Travel. Oh, those glory days pre-children, when your biggest drama was whether you’d splurge on premium economy or save the cash for a quick trip to that Parisian department store. Should we all just collectively “lol” right now? Simply muttering the words “customs queues” can be enough for most parents to put their suitcases into storage until retirement...
However, if you’re feeling the itch, or simply want to expose your children to life outside of the daycare run, it is possible. In fact, Zoie Kingsbery Coe says it’s not just possible, but totally worth it. As the founder of Kid & Coe, she made it her mission to create family-friendly holiday stays that are a world away from those mediocre beach resorts whose key feature is a complimentary kids’ club. Kid & Coe curates the very best in private family homes, vacation rentals, agency partners and hotels, that are “kid-tested and parent-approved.” At all of their hundreds of properties worldwide, you’ll arrive to books and toys, cribs and highchairs and family amenities that make travelling with children a breeze. Unsurprisingly, Zoie is an expert in travelling with children, and so we grilled her on her top tips for surviving – and actually enjoying – your next trip with your children, so you’ll experience so much more than “same shit, different location.” And so will your children. Take it away, Zoie. Go to www.kidandcoe.com
Tell us … Travel with kids – is it worth it?!
Travelling with kids is tricky, but the alternative is you don’t go anywhere, which is no alternative at all! It’s a little like childbirth – the actual journey is painful, but you seem to forget that part and do it again! I 100% think it’s worth it though – I always remind myself that we are ‘making memories’ and the exposure to the greater world around them that travel brings is worth a few hours of grimacing on an airplane. I think it’s important that kids learn to adapt to change and nothing helps serve that more than travel.
What do you think is the best age for children to experience travel?
I think for parents, travelling with young babies is ideal. We had some of our best trips when my son was 1 – they’re super mobile, they’re still napping, they’re quick to acclimate. We had some of our best lunches scheduled around our little one’s nap schedule on trips. Travelling with school-age children is also a joy – from about four years old they’re so open and curious. There is such great programming now for young children also – museums offering tours for kids, theatre for young viewers, families are just becoming increasingly mobile and I feel there is more opportunity to discover and enrich than ever before.
Are there any ages where you’ve found it particularly difficult to travel with kids?
Crawling babies and young toddlers on a plane can be challenging, especially long haul. Travelling with toddlers is probably the trickiest. We recently took a trip to Singapore and Bali with my three children, when my baby was 1.5. She’s very active and that was challenging. I played ‘hide the goldfish’ and ‘post the sticky note’ for about 12 hours. Red wine helps, relaxing standards help – not stressing if they’re going to sleep or not helps. Just engaging with your little and having endless little tricks up your sleeve does help. I have to admit – all three of my kids have been on bottles longer than they probably should have because it was the thing that always kept them quiet on planes!
What are your go-to holiday styles with toddlers?
I love beach holidays with toddlers. City breaks can also be fantastic too – playgrounds, playspaces, classes and more are available to you – and a lot of museums and cultural institutions have toddler-friendly art spaces and more.
What about with school children?
The most fun thing to do with school children is to listen to them. What do they want to do? What’s exciting for them? I let each big kid plan something they want to see, and we have a loose structure that keeps us all happy. We took a trip to Rome because my son Luca was studying ancient Rome at school and it was really rewarding for all of us.
Any tips for battling jetlag with kids?
My number one tried and trusted trick is to get out into the fresh air as soon as you can. Sunlight helps your body regulate awake time/sleep time. We never nap when we arrive – I force us out into the sunlight and into the rhythms of where we are going. It really helps! I also give my bigger kids child Melatonin gummies at bedtime, which also helps. They’re usually so knackered though they snap to the right time zone pretty quick. Kids are so adaptable.
You arrive at an international destination with two children in tow … What is your routine for settling in and making sure the family is ready to take on the holiday full throttle?
