- Catherine Hudson has worked for all the great parenting titles including Prima Baby, Junior and Gurgle, and is now editor of FashTravels. She is a freelance lifestyle and travel writer, and mother to baby Evie. She has taken some time out to chat to us about her first foray into travelling with a tot in tow and her fantastic work can be viewed at catherinehudsoncreative.com
Q: What is your first childhood memory of travel?
My family has always travelled, both for holidays and out of necessity. I recently had to list my last five home addresses, and, being of a naturally inquisitive nature, I decided to find out exactly how many homes I have had. It turned out to be over 20 in 34 years! My first memory of travel is journeying by car across country either to Yorkshire, Shropshire, and later, Devon, to visit relatives. Always travelling at night, my sister and I would be dressed in our pyjamas and would look forward to the treat of stopping off en route at the (now defunct) Macdonalds that was in a building shaped like a spaceship. In terms of holidays, my parents usually chose French Eurocamp sites, which had a pool, lots of kids for us to make friends with and fresh baguettes as tall as my baby sister: what more did we need? I didn’t really understand the value of having family roots in one place, until I had my own child, and have developed a keen interest in a bolthole, with plenty of holiday adventures planned.
Q: Where have you had your best holiday to date?
I have been fortunate, by design, to travel fairly extensively to lots of exciting places. The Maldives is a totally unreal place. It is still the only place I have visited where it looks exactly as beautiful as it does on the sleek, shiny websites and you think ‘the water cannot be that blue, nor the sand so white’, but it truly is. We had clear blue skies all week, when we visited, staying on both Niyama and Conrad Rangali islands, and felt like celebrities, hanging out in our water villa, cycling around the private island and sipping champagne on our very own boat. It’s great to see that the Maldives is opening hotels that will appeal to more than the honeymoon market. Instagram has also definitely helped, there. It is a brilliant, though still pricey, place for families (no cars, rooms on the beach, safe), but at least the increasing number of all-inclusive hotels mean that you can budget for the entire spend.
One of my most satisfying holidays was my first trip to Thailand, where I excitedly joined an Amari hotels press trip staying in Bangkok and Hua Hin for the first week, (Thailand had been at the top of my bucket list) then took myself and my backpack island hopping for a further two weeks, solo. I stayed in resorts (a bit nicer than hostels but still cheap and usually with a pool), and ate, visited whatever and slept whenever I wanted. I’m so glad to have had that experience, because, as much as you have in common with a partner, or enjoy spending time with your children, I found that there is something so immensely calming about being in charge of your own leisure time, and not having to consider other people. It’s not selfish; it’s self-satisfaction. Grab it whenever you can!
Q: Where was the first place you went with a little one in tow? How did it go?
We had travelled abroad three times with Evie by the time she was ten months old. Our first trip abroad was to Malaga, for a friends’ wedding, when Evie was just three months old. We stayed in an apartment with a pool over the road from the beach, and took both our mums with us. I wrote a couple of pieces at FashTravels.com about what to pack in your suitcase and what to pack in your hand luggage and how to get on the plane with a newborn, after this trip, because I wanted to share the success of our trip. You might even say we felt a little smug about how well it had gone, but it turned out to be the calm before the storm. Just before our second trip, to Greece, Evie fell ill with a sore throat and cold. Calpol wouldn’t touch it. Safe to say, it was an experience. I will say, the first trip’s success was mainly down to the fact that we had been prepared and left nothing to the last minute. If you prepare your holiday admin and packing in good time, and leave nothing to the last minute then, unless your child gets sick, it’s pretty much in the bag.
Q: How do you find the experience of travelling with children generally?
If your child is well, it is wonderful, in terms of bonding, having fun, sharing experiences and quality time together. If they are sick, you can obviously still make it work, but brace yourself for sleepless nights and tired days of sightseeing. As any parent will tell you, a baby with a cold or a cough is exhausting, and worrying about medical care abroad can be stressful.
I do totally understand the appeal of fly and flop, or all-inclusive beach holidays with young children but, saying that, we loved Lisbon, and once we worked out the best kit to get about the city, it was spellbinding. We all loved riding the funiculars, tasting local food and seeing the incredible architecture. A new city for a baby can be the ultimate in baby sensory!
Do you ever travel with Evie for work?
Yes. I have been writing about family travel for around ten years. I’ll admit, since having Evie, my ideas about travelling with children have evolved somewhat, but I would maintain that it is definitely possible to enjoy travelling both near and far with little ones. Obviously, you learn by experience but we have travelled enough to know you have to roll with the curveballs, with or without children.
Q: Where was your best holiday with your child?
I loved Whitstable – it’s the British seaside at it’s best – fresh fish and chips, a seafront boardwalk, delicious donuts and an oyster shack, bright beach houses and quaint streets filled with independent stores. We are going back next year for a wedding, though I might try to sneak in an overnighter this year, too. Lisbon was our favourite trip abroad, so far, because of the delicious food and friendly people, and so many beautiful sights. Malaga is also brilliantly child-friendly, with flat streets, easy beach access and sunny skies.
Q: And your worst?
I can’t say that any have been bad, per se. The only downfall has been Evie being ill, twice, which made travelling much more testing. Entertaining a baby on a flight requires lots of distractions and patience. Entertaining a sick baby on a flight requires many hands and a lot of stoicism.
Q: What is your must-have travel accessory when away with children?
A well-packed on board baby bag filled with everything from essentials, comforters and medicines. Also, a well-chosen buggy that is lightweight, folds up small and lies flat for naps. Plus, a carrier, especially for getting around cities. We used our Ergobaby 360 carrier in Lisbon, which made getting about a lot quicker: try pushing a buggy around a castle!
Q: And top tips for travel with kids?
Prepare, prepare, prepare! Don’t take anything unnecessary, like tens of fancy outfits or baby shoes, and work out if you will need a car seat. Read up on your airline’s allowance for travelling with children as they can all be different. Again, I would recommend doing all this weeks in advance to save last minute stress and bad decision-making. I always wear a bumbag to the airport, and around cities, so I have my money, passport, boarding passes, and other small essentials to hand. Rooting around in bags is always a pain, but even more so when you are digging through muslins and spare clothes to find the important stuff. When we went to Greece, we kept Evie on the same time schedule as at home, so she stayed out later at dinner with us. A great idea is also to book a room with a separate lounge, or an apartment, so that you can put the little one down in a different room, then you don’t have to tip toe around when they are finally asleep!
Q. Are there any openings this year that you’re particularly excited about or places that you are definitely heading off to with Evie?
I would love to see more of the UK. Since having Evie, I have made a huge effort to see much of our hometown, London. I have ended up writing a list of 101 things to do in London with a baby, (originally a ‘top 10’ but just kept growing!), as well as 20 of the best soft plays in London, because there are just so many fantastic things to see and do in our capital.
My partner hasn’t been to Scotland or Wales, so they are on the top of our list. The dream UK trip this year for us would be to the Another Place hotel in the Lake District, which I have written a news snippet about, previously. We have a great backpack carrier by LittleLife for Evie, and that would be the perfect trip to try it out. Plus, the hotel and it’s setting looks dreamy. After Lisbon, we would also love to spend more time in Portugal, and we will be looking to plan a long haul trip for next autumn or winter. One UK winter spent without any sunshine is one too many!