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Tips For Traveling With Kids

Tips For Traveling With Kids

Tuesday, July 19, 2016 - 15:21

Juliet and daughter Kitty

Travel writer and founding editor of boutique travel company Mr & Mrs Smith, Juliet Kinsman, has seen stylish stays from when it first launched guidebooks a decade ago to the launch of their new child-friendly collection, Smith & Family. We caught up with Juliet during some rare downtime to get her expert tips and advice on traveling with kids.

Do you have any favourites from your new Smith and Family hotel collection?

OK, now that's a bit like asking me to pick a favourite child, but yes, I do have some favourites among our international array of corkers for kiddiwinks. My daughter has been able to visit some very special hotels which have generated first-time memories we'll cherish forever. Her first ever ride on a pony? At Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa in Berkshire, a stately home with a spectacular spa. Coworth Park fits that bill too and even presented Princess Smith with a mini luxury robes and slippers waiting on her bed, and had her decorating a t-shirt and making cookies in the kids' club. Beckford Arms in Wiltshire was a great boutique pub where we could have a perfectly grown-up gastro weekend with the kids in tow. In a city, The Surrey in New York provided five-star service and amenities, and was only a short stroll from the most incredible playground in Central Park. Oh gosh, this is starting to make me feel like I'm creating a monster...

Horse riding at Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa in Berkshire

Delicious afternoon tea at Coworth Park

Would you say most hotels treat little ones like VIPs these days?

Hotels are usually better equipped and more open minded, definitely. When we stayed at At the Chapel in Bruton, Somerset, it was simple things such as a cheerful attitude from the staff and a colouring book with crayons being plonked on the table in the restaurant at the start of the meal which made our stay so relaxing. Those hotels that cater best for kids, whether it's a full-blown children's club or nothing-is-too-much-trouble service, we do try and seek out and recommend through Smith & Family. There are still lots of sexy stays which feature in our Mr & Mrs Smith collection determined to keep things adults-only and a sanctuary for honeymooners; as James Lohan aka Mr Smith always puts it: "dirty weekends and dirty nappies just don't mix". Having said that we've done some awesome trips with our daughter Kitty where there wasn't a kids club or even any other kids.

The Chapel

Do you ever not do luxury?

Definitely! It's so important to have a balance, and we loved glamping on the Isle of Wight with my Dad this summer. We stayed in a very cute Vintage Vacations beach shack near Cowes which was bursting with kitsch character, while the chemical loos and gas stove kept it real.Plus we stayed in a really great Feather Down Farm in Oxfordshire, Park Farm,  run by Lindsay Mott and her lovely parents. We all define luxury in different ways, and to me it still provides some of the things that make travelling so special: beautiful countryside, warm hosts, delicious food and fresh air. The wood-floored canvas tents with a cooking range with a gas hob, wood burners, fresh beds and straight-from-the-chicken eggs – just no electricity. And we were there in lambing season and the kids got to bottle-feed the baby sheep. Ahem. And the lamb you can buy to cook on the wood-fired barbecue is delicious -- although maybe don't sell both those features to the kids in the same sentence!

Tell us about a child-friendly adult escape you've enjoyed?

We had a fantastic holiday in Texas. Friendly tattooed hipsters in Austin didn't bat an eyelid at us checking in at Hotel San José and then sister stay Hotel Saint Cecilia with a four-year-old. As we looked through old fliers for South by Southwest festival events, they dished out intel on the best gigs on our doorstep then recommended we book a babysitter from the company Grandmothers Unlimited. They directed us to the ice-cold natural green waters at Barton Springs 10 minutes west in leafy Zilker Park and made sure at sun set we knew how to get to the banks of Lady Bird Lake to watch the world’s largest urban bat colony which resides under the main road swarm out into the night. Mostly the three of us spent our time eating. True foodies will urge you to stand in line for hours to enjoy pulled-pork goodness from Franklins BBQ but with a little one we were happier to go more upmarket with Lamberts Downtown Barbecue – their sticky baby boar back ribs were delicious and worth paying a bit more for. Seeking out food-cart enclaves was the most fun though. Hey! Cupcake’s shiny airstream trailer was a winner, while Wurst Tex dared us into rattlesnake sausages. Our budding cowgirl's favourite thing of all was picking up a pair of finely tooled footwear from Allen’s Boots on SoCo – the neighbourhood nickname for South Congress, the main thoroughfare.

Cowgirl Kitty in Austin Texas

What would you say would be travel essentials for Kitty, age 6?

1: Her cow-print Trunki of course. She still loves it. She's been packing it herself since she was four. Check out the city girl's packing for a night at Cowley Manor: http://twitpic.com/877ktw/full

2: A gift-wrapped toy for the plane from My Travel Surprise. The Rory Story Cubes are a great way of bonding; £10; and My Tissue Art cool as it's arts and crafts without any mess plus you can use whatever you make as Xmas decorations or cards.

3: I try and get books related to whichever destination we're visiting and this has helped bring those places to life and make her remember what's special about them. Pippi Longstocking was perfect for our trip to the Swedish island of Gotland and we have so many books related to New York such as A Walk in New York by Salvatore Rubbino.

What would you say would be travel essentials for mum, age 40?

1: My Lily and Lionel scarf – particularly now there are three beautiful ones made especially for Mr & Mrs Smith. These stylish wraps created by Alice Stone, which are ideal for mums. Whenever I wear mine, it's great back-up if airplane temperatures plummet and my little one uses it as a blanket, and when she was little and would have fallen asleep in the stroller I'd have draped it over to keep her snoozing.

Lily & Lionel Scarf

2: A Kirsten Grace adjustable necklace. You can wear it high or low thanks to the ribbon tie, and make it as formal or unfussy as you like with detachable strands. Perfect for when travelling with carry-on. From £150 for a five-string necklace. 

3: A splash of Max Factor Colour Elixir Lipstick in Ruby Tuesday (£7.99) is an instant hit of glam when you're otherwise feeling totally daggy: particularly helpful at the end of a long-haul flight. While many red lippies exaggerate dry lips, this little beauty is lovely to apply, stays pillar-box-red for ages and doesn't dry out lips. You need to remember the ol' pucker-up-then-pop-finger-in-mouth-trick to wipe off excess colour though -- it has been known to find its way onto my teeth which loses you any glam points earned, and then some.

Max Factor Colour Elixir Lipstick in Ruby Tuesday

Do you have your own blog?

I do indeed. I created Park-Life.org to connect my West London community just north of Notting Hill and help make more of our villagey feeling. Even though my day job is writing about hotels I try to stick to covering hyperlocal issues on my blog rather than travel. It came about after I was talking to the founder of the Lexi Cinema in Kensal Rise. Sally Wilton set up the social enterprise to support the Sustainability Institute in Stellenbosch near Cape Town. I really wanted people to use this wonderful service right on our doorstep along with other local services. Through it came a Facebook page which became a hub to chat about local heroes and happenings and promote local businesses and I've ended up running a flea market Kensal Flea at the Paradise by way of Kensal Green as a way of giving lots of makers and creatives a place to showcase their wares. Our most recent one raised cash and awareness for the marvellous Nordoff Robbins music therapy charity, and had children's book authors such as reading in storytelling room to promote the Reading Agency.

Kensal Flea Market Produce

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