Really nice to see you here. You’re probably wondering, why out of all the website names in the world did I choose The Travelling CRAB? Well, I just got married and now my initials are CRAB. Unsurprisingly I also really love to travel. So there you go. Short and simple.
One morning following a night of heavy planning for my honeymoon I thought, it was crazy that I had to search on all these different sites for advice and information on travelling in a camper for three weeks around the Baltics with a toddler (I know, very niche). But it did get me wondering if there was anything out there at all that even came close to offering the varied advice that I wanted. I’m not your typical holiday maker, I like to get out of my comfort zone and I love experiencing different cultures.
So this site is born, I want to bring to you my experiences and advice when travelling around the world, from my past and my future, with young children, as a couple, with friends, family and by myself. It’s also helpful for me to fill the void left by the wedding planning (post wedding blues are a thing), and I hope it will be interesting to you. I also want to keep memoirs and remember my past trips as I never documented them before, and there are hundreds and thousands of miles I have to travel to again from my memories.
Over the last 16 years I have travelled all over Europe, Asia, North America, Australia, New Zealand and a little island hopping in the South Pacific. I’ve seen the first sunrise and the last sunset of an Earth day and I don’t intend on stopping any time soon, even with a toddler in tow.
This is just the start and over the next few weeks I’ll be adding ways you can join me and adding some interesting and useful content but if you’d like a more regular dose of travel please follow me on Instagram.
Unless you’ve been hiding in your (end of the world ready) bunker the last few weeks you will have likely heard about a young girl called Greta Thunberg. She’s rattling a few cages of people who don’t seem to have perspective of the issues related to climate change and instead of finding this funny and a little bit stupid it’s actually scaring me. It scares me because I realise that the majority of the population aren’t taking climate change seriously, they’re focusing their efforts on trying to bring a 16 year old girl down for taking on one of the single biggest issues of our time. Instead of trying to understand the issue and how they can help they’re posting nonsense like this and being keyboard warriors.
Today’s blog post isn’t just for those people who remain
ignorant to the cause and post things without thought of what it actually
means, this is for everyone as I think we could all do better. But there is one
question I want to ask of the people who post vicious and unhelpful vitriol
about a courageous young woman and the very valid issue she’s fighting for; what
have you done today to make a positive change in this world? If you can ask
yourself that question each day and feel proud in your decisions then great. If
not then what could you start to change? If not for your own future what about
for your children or grandchildren. Because when the time comes and they are
asking you what you did to help wouldn’t you like to have an answer that would
I feel the need to pull apart this particular meme that got
my back up, the one above. I noticed the majority of the people posting it were
only children themselves in the 60s and 70s so think about it; if you did post
this or found yourself agreeing with it, were you the ones making the decisions
on the packaging that your goods were produced in and your holiday destinations
The “school kid’s” agenda isn’t aimed at individuals either (so
seriously, calm down no one is attacking you), it’s aimed at corporations and
governments and coincidentally the people heading up those corporations and
governments were mostly born between the 1950’s-1960’s. So in effect a lot of
Climate Change is as a result of people born in those eras that didn’t
take action when they should have and continued to make decisions based on
short term individual profit rather than long term well-being that affects
entire populations. So the reality is that these people have stolen Greta’s
future as well as a little bit of yours and mine and a whole lot of my 2 year
Another point that these children (and many times more
adults) are making is that actually it’s not simply about recycling or reducing
waste, the biggest thing is fossil fuels, and really there are only minimal things
that you or I can do about that right now, short of inventing or engineering a
solution (which I’m deffo not qualified for or have any ideas about). But guess
who is? The same corporations that figured out that gas could power our
heating, or that solar panels could power entire homes and wind turbines could
power entire towns. But why – instead of wasting *your* energy on
posting snarky comments on Facebook – aren’t you taking action and writing to
your MP about why renewable energy and solar panels aren’t affordable or top of
their agenda. Why are you continuing to purchase clothes that you’ll only wear
once or brand new cars that you only need as a ‘run around’ even though you’ve
already got a family car and the shop is 5 mins walk down the road?
I read some comments on this particular post from a Facebook group and was happy to see that not everyone had taken a one way ticket to looney town which illustrate perfectly the issues with this post and many others like it:
“What school kid can afford mobile phones and computers and consoles and McDonald’s all the time and how dare they force their parents to take them on foreign holidays and buy all the new cars.
