Category: travel

How To Backpack With a Toddler (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of Eternal Voyageur’s incredibly helpful post on how to travel with the kiddos. For clever responses to nay-sayers and packing list suggestions, do pop over and check out Part 1!

Transportation
Stroller
: I didn’t take one, but some people swear by them. Research the state of the country’s roads, pavements and public transport before you decide to take one, and remember that you’ll be carrying the stroller half of the time. If you don’t have a super-lightweight one that folds up and can turn into a spaceship at the push of a button, get a cheap second-hand one that you won’t mind ditching before your return flight, if only to make space for souvenirs.Baby carrier: the Ergo carriers are probably the best for travelling, as they are famous for zero back pain! Ergos are also super-light and they roll up really small. You can wear them on your front and back, and you can even buy a fleece cover for cooler weather. Scour Ebay for cheap second-hand ones!

Leash: Now, the idea of a leash is not that your child is straining on it like an untrained puppy, but that it gives you extra security while the child holds your hand. When one end of the leash is on your wrist, you can feel safe that the child won’t suddenly wriggle its little hand out of yours and run across the street or escape while you need both hands to get money from your purse. Pequenita actually likes her a lot, it seems to give her a sense of security! The one I have can also be used to strap smaller toddlers into a chair in restaurants.

General Travel Tips

Don’t just get stuck with doing only child-friendly stuff. Kids will learn to participate in many grown-up activities, if you give them the chance. I’ve seen a 2-year-old daughter of musician friends who could sit quietly through hours-long classical concerts, just because the parents had always taken her with them.Do remember to do things for your child: go to one place where they can have the time of their life for a change. It doesn’t have to be Disneyland, a pretty park with a fountain can be just as delightful! Take frequent breaks, where the child can stretch their legs. Just let your kid free to run around wherever it is that you are. Take the time to point out and explain stuff to your kid, even if you think they don’t understand much.

How to occupy your child

Bus rides, waiting in the airport, and (the hardest) waiting for the food in restaurants – all of these are tough. Make origami animals from napkins, play some finger games, and bring out the notepad to draw in. Teach your kid to observe the space around them, spot things out of windows, count them. Bring snacks!
Surviving flights and drives

The good news: it does get better. Kids are extremely adaptable. Travel during the night, when you can. Most kids usually sleep everywhere. If yours can’t, he will probably learn fast. Arrive early at the airport or the bus station. If all the seats are not full, chances are that you’ll be placed next to some empty ones. Ask for seats that have more space (usually the front in airplanes, and the front and near the exits in a bus).During the waiting time at the airport/bus station, let your kid run free. Better still, chase them to tire them out. Don’t be the first to board, you’ll only have the rest of the passengers pushing against you as you try to squeeze your toddler into the seat. Using the same logic, disembark last. In the plane, you can always go to the back and ask the air hostesses for extra food or drinks for your child. For best results, bring your kid with you. Pequenita discovered that she could charm the hostesses into giving her more crackers! If your child is having a tantrum that’s disturbing the other passengers, take her and her tantrum to the air-hostesses room at the back of the plane.

Surviving museums

This was the toughest part for Pequenita. In some of the museums she could run around (an away), in others she struggled to escape from the carrier. So I don’t really know a fool-proof way to do this.However, here are some tips: Eat before going, make your child walk or run a bit, and try to time the visit before nap time. A fully-fed sleeping kid in a carrier is perfect for museums! Be prepared to cut your museum visit short, or even go there twice. We learned our lesson when we spent hours looking at the introductory pieces and then had to rush through the best stuff (which is always at the end).

Prepare a ‘kid pack.’ Since you can’t take your usual bag into museums, prepare a tiny bag with whatever your child needs: water, diapers, snacks, a toy. Don’t condemn your kid to boredom – point things out to them and describe it in simple language. They won’t understand it all, but they do grasp a lot. There is a lot of delightful every-day items that kids will recognize; Pequenita liked cups and bowls in the shape of animals.

Food

Simple is best. Try something healthy, that takes little time to prepare (kids are so impatient in restaurants!) Pequenita thrived on delicious Peruvian fruit smoothies and I was thrilled: they always arrived instantly and she couldn’t have chosen a healthier alternative! Other favorites were bananas, beans, corn… You can always ask for a small portion of something simple, with one or two ingredients and no spices, most restaurants readily oblige. Also, let your child try whatever it is that you are eating and you’ll find out what they like. Resist the temptation to feed them chocolates and junk to keep them quiet. Small kids usually love fresh fruit and you can always find healthy local snacks. Lots of restaurants try to bring everyone’s food at the same time – tell them that you’d prefer your child’s meal to be served earlier, if possible.I hope that all of the above tips and ideas will help you have a smoother journey with your little one. However, there is nothing that can really prepare you for backpacking with a toddler: you’ll have plenty of crazy stressful moments, as well as unexpected adventures, lots of fun and laughter. Your child will teach you patience, a sense of humor, and will show you the amazing little bugs walking on the grass blades of the Altiplano. Just go, and take them with you. It will be a whole new experience!
Got the travel bug?  Check out my ebooks and podcasts on making long-term travel a reality!  Only $15 forpetessake!

How To Backpack With A Toddler (Part 1)

backpack with a toddler

This is a guest post by the hugely knowledgeable and informed Eternal Voyageur. This incredibly brave lady backpacked around South America pregnant and with a two year old kiddo! Impressive no?!

How to Backpack with a Toddler

People often hesitate to travel with small children. Not only do they expect it to be hard work, but they feel guilty about dragging the little ones around the world for their own selfish pleasure. Here I’ll tell you why you shouldn’t wait to travel till your kids are older, and how to stay sane through it all!One of the best trips in my life was in the seventh month of pregnancy, with 2-year old Pequenita and my husband. It was a week-long overland travel from Lima, Peru to Cochbamba, Bolivia involving 16-hour bus rides, lots of museums, trekking at 4000 meters above sea level, picking flowers, tantrums and making friends with llamas. Not only did I actually survive – it was fun ! It was probably the best trip of my life. My inspiration for for this was my mom, who traveled with my younger brothers and me all over India, all on a shoe-string budget. Whenever I got worried about travelling with kids, I think of my mom. (For info on backpacking while pregnant check out my article here)

Why You Should Consider Traveling with Your Toddler

Why would you backpack with a kid anyway?

If you love travelling, why should you let anyone stop you from doing it? That tiny tot in your arms ? Think of him as a fledgling backpacker and discoverer. After the initial rough patch, most kids love travelling. Besides, it’s not like you’re talking about pub-hopping all night: travelling is an amazingly enriching experience that every kid deserves! Kids are one of the best culture-bridges. Toddlers usually make contact with strangers easily, and even if yours is shy he will make you appear more approachable. You’ll get smiles, curious questions and even food from the locals. So, although having a kid with you does mean missing out on some stuff, you also get experiences which you would have missed otherwise.

I feel guilty dragging my kids through the world for my selfish pleasure! Shouldn’t I wait till my kids are older?

There is no magical age when kids start automatically tolerating long bus drives and museums, if they’ve never done them before. In fact, the older they are, the less adaptable they become. And they are way more vocal about what they don’t like. The younger they catch the travel bug, the more they’ll love travelling later!

But my kids won’t remember anything of it anyway!

I’ll bet you don’t remember what you learned in first grade either, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have gone to school. At this age kids learn through experiencing and doing, and exposing them to a different culture and a new environment gives them so many opportunities to learn. They will learn new skills, develop a sense of adventure, learn to “rough it,” expand their physical and mental comfort zone. I was amazed how independent and self-sufficient Pequenita became in just two short weeks of our journey. She got a chance to talk more Spanish, see all the animals that she only knew from pictures, try out weird fruits and get down and dirty in nature (something that she couldn’t get much of in normal city-life).

I can’t imagine a 3-hour drive with my child, let alone a 20-hour flight…

The first flight with Pequenita was pretty hard since she couldn’t stay still and ran around the aisles till she bumped into an armrest. Gradually she learned that there are times when she has to sit still and occupy herself. The flight home was a breeze. Moral: Kids will learn to survive transport, but only through experience. If you don’t teach your kids to get through the hardships of travelling now, they will be just as whiny and difficult at the age of 10.

