Russ and Ashley of The Family Travel Bug blog are the best kinds of family travel experts: They've traveled with world with their three daughters, and they've got insider's knowledge to boot. Russ has worked in the aviation industry for nearly 20 years, giving him tons of family travel tips that he shares with Family Travel Bug readers—from how to save money booking flights to how to find the best hotels and activities. Keep reading for more about this awesome family's journey!
Parennial Travel: How does your travel style differ from before you had kids to now, with three of them?
The Family Travel Bug: It doesn't actually differ all that much. We still are adventurous, we just tailor it to our kids while pushing them at the same time. For example, instead of hiking the eight-mile Na Pali Coast Trail like we wanted, we did four miles. It was still amazing so we didn't feel we missed out. Another difference (for the better) is the time we spend in a location. When we didn’t have kids, we were more mobile and could go go go. Yes, we saw more, but we didn’t immerse ourselves in a location. Having kids helps us slow down and enjoy a location more, and discover hidden gems that we may not have seen or experienced.
PT: When it comes to kids, what age do you think is easiest to travel with?
FTB: Baby under one and then once they are over 3. Basically take a year break during the “2’s” when they are so focused on their independence, as that can be a little rough sometimes. Our 9- and 6-year-old are great right now and can do most things we want to do. When our girls were babies, they were the easiest as we would just wear them in a wrap and do everything we wanted to do.
PT: How do you budget for traveling with three kids?
FTB: We budget per trip. We stay in Airbnbs so that we can prepare our own food for breakfast and lunch. We choose one or two big activities to pay for like a snorkeling trip and find a lot of free or cheap activities, like hiking to a waterfall. When it comes to saving money and funding our travels, we are a big fan of finding additional sources of income to offset/help! This year we starting renting our house on Airbnb. It’s been a huge success and we have generated over $7000 in less than six months.
PT: What type of destinations do you prefer?
FTB: The kids prefer the beach, mom likes the mountains and dad is up for anything.
PT: Russ has a background in the aviation industry. Can you tell us more about that and how it's helped you navigate flying with kids?
FTB: It has helped us learn tricks on how to get the best fares, what types of planes are best for long haul trips, and what seats are best. I’ve been in the travel industry for the past 17 years working as a travel agent, airline airport agent, airport manager, airline corporate manager, and now recently manage software that is used by airlines all around the world.
It also has helped me be creative on how to combine points and cash fares. For example, when we went to Hong Kong… Round trip tickets from DFW to Hong Hong were $1600+ or 75k miles on AA per person. Most people might have given up at that point or paid it; however, what some people don’t know is to look from other gateways. My first choice is always LAX for Asia (given the competition). What I found is round-trip flights on AA for $450 per person nonstop. That’s a huge savings! Then you can by a cheap ticket for 200ish from Dallas to LAX or use only 25k miles, saving almost $1000 per person.
PT: What are the most important things on your packing list?
FTB: Activities to keep the kids entertained on the plane. There are all kinds of great (cheap) activities on Amazon that will keep kids busy. Also good, comfortable shoes for the kids. Nothing worse than my daughter complaining all day of her feet hurting her. We pack light on clothes.
PT: Do you ever get travel burnout? How do you stay motivated?
FTB: Nope, never! (Haha) Our motivation happens daily when our kids tell us stories from past trips, when they ask when we get to go on an airplane again, or how they spend time looking through hundreds of pictures from past trips just to relive it a bit. The other day our 3-year-old Aria was asked “what’s your favorite animal?” She quickly responded “baby Charlie.” Her teacher said, “do you mean baby shark?” and she quickly said “No! Baby Charlie the elephant." This was the elephant that she met in Thailand and fell in love with, and she has been sharing her story with everyone!
PT: What's your advice to families who are afraid of hitting the road with their kids?
FTB: Don't let fear stop you. Being prepared and changing your expectations is what will make a successful trip. Instead of seeing all the sites in a place, focus on a few and intersperse them with kid-friendly activities like a park. The lessons and memories you will teach your kids when you travel will outweigh any of the frustrations.
A great quote is, “You never change your life until you step out of your comfort zone; change begins at the end of your comfort zone.” —Roy T. Bennett. Sure, sometimes it’s easier to stay in our comfort zones, but for how long? Something to think about is this: how many summers until your kids leave the nest? It might not be that many, right? Your kids aren’t going to remember a new bathroom, a kitchen remodel, or a new car you might get, but what they will remember is the time you spend together making memories and mistakes at times… but at least you are together!