Do not blame children for the way they have been brought up or the society they have been born into. This is s***, blame big business and governments or stop pointing fingers.“
“I cannot believe that instead of finding solutions for problems society seems happier to point fingers. But we cannot blame children, they learn from adults. I’m inspired to see children stand up for their world, their planet their future. I haven’t seen that before and perhaps we do have something to learn from them.”
My point exactly.
Now I know it might seem hypocritical of me, someone who
loves to travel, to be “mouthing off” about the environment and how people
aren’t doing their bit, but if you’ve stuck with my post this far you’re in for
I’ll be 100% transparent here, when it comes to travel, I
know that’s something that I don’t want to give up and in some instances, when
needing to get to a destination hassle-free, I can’t see better alternatives to
flying in terms of convenience and cost.
Take this example; a return flight to Paris costs just £59
and takes approx four hours if you count travelling to the airport and checking
in etc, yet the same journey by train costs £165 as a minimum, takes around 7-8
hours dependent on changes (and you have to change at least once). For people
who don’t have a lot of free time (or money) you can see why that is
Additionally, tourism is the main source of economic growth
for many countries – if we all stopped travelling tomorrow entire economies
would collapse. So what do I do when I love to travel all year round and I
don’t want to give that up? I create trade offs in other areas of my life and I
try and travel in the most environmentally positive way possible, and yes that
might not mean not flying but it does mean being prepared and conscious when I
make decisions whilst travelling.
Here’s what steps I’m taking to reduce mine and my family’s impact on the planet. I know it’s not perfect, and it’s pretty simple, but it’s a start…
Reducing plastic waste
I have been trying to reduce my waste steadily each month, I
don’t buy bottled water, I always take a reusable bottle on any journey and I
have my handy little collapsible coffee cup which has already travelled around
Europe with me. Recently it was estimated that our love of takeaway coffee uses
16 billion cups per year globally, and only around 1% of these can be recycled.
Replacing this with home made coffee or at least getting a
reusable cup is such a small change in your life but the impact is huge.
Recently, I decided I need to do more and throughout
October, I will be undertaking my own experiment with my family to see how
easily we can live plastic free. Check back here each week to see how we are
We walk or cycle EVERYWHERE. I don’t get public transport to
work and the daycare drop offs are almost always by bike or walking. My general
rule is that if the journey takes less than 30 mins by foot then I will walk,
otherwise I will cycle dependent on how much free time I have.
Here’s some light facts:
Between the ages of 35-54 you will travel approx 15,000 miles by car each year on average
The average commute each day in the UK is approx 10 miles by car (Source: RAC)
Annual CO2 emissions therefore for an average commuter are approx; 0.67 tonnes
If I drove to work each day it would probably be around 4.5-5 miles (given the one way systems in Bristol)
My recent trip to the Baltics (a return flight from UK to Latvia via Berlin) was 0.52 tonnes, for my entire family (Source: Carbon Footprint Calculator)
The output of emissions I save from not driving to work would be 0.3 tonnes per annum
My individual contribution to my flight would therefore be 0.26 CO2e
The fact that my aviation travel emissions are not as high as an average person’s commuting emissions does make me feel slightly better and with the addition of being able to offset this through the Carbon Footprint Calculator these trips can still be made relatively guilt free.
Solo national travel
If I am visiting friends alone then I will almost always get
the train or the coach. Rarely do I use the car if it’s just me. I’d love to
extend this to travelling with the family but sadly train travel is almost
unaffordable compared to driving as soon as you add an extra person to the mix.
I tend to only shop in a few places, Aldi, our local minimarket and bakery – the latter two where you can shop for fresh produce almost packaging free too. I’m so lucky where I live and I know this isn’t easy for everyone but obviously distance travelled to purchase your shopping contributes to CO2 emissions. Our local Aldi is only 1 mile away and I would of course choose not to use the car if I didn’t have to get a weeks’ worth of shopping for the entire family (and with a toddler in tow).
I know I can do better and I am going to start looking in to the food miles for the produce we need. We grow our own fruit and veg at home but it’s very minimal at the moment (mainly because I’m bloody awful at it).
We have a lot of dairy milk in the house because of our toddler and we just signed up to Milk & More to have our milk delivered in reusable glass bottles. It actually not that much more expensive than our local minimarket and we can guarantee that it’ll be organic too!
