Traveling with children seem to be very challenging for most, manageable for me at 1 or 2 kids. But to travel with 4 children without a nanny is somewhat of a feat and I look up to my good friend and godmother to my-little-globetrotter- Maya, Kaye Garcia, for doing her yearly travels with her whole brood. To learn practical tips on family travel with multiple chidren, I interviewed her on her recent Italian adventure.
Kaye’s Little Globetrotters
Javy-15, Paco-9, Adriana-4, Carolina- 4 months
Most Memorable Trip So Far
Last October 2014, We took a trip to Italy. It was the first time we traveled with four kids. At the time, I was exclusively nursing Carolina. As usual, we didn’t bring any help (we never really do). We were traveling with my in laws and since we were a group of 16, I knew we would get help one way or another. Carlo (my husband) and I have been to Italy before but we decided to take the kids there because our boys are old enough to appreciate sights and culture already. They’re not picky with food and they were old enough to watch their own belongings and help out. Most of my efforts were directed towards my girls.
We flew via Etihad which was perfect because the long trip was cut in half instead of flying to a nearby country and then connecting and being on a plane on a very long haul flight. We flew coach but sat on bulkhead seats so we didn’t feel claustrophobic the entire time.
My kids are used to flying. We travel to the states almost yearly and they know how to stay put and entertain themselves through airport transfers and long haul flights. Our flight to Italy was no different. Aside from having to nurse frequently, I didn’t feel exhausted at all.
As we landed, we had to secure car rentals and drive three hours from Rome to Tuscany. This proved to be a little trickier for the kids because at this point, they were already tired and hungry. We powered through, stopped for a meal along the highway and finally arrived at our destination. Villa Florentine in Tuscany. THE BEST. One main villa and two smaller ones totaling 12 bedrooms, 12 baths, main dining, 3 kitchens, heated pool, pizza oven, outdoor dining tables, and a view to die for.
The pace of our itinerary was relaxed and flexible. We had a list of places we wanted to see nearby- San Gimigniano, Florence, Sienna, and Cinque Terre. We took our time, drove around, enjoyed the sights, devoured the delicious food and wine that Italy had to offer, and most importantly- spent quality time with our loved ones. We talked, laughed, played, and took what felt like a billion photos. The owners of the Villa arranged for a pizza night- chef came and prepared about 10 different kinds of pizzas from appetizer to dessert pizzas.
We were stuffed and I couldn’t imagine having another Pizza in my life (but we did anyway…everyday of our two week trip) We also arranged for cooking lessons from an Italian chef.
He taught us how to make pasta from scratch, tiramisu, chicken liver pate, and mushroom sauce for the pasta. I was in cloud 9 because I looooove to cook. And learning how to cook authentic Italian cuisine was definitely a highlight for me.
After a week-long stay at the Villa, we packed our bags and drove back to rome where my amazing Father in law booked apartments for all of us. Each family had their own apartment located near the Roman Forum and since Carlo and I have the biggest family, we lucked out and got the largest one. Two floored apartment with two bedrooms, 2 baths, a kitchen, dining room and spacious living room. We were psyched!
When in Rome- we spent four glorious days drinking in the beauty of this vibrant city.
We hit all the tourist spots all along wearing my infant. It was the easiest way to get around without bringing a stroller. I was able to direct feed on demand and didn’t even bother bringing my breast pump or any bottles. Best decision ever. Nothing to wash and my baby felt secured no matter where we were.
Baby wearing is not only convenient but practical too because I have both my hands to hold on to my other kids. Safety is my number one priority when traveling with my kids and I would never risk losing any of them.
My kids are well read. So they knew enough about Rome and all it had to offer even before we set foot there. That helped them appreciate the historic tourist spots, food, language and people. They watched videos online about what to be careful of (gypsies to be exact) while roaming the city.
We did a little bit of shopping ( I’ve accepted the fact that while traveling with kids in Europe, I won’t get as much shopping time as I’d like) here and there. One of the highlights of our trip was our food tour. It was our first time to try a food tour and I highly recommend it.
We were taken to places we never would have thought of or discovered and we learned a lot about the history of that place or that dish.
Travel has a way of bringing people closer. For our family- always. We enjoyed eachother’s company, no one was of any inconvenience, no one got lost and no one was late! I think traveling with kids is a great investment. It opens their eyes to the larger scale of things. That the world doesn’t start and end in Ayala Alabang and that our way of life at home is not the only way to live. They came home with a richer knowledge of the world and I think that’s worth all the effort Carlo and I put in just to get them ready in the morning! Hahaha!
Villa Florentine, Florence by Parker Villas
I can’t say enough compliments about this place. It was PERFECT. Hot and cold water, extremely clean, complete amenities, complete kitchen, wifi and oh so picture worthy.
The Forum, Rome
This is the company that handled all the apartments we rented in rome. Close proximity to tourist spots hidden in the smaller alleys so it wasn’t crowded at all. Easy to find taxis near the area and we were literally sandwiched in between amazing restaurants and cafes. UH-MAZING!
- PLAN WELL: I think the most important aspect of traveling with a big group, is planning. When you’re traveling with senior citizens and infants at the same time, it’s important to get convenient flights and comfortable accomodations. If you have to spend more, DO IT. It’s worth not having the extra stress. Make sure the itinerary is well thought of and considerate to everyone involved. Make sure you know how much transportation and activities will cost. All bookings and reservations must be reliable. Print out all documents (passports & visas, hotel vouchers, and everything else that was prepaid)
- PACK RIGHT : I’ll be the first to tell you that I don’t pack light. I don’t over pack clothes and accessories but I make sure we have enough for the entire vacation. The holy trinity of packing for a family of six is: 1. Clothes– check the weather forecast in advance and make sure the kids especially have the appropriate clothes. Arrange the clothes in sets already so it’s easier to dress up the kids daily. I always have one set of extra clothing in the backpacks of my kids just in case we get stranded somewhere. 2.Medicines– My kids have allergies and asthma. I always have a complete set of medicines for all kinds of illnesses & ailments. I place them in ziploc bags and then pack them in a hard case since some medicines still come in glass bottles. I bring a portable nebulizer and a complete set of travel adapters. 3. Food– I didn’t have to worry about bringing milk for my baby during our trip because I was nursing exclusively but I had to bring tetra pack milk, water and some snacks for my other kids. Sometimes during trips, kids want to eat things that are familiar to them.
- TAKE IT EASY & ENJOY THE MOMENT I realized after many years of traveling with kids is NOT EVERYTHING WILL GO AS PLANNED and that’s okay. I’ve learned to forgive myself for the places I couldn’t see because one of my kids was taking a nap and I didn’t want to wake her. Or an amusement ride we so desperately wanted to try but one of my kids had to stay behind. I don’t pressure myself to achieve too much during trips. My goal is to be considerate to the rest of the family that we are traveling with and exposing my kids to what that country has to offer. I don’t beat myself up I wasn’t able to meet up with friends for drinks because my kids were tired. Traveling with kids is about bonding and learning. I hope my kids remember our trips when they grow up. That we put so much love into our plans so they could have priceless memories to hold on to.
Her recommendations are definitely going into my bucketlist! Thank you, Kaye for sharing valuable information on traveling with your tots!
And to my readers: Do you have other tips to share for Rome and Florence with young ones? Please do post away!
P.S. Kaye Garcia does the most fantastic event styling for parties! If you are a resident of the Philippines and want to hire her fabulousness, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org