Norway, Italy, Denmark, Switzerland, Canada… we would spend hours on the Instagram account of Jill and her tribe. First, because it makes you want to escape and enjoy the present moment, but also because it makes traveling with young children much less frightening. On the occasion of the release of his book, “How to make his dreams come true as a family” at First editions, we asked him a few questions to find out his secrets.
Jill, who are you?
Jill : I am 31 years old and I have 4 children. With my husband, Clément, we sold our house, our optical store, everything we found, and we decided to hit the road for a year with our children. At the time, we had 2 children, they were 5 years old and 3 years old, and we crossed all of South America with them in a 4×4 with a roof tent. We also had our two Golden Retrievers with us! Recently, I wrote a book called “How to make your dreams come true as a family”. For me, children are absolutely not a brake but a driving force in my projects.
Is there an ideal age to travel with our toddler?
Jill : I would say that there really is no perfect age for traveling with children. You can at least let the postpartum period, the difficult months after childbirth, pass a bit, but once you’re ready, there’s really nothing to stop you from getting started. For our very first family trip, our daughter was 6 months old, and our fourth was in the North Cape at 4 months old. Really, there is no age, it’s when we parents feel ready. I find that the risk is to always procrastinate, so they will remember. But ultimately, if we don’t do it today maybe we won’t do it tomorrow. We don’t know what tomorrow is made of, we don’t know if tomorrow we will have the opportunity to do it.
What do we need to travel with a baby?
Jill : The child does not need much when he is very small. Above all, he needs us. Afterwards, if I had to take just one accessory, it would be the baby carrier! Because it serves us as much when we are on the move as when we need to reassure our child. The baby carrier for me is really essential when you have a child under 3 years old.
Jill : It is often said that there are as many budgets as travelers. So there are plenty of different trips possible. You can make the same trip for 500 € as for 5000 €. And that is something that is very true, depending of course on the cost of the plane ticket. What I want to say by that is that there are plenty of possibilities available to us. So choose your destination carefully. If, for example, we want to go to a restaurant every day, North America is going to be a little out of budget and we should perhaps rather go to destinations where the cost of living is less expensive, for example example in Asia. We can also optimize expenses by eating less outside. If you can cook, it’s always a good plan to be able to reduce costs. Then cooking, you can do it easily in a converted vehicle, at the campsite or in an Airbnb! We decided to sell everything because to leave for a year, you still needed a lot of money.
Isn’t it too hard not to have your own space?
Jill : We recently fitted out a custom van. Precisely so that everyone has their space to sleep, each their own bed, and also each their own space when riding. In our motorhome, we had to remove the car seats every time to be able to put the children to bed, and that was really not practical, we wanted fixed solutions. We made it to measure! There, we moved in this van for 6 people, it’s something that we don’t find, or very little, on the market. Sometimes you have to be resourceful and not be afraid to get your hands dirty when there are many of you.
Which mode of transport is the most suitable?
Jill : What I would say is to choose something that is big enough for you, but also suitable for your trip. It’s always a bit complicated, you have to know each other well I think. And also test your vehicle beforehand! We can try to find conditions similar to the conditions you will find on site.
Jill : We are not instit’… Of course, it’s a lot of pressure. But I remember Clément’s cousin telling me: “Really, don’t worry, it’s going to be fine. They are 5 and 3 years old, they are going to see so many things that the trip will fully awaken them. And she was right. When they got back to school after that year of travel, they were absolutely no behind. Now, on a daily basis, it’s 1 or 2 hours of school a day. Sometimes we’re on a beach in Ecuador, and we absolutely don’t want to go to school, both them and us, but we have to do it, it’s part of the game, they know it and we try to do that fairly regularly, at least every weekday.
Jill : Jet lag is scary, it’s true. The first time we took the plane, far away with the little ones, Rose was 6 months old and Martin was 2 and a half years old. We left for Martinique, so there is an 8 hour time difference. Arrived there, a little transferred, the night began, everyone went to bed, it went well. But at 4 am Rose was awake and our 2 and a half year old son was also awake, and he absolutely didn’t want to sleep. Rose, we managed to put her back to sleep because she was a little baby, we put her to the breast and she went back to sleep, it was less difficult in the end than with a 2 and a half year old child. Because Martin, no matter how much we told him it was still night, he didn’t want to sleep anymore! We adapt, we try to live with it. Afterwards, what you have to say is that it goes by rather quickly. It is said to recover up to 1 hour a day. And another tip: try to frame the naps well, not to let the children sleep too late to avoid not being able to put them back to sleep at night.
If you could give 3 tips to parents who want to embark on the adventure, what would they be?
Jill : The first would be to de-stress. Children are really like sponges and feel all our anxieties, so if we are anxious and stressed, they will necessarily be too. It means remembering that vacations and trips are for enjoying, and we’re all going to have a great time together. The second piece of advice would be to tell you that you don’t need to burden yourself with 100,000 stuff. Your child especially needs you, and when he is a young child, you are his referent and it is you who reassure him. The third would really be do not listen to people who will try to discourage you. Surround yourself with the right people, who have already traveled and who will have plenty of experiences to share with you, who can motivate and boost you. And why not also read my book, where I give you lots of tips, advice, feedback on traveling with your children!