We recently spoke to one of our members and travel mommy blogger Elizabeth from Dutch Dutch Goose. She and her family (two boys aged 2 and 4) are from the United States, but have lived all over. They recently moved to the Netherlands from Colorado and will likely be there for the next three years. We love Elizabeth’s down to earth attitude towards traveling with kids.
Have you always been a traveler? What sparked your love of travel initially?
I’ve always loved traveling. My parents used to plan two-week road trips around the U.S. every summer. I would count down the days until we loaded up the minivan for our summer adventures. My husband really expanded my love of travel though. Some of our first dates in college were little local trips to places near our college town. We’ve continued to travel and plan trips together for nearly 12 years.
When you were first pregnant, did you think all the travel would have to stop or were you determined to continue traveling even with kids?
I found out I was pregnant a month before a trip to Paris and Ireland my husband and I had been planning. We made some small adjustments, but otherwise ran our trip as normal. A few months after that, when I was in my second trimester, I was off to Japan with my sister. I continued to travel for work during my pregnancy until I literally was not allowed to fly anymore. I think at that point I knew that if I could travel through all the stages of pregnancy I could travel with a little one.
My first son was born just one month before we moved from California to Colorado. At one month old he took his first road trip and by his first birthday had been to 14 states! At that point there really was no looking back.
Was the reality of traveling with kids much different than what you anticipated?
Traveling with kids is certainly different than traveling without. There is so much more to think about and prepare for. We try to pack our itinerary with options so we can make on-the-go decisions based on weather and kids’ moods. Finding hotels and restaurants that are good for us can be challenging, but with some research and talking to other travelers we usually end up somewhere that suits us.
I think the biggest surprise for me was how many doors traveling with kids would open. We see more of “real life” in locations because we spend time in playgrounds and in kids’ cafes. We often make friends that provide us with great tips for the city we are in.
We are amazed how often we get to do something “special” because we have the kids with us. Our kids have been invited into the captain’s quarters on boats, open canal lock gates and wave train flags for people really doing their jobs. These are the types of experiences that stick with them and us!
Traveling with kids has also taught us that it is ok to throw in the towel. We used to be ‘get it done’ travelers trying to mark off everything we want to see. We’ve slowed down a bit and became good at saying “this isn’t going to work today” and changing plans to a pool or even just some TV or iPad time at the hotel.
What do you love about living abroad? Do you enjoy raising your family overseas? Is there anything you miss about back home
We love living abroad. It is such a wonderful experience to immerse yourself somewhere different. We also ended up in a wonderful country that shares so many of our values. We love riding our bikes everywhere. We have a wonderful mix of city and country where we live. We’ve met people from all over the world and get to learn (and laugh) about cultural differences.
I miss some of the convenience of the United States. . .namely Target! Haha.
Do you think you’ll continue to live abroad after this?
Yes. We would love to live abroad again when this opportunity is up.
What have been some of your favorite countries/cities to visit with your children? Any particular spots or outings that stand out for you
I have to start by saying – come to the Netherlands! So many people with kids shy away from here because Amsterdam is full of “adult” activities. Amsterdam has so much to offer children – large parks, boats and some incredible child-friendly museums.
That being said the Netherlands has so much more to offer outside of Amsterdam. The country is incredibly child-friendly, with children welcomed nearly everywhere. The food is kid-friendly – fried cheese, fresh produce and lots of bread! The Netherlands has forts, castles, playgrounds, gardens and of course tons of boats and flowers.
We’ve also really found the Scandinavian countries child-friendly, although more expensive than the Netherlands.
Is there a cuisine you’ve had that you think is particularly baby friendly?
Our kids have always just eaten what we are eating. Even in Morocco, where the food looked the most different, they found tons of things they liked to eat. There is typically fruit on the dessert menu, so we fall back on that when all else fails.
We also like to hit up the markets (or grocery store) for a picnic for at least one meal a day. Even the littlest ones love being able to pick out their own food. We did baby-led weaning so I literally cut up my own food to feed our newest eater. There are also small food grinders you can travel with if you are worried. The local “cracker” is also always a big hit as a snack with my kids.
Why do you think traveling with a baby (even if he or she won’t remember the actual experience) is so important?
Travel with babies makes them so much more flexible as kids (and hopefully as adults.) They have been introduced to so many new foods, people and languages. Our kids have been exposed to the idea that the world is made up of differences and that is exciting.
Our oldest (4 years old) may not remember the specifics of many of our trips but has a sense of a larger world. He may not specifically remember our trip to Paris, but when he sees the Eiffel Tower he will say “We went there, right mom?” and that is a great invitation to discuss some of the other things we did there
I’ve also found that our kids are better sleepers and eaters as a result of our travel. We’ve had disaster meals and disaster nights while traveling, but in general our kids can sleep anywhere and find something to eat anywhere.
What’s your number one piece of advice to the newly pregnant expecting mother who loves to travel, but is completely freaking out about taking the plane with her baby for the first time?
Don’t panic! I’ve had great flights with the kids and I’ve had terrible flights with the kids and I’m still here traveling. You can do everything right and still have a terrible flight, but those are rare. If you prepare and pack plenty of snacks, your flight will go fine. Plus, if it doesn’t you likely won’t ever see any of these people again. And you must remember, the horror stories you hear are the ones that are remembered and get passed on. You never hear of the many, many good stories of traveling – we just focus on the horror stories we’ve heard.
When our oldest was three months we were on a flight and got upgraded. Up to this point he had been the perfect traveler. Well on this particular flight he was a total nightmare. He was screaming and kicking things. We broke several glasses that our drinks were served in. My husband finally just took him into the bathroom in the rear of the plane and let him cry himself to sleep. We still laugh about what a disaster that flight was! It was also where we learned that the bathrooms are largely soundproof! Ha!
Any must-haves when you’re traveling with little ones?
Water and snacks! You can get through anything with enough food.
I love to baby wear so I couldn’t imagine traveling without a baby carrier. It is our go-to even as the kids get older. The kids don’t complain about it like riding in a stroller because they equate it to being carried by mom or dad. We’ve even thrown our 4 year old in the carrier a time or two when he wasn’t feeling well.
Overall though you know your kid best. Some kids don’t like to be worn or are not used to it. Try to keep your travel routine as close to your home routine as possible in terms of what you offer for comfort. We like traveling with our own travel crib because the kids are used to it. We make do when it’s not practical but it does seem to help.
To follow Elizabeth and her family’s adventures, check out her blog Dutch Dutch Goose or follow her on Twitter @ejdn or Instagram @ejdn.