Travelling with Children - The First 365 Days of Our New Life

of Michael Gimm Holdensen
16 minutes reading time

About a year ago, we left Denmark with a whole lot of dreams and thoughts about what Life as digital nomads was going to be used for. We had an idea of what travelling with children was like, but had only experienced it on our holidays.

A year later, we've learnt a lot about a lot of things. What it means to travel with children, three of them and what it means to live the way we have. For better or worse.

If our adventures could be divided into chapters in a book, I would probably describe the first year as the first chapter. Hopefully there are many more, but only time will tell how many. One thing is certain, however, and that is that the adventure doesn't stop here. But the car is sold and we will try to live and travel in a new way.

If you're curious about what it's been like travelling with children aged 3 to 12 and spending as much time together as we have, read on. There will also be a short intro to Chapter 2 further down. Planer for det første år på rejsen med børnene

Initial Plans for the first year

In the period leading up to our departure from Denmark, we had a lot of thoughts about where we would be travelling and how we would approach everything for the first year. There were a lot of travel preparationsbut we hadn't planned much of the route. Still, we thought we'd make it from Poland through Eastern Europe, Greece, Spain and up to Flensburg, where the car was to be sold.

The plan was also that we would continue to backpack the world from Flensburg. At the time, Asia was at the top of our wish list.

We didn't get to experience much more than Eastern Europe, as well as a large portion of Greece in the beautiful Peloponnese. The places we lived the longest were probably also the places where the family functioned best.

In other words, we work best with SLOW TRAVEL instead of moving in and out of new apartments 2-3 times a week. I think others who have also tried travelling with children experience the same thing. There is simply a need for a little stability along the way.

Slow Travel giver overskud

Everything runs a little smoother when the family has the energy. Slow Travel is the best way of travelling for us.

Few plans give you the most freedom

There were many places on the route we travelled that we didn't get to see, but had to drive right past. Some of the places we had put on our wish list from home, but many of them were places we were recommended along the way. As a result, our stay at the various places was extended quite a bit.

You can't do much in a year, unless it's just to take pictures and say you've been there. Another lesson learnt is that our bucket list hasn't gotten smaller, but rather longer. There are just so many great places in Europe and too little time to experience them. Hopefully we can see and experience them another time.

The first part of the trip in autumn 2021, where we saw the 7 most exciting cities in Poland, was probably the period when we were most keen on travelling around with many changes. We originally had a few cities in mind, but along the way, more were added. This resulted in a lot of changes, but it was actually quite ok as we did not book accommodation far ahead at a time. Typically only the next 1-2 places.

The spontaneity of booking accommodation in hotels, Airbnb and campsites at the last minute worked really well for us for most of the trip. It wasn't until the summer of 2022, when we arrived in Bled, Slovenia, that we had trouble finding accommodation. A few weeks before in Albania and generally outside of peak season, it was never a problem.

Of course, it would be hard not to plan the country and hotels for the annual family holiday. Especially on a holiday with children. But with our way of travelling, it has made sense and added a huge sense of freedom. Freedom to choose where we wanted to go next. That way we could just stay in one place for as long as we liked.

Slædetur i Bansko

The last week in Bansko, where we had a visit from Uncle Kasper. Here we are getting ready for the ultimate sledge ride.

The only fixed plan and a quick decision

Ski holidays in Bansko, Bulgaria was our only real booking from home. Here we would stay for the winter and try to be ski bums. Probably the best decision of the trip! It was so nice with snow, frost and sun, unlike the eternal liver pâté weather in Denmark, and we had a lot of wonderful experiences.

Lots of skiing as a family but also many new acquaintances through Liva and Emma's 2 months at World School, where we met lovely people from around 20 different countries.

We liked Bansko so much that we quickly decided to buy one apartment close to the piste. We'll be back here in January to ski again and hopefully meet some of the people who were here last time.

Er det svært at rejse med børn

Sometimes travelling with kids is more difficult than others. But there are definitely more good times than bad!

Is travelling with children difficult?

We've met several people travelling as couples, but most of the people we've spent more time with along the way have travelled with children.

Before we left, we listened to two different podcasts to learn more about whether travelling with children for such a long time was possible. One with Maja & Stefan and their Podcast "The Good Life", where they spend a large part of their lives as a young couple in Bali.

The second, which is more about travelling with children and as a family, is with Mille and her podcast The Digital Nomad.

We actually made a podcast episode with the former 😀 .

