Thursday, 22 March 2018

Tips from a Single Muslim Mum Travels

As a young girl growing up I always loved adventures and going to new places, discovering new things and eating different types of food.

I always thought one day when I will have a partner we will do this together and explore the world. Unfortunately, it didn't quite work out that way, but I found great companionship in my little travellers.

As soon as I got my driving license and the car was sorted, my family knew I would hit the road, and hit it, I did! I went straight on the motorways and I was off visiting different parts of UK with my little munchkins saddled in the back, in their car seats. Every weekend meant an opportunity to explore new places - I would finish my job during the week and sometimes we would leave on Friday night itself to go and visit family and friends, as well as places we had no connection with.
My kids who must have been about 1 and 2 when I bought my car are gypsies, just like me, they grew up always travelling and never complain about the journeys or being bored. We do not have any ipads or TV in the car so all they get to do is look outside the window, do some colouring and now that they are older, they can read a book.
Exploring UK isn't enough, even though I always had spare clothes, shoes and toiletries packed in the car for all  UK weather and a tent (just in case- you never know), we needed something new, it was time to venture outside the country and explore other places.

Our first holiday was to Mauritius ( back home), I thought about the logistics - it would be easier, I had family and friends there who could help out etc. So off I went with a 2 toddlers. It was an amazing experience, but also a very exhausting experience. We had a 6 hour flight from UK to Dubai, an 8 hour wait in Dubai airport and another 6 hours flight to Mauritius- we were absolutely exhausted. It was also not the best of flights, both flights were packed, I had the 1 year old on me who was annoyed at not having a seat of her own, the 2 year old was not happy that her TV screen was not working, they were both fighting over who should watch the TV as we had one to share between the three of us, and to top it up, I had a grumpy man in the seat in front of us who was not amused about having toddlers sat behind him. I guess it should have really put me off, but my love for travelling was greater than the obstacle we faced!

Tip for parents with babies and toddlers: For your first travel, just go somewhere close by a 2-4 hours flight and with minimum baggage, do not have a transit!

The next year, after this exhausting experience, I decided to take them somewhere closer and (cheaper)! We set out for Turkey this time to enjoyed a somewhat relaxing holiday. Obviously it was never going to be relaxing with me planning it. We had lots of activities every day- the girls who had been having swimming lessons for a  year now loved it! It was warm with lots of tours for us to do everyday for just £10 a day including lunch- no planning and driving required. We even went for a boat trip where my eldest who was just 3 jumped off a double decker boat into the sea- almost giving me a heart attack- she did have her armbands on and there were other people swimming already off the boat. So, off I went along with the 2 year old swimming in the middle of the ocean. This was definitely something I never planned on,  and would definitely never have done without them.

I was more confident about taking them abroad at this point, and every holiday they would ask if we are going anywhere warm and fun.

I had driven previously in Mauritius before ( and UK), but I have never driven on an unknown territory, so for our next adventure, it made sense for me to add some more driving experience. So off we went to Malta to climb the Azure Window ( which now doesn't exist anymore) and for much more, such as mouthwatering seafood.

Our last holiday was to the Algarve, Portugal. We were very limited on time, we left UK Monday evening and our flight back was Friday afternoon, which pretty much left us with only 3 days to drive all around the Algarve but....we did it!- 3 days and we had driven around the west coast, the south cost, the mountains and up the river separating Portugal from Spain.

As a single mum I am proud of all our adventures and I know that I'm making memories we will all cherish one day.

The most important thing about travelling with children is planning, and for me: keeping the cost low. We normally stay in B&B or airbnb, it keeps the cost low but we have been very lucky and have pretty much managed to book self-catered accommodation at relatively cheap price with swimming pools. Check for cheap flights by budget airlines, there is no need for priority booking, don't book any extras unless you need it, most flights will allow you to take car seats, boosters and pushchairs free of charge (check with your airline before booking). Research on different websites for accommodation- check the prices out, check the facilities offered such as parking, swimming pool- you would be surprised at what you could find! We even had a jacuzzi at no additional cost!

Make a list of the places you want to visit, if you are staying in different places, check out all the places of interests in all the places, write them down, print  a map of the areas you are to visit, calculate how long it will take from one place to the other, find information about places to eat (especially Halal places) and compare the prices as well as check the ratings on trip advisor. Go on google maps and check the areas using the satellites, find landmarks so when you are driving around you know you are in the right place. Satnavs can be tricky to work out in some countries, so it's advisable to have your own printed map.

If you have kids, you will know they are always hungry and thirsty, make your first stop to a supermarket and buy as much snacks and drinks as possible so you don't have to stop every now and then, especially for long journeys and always always ask them to go toilet- whether they need it or not!

Many places to visit are free for under 10, so add those places to your list! Always carry your passport- some places are free to visit for EU citizens and if you have a student card, it can always be a bonus.

I am currently planning our next holiday, and one thing I did realise while planning on this one, is that some places which normally charge you for a visit would be free for adults and children on certain days of the week, so try to see if you can be visit on the 'free days'. Also, look at the festivals taking place around the time of your visit, you will get more of the local feel and culture.

One massive word of advice is research a lot about the car hire company, a lot of them will try to scam you- always read the terms and conditions before booking. I've had to learn this from some horrible experience with certain companies and avoid a certain Europe based company which is definitely not selling any gold (read between the lines)!

Remember this is meant to be fun for all, plan way ahead so you don't stress over things and work out a timetable of what you want to see on which day and how long will all this take. I love visiting historical buildings, but I know my kids my kids won't like it as much so go to places where you can do a bit of both, where they can have some relaxing time at the beach but where you can also go to places of interest.

If a single Muslim mum can do it on her own, so can you!

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