As a technology journalist, blogger, author and general gadget queen, BBC reporter Zoe Kleinman was no stranger to finding her way around the world armed only with a Satnav and the promise of a decent wifi hotspot on arrival. But then the birth of Harrison (now 2) heralded the end of the era of travelling light and she recently celebrated the birth of her second son, Harley. Zoe Kleinman’s book Birth, Boobs and Bad Advice is available on Amazon.
Q: What is your first childhood memory of travel?
I was six years old the first time I ventured onto an airplane. I was beside myself with excitement for weeks in advance. My parents had (rather cleverly, with hindsight) kept back a Christmas present for me to open on the flight and the anticipation of this alone was delicious. Our timing was interesting – it was the early 1980s, Florida was in the grip of its coldest ever winter and the oranges had frozen on the trees… But it was an absolutely magical time. And perhaps not just for me – my sister was born around nine months later…..
Q: Where have you had your best holiday to date?
I suppose, if I must choose, I do love city breaks – there is always so much to explore – but it is infinitely more difficult with a young family. The Christmas markets of Berlin were fabulous, but then so was splashing around in an outdoor fun pool with my toddler in the New Forest in Hampshire this summer.
Q: Where was the first place you went with a little one in tow? How did it go?
When our son Harrison was just 9 weeks old we went to Ayrshire in Scotland for a week to attend a friend’s wedding. We had booked the trip before he was born without really thinking about the practicalities. The short flight there was pretty hellish – Harrison cried throughout and I was heartbroken. Check-in had already been hideous because we had endless luggage – it was our first experience of schlepping prams, car seats and a million other bits of paraphernalia around and it was definitely not fun. When we finally reached our hotel there had been a booking mix up. By this point I was in tears myself, so we dumped our stuff, put Harrison into a baby wearer and headed straight out to explore. That said, the area was breathtakingly beautiful. The air was so fresh and crisp, and Harrison slept like a log, which meant we did too. What started out as a very stressful experience soon became the fun break it was originally intended to be – with a few celebratory cocktails thrown in too!
Q: How do you find the experience of travelling with children generally?
I think the anticipation is often more stressful than the reality. In trying to mentally prepare yourself for numerous worst-case scenarios you end up being scared witless. The most difficult part is keeping kids entertained in a confined space – but certainly with very young children the experience in itself can be so fascinating they are absorbed by that alone.
Q: Where was your best holiday with your child?
We’ve recently returned from a week in the south of France and it was wonderful. The important thing was that it was the holiday we ALL wanted – we didn’t just choose somewhere we knew Harrison would love and we could tolerate.
Q: And your worst?
We’ve been pretty lucky so far but I think we haven’t been too ambitious yet – our longest flight has only been a couple of hours and we’ve stuck to European destinations so no big culture shocks.
Q: What is your must-have travel accessory when away with children?
Handbag-sized toys and snacks to keep them occupied during meals – whether that’s a favourite book or little cars. And their comforter of choice… I wouldn’t even attempt a night away without Pooh bear!
Q: And top tips for travel with kids?
Familiarity is comforting to them so bringing things that remind them of home are always good – books, toys or a favourite blanket. Stick to routines, if not timings – if you do a bath before bed it’s really important to keep that up while you’re away. We found that timings don’t seem to matter so much if the routine remains the same. In France, Harrison stayed up much later than he would at home and was up later in the morning as a result, but we still made sure his routine fitted in with the new hours, with morning and night time warm milk, and meals regularly spaced apart. And try not to be a hostage to your children’s needs. It’s important to the whole family that you ALL have a good time.