As a couple, you can work more easily on the road. If you're travelling with children, it quickly becomes more complicated. With 3 children as different ages as ours (4, 9 and 12), it would have been an almost impossible task to work with the type of travelling we chose the first year.

Forskellige opgaver når man rejser med børn

Travelling with kids full-time isn't all fun and entertainment. There are many tasks to be completed along the way.

Mandatory tasks when travelling with children

When we left home, we both had an idea that the biggest "task" for us on the trip was the kids. Truth be told, there have actually been many tasks and those who think that a life like ours is primarily about lazing by the beach with cool drinks and seeing cool places are slightly mistaken.

Sure, we've done that, but a lot of time is spent keeping the kids occupied with something more meaningful than Minecraft, Toca Boca or "boring" teenage shows on Netflix.

One of the things we've spent the most time on is:

  • Homeschooling and enabling Carla.
  • Find the next place to stay.
  • Plan what we wanted to experience.
  • Meal planning and grocery shopping (Yes, you can't avoid it)
  • Pack in and out of the car.
  • Writing blog and Instagram.
  • Socialise with other people.
  • Transport.

So I certainly wouldn't say that travelling with children and the way we've been living is a life without challenges. It's just a life with other challenges. Fortunately, we have the freedom to choose a lot of things ourselves.

Voksen tid

Adult time is one of the least of it when travelling with kids. Here's Rie and I hiking alone without kids. However, in Denmark when we visited for 5 weeks over the summer.

Adulthood and alone time - is it possible with young children?

Rie and I have probably never been very good at looking after the kids and going on dates. Of course, the way we've been travelling hasn't made it any easier, but we've still managed to get some adult time a few times.

On this trip, we have said from the start that we need to find time to do something together and separately. Both the adults and the children. When we are together 24 hours a day, conflicts will arise and there will be an acute need for some time alone.

Alone time has therefore often been a walk or simply zoning out with audiobooks and noise-cancelling headphones.

There have also been a few date nights. When we've stayed in places we were comfortable with, our big girl (Liva) has taken care of Emma and Carla while we've gone to a nearby restaurant. The girls call it "sister night" and they love it! Sister night includes good food, as well as sweets and films ad libitum.

I've had the most alone time, as after 3 years of waiting (Covid-19) I was finally able to go to the metal festival "Hellfest" in France in June 2022. It was awesome!

Rie had a one-off trip with some friends in Kolding, which she also needed to do.

While visiting Denmark during the summer of 2022, Rie and I had a few more opportunities to get out and about. This included a Queen concert at the Royal Arena in Copenhagen and three days travelling around Zealand in the "bus" while the kids were with grandma and grandpa.

Especially the tour alone on the bus gave us an insight into the difference between travelling with children and travelling as a couple. It was SO much easier!

Our children are at an age where the older ones go to bed at the same time as us. Especially when we sleep in the car. So adult time can quickly become a scarce commodity.

Den perfekte alder at rejse med børn i

When we were younger, we talked about the best time to have children. But just like having children, there's no one age that's perfect for travelling with them.

The perfect age to travel with children

.... cannot be found! Sorry! There are pros and cons to every age, just like a normal life with work and responsibilities.

We are lucky that Liva is mature enough to help out and this has given us adults the opportunity to get out and about. On the other hand, she is at an age where we have spent a lot more time at school than with Emma.

Carla, who turned 4 the first year of our trip, has all the fun and challenging facets that children have at that age. That's why sometimes it's possible to hike 9 km in a national park and other times it's not possible to walk from the car in the car park to the grocery store because her legs don't work...

We've seen and heard from others that with very young children you are limited in what you can do and I don't even dare think about what happens with a bunch of teenagers...

In other words, you can travel with children of any age, or you can travel with no children of any age. There are different challenges and it ultimately depends on the adults' energy levels. It also depends on the type of travel. Whether you're travelling for a shorter or longer period and whether it's by car, plane, backpacking, etc.

However, one thing is 100% certain. You can ALWAYS find an excuse as to why you and your family with your children can't go. So it's probably more about how much you want it.

Hvad har vi fået ud af det første år

We have gained SO much from our first year of travelling. Great experiences and a stronger family bond!

What have we got out of the first year as a family?

Overall, we have gained the following from travelling with children and travelling as a family in the first year.
Time, Freedom and (more) Surplus for each other. Add to this frugality.

First and foremost, we have had the opportunity to be together as a family on terms we have been able to decide ourselves. We have been free to choose where we wanted to go, what we wanted to experience and how long we wanted to stay in each place.

