Kirstie Pelling is the author of The Family Adventure Project, a top 10 family travel blog. Following Kirstie and husband Stuart’s journeys around the world with their three children, the blog encourages readers to try new experiences and challenges. We spoke to Kirstie about making lifelong friends while travelling, the versatility of Japan and her advice for PRs looking to get in touch (it’s a marriage, not a one-night stand).
How do you describe what you do to other people?
I have been a freelance journalist for thirty years, working in radio, print media and online. So that’s what I tend to call myself, although my writing life is eclectic – I have also worked as a digital poet amongst other things.
How do different social channels feed into your blog?
Our feeds are an extension of our blog personality and presence but often reach different audiences. For example, we enjoy the cycling community on Twitter and regularly interact with those active in promoting local tourism like the Morecambe Bay Partnership. On Facebook, our audience is more fellow family travelers from around the world and people who love the outdoors. Some of our followers and friends have engaged with us for more than a decade and we learn from their experiences and travels as much as they learn from ours. In fact, sometimes when I’m in a tricky situation I think what would Thomas or Brenda do?
How easy is it to get into family travel? Did you have any major concerns?
We never actually stopped travelling when we started a family so for us this wasn’t an issue. In fact, my greatest challenge came when I fell pregnant while on a gap year cycling adventure with our two toddlers. Doctors advised me that exercise wouldn’t harm the baby, but at the tip of New Zealand, six months pregnant, I was tempted to throw my bike into the sea rather than get back on it with the bump.
There are always concerns about safety when travelling with young kids, but the key is to think it all through. When the children were babies, we bought the best cycle trailers on the market. When they were tweens, they took up stoker positions on our tandems. When they first rode their own bikes, we cycled in Scandinavian countries where cycling was normal and traffic polite. And for adventure sports like canoeing, rafting and glacier hiking, we engaged experts to help and guide us.
What’s the best family destination in the world?
Japan delivered something for everyone. The kids loved the robots and electronic districts as well as activities like making wax food and learning temple etiquette. We swam in sacred lakes, ate in bizarre themed restaurants and enjoyed onsens and ryokans. We loved Iceland too, for its wild outdoors and quirky character. And you can’t beat our home county of Cumbria for the scenery; the lakes and fells are part of our kids’ DNA.
What are your top tips for long distance travel with young children?
It’s all in the planning. Fly at the best times for their body clocks, don’t try to pack in more than one big thing a day and try to relax and give them some freedom to explore. Also, strangers are not necessarily a danger. Rely on the help and local knowledge of other families; we’ve been rescued by all sorts of kind souls over two decades and are still friends with many of them.
How restrictive are term times for the perfect family experience?
Very restrictive. We have abandoned plans for many trips based on the prohibitive cost of taking five of us away in peak season. The Government’s policy on this is detrimental to the less well off. It’s a shame as I strongly believe travel is good for family bonding and building shared memories and this is being compromised for a whole generation.
Do you accept press releases?
Of course. They help keep us briefed on changes in the travel industry and what destinations are offering families.
What are the best collaborations you’ve worked on?
We love collaborating. Our whole blog is a collaboration between myself and my husband, and the kids help make our YouTube videos. We love to work with tourist boards and brands to brainstorm innovative campaigns. I am also a member of the Family Travel Collective, a group of five experienced journalists who have their own blogs in different family travel niches (other members are Cathy from Mummy Travels, Gretta from Mums Do Travel, Nichola from Globalmouse Travels and Ting from My Travel Monkey). I also work with Captivate to provide collective coverage for tourist boards.
What advice would you give to PRs looking to get in touch?
Our most effective relationships with PRs have been long term, with occasional contact when there is something new to promote or update. Some PRs make the mistake of thinking the only valuable coverage is immediate; I like to think of it as a one-night stand versus a marriage. As a freelance for many outlets, I might include a destination years later in a round up post, revisit with teens instead of toddlers or keep updating one of my own posts to rank higher on Google. One of the best examples of this is Catalonia/Costa Brava tourism, where we have worked together on and off for over a decade. They understand the value of a lasting relationship.
What other blogs do you read?
There are many great family travel blogs out there, in fact I love all of the blogs on the recent Vuelio Top 10 list. Paula Eber at Road Trip Nation is a great writer and intrepid family traveller, and I have just read the proofs of her book about cycling the world. I also enjoy reading about Becky Enright’s exploits at Borders of Adventure.