I’m holed up in a lovely little cafe in Siem Reap while the kids watch a movie and my husband reads. It’s a ‘rest day’ for us after a few big days exploring the temples of Angkor and Siem Reap town and its time to chill (literally!)
We’ve always been people who love to travel and while having kids has changed HOW we do it, it’s not stopped us. All our children have more stamps in their passports than the number of their years and it is not lost on me how icredibly fortunate we are to have these experiences, and to share our love of the world with our kids from such a young age.
When it came to seeing Cambodia we had been throwing around destination ideas for a few months when it came up as an option. A combination of great food, fantastic architecture and history along with a close proximity to home made it the ultimate winner.
In the end, it all came together only a month before we left and in that time we spent hours and hours researching the country to work out what our itinerary should look like, where we should stay, eat and play. As a family the information you need is slightly more niche and I was so grateful for those who has shared their tips and suggestions. (You can find our itinerary at the end of this post).
It turns out Cambodia was a wonderful choice (phew!) It’s colourful, friendly and rich in history, making it a great place to explore. But with three kids, travelling these days looks different to the pre-kids days, or even the 1 toddler days of travel. We want to have fun, explore and enjoy the city and for them to have a great time too. At the same time, the reality is that they won’t remember all of this trip (the jury is out as to whether our youngest will remember any of this trip) so we’re not going to plan it all around them!
This is how we attempted to create a kid-friendly but not kid-centric experience in Cambodia (with some ideas relevant for anywhere you plan to go, especially in hot climates!)
1. Get some travel guides and activity books for kids. I found some great ones on Cambodia, the one pictured below Leap & Hop Cambodia has been great for our 8 year old and another one called Explore Vietnam, Cambodia & Laos has been great for our 6 year old.
2. Book accommodation with air con and a pool. It is crazy hot here in Cambodia, so at the end of the day a cool off in the pool and a cool bed to sleep in make a world of difference.
3. Do what you want to do, but do it slowly. I think that in some ways we travel better now that we travel with children. We are forced to take things slower, spend more time in each city and thus soak up more of each place. We also experience cities differently. Sure, when we were in New York we didn’t live up the nightlife but, thanks in part to jetlag(!) we did get ot eat at some great restaurants AND we went to places we’d never otherwise have visited without kids, like the Children’s Museum of Art and a puppet show in Central Park. In Asia we have found that there is a totally different approach to children and having kids has included us in moments, conversations and places we wouldn’t otherwise have been invited. Far from being a hindrance to travel, we’ve found children to be great companions and initiators on the road.
On a practical note, when travelling with young children there are some other considerations. We added one day to each of the places we wanted to visit so that we wouldn’t be rushed and we also allowed for a full day to travel between each destination. And of course there’s the issue of naps. We know that our 4 year old needs a nap most days in order to be able to stay up late with us. This generally means making sure that we’ve got a car or tuk tuk or somewhere for this to happen or an opportunity back at the hotel as some point during the day for a quick snooze. We tossed up buying a cheap stroller so he could snooze while we cruised but in the end we’ve just managed in other ways – though there has been some shoulder carrying involved each day!
4.Pack black notebooks, pencils and pens. I am carrying these with me everywhere and they come our at most meals. The kids can spend countless hours creating their own pictures. I also bought some sticker packs from PipSticks and have them up my sleeve for some of the long car trips we have ahead of us.
5. Packing Cubes. I have no idea how I have travelled without these before. INCREDIBLE. The kids each have their own one which has made them really independent – they choose their own clothes each day and can get ready completely on their own. WINNING! It’s also made packing a breeze and kept our rooms much tidier. You need these in your life! You can buy them at Kathmandu in Australia but unless you can get them on sale they are really expensive. I prefer the eBags brand which you find on Amazon (I also think they look better and have a larger range of colours.)
l’ll write another post with my packing and prep tips because that was a heap of research and effort in itself!
6. Your kids are tougher than you think. Our kids are loving this trip and have been happily spending BIG days out on the road with us. I think in part a family holiday gives your kids a lot of what our busy modern lives at home are lacking – quality time with their parents, lots of cuddles and playfulness and loads of positive affirmation. If you’ve ever come across the 5 languages of love concept then you’ll understand what I say when I describe their love tanks as being very full! I am sure this makes a difference to their ability to get on board with this crazy adventure and lap it all up alongside us.
If you are planning a trip to Cambodia or just interested our itinerary is below with approx travel times between places, I will add in links to posts about specific destinations as we go along. Because we are travelling with young kids we have allowed for a full day of travel between destinations which allows us to go at a slower pace and still have time to see and do the things we would like to see and do (and eat!) in each place. We’re gone for 32 days in total!
Have you travelled with kids or do you want to? I’d love to hear your stories, tips and hacks!