Today we’re bringing you part two of our interview with Millie Minton, who is the mom behind http://www.gowithdaddy.com. This family is a true inspiration for anyone hoping to raise explorers–not only do they always look for exciting daily adventures, they have also already taken three trips abroad with their young children. In part one, Millie shared where they have been, and in part two below, she is sharing some lessons and best practices that she has learned. We hope you enjoy their story, and you can follow along with all their adventures on their Instagram account (gowithdaddy)!
Q: Thinking back to the first trip…how were the flights? What did you do to prepare?
When flying, we have always tried to plan around the kids’ schedule. We want to give them every opportunity to be their best. Overseas flights are no different! So, we take night flights as it helps the time go by faster when they sleep for a good portion of the flight.
To Australia, it was a 16-hour flight. God was looking down on us when our 15 month old slept 13 of those hours and our 3 year old slept almost 10. We did, however, have a plan for when they were awake. We had a small backpack of toys to occupy them…bought mostly from Family Dollar Store so we didn’t care if they lost items. My daughter knew the expectations for the flight to sleep, play with toys and eventually watch a movie. We tell everyone what the agenda for the flight will be to set expectations. Backing up a bit, we always put them in pajamas (and a sleep sack on my son when he was really small) for the night flights to help get their mind ready to sleep.
I also got some great advice from a friend who lived in Australia with little children. She said, “Momma sets the tone.” Meaning, whatever mood I’m in will dictate how calm, jittery or stressed the children. I tried very hard to stay relaxed and it definitely showed in their behavior.
Q: And then for the second trip, did you do anything differently for the plane? What did you figure out that worked well?
Honestly, we didn’t really do anything different as what we did on the first flight worked well for us.
Q: One thing that scares parents of preschool-aged children is time change. We all know how important a schedule is for our little ones, and going through multi-hour time change can be tough! How did you approach adjusting your schedules? How long did it take your kids to get back into a groove, both on your trip and after arriving home?
Yes, a time zone change of any kind definitely disrupts your schedule. First, we tried to get the kids on right schedule starting with the plane ride. We timed when they would sleep on the plane based on what the new time zone would be. It’s like ripping a band-aid! During an overnight flight, everyone went straight to sleep which normally meant sleep for about six hours to wherever in Europe. When we all waked, they served breakfast and the kids watched a movie. When we landed in the afternoon, it was much easier than when we landed in the morning in a location. It’s easier to make it through only part of the day dazed from jet lag than a whole day. Each day following, especially the first four or five, I worked hard to get us all on the right time zone. I would make sure we got up, no matter how tired we all were, to start our day and then be back in the room for afternoon naps. For the first few days we all would take 3-4 hour naps (when they only take 1.5-2 hour naps normally at home) to catch up on our sleep. After that I make sure we take proper naps in our beds anytime Cory is working. When he’s not working, we make sure that, at the least, every third day’s nap is in a bed not car seat or stroller. It took about the same amount of time to get on the right time zone as it did to get back on our home time zone.
Q: I know on your first trip both children were quite young. What type of stroller did you travel with? Did you find Australia and Europe to be stroller friendly?
On our first trip to Australia, we used a Bugbaboo Camelon stroller with a glide board attached. The glide board was where our three year old stood while the 15 month old sat in the stroller. It worked great as my daughter couldn’t walk that long. The only problem with this stroller is that it is two pieces plus having the glider board so it was quite bulky! Its biggest pro is that it fit into a vehicle easier since it broke down into three pieces.
On both our European trips, we have used our single Baby Jogger Summit and were happy with the decision. Our children are getting bigger but they both still need a seat sometimes. So the youngest sits in the seat while the older one sits on the foot rest. It’s not the easiest to push but it’s doable. Using the jogging stroller with big, rubber tires was a huge plus since Europe has so many cobblestone streets. It does fit through all doorways; however, it’s not the easiest to navigate with such a tight squeeze.
Another side note is that strollers that you travel with will take a beating! Ours looks like it’s been to Europe twice and through many other airports.
Q: Was there any product or piece of equipment that you found to be a lifesaver?
Yes, the Kidco PeaPod Plus was a lifesaver for our son! We didn’t transition him to a big boy bed until this spring. We did not want to fight him staying in a bed while we were traveling. It’s a zip up little tent that folds up to the size of a big suitcase (or a carry-on suitcase if you get the regular size tent). It gave him such consistency each night that he never had a problem with moving to different hotels.
