Meg impressed everyone in Club Bebe Voyage recently when she posted a picture of her 2.5-year-old son in the arms of an American Airlines agent stating that he was embarking on his 75th flight. When I reached out to her to find out about her philosophy around traveling with her little one (75 flights at just 2.5!), I quickly discovered that Meg truly is a citizen of the world and full-heartedly believes in the long-term benefits of travel on her son. Never once has she allowed having a child come in between her love for travel. Instead, through travel, her son is exposed to new experiences, new cuisines and cultures. Like us, Meg really is on a mission to educate her son to be an open-minded and curious individual.
How did you come across bebe voyage?
I was added by a friend living in Kenya.
Where are you from?
I am from Denton, Texas.
Why do you think you’ve become such a hardcore traveler? Did you grow up with it?
Travel has always been a huge part of my life. My Grandmother traveled to Europe in 1946 as a 19 year old who had never left America, to help on a volunteer project to rebuild a bridge in Norway. After that, she worked for several airlines and travel companies and led tours and traveled for the rest of her life. She instilled her love of travel into my father who instilled it into my brother and me. When I was 12 my parents took us on a three month road trip across Europe. I had never been to Europe before and it opened up a whole new exciting world for me. I loved every minute of that trip.
It is now a rite of passage in my family that when you turn 18, you go on a long trip abroad, alone. Professionally I was able to follow a path that allowed me to travel quite a bit. When I was based in DC I regularly traveled to Dubai and Afghanistan and eventually was transferred to Kenya with my company.
Did you ever doubt for a minute when you got pregnant with your little man that that would change?
I hate to admit it, but my very first thought when I saw that my pregnancy test was positive was “Damn! now I can’t go on that horse trekking safari I’ve been planning!” In all seriousness, though, I never thought that having a child would stop me from traveling. I knew it would make things more complicated, but not necessarily less enjoyable. Traveling with him has been so much more fun than I ever anticipated.
Where do you travel to often with your son and why?
We travel mostly to visit family and because my partner is working in Nairobi right now and we are in Texas. When we are in Kenya, we fly around within Kenya quite a bit as the roads are so bad. We visit friends and family in the UK fairly often and we take a yearly trip to Tuscany. We also have a home in Turkey that we try to visit as often as we can. We also travel quite a bit within the states. I don’t like to be on one place for too long so I’m quite happy to hop on a plane with my son and fly somewhere to go see friends for a weekend.
Since you spend so much time in different countries, can you talk to me a bit about some cultural differences you may have noticed when it comes to bringing up little ones across those countries? Do you find that the attitudes towards traveling with baby differ too?
Overall I feel like most people are generally friendly towards babies and are helpful to travelers with children. My son was born in Kenya and I did get lots of unsolicited advice from strangers there when I had him out and about with me at five days old. Traditionally, Kenyan mothers and babies do not leave the home for the first month and the mother and baby are tended to by a young female relative. Babies there are also wrapped up in lots of clothing and blankets, even when it’s not cold so I got lots of comments and remarks on my child not being dressed appropriately.
In Turkey I generally feel like a celebrity walking around with my son. People from all walks of life will approach you, coo at your baby, ask if they can kiss them, etc. I also have had multiple people come out of trinket shops and pin little charms on his stroller to help ward off the evil eye. Turkey has been one of my favorite places to travel with my son because it is generally such a kid-friendly place. Lots of pedestrian areas in towns, play parks and friendly people.
The same can be said for Italy. I have had wonderful experiences in Italy with my son. On the whole children are received warmly there and seem to be welcome in most places. Even in quite nice restaurants, a plate of gnocchi can always be swiftly produced for my son, despite there being no children’s menu.
Has travel become more of a challenge as your son has aged and turned into a toddler? If so, how do you create a sense of regularity in his traveling/nomadic life?
Travel has definitely become more of a challenge as he has gotten older. When we are on the road I always bring his pillow, blanket and his favorite books…yes, I lug hardcover children’s books all over the world with me. No matter where we are, he always has an evening bath, though sometimes this just means standing in a bucket.
For us, because we spend a few months here, a few months there, he is not so entrenched in a routine so it has not been so hard to manage him on the road. I’ve found that no matter where you are, at home, in a hotel or in a tent, you can create a safe and comforting space with your own attitude that will put them at ease. In general overnight flights are easier for us than long haul day flights, but you can’t always avoid them.
What have been your favourite destinations to take your little one at so far and why?
As I mentioned above, Turkey has been an amazing place for us to travel with our son. The areas and towns we visit there often had pedestrian areas, parks, outdoor restaurants and very friendly people. The food is simple, fresh and lovely. It’s also just a fascinating and fun place to visit so my partner and I always have a wonderful time too. Despite the recent security issues and tragic terror attacks, they have experienced recently I will still keep visiting Turkey.
Rural England, particularly Devon, is also a wonderful place to go with little ones. There are numerous pubs with outdoor play areas, or even indoor play rooms for children given the English weather. Additionally, there are so many interesting activities to do there, from riding a historic steam train to visiting an otter and butterfly sanctuary, to riding a mini train through a forest of gnome statues! Devon, and much of rural England I assume, is child friendly and interesting for adults as well. I find it very easy to be there with my son.
Which foreign cuisines has your son liked the most? Are there any that you think are particularly baby friendly?
My son loves pasta so getting him to eat in Italy was a dream! I’ve found that even what I would consider to be very nice restaurants in Italy can easily put together a lovely small pasta plate for kids. Do not expect to see a children’s menu though!
For me, Turkey has the most amazing baby and child friendly food. Meals are often a large spread of small plates with bite sized tastes of all sorts of fresh cheeses, vegetables, marinated fish, fruits, flatbreads and incredible fresh juices.
The only place I really struggle to feed my son well is in the UK. He ends up eating SO MANY chips (fries).
I hear a lot of people say, “why travel with your baby when he or she won’t remember any of it,” What’s your response to that?
I’m not traveling for my son right now. I’m traveling and my son is coming with me. I’ll still be traveling when he can remember it. I do think exposing children to diverse realities and all kinds of people is very important though. I want him to be a globally-minded person from as early as he can remember. I want him to be curious about the world.
Is there a particular app/travel gear (baby carrier/stroller or whatever) you have found particularly useful?
I usually travel with my giant Mountain Buggy Urban Jungle jogging stroller. For short trips I wouldn’t recommend that as you have to dismantle it and put in in a large carrier bag. The only advantage to this is that I often fill the carrier bag with lots of overflow items from my suitcase. It is basically a free bag to check and that can be helpful if your bags are overweight as mine always are.
I would recommend that people traveling alone with a little one get some sort of baby carrier, if only for getting on and off the plane. I put my son in the Ergo in airports because he is a runner and I need to be able to contain him while carrying our bags.
I also think taking a lightweight umbrella type stroller to be checked at the door of the plane is a good idea.
In all the 75 flights you’ve taken with your son, can you tell me which airline you have found the most baby/family friendly?
We predominately fly British Airways, because of the routes we generally fly and I have always been impressed with their inflight service. I have generally found the flight crews to be helpful and kind when I have been traveling on my own. I’ve flown in First, Business, Economy Plus and Economy on BA, with my son, and have found the service to be excellent in every cabin. They offer bassinets or reclining chairs for children under 2 and I always made use of those with my son.