Kids are as comfort-loving as you make them

In my travels as a kid in India, we did 2-week long treks in the Himalayas and 36-hour train rides in second class. We learned to grin and bear discomforts for the sake of the amazing adventures ahead of us. Life in the West can be a bit too comfortable, and breeds comfort-lovers who can’t imagine leaving their hair dryer behind and facing the bugs in the tent. View this as a chance to infect your kids with the travel bug and teach them the fun of roughing it!

How to Travel with a Toddler: The Nitty Gritty Details

Where to go

Consider redefining ‘kid-friendly.’ Are you thinking in categories of stroller-friendly roads and changing tables in public bathrooms? Peru had none of that and their high-chairs were incredibly rickety. But nobody minded a toddler running around an old monastery, nobody shushed us in museums and a couple of times the waitresses played with Pequenita while we ate. So, I guess that makes Peru more child-friendly than many parts of Europe. Another great thing about the third world is that you can afford that extra seat in the bus, if needed – though obviously, you don’t want to go somewhere with extreme temperatures or raging epidemics. Also check if your child is old enough for the necessary vaccinations. But other than that… don’t limit yourself to the western world!

Don’t do it alone

You need another adult with you, trust me on that. I mean, imagine getting your kid and all your stuff through the airport security check without a second pair of hands (and legs)!? Preferably the adults should outnumber the kids. Also, your travel partner should be strong enough to carry the toddler.

Teaching useful skills before travel

Depending on the age of your toddler this might be teaching them words for “hungry” or “full diaper,” walking on the street while holding your hand, teaching them to use a grown-up toilet or simply squatting (lots of kids will balk at squatting behind a bush if they have never done it before !) This is not, I repeat not, a good time to start toilet training.

What you need to learn before travel

Scour the net for new finger games, songs; learn to make origami. I also taught Pequenita the llama song.

What To Pack when Traveling with Children

  • Bibs: you won’t need to take so many shirts.
  • Kitchen towels: (stronger and bigger than tissues) for cleaning hands, as impromptu bibs, diaper wipes, etc. Tear the sheets from the roll and fold into squares.
  • Quick-drying clothes: toddlers get extremely dirty (as if I need to tell you that), so you’ll be doing a lot of washing. If the clothes dry fast, this is very easy and painless.
  • A wide-brimmed hat, with an elastic: Actually we bought this in Peru, since the hats in Germany have really narrow brims. An elastic or string to tie under the neck is a must.
  • Sunscreen: it’s important to choose mineral sunscreen without nano-particles. Chemical sunscreens have hormone-mimicking ingredients that can really mess with a kid’s health. Luckily, kids don’t mind the whiteness of mineral sunscreen!
  • Insect-repellent: this is tricky, since they are usually pretty toxic. If going for something with DEET, make sure that it is not more than 30%, The new Autan from Bayer is DEET-free, and is reported to be pretty effective.
  • Sleeping bag: It’s really convenient, like when your kid is curled on your lap in a bus and a blanket would keep getting entangled or falling off.
  • Diapering: Diaper-changing pad: we used a light, disposable one for the whole trip. I’ve became an expert in squatting down in tiny Bolivian toilets and changing Pequenita on the floor. Don’t bother to bring diapers, they are available in most parts of the world. What I did bring with me was some organic baby wipes (that’s because I’m concerned about the chemicals and perfumes even in German baby wipes). These wipes were just for emergencies, normally we used paper tissues moistened with water.
  • Kid’s own backpack: if they show interest in having one. This also works as a museum pack.
  • Snacks for the flight: I had apples, dried fruit and organic crackers.
  • Toys: Don’t take much from home, since it is a better idea to buy pretty local handicrafts at your travel destination. Stuffed llama or a condor finger-puppet anyone? I’d suggest bringing something old and something new from home. The new item for novelty, and the old for security (that would be your kid’s favourite toy or comfort item. Pichichinia had a pair of striped pyjamas that she HAD to have with her at all times).
  • Hand puppets are also great ideas since since they provide endless play possibilities, and might even be helpful in convincing your kid to eat her food. Also, a little notepad with a pencil tied to it is very versatile. A book can also be nice, we took a “Wimmel buch” because they are chock-full of tiny little scenes, and kids can spend a month looking through each one.
  • An attachment strap like the ones for pacifiers: It’s lovely to have something that will prevent the bear from falling under the bus seat every other minute.

