Monday, May 27, 2013

Review: Family on the loose - The art of traveling with kids

A couple of months back, Ashley from Family on the Loose got in touch with me to ask if I'd be interested in reviewing their new book Family on the loose: The art of traveling with kids. Her timing was absolutely perfect as it was just at that moment when I was starting to wonder if I was slightly insane to book a hectic European month with a three-year-old. I said yes.

And I'm glad I did. Ashley and husband/co-author Bill are obviously very much on the same wavelength as me when it comes to travelling in general and travelling with kids in particular, so it was a book I read with pleasure. In fact, I read it twice, once at home in the lead-up to our trip and then again on my Kindle while we were abroad - just to make sure I was making the most of our trip as far as my son was concerned!

The book is divided into three logical parts: the preparation for the trip (and it's in this section where I probably learnt the most), what to do during the trip itself, and what to do after you get home. I was so pleased to read the section on "Making Memories Stick" in the final part, since I think that's such an important part of a trip - finding different ways to remember the trip and what was learnt, and the family stories that grow out of such a trip - there are still a number of stories from our trip to Europe over 25 years ago that my family discuss with surprising regularity.

Now, I'm a bit of a nerdy parent so I had already thought of lots of the tips that they gave; my son already had a sketchbook, crayons, glue and sticky-tape packed in his travel backpack ready to create a travel scrapbook as we went, for example. There were still plenty of innovations and variations on my ideas that I could pick up. I usually pack to a list (and then still leave at least a quarter of that stuff out), but I loved their sample packing list for pre-readers. Three-year-olds are always ready to help (not always ready to continue helping until the job is done, but a start is good) and mine loved the idea of using this list to pack. (He was especially pleased to see that they had included a picture very similar to his favourite teddy bear, who of course we simply couldn't leave behind!)

For older children, there are some great ideas and templates for creating fun activities related to museums or cities or other parts of a trip - I'm sure in the future I'll use the scavenger hunt ideas and probably have fun doing it too. Getting older children deeply involved in planning the trip (and allowing them to make some of the decisions about where to go and what to do) is also something I'll definitely do in the future.

As someone who has travelled a lot at every stage of life, and is a pretty hands-on parent too with a teaching background and lots of ideas of activities to keep my son busy, I found that parts of this book didn't tell me anything new. But every part of it was a good reminder, and I think for parents who haven't travelled much before, it is indeed a necessary bible for pre-travel with kids reading!

Full disclosure: I was given a complimentary copy of this book for the purposes of this review, but my enthusiasm is genuine!


  1. I might have to check this out. The thought of travelling with a two and a half year old and a ten month old makes me break into a cold sweat and we don't have anything booked, but I do often wonder about the logistics of it. If we went on a holiday, I would love to take the kids with us.
    We spent a week in Melbourne when our daughter was 12 months old and it was the most stressful experience for me!

    1. Jane, I really do recommend it if you're feeling that way - lots of great suggestions and stuff that seems logical when you read it but you might not have thought of otherwise. And get them used to it young!!

  2. Thanks for the great review. A reader in Brussels wrote us about the packing list for non-readers too. She noted that her son had used the laundry pile to pack dirty clothes. Oops ... can't think of everything. Kids are so fun!

    1. That's hilarious!! And something I will have to watch out for in the future!


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