An interview with Candace Queathem @cqueathem
Do you ever look at families travelling with young children and wonder how they do it? Prior to the pandemic, my husband and I rarely travelled with our kids but our friends Candace and Eric are the masters of it. They have encouraged us to take our kids with us. It’s more work but also more fun. Even during covid, this amazing family haa managed to get away frequently. I interviewed Candace about how she and Eric do it back in late 2019 but when I was about to post it, the pandemic hit. Finally, it feels right to post it but keep in mind that this was almost 2 years ago when life was very different. There is some amazing advice on everything from jet lag to packing tips.
I feel like you are constantly travelling with your little ones. How often do you go away? How often are you on a plane with them?
We love 48-hour and 72-hour trips with kids. Living in London, we have so many great short flights at our fingertips, so we're able to go out of town with less fuss. My husband also travels and expenses a lot for work, so we are fortunate to have flight and hotel points to work with. In peak travel months, we are gone at least two weekends per month. During the shoulder season (look it up! it's a thing!), we are gone more. For instance, our October looks like this: Eric in China for work, Eric in NYC for work, Candace and Eric in Mauritius and Seychelles, Eric in Florida for work, Eric in Japan for work, Candace meeting Eric in Japan. We're on planes with the girls two or three times every month. We actually rarely train around Europe unless we're training around somewhere we've already flown to from London. At this point, I don't think I could count Riley's (2.5 years) total number of flights, but she's already blown through one passport and needed a renewal if that tells you something about her travel exposure! Lately she's been having dreams about airplanes when she sleeps. How do you keep it from getting cost prohibitive? What are your tips for sticking to a budget but still having an amazing experience? There are two parts to this answer. The first is that my husband chooses to be loyal to certain points programs very strategically (this could be a totally separate topic and I'm sure Eric would get right on it!). Our loyalty is with the Marriott group, Delta when we're primarily in the States, British Airways when we're in London, and AMEX for credit card points. It really does enable us to use free nights everywhere we go and even enables us to get our family back and forth to visit us for free. The upgrades to Business for international flights are almost sweeter than the free flights! The second part to it, with our travel experience we know what and how much to prioritize on trips. We try to research the best street food or market food and "go big" for just one Michelin rated restaurant in the country we are visiting. We prioritize experiences rather than consumption, meaning we don't shop much on vacation. Looking back, it's always worth it to me to forego the new bathing suit before the trip and souvenir procuring in the hotel gift shop in exchange for the half-day trip on the water we always try to do in beach locations. We try to stay at the airport on arrival and departure days and forego the central location if we're with our kids.
How much planning goes into your travel? Are you spontaneous or do you have a process? Eric and I make a great team when it comes to our trip planning. Eric is the booking master and I'm the big picture researcher. I put the vision of the itinerary and scenery together (pictures matter when you're not souveniering in any other way!) and Eric gets the flights and hotel in place. Once we have the bare bones of transit and accommodation in place, we usually plan our one or two nice dinners and book tickets for any experiences that require advance. Our spontaneity hit an all-time-high when we decided to visit our best friends in Australia over Christmas and bought our tickets in mid-December. Best decision! Sometimes it pays off and sometimes you just simply pay more that makes sense for being spontaneous Give it to us straight...how do you keep your kids happy and quietish in an airport/on a plane? Choosing the right flight time is the important thing here. Even the best behaved kid will vocalize discomfort when he's on a miserably cramped night flight. We try to set the girls up for best possible behavior, even if that means I'm traveling by myself and Eric is having to meet us somewhere. I try to keep in mind that if it's a less desireable flight for me, kids just feel the same emotions and fail to filter when comes from those feelings. So, day flights day flights day flights. And, start the white noise at an early age so that you can use it as a cue for naptime if it has to be on a flight. While we don't want our kids to be consuming too much media at home, I don't monitor it as heavily on planes. It's ok to me that my kids check out with media for a day, because the alternative is that they recognize and track that they are cramped, regulated and stuck in place for an unnatural amount of time. When that doesn't work, I've had a lot of success with flashcards, Riley eats up a learning activity where she's the sole focus, and "busy bags" that let you empty out the random junk drawer with curious trashable trinkets. We also have amazing kid magazines in the UK with stickers and mini toys and I stock up on those like crazy. Not to mention the gallon bag of snacks I roll with. Plane snacks just don't do the trick and airport kiosks are so damn expensive. Tips on jet lag? This is the one that really sometimes just kicks the most experienced travelers in the ass when kids are in the picture. Plain and simple, an adult can medicate jet lag away, a kid usually can't. While melatonin works for some kids, the sleeping aids appropriate for little ones always end up being more of a risk than a reward for me. Both my girls are fighters, and if they fight sleep while being forced-drowsy, it's a unique type of shit show. The best answer we've found for this is not to stay in bed at that 3 o' clock hour that your kid is bright eyed. Instead, wake up, go for a drive, pick up some donuts and put them (and yourself) down for an early nap.
