Positivity, tenacity, and an appetite for discovery have steered Alecia Staines towards some exciting opportunities and remarkable places over the past few years. On top of her work as a school teacher and HypnoBirthing practitioner, her role as a mother of two has encouraged her to seek out unique and defining travel experiences.
Her most recent venture in 2014 included a trip with her children Lawson (6) and Tully (4), and her partner to the Malaysian Island of Langkawi proving that a small budget and some savvy planning can result in a whole lot of awesome holiday. I was keen to find out all about it…
Why did you choose Langkawi?
I guess we love to travel. I first took the children overseas to Cambodia when Tully was just 10 months old and Lawson was 2. I was volunteer teaching, along with my sister, and my niece came too. We spent 3 amazing weeks there, and it certainly has given me the confidence to keep traveling with children. We’ve also toured all of Vietnam and went back to Cambodia as tourists for 2 weeks in 2012.
When friends/family/work colleagues travel, I’m always all ears as to where they went, what they thought of it, activities to do etc. From there I will google it to find out some more, jump on Trip Advisor and see reviews, prices of accommodation, tours etc. I could see plenty of great things in Langkawi, which a work colleague had travelled to, then I keep an eye out for bargain flights..
Langkawi was great for us- plenty to do, very cheap, a fantastic climate (never a day under 30 degrees, whilst everyone back home was freezing with winter!). I also consider flight times, due to traveling with children (we’ve yet to travel more than about 10 hours in 24hrs with them).
What preparation was involved before you took the trip and what extra things did you have to consider taking children?
I like to plan the trip myself, as it has proven to be the most economical. I kept an eye on known carriers who have great specials to South East Asia – Air Asia and Scoot particularly. I also booked accommodation, but have learnt not to book tours in advance, as they have inflated prices over the internet. It’s easier once there to haggle as you have more to choose from.
We pack light- as it’s much easier to handle one bag each and one kid on a hip when checking into airports, particularly when there can be late/early flight times and they are tired. We’ve also used backpack carriers for the kids, which have been a godsend. Don’t assume that the footpaths in overseas countries are suitable for prams- as often they’re not! And we could also manage to carry water and food underneath the backpack carriers, which freed both hands.
For the flights we take colouring in books, some small toys and the ipad. Thankfully, both children still quite happily sleep during the day, which will break the trip of a day flight/bus trip and they are usually asleep not long after take-off if it’s a night flight.
What did you do while you were there?
We based ourselves at a house at Langkawi, which wasn’t far to shops or the amazing beach! There are also tour operators on the roadside, so we hired a private tour of the island, which is always nice with children, as you can stop and start whenever you need to without worrying about anyone else. We took the children on a tour snorkelling and fishing and spent plenty of time at the beach, drinking from coconuts and eating the local gelato to cool down.
What were the best bits?
Snorkelling- the kids are now old enough to swim and when they were tired, they just held onto our vest and kept going. They absolutely loved it and it was great that the 4 of us could all enjoy an activity without an adult sitting out to supervise the children.
What were some challenges you faced?
Like any day, when the kids get overtired, they can be a handful to deal with. It does help though, that in the foreign countries we’ve travelled to, they seem to love kids, so we were never stuck for an extra set of hands.
Why do you think it’s important to travel with your children and what do you think your children got out of the experience?
I certainly wouldn’t have it any other way. We get a cheaper holiday than we would in Australia, the children get to experience food and a range of cultures and pick up language from other parts of the world and are so tolerant of difference. I travelled to India alone last year, and it just wasn’t the same without the kids. I missed them a lot, but also could see how much they missed out on the cultural experience that India had to offer.
Do you have any advice for families wanting to travel overseas?
Do it. You won’t regret it. It’s really been our highlight in the last few years and the kids are already keen to travel again, they are starting to offer their opinions on where we should go now, which is amusing. South Korea for winter is Lawson’s top travel destination at the moment, after having a South Korean au pair for 5 months.
Basic Cost Breakdown of Alecia’s Langkawi Adventure:
Transport there and back: Airlines $1200
Transport while there: various public-train/bus/taxi $300
Accommodation: We hired a local house for the 10 days we were there $500
SE Asia is amazingly cheap and has fantastic food- hence we ate out the whole time we were there. We were really spoilt for choice- there were Turkish restaurants, Indian restaurants and plenty of local cuisine. 2 course restaurant meal for the 4 of us would often only cost $30. Steer clear of “western restaurants”- they are the worst knock offs!
Other (tours/admission/entertainment): $700 (most of this was spent in Singapore- as prices there are comparable to Australia).
Photos: Alecia Staines. Words (aside from the introduction): Alecia Staines.