I immediately get us outside – be it to a café for breakfast or pizza for lunch. I will look for a local playground or a nice walk or a swim in the pool – anything that keeps us outside and not succumbing to jet lag! I try and unpack the kid’s suitcases and have been known to move things ever so slightly around in a rental to make it suits them settled in that way also – little creature comforts can go a long way. Oh, we usually do a quick grocery run also – us mamas never underestimate the power of a box of cookies…
What’s in your carry-on?
Through the years I have gotten more minimal with my carry-on packing. I pack a diaper for every two hours say plus a few extra. Change of clothes for baby. And baby wipes, always, even when not travelling with baby. I think the lighter you can travel, the better. I’ve also learned that when kids are really young, those cute little backpacks usually get carried by mom so best to just keep everything in one bag and lean as possible. I always have a scarf, hand-cream and Aquaphor for anything dry on the plane.
What are your expert tips in managing a long haul flight with children? Do you have any hacks?
I always take a baby carrier up to about 2 years old – even if I never use it at home anymore. It’s the only thing that has worked for me in the past with an irritable toddler on long-haul flights: bouncing in the galley with a scarf draped over to block out some of the stimulation when they’re tired. These I-spy books for toddlers are amazing – you will possibly lose your mind repeating yourself, but you can easily distract a wiggly toddler with them. I recently discovered those little post-it flags on our 12 hour flight to Singapore and they were brilliant for just peeling one off slowly and sticking everywhere. A little pill box of the week with those little compartments also can waste some time filling with M&M’s or goldfish. Raisin boxes are your friend. Never underestimate the impact of novelty – new little sticker books, playdoh, and a lollipop to be pulled out right when the air pressure changes. Oh, we always have ziplocks – they come in handy for wet clothes, trash bags, snacks, whatever you need, a ziplock can help.
What has been your favourite family holiday to date?
That’s a tricky one! Probably our trip to Mexico’s Pacific Coast recently – we stayed at The Palmeras Residence and it was magical. It wasn’t fancy, but that’s what was so great about it. No WiFi and an off the grid kind of experience. The kids released baby turtles on the beach and just ran around so free. We celebrated my son’s birthday and the team there made his favourite meal of fish and chips. Simple pleasures make me happy.
Where is next on your list of holiday destinations?
I would love to take my kids to Sri Lanka if I can talk my husband into another long-haul after our Asia trip this year. I also adore Brazil and would love to go here. South America is fantastic for travel for Americans as you’re not too far away, time-zone wise, and such warm people that love children. Closer by, I would like to get to Comporta, Il de Re and wouldn’t mind visiting Scotland with my brood for some outdoor adventure.
Can you tell us a little bit about Kid & Coe and why you decided to create this (genius, if we may say) concept?
We were on tour in Sydney as a family and were fortunate enough to be checking into a nice hotel as it was for my husband’s work, planning to base there for an extended period. But within two days we realised it wasn’t going to work for us as a family. Once Luca was asleep at night, we were tiptoeing around him in the dark, whispering so we wouldn’t wake him. I think all parents that have stayed in hotel rooms with their kids know this scenario! We realised he wouldn’t be eating any healthy home-cooked meals and we just needed more space to enjoy our family time together. When I started the process of looking for an apartment to rent, it took days. Most were unsuitable for a young child. I had to go and personally check them all out. When we found somewhere that did work, I then had to source a baby equipment rental firm to kit us out with high chairs, stair gates and the rest. It took a chunk out of our trip just getting to that point. But then everything opened up. As soon as we were situated, it felt that all of Sydney was our Sydney: we had a base to find local fresh grocers, nearby playgrounds, farmers markets, and cafés. That’s how it started. From that I realised that staying in a house as a family was the way to go. Spending too much time going through uninspiring websites looking at uninspiring houses that claimed they were family-friendly made me realise there was a real lack in the market for people who need the space of a home the most. And we try to make Kid & Coe an elegant solution for travelling families.
Can you share your top three favourite Kid & Coe properties?
To find out more, visit Kid & Coe.