It’s no secret that I’m a clothes addict (I won’t say
fashion addict as that is debatable), however over the past few years I have
bought more and more from charity shops and vintage and indeed decreased the
amount of clothes I was purchasing anyway.
Even when I bought my wedding dress I bought a plain yellow
evening gown so that I could wear it for other occasions rather than spend
thousands on something that would never see the light of day again.
My daughter’s clothes are around 70% second hand, I purchase
bundles from people on Facebook or we’re often given hand-me-downs from friends
and family and of course there are plenty of second hand shops that sell
brilliant children’s shoes and clothes.
But my favourite thing most recently has to be discovering Onloan. It’s a subscription service where you can hire designer clothes for a monthly fee. I choose the lowest subscription (£69 a month for two items of clothing) and not only does it satisfy my uncontrollable shopping desires but it means I get to try loads of new designer clothes whilst feeling smug that I’m reducing my carbon footprint and supporting a small business. If you’re interested you can take advantage of my discount referral code when you sign up: CHARLOTTE206
So that’s my (shortened) list of a few things that make a difference to our environment, of course I’d get on a train if it was a similar price to flying but the reality is that price drives a lot of my choices. I can afford to shop ‘plastic free’ (which I should point out should not be a privilege and should be the norm), but I can’t spend £300+ extra to take my family to Paris for a long weekend.
We can only do what we can to reduce our impact on the
planet though (unless you’re Richard Branson or Grant Shapps reading this) and
more needs to be done to lobby for fairer and greener travel. As this
piece in the Guardian rightly points out, trying to tackle this as
individuals “paralyses change”. That’s not to say we should give up being good
but we need to also focus our efforts on the people who can change it.
We need a revolution and this is what Greta and others are
trying to achieve. So instead of belittling her efforts why not focus yours on
something good, something that can help move the tides of change, before the
real changing tides move you.
If you are feeling passionate about this here are some
things you can do:
Take part in a climate meeting or even go to a strike/protest. Today (October 7) there is an Extinction Rebellion protest in London, if you can, just go along and talk to one person there to understand what they’re trying to do.
Refuse to purchase goods or services from organisations that are known to be exploiting our planet where there are clearly other options for them. Write to them and tell them why you are no longer a customer.
(Side note: I currently have a letter in my drafts for Tampax, they continue to advertise and manufacture their plastic applicator tampons, yet they already have the answer with their normal applicator tampons – Boycott them!)
Make demands to your local MPs and other politicians. Demand they tell you what they’re doing locally, nationally and internationally when it comes to climate change. Better still, don’t be distracted by the bickering and egotistical politicians that actually don’t give a crap about you or the planet, vote for a party that has a strong plan for reducing our emissions and puts the single most important issue of our lifetime first.
These changes are going to take you out of your comfort zone
but think about the alternative, in your lifetime it is predicted that millions
will be displaced globally due to climate change. And that includes you, you
only have to look out of the window today and watch the news to see how
people’s homes are being flooded and are no longer liveable. This is
displacement due to climate change and it’s happening more frequently. This is
not something to ignore or belittle, it’s real and it will affect you.
We all know that travelling with children, especially those under five, can be an absolute shit show of epic affairs. I can’t tell you that this post will change that because you never really know what those sweet sweet angels will throw at you in a 24 hour period. What I can do is help you to make things easier.
Below are my five top mantras when travelling with small children.
1. I promise to take this trip at a steady pace.
First, take a deep breath, look in the mirror, smile and repeat to yourself;
“I promise to take this trip at a steady pace. I will not let hiccups – big or small – ruin the outcome of the day. And I accept that some days might feel like they are going to be a ‘failure’ but I will find joy and peace in every day of my trip.”
Why do I start with this? Because during our campervan honeymoonroadtrip around The Baltic’s with our two year old there were often days where journey’s took double the time, where we couldn’t relax at the end of the day with a wine because she wouldn’t sleep, or some other reason that meant I couldn’t tick off all the things I wanted to do that day.
But every single one of those days had something unique, joyful and peaceful, just not always the way we had planned it.
I know for those of us that aren’t as laid back as others that’s a hard pill to swallow but trust me, if you think like this each and every day and apply this as your mantra you will have the best trip and so will your children.
