This post is part of the Multicultural Kid Bloggers book club. Each week, a different blogger will focus on a different chapter of Bill Richards and Ashley Steel’s book ‘Family on the loose: the art of traveling with kids’. I really enjoyed being part of the first MKB book club in which we read Ana Flores and Roxana Soto’s ‘Bilingual is Bettter’, and especially having the opportunity to interview Ana Flores. If you want to see more information on the book club and how you can get involved, please click here.

Chapters 1 and 2 of Bill Richards and Ashley Steel’s Family on the loose: the art of travelling with kids

The photo below is of me with parents just before we flew from Edinburgh to California in 1982 at the start of a year that we spent living in San Jose. I was a few months short of my third birthday and it was my first big trip overseas. I’ve always really liked travelling and exploring new countries and have been lucky enough to have traveled to quite a lot of different countries here in Europe in the last ten years. In September 2012, my wife and I went to Brittany in France with our baby son for what was our first family holiday. I should perhaps have read Bill Richards and Ashley Steel’s book before going as the first few chapters have already convinced me that it’ll be really useful when it comes to planning future trips. Their blog, also called Family on the Loose, is a great source of stories, tips and information for anyone with kids who’s interested in travel.

On the way to San Jose

Right from the introduction to Family on the loose, I loved the way the book discussed not just how to travel with kids but also why.  Here is one of the reasons for travelling as a family that I thought sounded particularly inspiring:

‘Travel is also a fabulous way to develop your family’s unique sense of shared values. As you explore other cultures and compare them to home, you will all learn more about yourselves and each other.’ (page 2)

Before getting married and becoming a parent, I had already realised that travel often involved me learning about myself through what I enjoyed most and what I enjoyed less. When I returned to the UK in 2004 after having spent three of the previous four years in France, I constantly found myself thinking about things in my own country in a different light. I look forward to seeing if we, as a family, will go through the sort of process outlined above after a few more trips.


The campsite where we stayed on our first family holiday

Among the aspects of travel that I have always enjoyed are the ways that it leads to an exciting range of new sights and experiences which broaden the mind. At the start of the first chapter, the authors conveyed this vividly by beginning with a quotation from Gandhi:

‘I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible’ (page 7)

These words were a prelude for the way that the authors discussed the ways in which to expose kids to foreign cultures and customs (e.g. food, films, crafts) at home before and after going abroad in the second chapter, which was appropriately entitled ‘Sowing seeds of enthusiasm’. The first chapter (Scoping the journey) also pointed towards ways of making kids excited about travelling by seeing it as an activity which should be planned with kids and not just for kids. This sounded like a good way of empowering children and making them aware of the sorts of choices that travelling involves and also the consequences of these choices.

The opening chapter (Scoping the journey) was full of useful pointers for people unused to travelling with kids. These included both general principles and more specific tips on issues such as accommodation, transport and budgeting. The chapter concluded with some helpful timelines for planning trips abroad. I really enjoyed the way that the second chapter (Sowing seeds of enthusiasm) discussed ways of starting the holiday fun before the holiday by fun things like trying out food that is associated with where you are going and doing craft activities that have a link with your destination.

A pear and goat cheese crepe with salted caramel sauce in Brittany (France)

What I thought was particularly good about the authors’ pre-travel tips from chapter two is that they seemed to be geared towards providing kids with a greater understanding of the culture and traditions of where they travel. It seems like a good way of encouraging them to see foreign lands as a lot more than some sort of large exotic theme park, and I think that this is really important. As someone who has taught foreign languages for over ten years, I was delighted to see the authors suggest that it’s a good idea to encourage kids to learn some simple expressions in the language(s) of the places they are going to explore on holiday.

Having read and enjoyed the first two chapters of Family on the loose, I am very keen to see what the rest of the book has in store. Indeed, this almost mirrors the way in which I am already looking forward to more family travels as our son gets older.

I’d love to hear what you think of what I’ve said about Bill Richards and Ashley Steel’s book, and also travel in general. Here are some questions that you might want to discuss in the comments section below this post or on the Multicultural Kid Blogs Facebook or Google+ threads:

– What do you see as the most important things to do before going on holiday with kids?

– To what extent do you try to involve your kids in planning a trip abroad?

– What aspects of travel do your kids get most excited about?


If you’re interested in the topics that I’ve discussed in this blog post, here are three things that you can do:

– Share your ideas in the Multicultural Kid Blogs Google + Community.

– Link up your travel stories on Multicultural Kid Blogs.

– Follow the Travel with Kids Board on Pinterest.

Over the next few weeks, a series of fellow bloggers will be hosting discussions of the subsequent chapters of Family on the loose. Here’s the schedule: