The 3 Kids Travel crew doesn't let a bigger family stop their adventures
Traveling with one kid can be tough. Traveling with two is harder. But surviving traveling the world with three kids
? That's a skill that takes some practice. Luckily, family travel blogger Elise Caffee of 3 Kids Travel assures us it gets easier with every trip, as she's learned firsthand navigating the globe with her husband and three daughters. Keep reading for Elise's insights into managing anxiety, fighting jetlag, and dealing with the unexpected.
Parennial Travel: What's your favorite type of destination when traveling with your family?
Three Kids Travel: This is a hard question—because we like so many places. But if we had to pick, I think we'd say cities. We currently live in the suburbs of Salt Lake City but my husband and I both spent a lot of our lives living in much bigger cities (Washington, D.C., New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Madrid, Moscow, etc.). Our kids don't get a lot of exposure to big city life on a regular basis, so when we travel we like to pick a new city to explore and expose them to what life is like in a city. We usually try to rent an apartment and pretend like we live in that particular city. In addition, cities often provide a lot of unique cultural experiences, and there is also something about the challenge of navigating a city with three kids that invigorates us.
PT: Have you had any disasters while traveling with your kids? How did you deal with it?
3KT: Our biggest disaster thus far was on our trip a few years ago to Copenhagen. We were four days into a three-week trip around Europe. We were near a lake and there was an unexpected gust of wind that sent our Maclaren stroller flying into the lake. Luckily, we got all of the kids out of the way quickly (and our two-year-old wasn't in the stroller at the time) but our stroller flew into the water and we had several cell phones and cameras in the stroller. The stroller got completely submerged in the water and my husband had to jump in to save the stroller and attempted to rescue our iPhones and digital/film cameras. We spent the next few days trying to get our phones fixed but unfortunately the iPhones couldn't be salvaged. You don't realize how much you use your phone in a foreign country until you are without it. I had never been to Copenhagen and couldn't navigate well. It also made it harder to split up (we only had one key to our apartment and no way to communicate). We spent a lot of time being frustrated. Five days later we had to buy new phones in London at the Apple store and my husband lost some of his favorite film cameras. I would say we didn't deal very well. We used our only iPad to take pictures throughout that part of the trip and we just tried to do a better job communicating. It was frustrating and I feel like I need to go back to Copenhagen and experience it again. Of all the problems we could have though, this wasn't horrible. I'm always worried someone might get hurt and need medical attention on a trip and that would be much harder.
PT: How has your travel style evolved as your family has grown?
3KT: As our family has gotten bigger, we've gotten more adventurous in terms of the places we'll travel. I was an anxious mom with my first baby and even though we traveled somewhere every few weeks I was always stressed out. As we added child No. 2 and child No. 3 I definitely calmed down and have gotten more comfortable with the routine of traveling with kids. As I've gotten more comfortable it has been easier to challenge ourselves with longer flights and more "difficult" destinations. I used to think "Why would anyone want to take their kids with them to Europe or China" and I thought it would be much easier to just go on a couples trip to international destinations. But, as our kids have gotten to be better travelers we've realized how much fun it is to take our kids with us. Now we stick with a few annual trips that are "easy" and usually involve seeing our extended family and then as we pick other travel locations we like to go somewhere new or somewhere we are intimidated by.
PT: Any gear you always travel with?
PT: How do you deal with travel fatigue?
3KT: Jetlag is not fun with kids and it is pretty much something you just have to get through. We try to time flights to avoid jetlag when we can. But when we travel internationally we usually just give ourselves one to two days to adjust to our new time zone. We try to drink a lot of water and get sunlight/exercise and then get on a schedule. When our kids wake up in the night we try to have a snack for them and let them read or play quietly and then try to get them back to sleep quickly. My husband has major sleep problems when we are in the U.S. which actually works to our advantage when we travel because he adjusts pretty quickly to new time zones (we think he was meant to live in a European time zone). So, he is usually pretty functional when we travel if I'm not and can help with the kids.
PT: Any advice for families scared to travel with multiple kids?
3KT: My advice to families with multiple kids is to start small and build up to longer and more adventurous trips. Road trips can be a great way to start traveling because they are often less stressful and you can leave/return on your own schedule.
One way that I've learned to control my travel anxiety is by getting as much information as I can. I like to read blog posts, articles, watch YouTube videos, listen to Instagram stories, etc. If I can get information about a certain country or destination it helps me visualize what travel there will be like and that information often alleviates my anxiety. When I see other families with three-plus kids traveling, I like to learn how they do it by asking them questions directly or following them on social media. Traveling with multiple kids can be a little more work logistically than with just one kid, but it really isn't that much different.