Tomorrow, Part 2 – surviving the flight, making it through museums and cajoling the picky eater!  Have you ever traveled with a kiddo? Any other advice to share?
Got the travel bug?  Check out my ebooks and podcasts on making long-term travel a reality!  Only $15 forpetessake!

How To Quit Your Job + Travel The World Without Ruining Your Resume Or Credit Rating

Want to quit your job and travel? Lots of people do! Click through for travel tips and job advice from someone who did it - many times! Full of great advice about working abroad, volunteering abroad, and budget travel!
If you’ve ever wanted to quit your job and travel the world, you’ve probably been just a bit worried about things like money, job security when you return home, or how to make the whole thing work. You’re not alone!

Dear Sarah,
I wanted to ask you about traveling. I have no idea where to begin or what to do. Here’s the thing, I want so bad to be able to go somewhere and live for a few months without worrying about anything.
But then I know that when I come back I don’t know if I will have a job, and I don’t want to come back without having a job waiting for me. And I hate short trips because I feel too much like a douchey tourist. Thanks for your help!
Oh friend. That? That’s a million dollar question. I’m not sure that there’s a fool proof way to accomplish what you’re after, but I’ll give this question my best effort and then hand you query over to our very capable readers. So. How to begin?

How To Quit Your Job + Travel The World Without Ruining Your Resume Or Credit Rating

Shore Up Your Resume

Job security when you return back home from extended travel is one of the harder things to come by. It’s pretty tough to find a new job in this economy, much less a job that you can start, leave for two months and then return to. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it would require a lot of luck, an airtight resume and possibly offering up your firstborn.
If you don’t currently have a job, or if you’re doing the barista/temping/server thing, I’d spend a few months working your day job as well as volunteering, interning or job shadowing in your field.
Join LinkedIn, familiarize yourself with the appropriate software, call every contact you have and network your sweet ass off so that when you come back, people will know who you are, will recognize projects that you’ve worked on and will want to hire you.

Related: How to take a sabbatical

Create a Nest Egg (or a Plan B)

If you’re planning on traveling for an extended period of time, doing all of the above will make you much more likely to find a job upon your return home, but nothing’s fool proof.
If you don’t want to spend your Ecuadorian jungle trek worrying about your bank account, you need a decent nest egg – or a Plan B. The amount you’ll need will depend on your lifestyle, spending habits and the types of jobs you’re willing to take upon your return.
If you live with flatmates, don’t have much debt and are willing to take a job waiting tables at Applebee’s two days after you get off the plane from Germany, your nest egg could be relatively small. But if you want to live in a two bedroom apartment, on your own and hold out for The Perfect Gig, you’ll want to sock away a lot more.
Similarly, you’ll feel a lot better if you have a Plan B in place for when you get back from global travel. Maybe that means crashing with your family or best friend, cashing in some of your stocks or working for your Dad’s company. Hopefully you won’t have to use Plan B when you return from traveling, but it’ll keep you from worrying away your days on the beach.
As far as creating that post-travel nest egg? Personally, I’ve found that I’m capable of working insane hours for a couple of months if I know it’s a) temporary b) going towards something that I’m really excited about. If you don’t currently have the funds you need to travel, commit yourself to two or three months of second and third jobs and a shopping ban. You’d be surprised how quickly it adds up!

Related: How to save money without hating your life

Travel Somewhere Cheap

If you want to get the most bang for your buck, you should obviously go somewhere cheap. If you’re an Aussie or Kiwi, Southeast Asia is wicked cheap and not too hard to get to. Brits can go just about anywhere on all those great, cheapo airlines and for Americans?

I’d recommend South America. I really love Southeast Asia, but the tickets to get there can put it out of the price range of a lot of budget traveler Americans. South America is full of great beaches, good food, diverse cultures and all of it can be had very nicely for $40 a day.

Now Stay In Your Cheap Travel Destination

I’m a huge advocate of the ‘depth over breadth’ approach to travel. I love going to a single country for a few months, hunkering down and getting to know the majors cities well enough to say hello to the vendors in the morning, have my token breakfast place and know where they sell the best ice cream.

I find that I get to know the locals, culture and language so much better this way – rather than spending all my time bussing from tourist attraction to tourist attraction, chatting with other backpackers in air conditioned buses. And popping round the continent? It eats up your money and patience real fast. For me at least, I’m more likely to stay relaxed (and solvent) if I stay in one place.