Favourite place so far you’ve travelled with your kids? Tough! The Dolomites come to mind, but then again, so does the Berner Oberland in Switzerland. There's something so beautiful about being in the mountains as a family on top of it all. Any products you recommend when travelling with kiddies? Absolutely! We have the Marpac travel white noise machines and really believe in the Snuggle Nest travel bassinet for little little ones. It can fit on any hotel bedside table and is quite compact. Im a big believer in the Amazon Basics travel cubes so we can pack in one bag without stress, and we use our Ergo Baby 360 and Baby Bjorn travel cot more than anything else. Any places you regret traveling with the kids? Not really, although there are many places we will return without them. I see most trips with kids as the "try-on" for a place. If it's good with kids, it will usually be great without them haha! We just set our expectations according which prevents too much regret. A good example of this is our trip to Israel. We treasure the memories we had at the Garden Tomb at sunrise on Easter morning as a family, but it will be an entirely different experience when we're able to participate without having two under two cranky and strapped to our chests.
Top ten tips on travelling with family? 1. Don't let age deter you. My 2mo-8mo babies are better behaved than my toddlers. Also don't let people convince you that travel is wasted on a young child. We've had too many family travel moments of peace and wonder with our young kids to believe that hogwash. 2. Get passports for your kids as young as possible, like the month they're born essentially! This helps in the spontaneity department and the process isn't as complicated as you think. You're more likely to get it accomplished when you're at home with a sleepy nugget than later on. 3. Always check whether or not you need a travel visa for the country to which you are traveling. We made this mistake traveling to Australia and had to apply for all four of ours at the ticket counter on our safari browsers on our phones. If you have experience with any government websites, you know what a mess it was and how close we were to missing our flight. 4. Check one large family bag. Packing cubes simplify this and we find that the mobility/time saved in the airport is worth having to leave behind the two extra pairs of shoes you wanted to bring. 5. Do a passport check for the family each morning. We had a recent experience where we lost Eric's passport at our hotel in the mountains and Eric had to make a 6 hour special detour to retrieve it. We've now committed to doing a passport check each morning and before each location change. 6. Invest in the right gear. See previous comments about Ergo and Baby Bjorn. Gamechanger. Also, if you are a traveler and haven't invested in a Yoyo, just do it already you yoyo. 7. Identify your friends with kids the same age and get out together. There's something really fun about finding compatible travel-mates. We recently went with some friends to Disney-Paris who have the same aged kids and it was a great time for all of us. 8. Call ahead. We leave double and triple notes with housekeeping and always call 15 minutes early if we need anything kid-specific for our rooms. There is LITERALLY nothing more annoying than showing up to a hotel with too few baby cots and having to stash your kid on the floor in a closet. And, I swear the additional 30 minutes you have to wait for them to bring up a baby cot at 11pmafter a late flight are the 30 minutes that push the kid too far. 9. Take someone along if you can! We had an au pair travel with us this summer and it was a new type of luxury that will be hard to come off of. I know people do this with older parents sometimes. It makes a huge difference to be able to have one of your kids sleep with the other adult and not have two cots or two young ones in the same hotel room. It also enables you to have a few date nights and see city nightlife safely. 10. Do laundry on vacation. I often buy or take travel laundry detergent and hand wash kid jammies and adult undies in the bath tub. It lightens up our packing and prevents us from having too much laundry when we get back. Unpacking is a specific type of torture is it not?