If you follow Family of Five Switzerland on Instagram
, you'll find plenty of spectacular Alpine scenery — but that's not all this inspiring family has to offer. Frenchman Jean and Englishwoman Camilla live in Switzerland with their three children, and they travel all over the world in pursuit of adventure. Their family includes Jude, age 5, Alba, age 2, and Elio, age 4, who has a vestibular disorder. Thanks so much to Jean and Camilla for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer our questions about trip-planning, budgeting, and traveling with a child with disabilities. Read Parennial Travel's Q&A with them below, and check out their family travel blog right here!
Parennial Travel: Why do you think it's important to travel with your family?
Family of 5 Switzerland: Like many families, we have very busy lives with lots of running around and little time to enjoy quality family time. Getting out and exploring the world together means we escape the chores and share experiences together. We build wonderful memories that feed our conversations long after we have returned home.
PT: How has your travel style evolved as your family has grown?
Fo5S: We are probably less impulsive now and trips require a bit more planning. Travelling light is a thing of the past but we’ve got the packing down to a fine art now. We have to think about places where we can easily manage the children, family rooms and pushchair accessibility so we try and really do our homework before we leave.
PT: How do you deal with the challenges of traveling with a child with disabilities, and how do you plan to continue doing so as Elio grows?
Fo5S: Up to this point it’s been relatively easy. Although Elio is 4 years old he is very small for his age so it hasn’t been too different from travelling with a baby. It’s starting to get more complicated at the moment as he doesn’t sleep much at night and is often tired and grumpy in the day which means lots of shouting. We find that quite hard to manage on occasion so we try and adapt our trips to find places where he will be as comfortable as possible. Looking ahead, the key is to make sure we have the right equipment for Elio — we have discovered the We Carry Kevan backpack for example, which is a back carrier specifically adapted for people with disabilities.
PT: What do you love about having Switzerland as your home base?
Fo5S: It’s just an amazing place to live. It’s clean, safe and people are generally kind. The scenery around us is spectacular and it’s so easy to find wonderful things to do with the children at any time of the year. It’s also well placed to easily explore the neighboring countries which opens up lots more options.
PT: What tips do you have to offer people when it comes to budgeting for travel?
Fo5S: Do lots of research. We have had a few surprises so it’s important to really compare accommodation, check exactly what’s included and shop around for good deals. Things like paying extra for breakfast and parking make a difference so really make sure you know what you are paying for.
PT: What are your favorite types of destinations? Any you avoid?
Fo5S: We like visiting places that are a bit off the beaten track. We aren’t really keen on very touristy spots although inevitably we visit them. We like authentic, rustic places where we can meet local people. Now we have the children with us, we like a bit of bustle and places where the children can get close to nature.
PT: What's some of your favorite family travel gear?
Fo5S: Our main “must-have” is the Deuter baby carrier. We have tried a few over the years, but this is great as it really supports Elio and there is so much storage space. We’ve got a good cooling back pack which we love for picnics and Jean's Victorinox penknife is great as it tells us the altitude as well as having lots of useful tools. Our other favourite is simply our fold-up K-ways which fold easily into the backpack and have saved us on a few occasions.
PT: What's your approach to planning an itinerary?
Fo5S: We usually pick one main thing that we would like to visit in an area and then we build the trip around it by researching other activities in the area and we often contact the tourist office in a region to get some tips on local places to visit and family friendly hotels and restaurants.
PT: Any last words for families who are just getting into traveling with their kids?
Don’t be discouraged if things don’t always go to plan. We have definitely had times when we have had to cut an outing short because one (or all) of the children is having a bad day, or the weather has thrown a spanner in the works, but the key is to keep trying and start with smaller, manageable outings. Also, don’t try to pack in too many activities per day. Everything takes a bit longer with little ones so it's best to avoid the stress of trying to hurry from one thing to another.