Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Colleen Lanin, the creator/editor of Travel Mamas. Travel Mamas is an online community where families who love to explore the world can share tips and experiences about traveling with children. As a mom and world traveler, Colleen shares her personal and professional advice with Sodha Travel:
What was your inspiration for Travel Mamas?
I wanted to create the site that I had wished existed when I became a mom over five years ago. It has printable packing lists, easy-to-find travel tips, and stories about where and how to vacation with children of all ages, from babies to teens. Plus there is a section all about grown-up getaways, because mamas need a break sometimes too!
What is one of your favorite international family-friendly destinations?
I studied in France for a year during college and I love all things French – the food, the language, the architecture, the culture! Italy is also wonderful- it is a country in love with children. The waiters come by your table to coo at your little ones and everyone goes above and beyond to make families feel welcome.
As a Mom of two, what do you always pack to keep young minds entertained?
Some of my favorites include coloring and activity books, triangular (no-roll) crayons, and markers with flip-top lids, wind-up toys, and sticker sheets. I love small toy packs and travel games that come with their own containers. A blow-up beach ball takes up almost no space and is a great diversion during road trip stops or other outdoor excursions. A small bucket and shovel works at the beach, park, and as a bath toy when traveling. A mini bottle of bubbles is a great way to keep kids busy while waiting in line at an amusement park too.
Tell us more about The Travel Mamas’ Guide.
After I had my first child, I searched bookstores and the Internet for information on how to travel with babies and tots. At the time, there was very little information available. So, I started taking notes on what worked and what didn’t from my own travels and asking my friends and pretty much anyone I met for tips on traveling with little ones.
I had been taking writing classes for years so I started typing up what I had learned. I soon realized I had written about three chapters of a book. Eventually I wrote a book proposal for “The Travel Mamas Guide: How to Vacation with Babies, Toddlers & Preschoolers…and Stay Sane!” I signed on with a book agent, who told me to get busy building my platform as an expert on traveling with kids by creating a blog and getting some magazine articles published, and that’s what led to the creation of TravelMamas.com.
My agent sent my proposal out to mid-sized and large publishers a couple of months ago and we got a lot of “positive” no’s. They said they love my voice and think the book fills a need in the market place but, ironically, they feel there might be too much information already online! I plan to approach smaller publishers next. In the meantime, TravelMamas.com continues to grow.
What other tips and suggestions can you offer for family travel?
Wow! Where do I begin?! Here are a few of my favorite travel tips…
Always pack lots of healthy snacks in different containers and dole them out one by one. Busy mouths are too busy to ask, “Are we there yet?” Be sure to bring a few forbidden snacks as a reward for good behavior on the go.
Keep a separate stash of toys and books for travel. A hidden toy is a forgotten toy and kids will be excited to see old favorites on subsequent trips.
Remember a vacation is supposed to be relaxing and fun for everyone in the family. Take a trip to the art museum in the morning and then stop by a playground to allow the kids to get wiggles out and make friends with locals in the afternoon. Be sure to schedule downtime too. Kids (and grown-ups) don’t have fun when tired and over-stimulated!
Colleen Lanin is a freelance writer and the creator/editor of TravelMamas.com, a site for parents who want to travel with children…and stay sane! Her articles have appeared in such publications as Babytalk Magazine, San Diego Family Magazine, and New Parent online magazine. She teaches workshops on how to travel with children as well as introductory blogging classes. She has lived in France, Arizona, and Minnesota and currently resides in Southern California with her husband and two children.