Australian TODAY show weatherman Steven Jacobs is a prolific traveller. He visits an average of 7 countries a year and has been to somewhere between 70 to 80 countries in his lifetime including Canada, New Zealand, Mexico and Uruguay. A lot of his time on the road is for work, but even when he’s not chasing the weather he has something of an obssession about traveling with his kids Isabella (also called Issy, 3) and Francesca (nicknamed Frenchie, 1) and his wife Rosie. Steven gives suitcases&strollers his family travel tips on the best family holiday destinations.
When did you get bitten by the travel bug?
I have always loved travelling. For my 21st birthday I was given the choice of a party or money to travel. I chose the latter and have never looked back. To this day we spend most of our savings on experiencing the world. I have an unusual lifestyle with my job on the TODAY show and travelled up to 300 days a year before kids. That has come back a little but every day away from them is hell. I miss them so much it hurts but they get to follow me on the telly and travel with me whenever possible. I think travel opens up our mind to amazing possibilities and reminds us that we are really all the same and need to work as one.
How frequently do you travel?
I travel up to 250 days per year for work with 6 to 8 international trips. It is a gruelling schedule and hard to be away from my girls.
You would think that when I have time off I would just like to stay home but I think it's important to go on family vacations. It creates lasting memories and allows the little ones to learn and understand more about the world and it's people. We would travel with the kids for at least 6 weeks of the year and much of that is international. It's exhausting but ultimately worth the experiences you create.
Do you bring your kids when you are travelling for work?
My work schedule starts at 4am and usually involves a 16-hour day of travel to reach the next destination and sort out our weather broadcast for the following morning. We drive, fly, chopper, boat and just about anything it takes to get to wherever in the world we are going. It is just too hard to drag kids along on that journey. If we are staying in one location for a week, which is a rare luxury, then I always take the family along.
How has travel changed for you since having kids?
Travel with kids is a whole new ball game. We always look for locations away from main centres and off the beaten track. We love a little barefoot luxury and small boutique hotels that are unique. It would probably be easier for us to find a chain hotel with a large swimming pool and kids’ club but that's just not for us. It does cause a little more stress and travel time to get to these places but we feel that it's worth it. I think the kids are happy if we are.
We recently did a 3 week family holiday in Tulum, Mexico along with two hurricanes, gale force winds and the heaviest rain in 60 years. We had to evacuate with water lapping over the bonnet of the car as the road was collapsing around us and we still had the best time ever. I think you just have to adapt and go with the flow.
Is it important for kids to travel?
I think one of the most important things for kids to do is travel. Taking them out of their comfort zone and showing them how big and amazing this planet is can only enrich their lives. It really helps them to understand the colours and flavours of the world and to be more tolerant and caring. It is the best education you can give a child.
What do kids get out of travelling that they don't get staying at home?
Our kids are very happy at home. They are loved and comfortable and have routine. They have their dogs and their friends and life is good. That is what they know but it's what they don't know that they can learn so much from.
Both of our girls have been travelling from birth and they have grown through new experiences which open up their minds. It teaches them that anything and everything is possible in this world if you just have the guts to go out and see what is waiting for you. They have learnt new languages, seen new animals, met new friends and tried new food and I believe this can only help them grow and be well rounded people.
Where is your favourite destination to travel to?
A few years before we had kids we discovered Vanuatu which is the South Pacific's best kept secret. We were looking for a cheap beach holiday but found Nirvana. This country of 83 islands is as exciting as it is diverse with dream-like beaches, amazing seafood, cheap French champagne, amazing culture and people voted as the happiest on earth. It is only a 3-hour flight from Sydney and we continue to go back with the kids. It really has something for everybody and every budget. It is our soul food and second home and hope to retire in paradise one day.
[Since we’ve had kids o]ur favourite destination is still Vanuatu. We loved it as a romantic couples destination, as an adventure playground for work and now as a family holiday desintation with kids. It really has so much for everyone on all levels. It is a place that just lets you breathe, slow down and relax. It is the only place I have been where the whole family runs outside when it rains to dance and sing. It is the ultimate tropical destination.
Where has been your kids’ favourite destination to travel to?
The kids are only young so they seem to love anywhere we take them. I think it's just important for them to be with mum and dad and to treat them like little people and respect them. We always talk to them about where we are going and what we are doing and find that they are always open as long as they are informed. Taking them on a boat form Positano to Capri in Italy with their grandma was a very special experience.
Where has been the most surprising destination you’ve been to?
I have promised my wife for years that I would take her to Rio so on a recent work trip to Chile we extended for a holiday. All went well until we tried to board the plane for Rio and realised I had forgotten to organise visas. Will never live that one down! So instead we booked a random flight to Uruguay on a friend’s advice. It turned out to be one of the coolest places we have ever been. Super stylish and laid back with amazing beachside restaurants and bars and the funkiest people in South America. We would go back in a heartbeat.
Do you have a regular family holiday destination?
We have few regular destinations that are hard to beat. Vanuatu is number one but in Australia it's Byron Bay. We love the relaxed pace and the gourmet food experiences. The beaches are beautiful and the air is clean. It still has a nice hippy feel to it and the people are lovely.
A little further away and Bali is hard to go past. It's cheap and close and there is so much to do for us and the kids. It's a whole new culture for them to soak up and babysitters are cheap if we want to go out for a great romantic dinner.
Where is the one place in the world that you want to go to that you haven’t been?
I have never been to Morocco and it is number one on my list of places to visit. I just think the colours and sounds and flavours would be so bright and unique. I love their sense of style and would definitely have to bring home a hand-woven rug. In fact we try to collect a trinket from everywhere we visit as a memento to display in our home.
Where is the one place in the world that you want to take your kids that they haven’t been?
I would love to take my kids to Santa's Village in Lapland. I visited there last winter for work and met the real Santa Clause and even rode with him in his sleigh. I think that would be something the little ones would never forget. One of the best experiences of my life was watching the northern lights.
[For more travel tips on going to Lapland with kids to see Santa, see the suitcases&strollers story Visiting Santa in the North Pole.]
Is there anywhere in the world that you would not recommend for kids?
As long as a place is safe then I would recommend it for kids to travel. There is nowhere I wouldn't take my kids because each different place paints its own picture and is a new adventure. Good or bad it is still travel and travel is amazing as long as you don't have expectations and get to know and understand the local culture. That way you will always have a good time.
Which are your top 3 don't miss family-friendly vacation destinations?
My top 3 family friendly vacations are Vanuatu, Italy and Disneyland.
· For cheap, cheerful and tropical you can't beat the South Pacific.
· Italy is the most beautiful country in the world and to experience the history and culture with the kids is astounding and unforgettable. [For more travel tips on Italy, see the suitcases&strollers story Dos & Don’ts In Italy For Kids.]
· Disneyland is the ultimate destination and number one place for all kids. It is still the happiest place on earth when it comes to imagination and fun. [For more reasons why Disneyland is a fabulous family holiday destination, see the suitcases&strollers story Why Disneyland?]
What are your top 3 tips for planning a successful and memorable family holiday?
My 3 top tips for planning a family holiday:
1. Don't be guided entirely by what you think is best for the kids. Remember it is still your holiday and when you enjoy it, so do the kids.
2. Don't be scared by new experiences. This is what travel is all about and how you discover what you really love in life. The unknown is just a new adventure waiting to happen.
3. Buy a bag of new toys from the $2 shop for the flight. It will keep the kids entertained for hours and always load up your iPad with kids’ movies.
To read more about the Jacobs family holidays, see the suitcases&strollers interview with Steven's wife, Rosie, Coffs Harbour Insider.