Tell us about you and the family and how it started, your favourite places and how many countries has Riley been to now?
My husband Lachlan and I are both expats. He’s an Aussie and I’m originally from New Zealand and we now call Tokyo home. Lock is an airline pilot and I’m an ex-flight attendant, so it would be fair to say that a love of travel is something we have in common.
We travelled to Sydney for the birth of my son Riley and, when he was 4 weeks old, we went on to New Zealand to meet my family before heading back to Japan.
It was important for us that our families and Riley were able to spend time together and this meant regular international travel. So Riley just naturally became a ‘travelling baby’. It was essential that he was comfortable on these long trips and everything that comes with them – the jet lag, the hustle and bustle, and being on the move.
But we also wanted to travel for travel’s sake. Quite a few people had told us, “you won’t be able to keep this up after baby is born”, but we didn’t want to hear that. Of course, we were a little bit apprehensive at first, but we soon discovered that babies could in fact be the best travel companions! You see the world with fresh eyes when you’re with a child. Things that you had taken for granted suddenly become fresh and new. And Riley’s genuine delight in the simple things is totally infectious!
Riley is now 18 months old. He’s already visited 32 countries and over 80 destinations. He’s been to Cuba and Turkey, he’s visited the Moroccan desert and he’s seen the awesome waterfalls of Iceland. We’ve been skiing at Whistler in Canada and we went sailing on the Amalfi Coast of Italy. It’s hard to believe we’ve really done all that!
Every place offers something different and it’s hard to say which has been our favourite. But Riley definitely loves the sea. He was so happy splashing around in the beautiful warm waters of the Bahamas where he got to swim with the famous swimming pigs of the Exuma Cays!
Where do you get your travel inspiration from?
With the careers we’ve had, Lachlan and I have just always travelled, and we also meet people who tell us about amazing places to visit. On top of that, I’m a real foodie. Travelling chefs like Anthony Bourdain, Massimo Bottura and Maggie Beer gave me the urge to taste the world on a plate. I really believe that the authentic cuisine of a place gives you such an insight into the culture, history and lifestyle of its people. Now, with Riley, he gives us a new kind of inspiration. Lachlan and I believe that the experiences you have and the interactions with different nationalities help shape you as a person, so we naturally want Riley to experience as much of the world as we are able to show him.
How did you come up with the idea for your blog and Instagram page?
Initially, we just wanted to document our travels on social media so our loved ones at home could keep up with what we were doing. It also gave them a chance to watch Riley grow. As we travelled, we quickly found that we were inspiring other families to travel thus then becoming a passion for us, whether around their own countries, on yearly trips abroad, or to offer their children school experiences in different cultures. We wanted to show them it was possible.
Maintaining the blog and Instagram page brought us into contact with other families too; we were surprised to find there are lots of them doing similar things to us. They are really supportive and we often turn to them for ideas. They are a good source of advice on all those important questions you have when you’re travelling with a young child.
Now, with travel and blogging we’ve developed a love for photography. The images we’ve captured of special moments shared as a family will stay with us for a lifetime. One day, Riley will be able to look back at the photographs and I’m sure he’ll be amazed to see all the places he’s been.
Why is travelling as a family so important to you?
We are strong believers in the power of travel to educate. The experiences Riley has had in his short 18 months of life are truly amazing. You might think he’s too young to understand what he’s seeing, but we can see the benefits. He is so open and friendly with people of all cultures, he is kind and patient and always cheeky and joking with everyone he meets! We couldn’t be more proud of all the adventures we’ve had with him so far, and the three of us now share a very special bond. Whether its climbing coconut trees in Sri Lanka, chasing waterfalls in Iceland or dancing to jazz on the streets of Cuba, Riley is always up for everything and anything!
What unexpected things have happened to you when you’ve travelled as a family?
Oh gee, so much! There are of course occasional delays and cancelled flights and, once, we were stuck due to a hurricane. Things go wrong but we have learned to never get stressed and to just go with the flow because no matter what, it always works out and sometimes for the better. I remember when we were supposed to fly to South America from New York – but at the last minute our flight was cancelled. So we booked a flight to Iceland instead. We had zero warm clothes with us so we rushed around the airport buying anything warm from duty free, it was s memorable trip travelling through Iceland over the next week.
What is your advice for other families wanting to travel?
Just do it! If Riley is anything to go by, your baby will be able to enjoy travel right from the beginning. There’s no reason to put it off. By travelling together, both parents are also able to form this incredible bond with baby and share magical moments together in wondrous and mesmerising places. These are unbeatable experiences and they are precious. We can honestly say this is because we took the leap and travelled with Riley. He has had two happy parents to develop and learn with. We really encourage other parents to try it too, whether by exploring their own backyard or travelling further afield.
What has been the most memorable experience you’ve had while travelling, and why?
There have been so many! But I will never forget our trip to Cappadocia, Turkey. At sunrise, a multitude of colourful hot-air balloons rises up above the rugged landscape. But what made it even more special was that Riley was approaching his first birthday and he was just starting to take a few unaided steps. These are precious memories for all of us.
How many trips per year does your family do? How long do they usually go for, and how many destinations do you normally fit in one trip?
Every trip is different but we also work around Lachlan’s work schedule. For example, we wanted to experience Europe in the summer so we planned two trips each for about six weeks with a two-week gap in between for work. This meant we could bounce from destination to destination without missing a thing. We break up long trips by island or country to give us a few days in each new place, as well as some breathing time off the plane to help us adjust to jet lag. Typically, our trips might cover three countries but on some trips we have taken in as many as ten.
What are your saving tips for families who would like to travel as often as you do?
We are fortunate to have staff travel for flights, but becoming a member of Expedia and booking.com is great because the points you accumulate reduces your nightly rates and can get you upgrades. Don’t be afraid to call up hotels and talk to them about rates – we are always pleasantly surprised with competitors matching rates.
I pack non-perishable snacks in my check-in bag so we don’t have to spend on food in the airports, and I always book breakfast with our rooms. This takes care of one big meal and when we’re travelling and exploring unfamiliar cities, it’s reassuring to know everyone in the family has had a good proper breakfast to last. I also grab a few pieces of fruit for snacks.
Also, if you can, book your travel during off-peak or “shoulder” seasons. Because we are travelling with a baby, we can travel outside school holidays and peak season times.
What’s the best bit about travelling with a baby? What are your top tips for travelling with a baby?
We have found it awesome travelling with Riley as a baby. Of course, the airlines try to make life easier for you with priority check-in, extra baggage, and priority boarding. Hotels are incredible too. They offer children’s meals, water and snacks, and of course babies don’t need an extra hotel room! When travelling through Italy and visiting the Vatican, we were a bit shocked to see the crowds and the long queues for everything, but we were diverted to a baby lane which really helped. Babies also encourage you to get out earlier, beating the crowds and always scoring a good table because you are eating at restaurants earlier.
When we can, we try to book night flights; having Riley sleep for the majority of the flight is less stressful for everyone. We avoid the bassinet seats and opt for the back rows. I like to pop Riley into his PJs and rub some “Vicks” which helps with the changes in cabin pressure during the flight. I also wipe down the area to keep away germs.
Invest in a good travel stroller we recommend Baby-Zen’s Yoyo and good baby carrier – Ergo is great! they will both be of great use. My last tip: always carry a well-stocked medical kit for baby. Being stuck in a foreign country where you can’t speak the language can be really difficult with a baby that needs medicine.