travelling with children

When things go wrong while travelling.

I've travelled a lot in my life - with and without kids. And I will continue to travel for as long as I can, as much as I can. 

We always remember the good times, even though they aren't all good. Now it's time to crack open the treasure chest and let a few rip...

In this series, I will tell the tales of when things go wrong. It can be near disaster to mild discomfort. Embrace it. If you travel, you will chance upon some not so positive times. Learn from the experience of others, realise you are not the only one. It's all part of the journey. Without fear, new adventures and mild despair, there is no learning, excitement and wonder. Lean into the fear. If you feel uncomfortable, that is where life is changing. 

Some of the lessons I'm probably yet to learn, but here are my experiences. 


#1 Most Dramatic. The tsunami.

Ok, so before I go much further, let me explain. A tsunami didn't eventuate, but for about five hours we thought a disaster was on its way. 

We were strolling through the gardens of our resort, back to our beachfront villa, when another Aussie guest came zooming past on a golf cart yelling 'a tsunami is coming, quick, a tsunami is coming'. Hubby and I, strollers holding our two sleeping children in front of us, look at each other confused, then decide to turn back to the reception area where we had just come from to check what is happening. 

A leisurely stroll through the tropical gardens after checking flight details turns to a speedy workout pushing strollers up the nearest mountain.

A leisurely stroll through the tropical gardens after checking flight details turns to a speedy workout pushing strollers up the nearest mountain.

'Yes, there is a tsunami warning. We are recommending all guests head up to the roof of the hotel.' 

'Um, ok'. We turn to where she is pointing, my heart is pounding, and wonder how we are going to lug both strollers up the five flights (plus) of stairs. Something catches my eye as we look. It's the staff carpark - what seems like every staff member of the hotel is jumping on their bike and zooming off. I get even more concerned. Me always being inquisitive, I ask the doorman where they are going. 'Up the hill or to their home', he replies. 

'Where would you go?' I ask. He points through the carpark and says there is a big hill right there that goes straight up. We make our decision,  thank him and start running. 

He is right; the hill starts just the other side of the road from where the car park sits. About a third of the way up I decide we need to buy as much water as we can - since we could be stuck up there for god knows how long. I beeline it into a closed restaurant and ask for water. She only has four bottles left, so I buy them all. We then continue our ascent. 
We must look tired, or the locals are ultra friendly. A couple of times a friendly local comes and picks up our strollers and carries them up the hill for us. On one location, the local insists we are high enough, that the water won't make it this high, but I can see more hill and more altitude, so we push on. Sweat is pouring down our foreheads and backs, it's amazing the energy you have with adrenalin pumping fierce through every body part. 

Half way up the hill. Lots of locals felt comfortable stopping here to wait in the shade but I kept thinking 'there is more hill, more safety'. So we kept hiking up.

Half way up the hill. Lots of locals felt comfortable stopping here to wait in the shade but I kept thinking 'there is more hill, more safety'. So we kept hiking up.

Finally, we make it nearly to the top. We are high, and I am satisfied that no wave will reach us here. My heart is still pumping at dizzying speed. Now my mind is asking a million questions.
How will I feed Ashton, who is bottle fed, with only one bottle of formula?
What if Belle gets hungry?
Oh no, I've lost all my photos of the trip?
I've lost my computer, and my work?
How will we get to the airport? 
I don't want to go to the airport; it's at sea level. 
It's going to be crazy, and dirty, and still life-threatening when this ends.
How long will we be stranded in Phuket for?

We rested here until the lovely local came and asked us back to her home around the corner.

We rested here until the lovely local came and asked us back to her home around the corner.

A beautiful local on her scooter potters past and asks us back to her home. She is asking all the families back to her home for food and to sleep. We take her up on the offer. It's only 50m or so further up the hill, and it means the kids will be out of the sun. 

Another Australian family from the resort we are staying at comes to the house also. Belle plays with the little boy while Ashton sleeps - oblivious as to why we are up a hill in the middle of nowhere. Our friendly locals feed them colourful sugar treats, packets of chips and, as night falls, cooks us all up eggs, vegetables and rice. 

