Colleen's Passion For Adventure Didn't Stop When She Had Kids & It's Inspired Her To Write The Ultimate Guide For Traveling Mamas
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GAFFL
25th Jun | 8 min read

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    At GAFFL, we love to publish inspiring travel stories from adventurers around the world. You can connect with adventurers from 170+ countries on GAFFL, meet up, and explore destinations together. In this post, we are featuring Colleen.

    Colleen is a travel lover and entrepreneur who has an insatiable need to learn more about the world. She is also mom to a creative, passionate 16-year-old daughter and a kindhearted, fun-loving 13-year-old son. Her husband of 20+ years works in finance and is happy to come along on any crazy adventure she dreams up. You can follow them on Instagram


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    My Inspiration To Start Traveling

    I fell in love with travel when I was a teenager during my first trip abroad to Europe. Travel helps me to slow down and savor the moment, and to really take in the beauty and wonder of the world.

    I launched TravelMamas.com when my kids were wee as a way to help other parents travel better with their children. Seeking out content for the site has been a great excuse to explore all sorts of destinations as a family. Travel brings us closer together as we navigate the unknown. We rely upon one another more on the road as we make sense of confusing languages, maps and directions, transportation schedules, different cultures, and more.


    My Travel Frequency And How I Prepare For My Trips

    In a typical year, I probably travel about once per month. That includes solo trips, travels with just one or both kids, romantic getaways with just my husband, or trips with the whole family.

    I create an Excel spreadsheet for most weeklong+ trips detailing every day. I include transportation, tours, prices, possible activities, links to helpful blog posts, restaurants recommended on Yelp, and more. I print them out to bring along and keep us on track. It makes things a lot easier and avoids wasting precious vacation time deciding what to do and when.


    How I Pick My Travel Destinations

    Often, I let low airfares determine my destination. I’ll get an email alert for a low fare from Scott’s Cheap Flights and I jump on the deal.

    Sometimes, though, I get my heart set on a destination and set up a fare alert from Kayak so I can buy flights as soon as prices dip.

    For road trips, I’ll play with Google maps and come up with a route that works for the amount of time we have available. In summer, our family is often trying to escape the desert heat in Scottsdale, AZ where we live so we’ll plan a trip to someplace cooler like Northern Arizona, Alaska, Oregon or to visit extended family in Minnesota.


    Our trips vary from as short as one or two nights for a quick getaway to month-long stays in one particular place. We spent a month in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico one summer and a month in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

    I love the longer stays because it’s not as hectic as being on the move all the time and because it gives us a chance to slow down and see what it’s like to live in that destination like a local. Longer travel isn’t always possible, especially now that my kids are older, so it’s nice to break up the year with weekend getaways and weeklong journeys, too.


    How I Pack For My Trips

    I always use a packing list for my travels, no matter how long or short the journey is. When I’ve tried to wing it in the past, thinking “I know what’s on the list already!” — I’ve forgotten important items. 

    Must-haves in my carry-on include a remote charger, gluten-free snacks for my sensitive stomach, antibacterial gel, and antibacterial wipes.

    Managing My Work And Traveling Simultaneously

    Since I own a travel blog, travel is an important part of my job. If I travel too much, however, I get really stressed out because being on the road means less time to keep the wheels turning in terms of writing and editing stories, answering emails, working on paid projects, and improving old content.

    One of the challenges for my family has always been that my husband only gets a few weeks of vacation time per year. That means a lot of times I need to travel with just one or both of my kids while he stays at home to work at his job. Now that my kids are in high school and middle school, it’s harder for them to travel as much, too.


    Number of Countries I've Visited And My Bucket List

    I had to count them up! I have visited 32 states plus Washington DC. I’ve been to 37 countries on 5 continents. 


    Every place is on my bucket list! In particular, I’d love to visit Australia and New Zealand, go on an animal photography safari in an African country, and explore more of Asia. We had to cancel trips to Poland and Portugal due to the pandemic, so those are on top of my list right now. Someday I’d love to live in Spain so I really want to travel around that country to find the ideal spot to settle down.

