On mater mea’s Instagram page, we regularly have moms from around the world take over our account to give us a sneak peek into their lives or to drop some knowledge about a topic that matters most to them.
Monet Hambrick and her family travel all over the world, exploring destinations both near and far. She took over the account to share just how she travels with her kids, ways to make family travel easy and affordable, and how to make time for travel while working full time! (This is one where you’re going to want to read the comments, because Monet dropped some really helpful advice and insight there.)
* Captions slightly edited from original post.
My name is Monet and I am the mom behind @thetravelingchild. I’ll be taking over today to share with you my journey in traveling with my kids.
I always loved to travel. Growing up, I would travel to Jamaica with my family all the time. When I was a sophomore in high school, I won a scholarship and went on a five-week trip to Botswana over the summer. This trip changed my life and I continued to study abroad in college.
Fast forward to 2013, I became pregnant with my eldest daughter Jordyn and I was repeatedly told how my traveling days were over now that I was having a child. Most of these people didn’t even have kids themselves, and those that did I don’t think ever even attempted to travel with them. I didn’t understand why there was this notion that your traveling life and life in general is over after having kids.
I refused to let the negative comments of others dictate my life and decided I was going to enjoy this world with my daughter and share my love of travel with her. After traveling to Florida, Illinois, Jamaica, Italy, and Greece, I learned a lot about what it takes to travel with kids.
One day, shortly after I had my second daughter Kennedy, a friend who came to visit convinced me to start an Instagram page documenting my journey. I thought she was crazy and that it was a pretty vain thing to do. “Hey look at me seeing all these nice places with kids.” But I was on maternity leave and, after a few weeks of considering it, I decided why not? Funny thing is I started a blog after I had Jordyn two years prior and wrote one post and said this is stupid.
I realized this could be helpful, how many other parents who want to travel hear the same thing. Why not provide tips on how to make it easy? My friends always came to me pre-kids to help them find cheap flights: Why not show other parents it’s affordable? So I did and here I am trying to change the narrative that travel is only for the rich and kidless.
Choosing our destinations and affording travel—for us these go hand in hand. My motto is if kids live there, kids can visit, so as long as I deem it safe, it’s fair game.
We choose our destinations based on flight deals. Like most people we do have a “bucket list” of destinations we want to visit, but choosing specific dates and locations can be costly. With the exception of weddings, flight deals dictate when and where we go.
My husband has always wanted to go to Amsterdam, so when a flight deal came up last November for roundtrip airfare from Miami to Amsterdam on Delta for $400, we booked it. The deal had available dates from August to November this year, and while his 30th birthday was July 13 and the trip was to celebrate it, we left August 6 because leaving closer to his birthday was $1,100 per person.
Better yet, I had 60,000 Skymiles, which took $600 off the total of our tickets. So the four of us flew to Amsterdam for $673. (I just had to pay taxes for Kennedy.) I use websites like The Flight Deal and Secret Flying to find low fares. I have tons of tips on planning affordable family vacations in my blog. I also post flight deals in my IG stories every day to help my followers find cheap flights.
Swipe left for tips on flying with kids! On our most recent trip, pictured first, I flew with both kids by myself to Europe. The key to flying with kids is to make sure they are comfortable, entertained, and fed. To prevent their ears from bothering them if you’re nursing, nurse on take off and landing. If you aren’t nursing, have them take a bottles, drink water, or eat something. These will all relieve the pressure from their ears.
Photo 2: There are products that will make your life easier when traveling through the airport. Toddler car seats are heavy; kill two birds with one stone and push your child and car seat together. I also always travel with my carrier, it’s a life saver.
Photo 3: If you’re using an infant car seat, you can get a backpack carrier that can also be pulled. It protects your car seat from the filth under the plane if you are checking it.
Photo 4: To kill time before your flight, find an airport playground. Let the kids use up their energy so they will hopefully sleep on your flight.
Photo 5: Pack an entertainment/snack bag filled with toys and activities to keep them busy on your flight. Also pack snacks/sandwiches as airplane food is hit or miss and certain snacks (read: emergency lollipops) seem to magically cure all tantrums on planes.
Photo 6: Just us using our packed entertainment on our recent train ride from London to Paris.
Photo 7: If you are flying internationally, call the airline as soon as you book to reserve a free but first-come-first-served bassinet so your infant can sleep comfortably on the plane and you can be hands free.
Photo 8: For older kids, there are tons of products that turn your child’s airplane seat into a bed so they too can sleep comfortably and not on your lap, which makes you more comfortable.
I have tons of tips on flying with kids on my blog if you want more details.
People often assume that traveling with kids means you can only do “kid stuff.” While children’s museums and zoos are great, we opt for activities we can’t really do at home.
Our adventures have included off-roading, kayaking, bike riding through the streets of Copenhagen, and snorkeling. I even went diving at the Great Barrier Reef with Kennedy when she was 8 months. I was with 12 of my girlfriends and only six of us wanted to dive. The others gladly watched her for me while I was under.
How do you travel so much? I’ve been asked multiple times if I work and yes, I do. I work a regular Monday-Friday 8-5 job, but still we are able to go on about six trips a year. How?
I get 10 vacation days, seven personal days, eight paid holidays, one floating holiday, and, if I participate in my companies global volunteer day (I always do), I earn an additional vacation day. That gives me 19 days to use as I please and eight set days off.
I try my best to always include a holiday in our vacation, if the flight deals allow. Remember every vacation doesn’t have to be super long. When we visited Aruba, it was during the Fourth of July; we left Saturday morning and came back Tuesday night. We got a four-day vacation and I only had to take one off.
Our trip to Cuba included Labor Day and our trip to Copenhagen included Memorial Day. If you get Thanksgiving and the Friday after off, you can leave the Friday night before Thanksgiving and not return until Sunday after Thanksgiving. That’s a nine-day vacation with only taking three days off.
But how do you afford it? Besides the flight deals, we budget for travel. We have a specified travel savings account that we contribute to monthly. Travel is something really important to us, so we sacrifice other things.
This includes cooking dinner six times a week, 95% of the time, and bringing our lunch to work everyday. We rarely watch live TV as we are so busy during the week, so I cancelled our cable and we just have Internet with Netflix and Hulu. This saves us $100/month which all goes to our travel savings account. That’s $1,200 a year, and our Aruba trip cost less than that.
You know what you can and can’t live without and what you’re willing to sacrifice.
Is traveling with kids hard? At times, yes, it’s a major struggle, just like parenting at home or anywhere else is. They throw tantrums, misbehave, and will sometimes get on your nerves just like they do at home.
But still it’s so worth it! Watching my kids learn about the world firsthand is a dream come true. Seeing them interact with people of different backgrounds, cultures, races. Watching them pick up pieces of the language of the country we are visiting and knowing the types of food that particular country eats is indescribable. Slowing down my travel to see the small things because they notice everything makes me appreciate my travels much more.
I hope you’ve learned something from my takeover today. If you ever have any questions about traveling with kids, don’t hesitate to reach out! Much love, Monet