Justine Roberts founded the wildly successful Mumsnet after a terrible family holiday. In May 2011, she went on to found Gransnet for the over-50s, which will, no doubt, see the same immense success. Mumsnet works on the premise of discussion forums so Mums and Dads across the UK can share advice, tips and seek much-needed help of their own. It is the largest website for parents in the UK and enjoys an enviable 50 million monthly page views.
Q: What is your first childhood memory of travel?
When I was little we used to go to an enormous Victorian pile of a hotel in Torquay, which I absolutely loved. It seemed unthinkably grand to me, because waiters served breakfast sausages off silver platters and there were dessert trolleys with a huge array of puddings. I remember thinking this was how the Queen lived all the time. It rained a lot but I loved it.
Q: Where have you had your best holiday to date?
Before kids, we canoed down the Zambezi staying in safari lodges along the way and camping one night on Sindabezi Island, Zambia, almost on top of Victoria Falls. It was a honeymoon destination really – our actual honeymoon in Tuscany really didn’t compare.
Q: Where was the first place you went with a little one in tow? How did it go?
We took our nearly one-year-old twins to Florida to a so-called family-friendly resort that turned out to be anything but. Everything about the trip was pretty disastrous. From the flight (both kids developed tummy bugs the instant we sat down), to the jet lag (they awoke at 2am on the dot every morning ready for breakfast), to the resort itself. All the parents there bemoaned their choice; if only we’d known before we left. It turned out to be the light bulb moment for Mumsnet, because I realised that the web would be a great place to tap into the wisdom of others who’d been there and done that, and not just about travel, but about everything else parenting related too. I came home and immediately started planning the launch!
Q: How do you find the experience of travelling with children generally? A wonderful, bonding experience, for example, or traumatic and stressful? Or a bit of both?
A bit of both. The stressful moments are plentiful, because we’re a family of six and spending two weeks in each other’s uninterrupted company can be challenging for all of us, but there are magical moments too, when everyone’s getting on and sharing new experiences. The best memories always seem to be holiday memories.
Q: Where was your best holiday with your child?
My other half is, latterly, a bit of a sailor and we chartered a boat and sailed around the Ionian visiting different Greek Islands. We saw dolphins and turtles and our youngest would plunge fearlessly into the ocean from the back of the boat whenever we arrived somewhere. It’s amazing freedom being able to sail off to another destination everyday without having to unpack.
Q: And your worst?
I think I’ve covered that one. But, almost as bad as the first trip, was a trip to visit friends in Kenya. First, we missed the flight – I got the day wrong! Then, it took us two days to get on another flight, which wasn’t direct. We finally got to our friends’ place only to all succumb to food poisoning. By the time we’d recovered it was time to leave.
Q: What is your must-have travel accessory when away with children?
Q: And top tips for travel with kids?
Choose your destination with care – Mumsnet can help with this! (http://www.mumsnet.com/travel).
Take more nappies than you think you’ll need and a change of clothes for babies and toddlers in a zip lock bag.
Or, alternatively, you could always follow this tried and tested method for air travel as suggested by one Mumsnet member:
“Pack the children into the suitcases and just wear eight changes of clothes. It’s a bit uncomfortable, but you don’t notice so much after your fifth G&T. The rest of your stuff can fit into your hand luggage.”