Colleen Kelly travels the world for her television show Family Travel With Colleen Kelly. She has been to over 30 countries including Switzerland, Ireland, Greece and Malta and, whenever she can, she takes her two daughters Dunovan Kate (12) and Shea Grace (9) with her. Colleen tells suitcases&strollers why travel with kids is important and which, of all the places in the world she has traveled with kids, are her favourite family travel destinations.
Before you had kids, how frequently were you travelling?
BC, as I say, I was traveling a ton! I got engaged and married in Salzburg, Austria, where The Sound of Music was filmed and my honeymoon was spent going to numerous countries such as Italy, Turkey, Spain and France.
[Do your kids love The Sound of Music? For travel tips on how to do a Sound of Music tour of Salzburg, see the suitcases&strollers story here.]
Before you had kids, where was your favourite destination to travel to?
Well, I went to school in Austria as an exchange student and it changed my life. Austria is absolutely stunning and perfectly centrally located in Europe which meant that every weekend you would find me traveling to not only Germany and France but to Lichtenstein, Poland and, of course, where my family is from, Ireland.
After all that traveling, I got my future husband hooked and he proposed to me on a trip to Salzburg, Austria. We were so overwhelmed with the beauty of Salzburg and the castles (not to mention the incredible exchange rate for us Americans at the time) that we planned a fairy tale wedding getting married in a palace with our reception in a castle. It was less money to fly there and invite 50 guests than it was to have a wedding in America at the time, so we truly lucked out!
How has travel changed for you since having kids?
There's so much stuff! When I was single, I had a backpack. Then, married, we had a suitcase and carry on, but otherwise we were foot loose and fancy free, as they say. When I had kids, I couldn't believe the amount of bottles, diapers, car seats, toys, blankets that they needed! I had to learn to pack well but also pack enough! I learned how to multi-task and I also learned that you need to have a sense of humor and learn to go with the flow.
One trip I was flying with my first child and, of course, she threw up all over me on the plane with 2 hours still to land. Did I have an extra shirt to change into? No, of course not. By the second child, you better believe I packed an extra two shirts and outfits for me and my baby.
[What should you pack for the nappy bag on the plane when flying with kids? See the suitcases&strollers travel tips here.]
Through both trips I learned most of all to laugh about it. Because as they say...for parents of young children, the days are long but the years are short. As the parent of a 12 and 9 year old, I am already understanding how short these years truly are and how much we need to hold on to them.
How frequently are you travelling now?
I travel about once a month in winter and 2 to 3 times a month in spring and summer. Because a lot of places are just prettier in sunny weather, we have to pack them in when the weather is nice so sometimes in July I will be traveling 4 times, spending a week in each place as we shoot our show. As for traveling with kids, I do it every chance I can get. In summer, they are with me traveling all the time and I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to bring them along.
Do you bring your kids with you when you are travelling for work?
To industry conventions, no, because it is not kid-friendly. However in all other aspects such as shooting the show, absolutely I do!
Sometimes, though, a show's itinerary going to multiple locations and late nights is just too hard for children and/or they would miss too much school. In those cases, their grandparents watch them at home and I try to get in and out of a location as quickly as possible to get home to them.
Is it important for kids to travel?
Oh yes! It is absolutely important for kids to travel. I was taught from my parents that travel is an education and it absolutely is. My mother is a retired teacher and my father a retired Hertz rental car executive so I grew up with my father traveling for work and my mother trying to squeeze in the education on our travels. We learned about history and culture and, of course, geography.
What do kids get out of travelling that they don't get staying at home?
Traveling is not just an adventure; it really teaches kids about new cultures, educates them and helps them to learn how to be adventurous and not fearful of new experiences. We like to just dive into experiences and I think that is a great life lesson as well.
[What do kids think they get out of travel? Check out the suitcases&strollers interview with 13-year-old suitcases&strollers kid Miro Siegel to find out.]
