundry when you arrive it's all easy.
And - try something new. Having kids is the beginning of a new type of travel - not the end of travel as you know it. I think it's better than travel without kids - it opens up the world to you in a way you can't realise until you try it. People talk to you differently - you see cities in a new light from the local playground, and you can gain a kind of cultural understanding that isn't accessible when you're taking a mini-break as a couple. Watching your kids make friends with local children when they don't speak the same language is really heartening. I can't get enough of it.
And your next trip you have planned?
We're currently planning for a move to Copenhagen in the first half of 2017, jobs permitting. My job is flexible enough for that to work but my husband is currently out there looking for something that suits him. From there...I keep seeing places I want to explore in Norway, and around the Danish coast, and over in Iceland. My eldest daughter would love a trip to see Icelandic ponies, the northern lights and a volcano or two, so a trip out there is on the cards soon.
To find out more about Kid&Coe, follow them on Instagram @kidandcoe