Has your baby ever slept in suitcase? Have you and your husband ever shared a twin bed? Ever had to roll up towels to create bed rails to keep the kids from thumping to the floor every half hour as they fall out of bed? Sound familiar? Yes, that’s because that’s what family travel looks like at one point or another. Be honest. It does. And while the place you crash is only a nominal part of the adventure, I am a really big proponent of spending a little extra cash on our crash pad when we travel with our children.
When you live the life nomadic, feeling at home in a strange place isn’t as hard as it may seem, but as much as I lust for adventure and to throw myself, unabashedly into completely foreign cities, wandering about back streets, “getting lost is my being found-style,” you may be surprised to know, I am pretty particular about having certain things remain familiar and predictable. Sleep, coffee and the routines of my children are my controlled variables in this experiment we call life.
My children are early risers, and I mean really early. Try as we might, we have one that regularly (and I might add joyfully) awakens between 4:30 and 5:30am. Most things don’t open in this part of the world until 10am, which means tiny tummies go hours between dinner and breakfast without eating. When we can, we get a place with a kitchen, to make coffee upon waking, to cut fruit and eat an egg or toast and get the kids a bowl of cereal. When we can’t, we still travel with cereal. See also 4:30am.
On our most recent family vacation we headed to Sri Lanka, while Paul’s mom was in town. Colombo is about an hour and a half flight from Chennai and Srilankan Airlines is a class act. No joke, and it’s been a while since I’ve been impressed with an airline. The plane was exquisitely clean, there were coat hooks and working seat-back entertainment systems at each seat and the kids were served apple juice and had coloring books in hand not 5 minutes after we were seated. Srilankan Airlines everyone.
We had a car and driver waiting upon our arrival and we made the almost three hour trip to the Southern tip of the island on a wide swath of highway lined with tea and cinnamon plantations. We arrived to our guest house in Unawatuna (a town as fun as it’s name) around lunchtime. We had arranged an airy bungalow on a lush tropical hillside through our friends at FlipKey. The bungalow was the masterpiece of an apprentice of the godfather of Tropical Modern, Geoffrey Bawa, a key factor for the architecture and design-minded traveler, like myself. .
On the patio, a dining table was waiting, swathed in tribal linens and topped with a lunch of freshly caught fish, cold beer and pasta for the kids. The rest of our stay was attended by an in-house cook, a house-boy to care for daily cleaning and grocery shopping and a security guard by twilight. The house was outfitted with books, maps, boardgames, pool toys and even a trampoline. We were visited poolside throughout our stay by a family of monkeys, a giant monitor lizard, a night sky twinkling with fireflies and we even had a visit from the tooth-fairy one night. (She deals in Sri Lankan Rupees in case you need her.)
Even with the magnificent beaches in Sri Lanka, we maintained a morning or evening excursion and the remaining hours for reading in sunny spots about the grounds, swimming in the pool and discovering all the flora and fauna there was to be found about the house. Our meals were ready and waiting upon our request and tuk tuks delivered us to nearby beaches, restaurants and to sightsee about the island (More on that to follow). Warm evenings were cooled by ice cold local beer and perfectly executed cross breezes and tropical rains lulled us to sleep each night.
Our kids dub each lengthy stay in homes about the planet, “Our Sri Lanka House,” etc. While this little treasure is available for rental over on www.filpkey.com, it will always sort-of belong to us and that’s exactly how we aim to feel with each and every place we travel and just the reason we took this Band of Hannas on the road. Thank you FlipKey!