Another item to note is one I already mentioned…car seat or booster. Again, Europe has no cap for car seat rental prices. We chose to buy booster seats, which we got for 50 Euro each; then we brought them home and will use them here when they’re big enough. European booster seat weight limits are 30lb instead of 40lbs in America.
Finally, Melatonin for both you and your children. It’s a safe way to aid everyone in getting proper sleep to help you get on the right time zone faster.
Q: How did you balance historical or cultural sight-seeing with more child-centered activities? Any tips for avoiding a screaming child in a cathedral?
I try and save all the major, historical places for when my husband can go along with us especially in cities where we haven’t been before. We normally hit the top three to four tourist things when Cory is off during the weekends. We have also found that you cannot do back to back days of museums. Our children, as good as they are to go with the flow, are still just children. You don’t want to have to tell them “don’t touch” and “get down from there” a hundred times. It’s not fun for anyone! On the days when Cory is working, I tend to lean toward more kid-friendly activities. Parks are still fun as their equipment in both Australia and Europe were different than what we have in America. Zoos also have different animals. We saw a lot of koalas and fed a lot of kangaroos in Australia! For cathedral visits, we made sure and visited first thing in the morning when our kids were at their best and weren’t already tired from other activities. If you must go during nap time, take a stroller or baby carrier to let them sleep without having to hold them.
Q: Do you have a favorite memory or a story that really stands out?
We have a few favorite stories!
When we were in Australia, our son learned to walk! And he did so to the “mom” that hosted me twelve years ago when I lived there. It was so special!
On my third time to Paris, we decided to see the Eiffel Tower at night. Sitting on the lawn with my husband and children watching the sun set and then the Eiffel Tower sparkle took my breath away! It didn’t go along with getting the kids to bed early to help them get on the right time zone faster but it was worth staying up for!
My husband has two favorite memories and both of them are centered around just being together as a family. His first is the day we rented the SUV of bicycles in Amsterdam and rode around the city. We went to four different parks that day to let the kids play and we truly pretended to be locals. His other favorite memory is from the day we landed in London on our most recent trip. We took the Tube to Kensington Gardens and the kids ran through the grass with the sun beating down on our backs. It was so relaxing!
Q: I’m sure there are lots of cherished memories…but any epic fails? Was there anything that you thought the kids would love that ended up being a total flop?
I had to go back and look through my notes to see which things didn’t go over very well. The good part about epic fails are that you don’t tend to remember them! I’d say our epic fails were two cities in general but with different reasons. Berlin was an amazing city where we saw fun zoo animals and had dinners with such hospitable people. However, the culture of Berlin was too advanced for children our age so we didn’t get to enjoy seeing much of it. And Venice…it is not a stroller friendly city at all! Each little canal has a quaint little bridge walk way over it. We managed since Cory, my mom and aunt were with me. But if it had just been me, I’m not sure what I would’ve done when I needed to lift or bump the stroller over the stairs. Both cities will be amazing to visit again one day without a stroller and when our children are more mature.
Q: Your daughter is five now. How much of the latest experience do you think she retained? Does she bring up your adventures?
Bea still talks about things we did in Australia so I would say she has retained way more than I would’ve imagined. She also often sees things that remind her of places we’ve been or things we’ve seen and says, “I remember when we went to X or saw Y.” It’s pretty incredible! Leading into your next question, we do talk about our trips a lot too which I’m sure helps.
Q: Have you done anything to preserve the memories for your kids?
Cory started a tradition of buying a magnet in new cities that we visit. They go on our refrigerator when we get home so the kids see and play with them daily. It’s been a great way to jog their memory! They also love to look at pictures on our phones and tell something they remember about different pictures. Another thing we started is buying a flag patch from each new country and put it in a shadow box on our wall. As gifts, the kids received maps of America as well as the world that they can scratch off different states and/or countries they have visited. We have enjoyed having different outlets to give us an excuse to talk about where they’ve been and what they’ve seen.
Q: What advice would you give to parents considering a trip to Europe with their young kids?
Just go for it! If you can take the time, there’s no reason to wait to travel. I would, however, start by traveling closer to home to get your kids accustomed to it. Then a trip to Europe won’t seem any different (travel wise) to them than a trip closer to home.