Pauline Axford and her husband, Bryan Daubney, have visited more than a dozen countries together, four of those with their children, Caleb and Jane.
“As a couple, we value experiences and time spent together more than things and this is a philosophy that we’re trying to impart to our kids,” shares Pauline. “Life is for living and there is a whole world of people, places, and experiences out there.”
The family has had many adventures, from tenting their way across Canada to getting rushed through U.S. Customs when a toddler had a well-timed bowel movement. “The stink that engulfed us all was unholy,” recalls Pauline. “When the stench hit the nose of the customs officer her questions immediately ceased, she stamped our passports, and pushed us through her line as quickly as humanly possible! The downside was that we had forgotten to pack extra clothes in our carry-on – rookie mistake! – and so had to pay outrageous airport prices for a clean outfit.”
Now, the family always travels with extra clothes and plenty of baby wipes, despite the children being school-aged. And travel they do, with flights booked every few months and an epic two-month excursion to France planned for next year.
The family practices “slow travel, which when you take the time to really get to know a country and its culture when you visit,” explains Pauline. “When we decided to immigrate to Canada from Scotland we took the time to explore Scotland as much as possible before we left, and we try to go somewhere new whenever we go back. Likewise, since immigrating to Canada we have taken the time to see it from coast to coast. This has been a giant undertaking that has taken many years as Canada is huge! We have lived in British Columbia, the Prairies, and now the Maritimes. We have visited nine out of 10 provinces and all the major cities.”
Pauline & Bryan’s Tips for Traveling with Kids
- There are two essentials: wet wipes and a change of clothes. After that, pack light!
- Take a carry-on rolling suitcase and a backpack. Kids are responsible for carrying their own luggage.
- Make trip planning a family event: show the kids photos and videos of the destination and let them choose a few things they’re interested to see.
- Call the airline’s customer service to inquire about perks like family seating or checked child equipment.
- Do not get stressed about the small things. “A calm mama and papa with ready smiles will usually calm the kids and endear those you meet in your travels!”
Watch Pauline’s video of what’s packed in Jane’s travel bag for a trip to Cuba!
“Of course, as any working family knows, finding the balance between having time and having money is really hard,” says Pauline. “We’ve certainly struggled with that, but we want to show our kids that there are solutions if you’re willing to think outside the box. Sometimes our solutions have been unconventional – including living in a tent for six weeks – and we have had to really embrace the mindset of slow travel in order to achieve our goals.”
The children certainly enjoy the slow pace of the family travels. When asked for their best memories, Caleb and Jane “unanimously agreed on camping,” shares Pauline. “They like that we spend lots of time together and we’re not so rushed when we camp. We think this really goes to show that kids just want to be a family.”
While the Daubney family may be seasoned travelers, Riverview’s Gunn family were much newer to international excursions when Kimberly and John booked a week in Paris with their two boys, then ages 18-months and four-years-old.
“We flew in on a red-eye from Halifax straight to Charles du Gaulle,” recounts Kimberly. “The first day was spent simply, arriving at our Air BnB. I had a nap with my youngest while my husband and oldest went to pick up supper at the nearby grocery store.”
“We made a point of not making specific plans,” says John. “We had a handful of potential places we’d like to see and decided to take each day one at a time.”
“We didn’t worry about naptime because my youngest was being worn in a baby carrier and napped on me,” adds Kimberly, who says that also helped him see more of what was around them. “Our days started later than normal and ended later than normal, mostly because of the time difference. We didn’t want to acclimatize them too much because we knew the transition home would be rough.”
Kimberly & John’s Tips for International Travel with Kids
- Pack light, and keep a good-quality backpack stocked with snacks and spare clothes.
- Keep your daily schedule simple and realistic.
- Babywearing trumps strollers on bumpy streets, subway stations with stairs, and packed museums.
- Stay near a grocery store or department store so you can quickly pick up anything you need.
- Don’t have too many expectations and embrace the chaos!
Both John and Kimberly agree that investing in Nexus cards along with the family’s passports was helpful. “Every time I’ve traveled alone with my Nexus card, it has saved large amounts of time,” explains John, who travels frequently to the United States for work. “I had heard it was also honoured in the EU. When arriving in Paris, we were directed to the separate line for EU passport holders, which was almost empty, meaning we could bypass the 200-plus people waiting for the two customs agents on duty.”
John also suggests parents spend a lot of time preparing their children for the practical part of the trip ahead of time, to help with a smooth transition to vacation mode.
“We read and followed lots of lists and articles about packing snacks, favourite toys, putting their favourite shows on devices, and while it all helped, the biggest thing was just preparing them for the airport, the plane, and the metro” he says. “It made a big difference in reducing their anxiety, which in turn helps reduce parent anxiety.”
The Gunn’s first family adventure overseas won’t be their last. “My oldest especially still talks about the trip months later. We’re already talking about Scotland or England – maybe when they’re slightly older though,” says Kimberly.
Have you taken an international adventure with your children? Share your tips for traveling with little ones below! Are you a resort-based type of family, or do you have a slow travel approach like the Daubneys? For more on the topic of slow travel, what it means, and how to do it with young children, listen to Pauline on the Pickle Planet Podcast!