2. The plans that work best are the ones that we all will enjoy.
And by this I mean; plan for the little ones. Even on ourown honeymoon (you know, the one holiday that is absolutely supposed to be romantic) the days that worked best were the ones that all three of us would enjoy. Don’t attempt a guided tour, a historic building or a museum unless you’re certain that there’s something that will entertain them there, or do it whilst they’re napping. You will only be disappointed and potentially upset when you get angry looks from strangers who are there to enjoy it too, without screaming kids.
It sounds unfair but I totally get it – and I had to experience it to understand…
We attempted a trip to Trakai Castle near Vilnius during part of our roadtrip, it was on a list of thingsI wanted to do so we thought we’d give it a go and see what happened. So we paid and went through to the main exhibition, and all our daughter did was run from room to room, attempt to climb things she shouldn’t and then finished it off with some high pitched screams for ten minutes whilst a group of people were enjoying a guided tour. Needless to say we took full advantage of the torture props on the way out.
My advice to you is this, go to that damn castle; but don’t pay to go in, walk around it if your kids are happy in the pram or are at least feeling entertained. Then when you go home read about it on Wikipedia, you’ll get more out of it anyway.
Side note: in the UK museums are often free and have children’s activities so you can enjoy the best of both and not have to feel like you’ve wasted money if it doesn’t work out. Money Saving Expert have a great list of all those which are included.
I’m not an expert on other countries but check out what’s on and plan ahead. If the landmark you want to see is a bucketlist thing for you ask your travelling partner to be on kid duty so you can go by yourself for an hour or two whilst they go to a park or a cafe.
3. I will research the heck out of my trip.
If you are going on a city break or if you plan on visiting several cities like we did recently on our honeymoon (we did four capital cities, Tallin, Riga, Vilnius and Berlin) then research and check out reviews for kid friendly restaurants and toddler friendly activities. Also don’t forget parks are very toddler friendly and free (weather dependent) so check how many playgrounds there are in the city centre and surrounding areas for when you need a quick backup plan.
I did my research through blogs and asking friends for their advice, plus checking out local social media accounts such as; Riga Stories (@rigastories on Instagram), Visit Estonia etc and insearchofs.com. Luckily we lived in Berlin a few years ago and have friends there with kids so we used our own local knowledge there but I do follow @mum_in_berlin on Instagram who has some great tips on playgrounds and things to do with young children.
I’ll be writing about our favourite cities in a future post but to summarise our kid-friendly highlights:
Best overall; Riga – probably the most child friendly city I’ve ever been to. Many of the cafes have children’s areas and we went to an incredible place for dinner called BibliotekaNo1 that treated our daughter like royalty. Fair enough there wasn’t a play area on that occasion but it was very spacious and we resorted to our resident babysitters; the iPad and Peppa Pig without any shame, it was our honeymoon after all.
There are parks and playgrounds at every turn and a very chilled out open air drinking area in the Old Town where she napped and we drank and read our books. Pure bliss. We actually returned to Riga three times on our trip and was never disappointed.
Best family restaurant; Casa La Familia – a vegetarian Italian restaurant in Vilnius. If ever there was a child focused restaurant this is it. All the families were sat at tiny tables on the floor and there was a huge kids area with a castle slide and so many fun toys for the kids. The food was incredible, service was terrible but we didn’t care because we had lots of time and lots of entertainment. Plus a kind couple shared their food with our little girl as we had to wait an hour for pizza. Basically take snacks and go just before tea time if you don’t want to starve.
Best for toddler friendly activities; Berlin – there are a lot of toddler friendly day activities in Berlin. My favourite is Tierpark (literally translates to animal park). It’s huge and has pretty much everything you need to enjoy a family day out, parks, animals, a train ride, beer (very important) and great food. Plus loads of green space so you can just chill if your kid still naps. It’s a brilliant day out and trust me, you need an entire day there.
Fun fact, Tierpark is apparently “Europe’s largest adventure animal park”.
4. Transport is important.
This is very important. Do not gloss over this unless you are already an expert on travelling with kids.
Here are the biggest mistakes things we learnt with regards to transport:
Know your taxi’s
We jumped in a taxi at Riga airport, after a few mins lightly quarrelling with the drivers about the price and car seats for small children (it’s the law in Latvia to have a kids seat but not all of the taxis have them). We were exhausted and Emmeline was kicking off so we gave up the fight and jumped in the metered cab. Its cost us almost 50 euros. BIG mistake. We had been told to expect 10-15 euros from our Air BnB* host so obviously we were freaking out. Needless to say we had been conned.