Along the way, we've closely followed the girls' development and learnt what matters most to them.

I've often read that as long as your children have their siblings and parents, all is well. This is true a lot of the time, but there are also times when the girls miss socialising with their peers. This is also the main reason why Chapter 2 is set in Spain.

Time for the individual child leads to more energy and better experiences

Anyone who has travelled with children knows that mood and motivation on any given day can be somewhat unpredictable. This is true both when travelling for longer periods of time or going on holiday with children, but also in everyday life at home.

That's why it's been so nice to have enough time to make decisions at a pace that (for the most part) matches the individual child. It's no different to the annual family holiday down south. The right setting makes for a much more relaxing holiday, with fun days instead of days with grumpy kids.

Can you learn to make do with less?

We have each learnt a lot about ourselves and each other. Especially that we can make do with much less. Less space, fewer toys and fewer things in general. More stuff and more space doesn't necessarily make us happier.

We're not all at quite the same level in terms of what we can make do with, but we've all moved on quite a bit. In Denmark, we had a 250 m2 house and storage space and a 1400 m2 plot of land.

Along the way, we've lived in much less space and we don't bring more belongings than we can carry ourselves. So I wonder if our future needs for space and things have changed a lot? I think so.

Hjemmeskole og rejse med børn

Homeschooling children while travelling requires a bit of effort from both children and adults.

Home schooling on the go

Travelling with school-age children makes demands on us parents. We've met other parents from other countries who have handled the school part significantly differently, but so far Rie and I are a bit "old school". First and foremost, we want to make sure we don't rob the girls of any opportunities later in life. But we will definitely try to challenge the status quo - here too.

hjemmeskole på rejsen

We have focused on teaching the children Danish and Maths at the same level as the Danish primary school. But also other subjects. Here we are at the experimental centre "Copernicus Science Centre" in Warsaw.

What subjects have the children been taught?

The first year of the school has consisted of teaching Danish via Danes.dk and Maths via the official Danish maths books. The latter with me as the teacher. Rie has supported the Danish lessons.

Alongside Danish and Maths, the children have been spending 2-3 hours a week learning English via an app called Mondly. When we left Bansko, we all started up in Spanish via Duolingowith the equivalent of 2-3 hours per week. Both of which we will endeavour to maintain.

In the beginning, we tried to include history and culture in the places we visited. But it quickly became very time-consuming, especially in the places we weren't in for long periods of time. Instead, we took it in small chunks, where the girls hopefully remembered something and probably forgot something else.

Some of the story part is included on the blog here, so hopefully that will help them remember it better when they read it again.

Otherwise, we have talked about the geography of the individual countries. The girls have been reading books on their Mofibo reader and have been knitting, drawing and doing various creative things.

We've also tried our hand at various forms of sport. But travelling with children in a car and combining it with regular sports routines is not the easiest thing to do. And we haven't succeeded as much as we would have liked.

Sup Board med på rejsen

Sup board is awesome! The girls have wanted to go out on it at times, but it was probably not used as much as we should have used it.

Should children be home-schooled again at a later date?

One of the things Rie and I have become more aware of is that we are not the most pedagogical people. We try, but when the children don't want to do it, things sometimes get a little uphill. However, I think we have grown with the task, but we also agree that we will not do it full-time again. At least not without help.

We have no idea what form it will take. But we are aware that there are a number of different options for online learning. Both in Danish and English.

Our tasks will then probably consist more of supporting them with their homework.

Rutiner når man rejser med børn

Routines aren't always easy when travelling with children in a car. But there's still a need for them.

What routines are needed when travelling with children?

In Denmark, everyday life is characterised by routines and structure. A family with children has more than most. Without routines and structure, everyday life in Denmark is disorganised and you can't be as efficient as your surroundings (and yourself) demand.

Travelling with children full-time is a little different. We've been able to set our own routines. In the beginning, we tried to set bedtimes and get up at a certain time so we could get the daily chores done, including a little morning exercise, a hearty breakfast and then school. As time went on, things became more fluid. For better or worse.

Particularly during the periods when we slept in the car, structure has been difficult. When there are only a few square metres to spend time in, it's not easy to put Carla to bed at 8pm, the older kids at 9pm and then have some adult time afterwards.

In Denmark, we used to wake up the kids at 06:15. Now they wake up on their own around 08.00 or later. Even 4-year-old Carla sleeps quite late. However, after school starts in Spain, things will be different again!

