Amanda Statham is mum to Sonny, 5, and Sol, 1, and the Travel Editor of Cosmopolitan magazine. She also freelances for The Telegraph, The Times, Family Traveller and many others publications.
Q: What is your first childhood memory of travel?
My family went to Wales most summers to a little pink cottage called The Nant, which was on farmland close to a huge beach. My brother and I used to roam freely; there were fossils in the slate walls, cows being milked and dens to build. The cottage didn’t have electricity, so it was candles at night and I remember mum and dad kept wine in a well to keep it cool. St David’s, the country’s smallest city, was close by and we used to go to a great parlour for ice-creams. It was idyllic and always seemed be sunny (though we once went during a wet, cold autumn half-term and it definitely wasn’t so joyous).
Q: Where have you had your best holiday to date?
It’s hard to name just one. Diving with about 40 sharks off Kicker Rock in the Galapagos with Céline Cousteau (Jacques’ granddaughter) to launch charity Shark Count was pretty memorable. An incredible safari in Zambia and Malawi, where we saw way more than the “big five” and got transfers on tiny four-seater planes, is also burnt in my memory. Leopard tracking in the Musandam Peninsula in Oman: another highlight. Then there’s honeymooning on a tiny boat in French Polynesia, surfing at the crack of dawn on a beach near Lima and eating the freshest seafood at Camps Bay in South Africa… I’d better stop, this is making me want to jump on the nearest plane.
Q: Where was the first place you went with a little one in tow? How did it go?
Devon was Sonny’s first road trip when he was a couple of months old. The journey was traumatic as I was driving solo and had to keep stopping when he cried and for feeds, but it was for worth it when we got there. He did another road trip to France when he was five months old and we went for four weeks, our logic being if we were going to have sleepless nights we may as well do it somewhere beautiful and warm. We travelled down the west coast, staying in a mix of hotels and campsites, and it was wonderful. Sol’s first trip was to Vevey in Switzerland when he was seven weeks; I did the whole thing solo by train from London and it was easier than I expected as he slept a lot in the pram.
Q: How do you find the experience of travelling with children generally?
I love it. When people say ‘you’re brave’ I disagree as I think it’s harder to look after toddlers at home. When you’re travelling there’s always something new to see and stimulate them; at home it can be monotonous, particularly on a rainy day when time can start to drag. I sometimes miss things like their beds (we always seem to end up in one big bed on trips), and we’ve had some melt-downs on flights I’d rather not repeat but, on the whole, I’d much prefer to be travelling with them than not.
Q. Do you ever travel with your children for work?
Yes. In fact, nearly all of our trips / holidays are for work. Occasionally I go away without them, but if possible I prefer to travel with my kids.
Q: Where was your best holiday with your child?
Sonny went to Fez in Morocco when he was three and it was an unexpectedly brilliant experience. He was mesmerised by the men in jellabas, the donkeys, the live chickens in the market and the noise coming out of the mosques at prayer time – he thought it was a whale. Equally as good was a holiday at Jakes in Jamaica. I remember him raucously playing with local kids while we watched a movie under the stars and not wanting the evening to end. I took Sol to Mauritius recently and seeing him in the warm water, running around on the white sand beaches, eating fish and drinking coconut juice made me want to move to a tropical island to raise them. Everything’s easier in the sunshine, including childcare.
Q: And your worst?
Sonny was very ill when he was one on a Sunsail holiday in Greece. He got food poisoning from a local restaurant (tip: don’t let a toddler try taramasalata in an unknown eatery) and was so hideously sick all night I panicked and woke up the on-site doctor, who looked after him. We’re lucky that’s been our only major incident while away; however, it was memorable enough for me to now always travel with a bit of medicine, such as Calpol.
Q: What is your must-have travel accessory when away with children?
When they’re young, a harness is a must-have, as it allows you to use both hands (particularly important when you have another child or need to pull a suitcase). I’m afraid I’m going to say an iPad when they get older – there’s nothing wrong with watching an hour of Octonauts on a flight or making an animation on ABCYa app.
Q: And top tips for travel with kids?
Wear them out. Children seem to sleep better than adults on planes, so try and do as much as possible before you board – climbing stairs, walking on travelators, it’s all exercise.
Remember ferries exist. It’s not until I had little kids that I got into ferries and realised how great they are – you can walk around, get food, watch a movie, sleep in a bunk, even spot whales at breakfast if you’re travelling to Santander in Spain. It’s as exciting as the holiday itself when you’re four. And you can drive off it in your own car filled to capacity with ‘stuff’. Genius.
Make friends with cabin crew. They will be your saviour when you need extra milk or an extra seat, so your little one can lie down and they sometimes hold your baby while you go to the loo.