So what did we learn? There are no Ubers in Riga but there is Bolt* which is similar so we downloaded that the next day and found out that indeed taxis from the airport to the city are only about 10-15 euros. This was also helpful as my husband had to return to the airport the next morning as we left our daughters Trunki on the inbound flight (more about that in another post).
Overall we thought Bolt was just brilliant, you can pay with cash, they were really cheap (approx 4 euros per journey) and they were always really quick to arrive. We used them all over The Baltic’s without issue. Some had car seats suitable for a toddler and some didn’t but all drivers were happy to take us.
Know your taxi’s (but also know it’s not always going to be cheap)
In Berlin it is so hard to travel on the train from the airport to the city with a toddler and all your suitcases, a lot of stations don’t have step free access and Schonefeld to our hotel had several changes which would have meant us doing the old farmer and chicken, corn and dog riddle several times – except with baby, 2 suitcases and a backpack, so we had to get a taxi. Again, it’s the law to have a car seat but there’s no way of indicating you need a taxi with a car seat on Uber* (please sort this out Uber!) so be prepared if a taxi driver won’t pick you up.
Also taxi’s in general in Berlin are crazy expensive – I knew this was the case but never had to deal with it before when I lived there as I cycled or used public transport. There’s not much difference in price between Uber and regular taxis so expect to pay between 40-50 euros for a taxi to Mitte from Schonefeld. It’s really not far so personally I think it’s outrageous considering this is many people’s only option.
If in doubt, put your best foot forward
Save the big guns (taxi’s) for essential trips. If you’re in a city then travelling by foot (you know, walking) is your best option. Most cities are relatively compact cities and it’s the best way to get around in my opinion. You get to see so much of the city and you really clock up those important steps.
If you’re in a big city then they will usually have great public transport options which will be relatively cheap and fast if you need to travel some distance around the city.
Lastly I know what you’re thinking, yes in our most recent trip we hired a campervan but when it came to the cities it was much easier to leave the camper at the local site and travel in rather than drive what is essentially a bus full of 2.5 people in to a small city with limited parking options. Plus, I almost always really want a wine.
5. Do you really need that toy?
We packed just a few things; four books, a scrunch bucket & spade a pocket kite, some flash cards and a compact puzzle game, crayons and activity books.
I imagined Emmeline playing with loads of other kids and running around the beach but in all honesty this wasn’t the reality most of the time. She often wanted to sit in the driver seat of the campervan and pretend to drive, play outside running around the campsites and of course we spent hours and hours in parks. When we were driving or if we needed to do chores we resorted to the iPad, I think this has now led to a TV addiction and we’re dealing with a lot of Hey Duggee related tantrums but it really was a godsend at the time.
So that’s my top tips for travelling with small children, I’m definitely not a pro at it yet and I’m sure I’ll update the blog in the future with more tips – especially as she gets older and the usual tricks stop working.
We’ve got six countries under our belt with her now (and countless UK minibreaks) so I feel confident when travelling with a toddler. I feel that she learns and grows so much on our trips and for me that is priceless (and worth the mini bouts of stress). I hope that by introducing her to everything our planet has to offer will mean she grows up to be adventurous and open to new experiences.
Let me know if you agree, have any other tips for travelling, or what about any disasters you learned from? Please leave a comment below!
After almost two years of planning we said I do! The best day of my life. One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to plan (and the biggest) but it has left a huge hole in my life since it was over, so I needed to fill it. And I intend to with writing about my favourite subjects, organising trips and going on holiday.
In just one week we will be travelling around the Baltics in a huge campervan. Although I took our daughter to Hungary (solo!) to see my family when she was six months old and we all went to Ireland together not long after we got engaged, the three of us have never been on a plane or visited a non-English speaking country together.
It will be a little out of our comfort zone but that’s the kind of trip I love taking, and let’s face it, travelling with a toddler is always a little unnerving.
I’ll be posting about our trip regularly and adding photos to our Instagram account and my next post will be about packing for long trips with a toddler. If you have any advice that you’d like to see featured please leave a comment in the box below.