And Stay There for Cheap

As I’ve espoused so many times working in exchange for room and board is a great way to budget travel. Check out WWOOF or HelpX. Similarly, you can teach English (for pay!) or figure out a work/lodging exchange with your hostel. Or you can try to find some housesitting gigs!

Channel Some Travel Zen

Before you leave, accept the fact that things will go wrong on this trip and that, at some point, you’ll have to adjust your expectations. Maybe you’ll end up spending more money than you planned. Maybe you’ll come home and have to wait tables for three months. Maybe your luggage will get lost, your wallet will get stolen and you’ll hate the food. All of these things could happen.

However! I can tell you one thing that will, one hundred percent, undoubtably happen: You will have the time of your life. You will look back on your trip with pride and wonder and amazement and be so, so glad that you worked all those hours and saved all that money and took those chances to do it.

Related: How to be a happy, laid back traveler

Have any of you ever quit a job to travel? If you have, share your best tips in the comments so we can learn from you!

P.S. 7 travel tools I won’t shut up about!

Photo by Redd Angelo on Unsplash

How To Stay Safe While Traveling Alone (+ Still Have Fun)

Are you a solo traveler? Are you concerned about staying safe while traveling alone? I've traveled to 36 countries - most of them on my own. Click through for my best solo travel safety tips!

When I tell people how much solo travel I do, I’m usually greeted with one of two reactions:
1) “That’s so fun!”
2) “HOW DO YOU STAY SAFE WHILE TRAVELING ALONE???!!!” (followed by an urban legend of someone who went missing while traveling alone.)

In my five years/twenty countries worth of travel, I have never been robbed, groped or seriously harassed. Mostly, I have been lucky. But I also employ the all-important “Don’t mess with me walk” and follow these tips:

Staying Safe While Traveling Alone Abroad

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Clever Packing Guidelines For Impeccable Travel Style

Looking for packing guidelines that will help you look cute AND stay comfortable while you travel? Click through for a fashion blogger's best packing and travel style tips!
What are the packing guidelines you should follow if you want to a) look cute b) be comfortable c) not sweat or shiver your way across the city? I brought in fashion blogger and personal stylist Sally to tell us!

My personal travel experiences have led me to believe that packing successfully is darn near vital. Although many packing oversights can be remedied through shopping, sometimes you need to conserve those pennies/Euros/pesos/shekels for things like train fare and lunch. So learning to pack effectively is a valuable skill to cultivate.

Now, packing for a 6-month riverboat journey down the Amazon and packing for a three-week sojourn in Paris are going to be different experiences, obviously. But there are some basic rules you can keep in mind as you’re chucking shoes and undies into your rolly bag, no matter where your journey might take you!

Clever Packing Guidelines For Impeccable Travel Style

Choose a single color palette

If all of your items are interchangeable, you’ll be able to pull together outfits quickly and easily no matter what’s already dirty. Going with black, white, gray, and a single bright color works fantastically.

I usually choose fire engine red, because it’s my favorite shade of all time, and one of the best colors for my complexion … but teal, yellow, purple, and hot pink work beautifully, too. Pick a truly vibrant hue, and be sure to bring accessories and shoes in your accent color in addition to tops and bottoms.

Select breathable, natural fabrics

Silk will keep you cool during a long stroll in the Grecian sun, then keep you warm once that sun sets and a chilling breeze moves in off the Aegean. Cotton can be snuggly and warm when you’re hiking in the morning mist, but also allows your skin to breathe if you have to make a break for a fast-moving bus.

Sure, polyester washes well and is wrinkle-proof, but it keeps you neither warm nor cool and amplifies your personal bodystink. Stick to the naturals, right down to socks and undies as much as possible. (Wool is a possible exception: As it requires hand-washing and takes forever to dry, pack wool sparingly unless you’ll be wearing washable layers beneath.)

Avoid wrinkles … or embrace them

Bring lots of jersey, wrinkle-resistant fabrics (such as twill with a hit of spandex), and knitted items, all of which will bounce back quickly from being crammed into a suitcase.