During the hours we spend with them, they are watching the news on tv and trying to translate what is being reported.
We hear -
Indonesia is wiped out
Hundreds have already been killed
The wave will hit Phuket about 9 pm
There are three 8m waves

Belle had no idea what was happening. She was happy to get to watch stuff on a new friends iPad.

Belle had no idea what was happening. She was happy to get to watch stuff on a new friends iPad.

Meanwhile, Ashton was getting hungry. With only a couple of mineral waters and one formula bottle, I had help trying to entertain and distract him.

Meanwhile, Ashton was getting hungry. With only a couple of mineral waters and one formula bottle, I had help trying to entertain and distract him.

So you can understand we are trembling with fear while trying to remain calm. I ask the Australian mum of a little boy Ashton's age if she can breastfeed Ashton if needed. I also ask them if I can borrow their phone to call home. I phone my Dad, the only number I can remember, and tell him what is happening - then to pass the information on to the rest of the family. I don't know if I can ever explain the feeling of telling your dad that you are in a life-threatening situation, thousands of kilometres away, but 'should' be ok. 'I love you' seems so much stronger than any other time.

Ben also starts asking a few questions -
Shall I go down and get the formula
What if we go halfway down and find out what is happening
Should I go down and get a bag full of stuff - it's not meant to be here in the next hour

Of course, I say no, it's not worth risking his life over. The wave could hit at any time - we only hear very roughly translated news reports. 

Everyone helped to entertain the kids as the hours ticked on.

Everyone helped to entertain the kids as the hours ticked on.

Or maybe the kids entertained the tourists?

Or maybe the kids entertained the tourists?

And new friendships kindled. Apparently Belle invited him to her birthday party a few months later. He lives in a different city. 

And new friendships kindled. Apparently Belle invited him to her birthday party a few months later. He lives in a different city. 

At 9.30pm, after our local family had offered us, and ten others, their precious 3x3m tiled lounge floor to sleep on, we cautiously (and me very scared) inch back down the mountain. Lights around the town. There are few people moving around the streets. I am scared and don't want to go back to our beachfront resort. I convince Ben to see if we can get a room in a hotel on the hill somewhere. We try the first one we see but it seems nobody is there. The second one is full. Then we see a tourist family walking towards us. We ask what is happening. They say 'we think it is all called off'. Not the most reassuring, but it does make me feel slightly better. 

There is nothing else between our hotel and us so we dash to the reception. They confirm the tsunami is called off, and we can return to our rooms. But I'm not convinced. We are in a beachfront room and I can't shake my tension. I ask for a high floor room and am told all are full. Shattered, I ask if we can move resorts. But after a couple of calls, we are not having much luck. They offer to test our room alarm for us, which goes off in a tsunami warning. I agree. 

Finally, at midnight, I sleep lightly while Ben is awake watching tv and catching up on tea. Our daypacks are packed, ready to run, sitting near the doorway tonight. Later, when I notice Ben has turned the light off, I sleep even lighter, listening to every noise. To say I had a bad sleep was an understatement - I couldn't wait to leave in a few days time. But, that wasn't to be the end of it.

Just before dawn the next morning, our alarm goes off. I am up and out of bed, daypack on back and putting both kids in the strollers before Ben could even turn the light on. I didn't care I was in my summer pyjamas and that everyone would see. I commented I could smell smoke when we opened the door then ran. Not many others were up, but I didn't care. We made it to Reception in record time and were surprised only to see a few people there. I would have thought if a tsunami was coming, everyone would be hasty. 

But not everyone was there because there was no tsunami coming. It was a false alarm, the alarm going off by accident. I would normally have been furious, but I was too exhausted. We had only managed a few hours sleep, the kids eyes were goggling with tiredness, and now we were up for the day. 

Ben and I commented that day, if it weren't for our flight leaving the next day, we would be making arrangements to go home early. There is only so much you can take in one holiday, and this experience, on top of Ashton cutting a tooth and running fevers for the first seven days, was just too much. 

I think we got high enough. Even if three eight-metre waves had been on their way.

I think we got high enough. Even if three eight-metre waves had been on their way.

FYI, the movement that happened underwater that set off the tsunami warnings ended up being peaceful. The tectonic plates moved horizontally instead of vertically causing a minor ripple. Apparently, with the movement, if they had moved horizontally, this story would have had a very different ending. A tsunami bigger than the Boxing Day one would have been on its way. So we are told. 

