How to do it

Six years of travels with a child

Now you are six. Six whole years old and poised to finish your second year of school. Curious, creative, ever-inquisitive, and as full of wanderlust as I could ever have hoped – even if your top holiday picks are still influenced by Go Jetters and Octonauts, and your geography is about as good as mine was at that age.

Six planes with white trails behind them fly in formation against a blue sky - remembering six years of travels with a child

As you get older, my lovely daughter, I am starting to travel a little bit more without you – much to your disgust, naturally. But I miss my little travel sidekick. When I started this grand experiment that is motherhood, wondering if I could keep travelling with a child (I think we’ve answered that pretty conclusively), I hadn’t realised how we’d become a little team – seeing the world together, not you tagging along behind me.

And how far we’ve come. Flying to Langkawi earlier this year, I had few fears about the long-haul flight or our transit at Kuala Lumpur – this was our third trip to South East Asia in two years, after all. Instead we played do you remember, thinking back to our two weeks in Cambodia trip, when we had to sprint through Bangkok airport to catch our connection… and I remembered our return visit from Burma, where you dozed on my shoulder as we waited for our final flight.

Though I know you’re growing day by day, it’s only when I look back and realise I’d struggle to carry you like that now, that I can see the changes. Your smile, your mischievousness, the way you make me laugh, your desire to find out everything about everything seem the same as ever.

Even more momentous, now you can read, I can occasionally get to relax on a sun lounger now – you with your book on one, me with my book on another. At least for a little while.

You still ask me to tell you stories as we while away journeys, or create tales to weave around the destination we’re visiting. The little yellow butterflies which flitted around Angkor Wat are still the central characters of an ongoing saga which has lasted almost a year. But now, you’re making up your own stories to alternate with mine – so imaginative and intricate, I really should write them down.

So what has this year brought us? As you turned five, I remember feeling glad that school didn’t seem to have slowed us down as much – and we started this year with some more big adventures.

First, our fabulous two weeks in Cambodia – just the two of us, with six different stops around the country, discovering temples, heading into the mountains, chilling out by the beach, exploring palaces, spotting bats, I wondered what could top a trip like that.

Which led to a spontaneous week booked in Oman – another adventure, with our days packed full. Just the two of us again, we had another fantastic mix from dolphin spotting to turtles laying eggs on the beach, historic forts to mountain canyons and desert sands – and the chance to chill out by the pool at the end.

The flight might not have been as long but at half the length of our Cambodia trip, the long car journeys exploring and return to school after half-term reminded me that while you seem so big, you’re still so little. You’ll take on challenges I might not expect but it’s for me to find the balance, especially now school proper has started, with the focus shifting from learning through play to simply learning.

I remind myself that fantastic though those trips were, the memories worth every moment of jetlag, you still get excited by a day out or a weekend away in the UK and Europe too – watching jousting at Hever Castle and meeting Santa at Warwick Castle, spotting meerkats and making grandiose model boats. That I make lists of things I’d love to do in our home city of London with you… and that half-way through the year, I get so caught up in work and life and other plans that you’ve done the grand total of one, and that as a school trip.

I don’t know yet where that balance lies – more European escapes, including Porto where you loved spotting the street art and hated the constant rain (got to agree, we were spectacularly unlucky). And then Tallinn and Helsinki, where we got to travel as a trio, following on from our family long weekend in Suffolk.

There are more short escapes in the UK lined up for this summer, starting with a return to Bristol after our fun weekend back in the city I briefly called home a few months ago.

More time for both of us to relax a bit too, like gorgeous Langkawi – by Easter, it feels as if I desperately need my post-winter batteries recharging with some sun and the chance to lie, guilt-free by a pool. And between pulling silly faces together at the 3D art museum, where you proved a dab hand snapping away with my phone, I should remember that sometimes, that’s all you want to do too.

It’s easy to think I should be doing more, booking more – this is both my job and my passion, after all – but writing these posts looking back on our travels reminds me how quickly I forget just how much we have done. A quiet year, I thought fretfully, school is slowing us down – before I started typing at least. But with three long-haul trips, two European breaks and our UK mini breaks (not to mention my own escapes to The Gambia and Tuscany, seeing Florence and Siena, plus a few days on Norwegian Bliss without you), I’m not sure I could fit more in.

There’s no doubt that school holidays mean I can’t always leave it until the last minute any more. But we have adventures lined up for later this year already, a spot of half-term sunshine (I hope!) and another chance to meet Santa that I think may make you explode with excitement. Which just leaves the rest of our summer to sort… before I start thinking about adventures for next year.

Where shall we see, we two? I know you have your list already. Easter Island might have to be put off just a little bit longer… but perhaps this is the year we get to see snow monkeys in Japan.

My daughter walkng through the gorse bushes lining the path between Thorpeness and Aldeburgh - the two-mile stroll is one of my things to do in Aldeburgh with kids if you're visiting Suffolk

‘There are so many places still to go!’ you realised, scrubbing countries off your own world scratch map earlier this year. There are indeed, my lovely girl. I can’t wait to head off, hand in hand.

PIN FOR LATER: SIX YEARS OF TRAVELS WITH A CHILD

Six years of travels with a child - looking back on another year of family travel, my latest globetrotting adventures with my daughter, as she turns six. #familytravel #travelwithkids #travelwithachild #miniadventures #mummytravels

Main image courtesy Pixabay, all other images copyright MummyTravels

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