Or, if you love the world-wise and happily-rumpled look, pack your linen tunics and rayon dresses, boho scarves and chunky bracelets. Just make a decision ahead of time: Are you going to pack crumple-proof items and avoid ironing, or go with a laid-back look that includes some purposeful wrinkle-age?

Bring only one pair of heels

Unless you’re going on a journey that involves charitable works, long hikes, and rural travels exclusively, you should be sure to include a single pair of dressy heels.

BUT limit yourself to that single pair, and bring only flat shoes besides. Flat boots, Mary Janes, sneaks, ballet flats … if you’re a shoe person, need options, and don’t mind some heavy duty schlepping, pack ’em all. Just make sure they’re FLATS! Travel = walking unless you’re on a cruise. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you can make heeled shoes work for anything other than a fun night out.

Invest in disposable jeans

Jeans are a travel must regardless of destination, but I recommend against bringing your best pair. Your favorite jeans likely fit into at least one of these two categories: They set you back a pretty penny, or they took you a hillion jillion years to find.

What happens when you spill borscht on them, or snag them on an ornery bramble, or lose them at the laundromat? You CRY BITTER TEARS, that’s what!

I prefer to pick up a comfy, slightly beat-up pair at a thrift store for trip usage: I feel free and easy in them, and don’t give a flying rat’s ankle what happens to them once I’m safely back home.

Pack mostly separates, but at least one dress

If you follow rule number one, you’re throwing a lot of black, white, and gray into your duffle, as well as items in your personal favorite bright, cheerful accent color. Generally speaking, you’ll want to pack tops and bottoms: Tees, sweaters, wrinkle-resistant blouses, and tanks as well as skirts, capris, and pants. But make a practice of toting at least one dress.

A flattering dress can be paired with your single pair of heels for nights on the town, but if it’s jersey or cotton it can easily transition to day with a pair of flats. Even if you have no fancy events on the docket, you just never know when a dress will come in handy.

I’ve learned most of these guidelines the hard way, and am fairly certain I’ll never violate them again.

What do YOU keep in mind as you pull from the closet and tuck into the suitcase? Ever found yourself stranded in a foreign land, wishing desperately you’d packed differently? 

P.S. 7 travel tools I won’t shut up about!

photo by STIL // cc

How To Go On Vacation Without Leaving Home

Want to go on vacation without leaving home? Planning a staycation?  Click through for tons of great ideas for making the most of your staycation!
Want to go on vacation without leaving home? Planning a staycation? We’ve all been there! Whether you’re staying home to save money or you just need a break from planes, trains, and automobiles, Vicki is here to help.

Sometimes, when the time off work just isn’t enough but you can’t afford flights and hotel bills, a week at home can feel like a holiday in a posh resort with just a few simple touches! Get a few friends, stay in a house together and make it as holiday-like as possible!

How To Go On Vacation Without Leaving Home

* Start the day with a glass of freshly-squeezed orange juice, then go out for breakfast. Have pain au chocolat at a posh cafe, a fry-up at a diner or local hotel, or a takeaway if you like – you are on holiday after all!

* Give yourself a facial whilst listening to your favourite music, relaxing with a glass of wine.

* Decide that for the week, cost doesn’t matter. You’re saving money by not going away so you can eat all your favourite foods, no matter how decadent!

* Visit your town or city’s tourist traps – you may be surprised how many great things there are to do in your town that you’d never have thought to try! See this article for some brilliant ideas!

* Go swimming at your local pool when there’s a “free swim” time and take a beach ball!

* Wear your favourite clothes and take time to look your best every day, even if you’re just staying in the house.

* Read “trashy” books and magazines, the sort of thing you’d only usually read on the beach or by the pool.

* Write postcards and mail them to your friends and family.

* Forget diets and nutrition, ice cream is a viable lunch option!

* Go clubbing or cocktail-drinking mid-week, it’s cheaper than at the weekends anyway!

* Fresh fruit however, strawberries, pineapple and big wedges of fresh juicy orange can be the perfect snack to make you feel like you’re on a tropical island somewhere!

* Pick a country and gather together all the movies you can about or from that area.

* Photograph all of it and put together an album of your fabulous holiday so that you can remember it for years to come!

How do you holiday at home? Share your tips in the comments so we can learn from you!

P.S. 10 ways to make the most of your vacation time

Photo by Corey Agopian on Unsplash