Deborah Brett lives in West London and has three children. She is currently Senior Contributing Fashion Editor at Red Magazine and writes a fantastic children’s fashion blog based on her first daughter Mini, www.minisfashionfile.blogspot.com She studied at Central St. Martin’s School of Art and has worked for over fifteen years as a fashion editor and journalist for publications such as The Times, Harper’s Bazaar and Elle.
Q: What is your first childhood memory of travel?
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t travel. My mum took me to the Alps when I was four weeks old and, as soon as school was out for the holidays, we were off abroad. It wasn’t exotic far flung places but, rather, a home-from-home with summers spent in Mallorca. And then for five months of the year we would decamp to a little wooden chalet on top of a hill where mum would home-school me. Skiing in the morning, school work after lunch and snowman building and sledging in the afternoon. Beyond idyllic when I think back.
Q: Where have you had your best holiday to date?
Most of my favourite trips abroad weren’t even for a holiday but, rather, for work. As a fashion editor I’ve been supremely lucky to bound round the world dressing gorgeous girls in equally gorgeous clothes in the most beautiful locations. Most of these places were chosen, not just because they fitted the theme of the clothes but, rather, because I had never been and fancied exploring. Cuba, Buenos Aires, Rajasthan and Galle in Sri Lanka were some of my favourites.
Q: Where was the first place you went with a little one in tow? How did it go?
The first trip we undertook as new parents was when my son was four months old. It was to Corsica in August. I wasn’t fazed by the heat, although I was by the amount of paraphernalia I felt we had to schlepp with us. (Needless to say, I now travel with nothing like that amount despite being a mother of three). Quite a few of my friends had kids before me and suggested that the earlier you travelled with a child, the better. And they were absolutely right. New parents are so transfixed with thinking the idea of travelling with a new baby is impossible but, I have to say, it’s way easier than when they can move. The best advice friends gave me was to find a hotel that had either garden rooms or those with a fantastic balcony. You forget that your new baby spends much of its time sleeping and there’s nothing worse than having to stay indoors for hours. We found a beautiful hotel right on the coast with a large balcony that accommodated two sun loungers and we both blissfully sunbathed while he slept. We were quite adventurous with our sightseeing, too. We managed to visit the mountain town of Boniface, which was a great success, and also the local beach, (not quite such a great idea with pram wheels on the sand).
Q: How do you find the experience of travelling with children generally?
I love getting away so I understand some stress is part and parcel of the experience. The older your children get, the easier it becomes, especially when they start to be able to use the iPad. But travelling today is stressful whether you have children or not – airport security, queuing, walking forever between gates, lost luggage and delays are things that drive me bonkers but, once I get to my destination I’m in heaven, so I feel its worth it. When travelling with kids it’s an obvious thing to say, but you have to switch your thoughts into a different mindset. There is no point in getting exasperated because you can’t read a newspaper quietly on the plane, or watch the in-flight entertainment or have a snooze. When you travel with kids the main objective is that they behave and you all get through the flight without a meltdown, so you have to be on call to their every whim in a way that you would normally never be.
Q. Do you ever travel with your children for work?
I have travelled once with my son. I was doing a fashion shoot in Ibiza and he was six months old. I felt I couldn’t leave him at home, so he came with and ended being in the story too. But now with three, going away for work is more like a holiday.
Q: Where was your best holiday with your child?
My kids are still relatively young (6,4 and nine months) so I’m less inclined to do Transatlantic flights unless it’s for more than two weeks. And I’m not interested in taking them somewhere adventurous, since they won’t remember a thing. So, I tend to stick to the same holidays I had growing up, like Arosa in the Swiss Alps in the winter. Nothing made me happier or more proud than teaching my two eldest children to ski down the same slopes I had learnt on. And Ibiza in the summer: it seems I was drawn back to the Balearic of my childhood and we have bought a house there on the beach. We pole around, build sandcastles, eat in the local tapas bar and take life easy. That’s my idea of holiday heaven. Simple.
Q: And your worst?
I haven’t really had an awful holiday with my kids, but I have to mention our yearly christmas marathon, where we celebrate Christmas Eve with my family in Germany and then drive through five countries in the middle of the night so our kids can wake up at my parents-in-law for Christmas morning. It’s an insane trip, but my husband and I treasure our childhood memories of Christmas so much that we want our kids to experience them both. We have not found a better solution so the 2.20am Channel tunnel it is.
Q: What is your must-have travel accessory when away with children?
Bar the iPad, which has saved many a parent from travel nightmares (ours is loaded up with everything from our favourite retro cartoons to great drawing apps), I feel it’s all about quantity. I have a bag filled with small ziplock bags containing different snacks (sweets for bribery), mini cars, mini figures, mini pencils and mini books. Everything is small, but there’s enough stuff so I can rotate them constantly to stave off boredom.
Q: And top tips for travel with kids?
It’s not always possible to choose a flight that comes in at a good time, but if I’m travelling Transatlantic I try to get one that lands in the afternoon. That way you get off the plane, the hotel room will be ready and the kids can go straight into their bath and bedtime routine, which helps to eliminate jet lag. It also means that if their sleep is sporadic or non-existent on the flight then you are not stressing about it. Within Europe, I normally stick to UK time – it means my kids wake up at 8am (mentally making me feel I’m getting more sleep!) and it also means they go to bed at 8pm. So we can enjoy those last and very best rays of sun on the beach or they can come out for dinner with us, too.