WRITTEN BY CARLA MELLOR (GUEST WRITER)
“You must be mad, travelling with a toddler!”
We can’t argue with that, but we travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us. Every year we choose to travel with our daughter Florence, who is currently 3 and it truly brings us together like nothing else. All family holidays are special, but when you hit the road for the best part of a month you really get to know each other, for better or worse and create some truly unforgettable memories.
Just to give you an idea, this is what our 2020 travel itinerary looked like: Verona, Salzburg, Lake Bled, Chianti, Amalfi Coast, Tropea, Palermo and all the spots in between in 25 days:
“I’d love to plan something like this but wouldn’t know where to start!”
Want to know the secret to planning this type of trip? Blagging it! The plan normally begins with a place or area that we’d like to visit, then we look on Google Maps and find that there’s somewhere beautiful only a few hours away. This tends to escalate quickly into a huge road trip that barely feels possible but fills us with excitement. So rather than overwhelming ourselves, we book our flights to create a start and end point and then the fun can begin with booking accommodation and transport along the way.
“But how do you book all of your hotels?”
We are massive Airbnb fans and very rarely stay in hotels. We love the flexibility, freedom and home comforts of having our own space, especially with a child. You can really make the space your own, whilst enjoying a more authentic experience in your destination. A few of our favourite memories for our Airbnb’s include picking fresh fruit and veg from the farm in Tropea, playing guitar and drinking homemade Galliano with a 10th generation local in Sorrento and accidentally booking accommodation in Florence with no wi-fi or TV (so peaceful). At the very least, you get the chance to speak to a host who can tell you the best places to eat and how to get around.
“But how do you afford it, it must cost a fortune?”
Our first holiday was travelling around Italy for 15 days, Florence was 5 months old and I was still on maternity therefore our budget was set at £1,500. Our most recent and longest trip of 25 days budget was £2,500. We always set limits on our accommodation of 50 pounds a night and work off that. The joy of being in charge of your own flights, accommodation and car hiring/ transportation needs is that it can cost you as much or as little as you want.
“I couldn’t think of anything worse than travelling with a child!”
We took our first travel holiday when Florence was 5 months old and in hindsight, this was probably the easiest holiday we’ve had. She napped on the food tray on the train, breast fed on gondolas in Venice, we even came on a wine tour in Chianti and she was the best behaved out of all the attendees. At this age, your baby is going to cry whether you’re at home or on holiday, so you might as well be somewhere beautiful. Some aspects change as they grow and you must adjust your itinerary accordingly, but you also get a lot more enjoyment from seeing them take in the experiences that you are introducing them to. We don’t feel that we’ve had to give anything up, you just have to make thing more exciting in the eyes of a 3-year-old. For example; Want to enjoy a morning looking at beautiful architecture? No, you’re looking for Disney Princess Castles. Fancy an afternoon enjoying a cocktail on the square? Let them have an ice cream or a fancy drink from the bar. Want to enjoy an evening meal as a couple? Not going to happen, but who needs romance when you’ve got a toddler playing hide and seek under the tables of the restaurant and getting everyone involved. Finally, it’s important to just slow down the pace and enjoy seeing things through their eyes
“Is it always smooth sailing because that’s how it looks on social media?”
No, of course not. In fact, here’s a few examples of when things have gone wrong:
Day 1 of our first ever family holiday, we were in Venice so took Florence around in her sling all day as the pram wasn’t an option. When we got back to our accommodation we realised that she had an awful heat rash and she cried all night. That was certainly a ‘what the hell are we doing’ moment.
Florence threw up all over her car seat, and we don’t mean one of those cute baby sick, the car seat was ruined! Luckily, we were on the way to the airport and managed to get there and get home. The car seat ended up in a skip at the side of the road.
Whilst we were checking into our accommodation, Florence wandered into the house for a look around. Little did we know that she had found a Birdseye chilli plant in the bedroom and decided that the little red things looked tasty! This resulted in us googling ‘Can my toddler get sick from eating a chilli?’ which returned a headline story about a toddler dying from eating a chilli in India. Anyway, after a few gallons of milk and a few cold yoghurts, she was fine.
Let’s add to the list getting stung by a jellyfish, stung by a wasp, pooping at the side of the road, you get the idea! I promise we’re not neglectful parents and these things always feel worse than they actually are, and we genuinely believe these things help to make memories, you’ve got to have a few negatives in there so that you can appreciate the positives.
With things up in the air due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we don’t know when we’re going to be able to travel again, but when you’re allowed to travel again, why not consider a real adventure to blow away those cobwebs we’ve gathered over the last 12 months?
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Instagram: Carla J Mellor