Travel means different things to different people. When you’re flying solo, it may be for the chance to discover the world, or to discover yourself. And when you travel with kids, you might view it as a chance to bond or an opportunity to raise globally aware humans. No matter how or who you travel with, sometimes you do need a little advice. But that advice can be subjective … not to mention bordering on the ridiculous.
Sure, if you’re thinking about taking the kids for a vacay in a third world war zone where coup d’états occur fortnightly, trekking deep into Amazonian rainforest with nothing but a podcast and a sambo for company, pitching a tent in an uncleared landmine field, or climbing Mount Everest wearing flip flops and a unicorn onesie, then you should definitely listen to all of the advice. And the scarier and more OCD that advice is the better.
But if you’re planning on packing up the kids for a week in Fiji, embarking on a museum crawl around central Europe, or eating your way around Asia … not so much.
Though it has all been well-meant, much of the travel advice we’ve received since we started travelling with our kids has come from folks who’ve rarely travelled further than their local supermarket. And if we took on board every bit of it, we’d never leave our lounge room.
James Michener said, “If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.”
I’m with Jimbo. We’re all about truly experiencing the destinations we visit and though that does come with a low level of calculated risk, so does crossing the road.
Here’s a roundup of the worst travel advice we’ve ever received … and why we ignore it.
1.Don’t talk to strangers
Notwithstanding the fact that when you’re travelling everyone is a stranger, getting to know the locals is one of the highlights of any adventure. And when you’re travelling in a foreign land with kids everyone wants to say hi! In fact, half the time my curly haired cuties become the attraction.
Of course, you do need to keep your wits about you and be sensible about who you talk to. And it’s wise to avoid hanging out with unsavoury and suspicious types wherever you are – because Liam Neeson is not your dad. He will not find them and he will not kill them. But that’s OK, because in our experience the majority of people are kind.
2. Don’t Leave the Resort
Wait, what? What the hell are you travelling for? You may as well book a hotel in your hometown because sitting in a hotel or lying around the resort pool is not experiencing a destination. Realistically if you are heading to a destination where you feel too nervous to leave the hotel and you’re taking kids along for the ride, you may want to rethink your travel plans. Otherwise hit up the hotel’s local staff, and the other guests, for tips on the best places to see, eat and explore and get out amongst it.
3. Stay on the outskirts of town to save money
This is the worst travel advice ever if you’re travelling with kids. Yes, you’ll save a few bucks. Yes, it’s quieter. But you’ll also waste half your day commuting back and forth to your hotel on often-expensive public transport … while carrying your tired and whiney kids whose otherwise perfectly healthy legs invariably give-up on them within 30 seconds of setting out.
If you really want to save a buck, stay closer to the town centre and stay one less day. You’ll pack in just as much in a shorter time and have a far more pleasant time doing it. Or better yet, swap the hotel for a more economical apartment stay (a far more practical option for families) where you can make reap savings with DIY meals.
4. Splurge, you’re on holiday!
No. Don’t! Sure it would be a shame to miss out on a great travel experience to save a few bucks but you still need funds to feed the family once you return to home and reality. Instead of throwing financial caution to the wind, just think of how much quicker you’ll be able to save for your next holiday if you don’t go batshit crazy with the credit cards on this one?
5. Avoid crowded tourist traps
By all means hit the backstreets and discover the true spirit of the destinations you visit as it’s often where the treasure is found. But don’t diss or dismiss popular attractions. Yes, they’re crowded and expensive but there’s a reason for that. They’re frigging amazing!
Sure your time would be as well spent sculling a pint at a rowdy Dublin pub as it would taking a tour of the Guinness Factory. And unless you have a spare lifetime, you could probably bypass the hordes squinting at the Mona Lisa and check out some of the Louvre’s other equally worthy but far lonelier artworks. But for the love all things holy, why would anyone travel all the way to Paris and not check out the Eiffel Tower? It would be nothing short of travel madness.
6. Don’t eat the street food
Oops! I must have missed that memo because generally the first thing Raffles and I do when we arrive in a new country is hit up the nearest street vendor! And we haven’t died a slow, painful death once. To avoid this happening in the future I will continue to take precautions like avoiding tap water, raw foods and give stalls with dubious hygiene standards a wide berth, but some of the most incredible and memorable food I have ever eaten has been on the street.
Indeed, I consider eating from local street vendors an integral part of travel because it fast tracks my understanding of a country’s cultural identity. Though there are no guarantees that you’re not going to end up with a bad belly, the trick to selecting street food mostly comes down to common sense. If you choose a clean stall where basic hygiene practices are being implemented, the locals are lining up and the food turnover is high, then its most likely going to be fresh and fabulous!
E.coli, salmonella, listeria and typhoid don’t follow the class system and you are as likely to meet them in a sit-down restaurant where you can’t see the kitchen, the hygiene standards, or the produce you’re about to eat before it’s prepared.
7. Wait until the kids are older before you take them travelling.
This one is the one we hear most often and it is the worst piece of travel advice in the history of travel advice. I’d go as far as saying it is a pile of undiluted bullshit. At the age of seven, Raffles is at 20 countries and counting. And four-year old Sugarpuff is nipping at his converse clad heels at 17.
No, they don’t remember all of them. But everything that they’re exposed to is being filed away in their glorious growing brains. Yes, they slowed us down. But this has only made us stop and smell the roses. Yes, there are things we have to skip. But we’re seeing other things we may have missed through their unjaded eyes. No, we don’t get to enjoy boozy bar crawls. But this just means we get to see the sunrise without a raging hangover. No, it hasn’t always been easy. But still we keep doing it over and over again.
Exposing our young kids to other places and faces is teaching them to be empathetic, globally aware humans with respect for all people, places and ideals. What’s the risk in that?
What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve ever been given?