    How I Got Inspired To Write “The Travel Mamas’ Guide”

    The writing was my hobby. In fact, I took writing classes for fun for about 10 years before I launched my blog.

    As a new mom, I was searching for tips for traveling with babies but I couldn’t find what I was looking for. After a few trips with my little girl, I wanted to share what I had learned with other parents to make their travels easier. I had never submitted anything for publication but I decided to write some tips for traveling with a baby or toddler as a potential magazine article. But then I just kept writing and writing and writing. Eventually, I realized I was actually writing a book, not merely an article.


    So then I wrote a book proposal and was lucky enough to sign with a book agent. My agent advised me to start a blog. I wound up self-publishing “The Travel Mamas’ Guide," though because publishers said that people could find those types of tips for free via blogs, ironically!


    After 12.5 years as the editor of a family travel blog, I have oodles of travel tips for parents. Some things that pop to mind include: 

    • Make sleep a priority for every member of the family, including you! That means trying to get onto the local time zone as soon as possible, not skipping naps for little ones, and maintaining bedtime routines. You might also consider booking connecting hotel rooms, a suite with a separate bedroom, or a vacation rental home for more space, privacy, and rest.
    • Don’t overdo it. Schedule a mellow the first day after arriving from a long flight so everyone can sleep in. Alternate "up days" of adventuring with "down days" of driving on road trips or doing something relaxing like hanging out by the hotel pool or going on a mellow hike. Trying to squeeze too much “fun” into your family vacation will leave everyone exhausted and cranky.
    • Plan, plan, plan but then be prepared to adjust, adjust, adjust! 


    Why I Started My Travel Blog

    When my then book agent advised me to start a blog to build my platform as a family travel expert, I honestly didn’t really understand what a blog was. I had this misconception, that many people still hold, that a blog is merely an online journal. Of course, blogs can also be wonderful tools that provide readers with useful tips and information on anything from traveling, cooking, or gardening to parenting, fashion, and DIY projects!


    My goal when writing any blog post is to provide the information I would have liked to have found before planning my trip. Travel Mamas is a resource for travelers of all sorts who want to make the most of their travels. Our mission is to help parents connect with their children and the world around them through travel and beyond.


    A Memorable Travel Story

    One story that comes to mind took place long before I was married or had children.

    At age 20, I was traveling solo around Europe for about 7 weeks in the summer after my college year abroad in France. I spent much of this time riding trains through expensive Scandinavia and I was on a minuscule budget.

    I was barely surviving on meals of bread, cheese, apples, and nuts. (In fact, when I arrived back home, my family was worried I’d gotten a tapeworm or something because I was too skinny!) I saved my money for more important things like beers shared with fellow youth hostelers and experiences like sailing through the fjords in Norway.

    During that fjord boat tour, surrounded by travelers from around the world, I was the only person not traveling with family or friends. When it came time to order lunch, I demurred. There was no way I was going to shell out the Krones required so I decided to go hungry.

    Soon, one of the other passengers gave me a piece of bread from her plate. I tried to turn her down, but she insisted. Then another traveler spooned a scoopful of miniature shrimp onto my bread. And another asked the crew for an extra cup and poured me half of her coffee. I came on board awkward and alone, and left feeling so nurtured and part of a global community.


    Biggest Challenges To Traveling With A Family

    Money, kids’ school schedules, time away from work, and our two dogs prevent us from traveling more. Plus, my family and I like our downtime. If it were up to me, I’d live in a different country every two or three years, putting down temporary roots and doing periodic short-term explorations from our home base.


    Advice to The Readers Who Are Planning To Start Long-Term Travel With Kids

    I would advise choosing to stay for longer periods of time (like a few weeks or months) in some destinations rather than hopping from spot to spot every few days. Traveling gets very tiresome and you’ll still need time to do things like homework, pay bills, laundry, exercise, and work.

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