Note to self. 
Try to listen to people with better English. 
Keep my phone usable but just disabled.
Learn an escape route on arrival at the holiday destination.

What have you learned from something going wrong on holiday?

Me, five kids and my dad - over 500km away. A trip to the Grampians.

Venus Baths

Venus Baths

In my research with Google Maps, I work out it’s going to be just over five hours drive. 469.5km. Add the breaks in, and we have a whole day. I’m still not sure whether I’m crazy or not. For one, I don’t particularly like driving long distances. Second, I’m taking three kids with me - alone. Hmm. 

Where am I going? Wartook, at the Grampians. It's about 40 minutes the other side of Horsham (coming from Adelaide). My dad has property over there, and he is always asking us to go. Hubby can't come due to work, so I hold my tongue the right way and hope for the best. Three kids in my car and me. It will be interesting.

View from cabins at Happy Wanderer Holiday Resort

View from cabins at Happy Wanderer Holiday Resort

The Happy Wanderer Holiday Resort could have had potential some years ago. Now it is run down. The views from the log cabins are beautiful. One afternoon I wander over and am stopped in my tracks by the view in front of me. Grassy plains lead my eye to the soaring mountain range hiding the horizon. I can imagine sitting on the deck, watching kangaroos graze, as the sun goes down. But alas, not tonight. I hear ‘mum, excavate with me. Nobody wants to play with me.’

Happy Wanderer Holiday Resort

Happy Wanderer Holiday Resort

Halls Gap is just 30km away. The slow drive through the tree-canopied mountains is easy. The inconvenience of having to keep an eye (or two) on the road (as I am the driver) instead of the forest of trees that keep enticing me with their beauty is slightly annoying. I also smile at the quirky tree growth (after the monster bush fires about a year ago) that covers the trunk of each tree like a hairy bear. Little sprouts of leaves cover each trunk from close to the ground up to the highest limbs.

Halls Gap

Halls Gap

The town of Halls Gap itself is like a setting out of a movie. On one side of the main road is the caravan parks and playground, hemmed in by the towering rock face behind. The other has, among other small buildings and stores, a cute collection of shops bordering a shaded lawn area. Umbrellas and picnic tables are full with latte-sipping hikers. We walk the porch that runs the length of the shops, browsing the souvenirs, crystals and fortunately, missing the lolly shop then head over to the playground. I resist the urge to get coffee - just.

After a recommendation by the Visitor Centre as to where we could go with five kids aged 4-13-years-old, we walk to Venus Baths. An easy 2km return walks to half a dozen rock pools of varying sizes and depths where the children jump and slide and get wet. Me too. It was worth listening to the whine from some of the kids on the walk up - the kids didn't want to leave. It also means I don't lie, saying 'it will be worth it' to keep the kids going on the way up - seeing as I'd never visited before. 

Venus Baths

Venus Baths

I carefully mention to my dad that next time we come over to the Grampians I'd like to stay in Halls Gap - even though it's not near his property. The caravan parks look nice, there is a big playground at the public park in front for the kids, and multiple hikes begin at the foot of the mountain rock face. I can hike without having to drive anywhere. And now the kids know about these very fun rock pools to slip, splish and splash about in.

Venus Baths

Venus Baths


So, you ask, how did the trip go? Really well. The kids entertained each other, we didn't lose anyone, and I kept my sanity with the drive there and back. Even though we had a 1.5-hour wait in Bordertown for my dad who was running late (a normal occurrence).

Did I enjoy it? Hmm. I loved the exploring but was happy to escape kids (yes, even mine) when I got home. 

Would I do it again? Yes. But not to Wartook. Halls Gap is my Grampians spot. 

Walking on Grandpa's property

Walking on Grandpa's property

Secret weapon? iPads for the car. Cousins for play. Lots of food. No food with artificial colours or too much sugar - especially in the car. 

Holidaying without your kids… you have to.


We are back from Lombok. What a great place, and what an awesome holiday. (I particularly love South Lombok, but more on that later.) 

