The mamas and papas of all holidays

LEAH MCLENNAN
Last updated 10:19 07/11/2013
Bender Family Landscape
travelwithbender.com

THE BENDER FAMILY: Erin and Josh Bender travel the world with their three- and four-year-olds.

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Two parents, two toddlers and more than 550 days spent jetsetting around the globe.

How are they doing it?

For some, getting to the shops with a child-in-tow is a big enough challenge, but for Erin and Josh Bender travelling the world with their three- and four-year-olds is a cinch.

"We'd rather be dealing with a tantrum on a Caribbean beach than dealing with it at home," Erin says on the phone from London.

"The times our kids have had a meltdown I've looked around and been amazed at where we are."

The Perth-based couple bought a one-way ticket to Bali in May 2012, expecting to be away for six months.

One and a half years later they're still on the road.

After seven months in South East Asia they popped over to the US, then it was off to Guatemala, Mexico and Belize; later they travelled to Israel, Jordan and Turkey, before heading to Europe.

They're now ensconced at London's Flemmings Mayfair Hotel after spending several weeks in an flat in Ireland.

The couple, whose children were previously in childcare three-days-a-week, have rented out their fully-furnished house in the Perth suburb of Clarkson, "cancelling out the mortgage", and a friend is looking after their dog.

Josh earns an income while travelling by running a web design business, while Erin works in social marketing.

"We probably spend two thirds less of our income travelling the world than we did living at home."

But while it may sound like roaming the world is all roses and cupcakes, there have many tough moments along the way, Erin says.

Low points have included potty training their three-year-old while on the road, long travel days spent juggling kids, four suitcases, a pram and car seats - and when sickness strikes.

"In Guatemala my son and husband both got very bad gastro," she says.

"And in Israel my son broke his wrist falling from a bunk bed; that was very hard because many people didn't speak English and there was a big wait at emergency."

The odyssey has also put pressure on the couple's 11-year marriage.

"It's probably the most fights we've ever had. But then again we're with each other 24/7 so it's to be expected, we're really rediscovering each other and discovering the kids."

Erin believes the optimal age to travel with young children is when they're out of nappies and before they start school - and after nearly two years trekking about she firmly believes the pros outweigh the cons.

"We've had so many good times, mainly because of the way the kids see things, it's so real and exciting for them.

"We went hot air ballooning in Turkey, in Thailand we saw a lantern festival, we swam with sea turtles in Mexico, snorkelled with sharks in Belize.

"There are so, so many highlights."

And when will the couple pack their suitcases for good and head home?

"My brother is getting married in January so we are going back to Perth for the wedding, but we don't think it's back for good, we'll just stop in for a little bit."   

ERIN'S TIPS FOR TRAVELLING WITH CHILDREN:        

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1. Two suitcases are handy for a world tour: one with winter clothes and one with summer. For trips of only a few days, try to leave your big suitcases with family, friends or in your accommodation and just take carry-on.           

2. Keep costs down by trying to not eat in hotels.

"We carry bread and vegemite all over the world, so when we're stuck we make the kids sandwiches. The kids just drink water, so we don't carry milk or formula."        

3. Invest in the best pram possible.

"Both of my kids still nap in the middle of the day. We invested in a good pram so my son can have a good sleep if we're still out."    

4. Embrace the tourist bus.

"We love things like hop-on hop-off buses, they're touristy but the kids can fall asleep and we're still seeing the sights." 

5. Squirrel away an emergency kitty.

"We have a $10,000 emergency fund in case we need to get home in a hurry."  

6. Even for older children a baby or toddler carrier can be handy.

"In places like the New York and London subways, lifts are very few and far between so it's difficult with a pram.

"We found a great toddler carrier to put in the backpack and as soon as my son gets tired we can put it on and carry him."            

7. Take plenty of rest days.

"You can't keep travelling with two children without getting exhausted. You need to have rest days where you do nothing."            

8. Opt for self-contained accommodation where possible.

"If it's a short vacation we will opt for a hotel, if it's more than a week we'd look at an apartment with all the amenities included, like a kitchen.            

9. Double the time in each place.

"We spend about a month in each country so we have plenty of rest days. If we want to spend two weeks sightseeing, say in Ireland, then we stay for four weeks so we spend half the time sightseeing and half the time resting."      

10. Check the fine print on your insurance.

"In South East Asia we thought we were insured through our credit card but when we went to make a claim we discovered the insurance was only valid if we had a return ticket to Australia."        

11. Travelling at the right time for children.

Under the age of two you don't have to pay for airfares, but then you're most likely dealing with nappies and possibly formula feeding, both of which can be challenging on the road.

Under the age of five you don't have to worry about school, the child will most likely be toilet trained and most of the hotels are still free for kids.

Paying for your child's seat on the plane can also make a long flight much more enjoyable.         

You can read about the Bender's travels at: travelwithbender.

- AAP

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