Tracey Blake is the features editor at Metro, mum to Minnie, 5, and Monty, 3 and other half to James. Tracey has been a national newspaper journalist for the past ten years and is co-author of the book Small Talk: Simple ways to boost your child’s speech and language development from birth. Tracey and Nic can be found vlogging on the YouTube Small Talk Time channel – full of friendly talking tips to get cheeky monkeys chatting. The family live in Buckinghamshire but love to travel whenever they can…
Q: What is your first childhood memory of travel?
I recall a really fun, sun-saturated week in Jersey with my folks at some sort of holiday camp. I thought it was amazing!
Q: Where have you had your best holiday to date?
Ooh, that’s a really tricky one. I might have to choose a few! James and I had a lovely trip to the Maldives and it was just like it is in the pictures – sparkling blue waters and white sands, just idyllic. We also had a great family holiday to Bali where we met up with my sister and her family who live in Australia. We stayed at a hotel on the beach just outside Kuta and rented a lovely villa with wooden doors backing straight on to the beach, had a great time white water rafting in Ubud, and James and I visited Nusa Lembongan. We stayed in quite a fancy hotel, but every evening we walked along the cove to a rustic hilltop café where they sold ice cold bottles of beer and chips with chilli sauce. Heaven.
Q: Where was the first place you went with a little one in tow? How did it go?
I went to my friend’s lovely house in Vejer de la Frontera, Costa de la Luz, with a six-month-old Minnie. We’d just started to wean her but she hadn’t had meat yet, until James went to the Spanish supermarket and came back with a jar that Minnie devoured, which turned out to have chicken in it. By the end of the break she’d also tried chocolate ice-cream and biscuits!
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. We always find the getting there stressful – marshalling two small children through a busy airport while they sit on Trunkis making very slow progress and bashing into people’s ankles, left right and centre, is always a challenge. We’ve learnt now to put the Trunkis in the hold! Once you’re there though, it’s wonderful. The enthusiasm of your little ones at going on this big adventure is always infectious. Our children are delighted to ride in a lift to the room, sleep in a new bed, explore the hotel, go to the pool, and Monty is mad for the mini soaps you get by the basin. He often has one in his hand for the entire time and I frequently raid the laundry trolley for extras.
Do you ever travel with your children for work?
I am very lucky that as Features Editor at Metro I do get to go on travel trips for work with the children. We recently went to Venice where we stayed at the Belmond Cipriani and had a wonderful time, despite the watery hazards of canals everywhere! Next up is Porto.
Q: Where was your best holiday with your child?
I think we had the best holidays in that house in Vejer and we’re so lucky that we get invited every summer. We spend all day at the beach and head back for ice-cream and a wander through the old town, then have lovely tapas in the evening. It all feels like such a treat. The Spanish people are so adoring of children, which really helps make taking them out to restaurants easy, too.
Q: And your worst?
The occasions when flights have been delayed – it’s a total nightmare with children.
Q: What is your must-have travel accessory when away with children?
I always pack sticker books and colouring books. They are ideal to whip out when the kids have finished their meal but you are still eating: far nicer and more inclusive than sticking them in front of a tablet.
Q: And top tips for travel with kids?
I think the main thing I have learned recently is not to stress about the kids and their regular sleeping habits. On holiday they can stay up later and, hopefully, lie in later. You can’t make them nap if they don’t want to. If they are tired they will literally just drop off to catch up, be it in your arms at a restaurant or on a sun lounger. A short break from the usual routine doesn’t do any harm – things soon slot back into place when you get home. Having said that, we haven’t yet braved long haul so I am not sure how I’d cope if they had jetlag!
What inspired you to launch Small Talk? Can you tell us more about the books that are launching this spring?
My friend Nicola is a speech and language therapist specialising in kids and when she first met Minnie she was 10 weeks old. Nic said to me, ‘I’ve just had a lovely conversation with Minnie, she’s a wonderful talker!’ I thought she was bonkers but then she showed me how she was responding to Minnie’s babble and leaving long pauses so she could answer. It’s called the art of turn taking and is a very early form of conversation. I found it fascinating so went off to buy a book on how communication develops in babies but there wasn’t one – so we decided to write one!
Next year we’ve got story books for children coming out and we’re excited about our Small Talk Time channel on YouTube, which is full of friendly talking tips to get cheeky monkeys chatting http://www.youtube.com/SmallTalkTime
How do you find juggling your role at Metro with being a mother and running Small Talk?
It’s a real juggling act but we just about manage. Minnie started school this year and she once went to school in in her uniform on a mufti day. On one cake sale day I had to send her in with bought cakes and, recently, I forgot that it was her ‘show and tell’ day – but in the grand scheme of things we get by, things are just chaotic!
Can you talk us through your average day? Can you paint us a picture of how it starts and finishes?
This morning Monty was up at 5.30am (ahh!) and Minnie was up at 6am, so I actually had a really nice chunk of time with them. Minnie showed me every page of the baking book she’d bought at the school book sale; Monty and I had a good chat about Batman (his latest obsession). I also managed to get a lot of chores done – washing hung out to dry, dishwasher unloaded and reloaded, Monty’s packed lunch made etc…. We’re out the door by 8am as I have to drop them both off in different places and get the 8.44am train in to London. In the evenings I am home by 7.30pm – just in time to read them a story and say good night!