After six years of travelling with a baby and toddler, and in the last couple of years, toddler and child - this was a real holiday. Not just 'travel and experience' as I like to call going away with kids. Or, 'same shit, different place, and hard work. But hey, it was worth it, I got to explore somewhere else'.

There was nothing hard about this trip, except for the overnight flight home with a packet of Gastro-Stop handy. 

My lessons learned why every couple should have a holiday without their lovely treasures? Read on.


1. You actually have time to get bored while waiting for your flight to leave. Especially if one of the crew on your departing flight can't get through customs due to her passport not being accepted. You now have an extra hour to wait for a call-in crew member to arrive.

Hint: if you can't log on to Adelaide Airport wi-fi in the Departure Lounge, stand by the Business Hub, and then log in. Ta da!


2. Happy Hours are actually happy hours - not whinging, 'quick, let's grab some food and go back to the room' hours. Enjoy watching the sunset with a mojito (or Bintang) or two, then meander off to any restaurant that takes your fancy (rather than checking each menu for child friendly options first). You can savour the food and experience too, rather than gulping it down as quick as you can - there are no children to throw embarrassing tantrums in the middle of the restaurant to worry about. Well, not yours anyway.


3. Throw some caution to the wind and hire a scooter for touring. You don't have to think about how to anchor child seats, or if the car will have seat belts. Be free and feel the wind on your face. Southern Lombok is perfect for getting around on a bike - minimal traffic (motorised and the animal kind) and have decent roads at times. Go like the expats and locals do.


4. Get hubby up and start the day with an hour and half of yoga, overlooking the beach. Bliss. Even for people that have never tried yoga. Hubby has never done it, and raved about it. The lap (or thunder, in our case) of waves, the sea air breezing over your body, a well trained teacher… Peace - parents, do you remember what that is?


5. Get a local child to take a pic of you together. Don't worry about focus, getting your heads in the frame is the only idea to strive for. You get the experience and the fuzzy visual memory. And the kids love it.

We had little pups trying to nibble at our feet in this pic of us at Mawun Beach (absolutely stunning with only half a dozen people scattered on the white arc of sand).


6. We are in the era of technology - so if either party misses each other, Skype is the answer. We Skyped our kids daily, and video Skyped them once too. But when we heard our daughter hid under the bed for ten minutes after seeing us, we decided video was finished.

Not sure if this Skype thing benefited us, or them, as we were the only ones eager to talk. :)

Final thoughts...

I'd like to make sure we go away once a year, for some time to do what we want. It felt like we were young again, with no pressures or responsibilites. We could do what we want, when we want - or nothing at all. Some days we lazed the day away reading and browsing the iPads on our beach front patio. Other days we explored near deserted beaches, one after the other. And one special day, I went to the Spa for four hours. Namaste.

What are your thoughts and experiences?

On a plus side to travelling with kids...

Phuket restaurant I have been compiling a top 100 list about travelling with children for an eBook recently. Let me share one with you...

Tip: bless 'em.

Going on holiday doesn't stop the tantrums, the dirty nappies, the naps, the getting up in the middle of the night, the need to go to playgrounds. It does stop late night jaunts, long lazy meals, relaxing with a book, and lazing in the bed every morning before ambling to a mid morning breakfast.

It closes a number of doors, but where one door closes, another opens. Literally.


You are invited in to families homes, people stop and chat, the children encourage conversation, you are looked after, and above all... you learn and experience more. You get out to the where the locals hang, venture to new frontiers (heck, go out the back gate!), meet many people in one day, and see a different way of life to your own back home. Whether you are travelling in your own state, or across the other side of the world.

In Phuket we were welcomed into a villagers home for the night. A woman on moped asked only families to come in. We were fed, offered a place on their lounge floor, and taken care of while a tsunami warning played out down below. Going up, locals even carried (yes, carried) our strollers up the hill in sections for us. Helping to get us away from the impending tsunami even faster. Thankfully, it never came, but we were safe indeed with locals.

In Bali we played on the beach and grass with local kids. None - adults or children - could verbally communicate with each other but so much fun was had.

Here in South Australia, we are constantly chatting to locals, finding the best coffee, playgrounds and places to go.

Have kids, will travel. Use it to your advantage to get more adventure and fun into your holiday. Get curious, and have it sated.

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