Where is your favourite destination to travel to now?
I don't know really if I have one favourite because I truly pretty much love every new city, town, state, country that we are able to explore because I truly think of every place as a great opportunity to learn and grow.
However, if I have to pick a couple it would be Switzerland and Wales. Switzerland has the Matterhorn and beautiful glaciers plus fabulous skiing. Also, it is super kid-friendly and their focus on healthy eating and exercise is really important given the threat of obesity among children and adults. Plus, the cows there still wear bells around their neck; how cute is that? It makes for a great photo opp too!
[For more travel tips on how to take the best travel photos, see the suitcases&strollers interview with a professional photographer here.]
Where has been your kids’ favourite destination to travel to?
My girls favourite place was Ireland because we went with 27 family members and met up with cousins in Ireland. They just ran around the fields of Ireland petting sheep and feeding chickens. Being city kids, this was a dream come true. The music and people were fun but they also adored the Cadbury chocolate, some of the best in the world.
Another favorite would have to be Wyoming. Wyoming is exactly how you envision it. It has wide open plains, gorgeous mountains and lots of cowboys and girls. My girls loved doing everything from fishing to horseback riding to learning how to lasso. They even went to a real rodeo and ate the largest outdoor pancake breakfast in the United States. To top it all off, we bought cowgirl hats and boots to make it an even more authentic experience. As a mum, I loved it because it was a week spent without any electronics. No iPods or iPads meant more bonding for all of us which made me incredibly happy.
Where has been the most surprising destination you’ve been to?
Wales in the United Kingdom completely surprised me. The country is absolutely so green and lush and the countryside is dotted with castles and rolling hills. In fact, Wales has the largest concentration of castles in Europe! The food everywhere I went was so fresh and farm-to-table that I almost didn't want to leave.
But, most of all, the Celtic people were the biggest surprise. They were so warm and filled with such humour and smiles that I met new friends in every town I visited. I would highly recommend Wales as a country to put on your not-to-miss list!
Do you have a regular family holiday destination where you like to travel with kids?
Arizona and Texas are two regular holiday destinations for us. I was raised part of my life in Arizona and the other part in Texas. We have a lot of old friends in Arizona who we still keep in touch with. The weather is also a huge plus.
Where is the one place in the world that you want to take your kids that they haven’t been?
Can you believe I haven't taken them to Austria yet? Since I lived, got engaged and married there, it is on my bucket list to bring them. I would love them to see Mozart's birth place and immerse them in the musical culture and history there and it would be wonderful to go with them on the salt mine rides.
Also on our list is Costa Rica which is a totally unique, true immersion experience. I want them to experience the rain forest and teach them more about preserving our natural resources.
Where is the one place in the world that you want to go to that you haven’t been?
Japan is a must! The beauty of Japan, the people, culture and food would be great to experience. However, I must learn a little Japanese first so I can at least try to converse a bit!
Is there anywhere in the world that you would not recommend for kids?
Well, yes, absolutely. Any place that has a security warning. It is never worth the risk, and you have to remember that if a country's government or our government issues a warning, there is a very good reason for it.
Which has been the most popular episode on your show Family Travel With Colleen Kelly?
One of our most popular episodes was San Antonio. I think it resonated so well with viewers because it was all about Texas and we highlighted not only the River Walk and beautiful Mexican American culture that defines that city, but we also showed a special needs park called Morgan's Wonderland. Morgan's Wonderland is a specially built park for brothers and sisters to play together regardless of their abilities. It is a wonderful tribute to the city and one man's focus on inclusion for families with children who have special needs.
[For more travel tips on traveling with kids with special needs, see the suitcases&strollers story Flying With Wheelchairs and Disabilities.]
What is the most popular type of family friendly holiday destination that parents choose?
The most popular family-friendly holiday experience, in my opinion, is usually a beach vacation, especially if you're escaping frigid weather. But any time of year a beautiful beach is always a great place to relax and make memories with your family.