På vej mod Benalmadena i Spanien

On our way to the airport in Copenhagen with everything we own on our backs and in a suitcase. Next stop Benalmádena in Spain.

Chapter 2 - Benalmádena in Spain

The first year was spent travelling by car in Eastern Europe. We had many good experiences and learnt what worked well and what didn't.

Our 2nd chapter starts in Benalmádena a little south of Malaga where we will no longer be travelling around with the children from place to place, but have a permanent base for a while. We don't know how long it will be. The plan is that we will travel around and experience Spain during the periods when we can. I.e. weekends, holidays and public holidays.

Children are enrolled Bifrost School in Benalmádena, a small Danish school. Here Liva and Emma will be in class together. The school timetable is very similar to the Danish one, combined with a focus on learning Spanish and English. Their day is 9-15, without Siesta!

Carla starts at a Nordic preschool called The mini bees. Danish, Norwegian and Swedish are spoken and songs are sung in Spanish. I'm excited to see how much her language skills develop in the first year.

I've got a job with an English company with branches all over the world. The branch I'm at is in Barcelona. Here I will be working with software development in a position as a Business Analyst, similar to my job in Denmark for Bankdata. It's going to be pretty cool to try my hand at developing software for different industries, learn new skills and learn Spanish!

At the time of writing, Rie doesn't know what to do during the day when the kids are away and I'm working. Besides the housework, some of her time will be spent picking up and dropping off the kids at school and kindergarten in our newly purchased Ford Mondeo from 2007. It has done 240,000 kilometres, but hopefully it can do 100,000 more!

One thing is certain. The first impression of Benalmádena is good! It's lovely and there are so many things to do. So we won't be short of experiences here either.

Åbenhed og Slow Travel

Slow Travel and Openness resulted in many great memories with lovely people from World School.

Our top 5 tips for travelling with children

  1. SLOW TRAVEL
    Take enough time to be in different places. Travelling fast is hard, especially with kids when it's for a longer period of time.
  2. Accept the situation
    When you're living a normal family life, there's one set of challenges and when you've chosen to travel with children, there's another. But they are there! My best advice is to accept that they are there and don't think you can make them disappear by travelling back again.
  3. Be open
    We've met some lovely people from Denmark on our bus tour, but it's in meeting people from other parts of the world that we were really challenged and experienced something new. It can be difficult for the children at first with another language, but it will come!
  4. Things take time
    It has taken a long time for our children to adjust to "our new life". But gradually they have accepted it to some extent. Rie and I were frustrated in the beginning, but we are in a completely different place after the first year than we were after 6 months.
  5. Do it!
    Our lives aren't for most people - we know that. But if you have a dream of travelling with kids and family, make a plan and make it happen! There are many ways to do it and it doesn't have to be all-in.
    Some travel for 3 months and others for a year. Some choose to sublet their property instead of selling.
    Whatever the form, it's an experience of a lifetime that no one can take away from you and it's an investment in your family that's well spent. And what's the worst that can happen?

Thank you for reading. I hope the above has given you a good insight into what it's like travelling with children. If you're still left with questions, feel free to leave a comment below. I'll answer them as best I can.

6 comments

Aunt 4 September 2022 - 14:01

A great read

Reply
Michael Gimm Holdensen 4 September 2022 - 14:30

☺️

Reply
John Lyngholm Arentoft 4 September 2022 - 20:10

Exciting reading and also nice to see that anything is possible if you have the heart to do it

Reply
Michael Gimm Holdensen 4 September 2022 - 20:15

Thanks John, yes indeed

Reply
Johanne Andersen 31 January 2023 - 16:59

Exciting read and nice to finally find a bit about travelling with middle children and tips for teaching on the road.
We are planning a year-long trip with two children aged 12 and 14. In this connection, I have a question. When you write Slow travel, what is your experience? What are your experiences?

Reply
Michael Gimm Holdensen 31 January 2023 - 18:29

Hi Johanne
Agreed, most people who travel (that we know of) do so with younger children. Then there is less resistance and objections to the adults' decisions

For us, there are a lot of chores with 3 kids of different ages, but with 2 peers like yours, I think a lot of things get a little easier.
When it came to slow travel, we found that we could easily move quickly from place to place for periods of time. But once we'd been doing it for a few months, we needed to stay in the same place for a little longer. To feel like we had a base.
It was also during these periods that we were able to meet other people.

One of the things we will prioritise when we travel around again is to make more use of homestays to really meet other people and cultures. We haven't done that enough.

Have a great trip - it's going to be awesome!

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