Much more fun to travel with kids
“It is so much more fun to travel with kids than by yourself. The sheer joy and happiness, all the new discoveries, new skills that the kids acquire that you can see in their big smiles. It is the novelty of going somewhere new and doing something different and enjoying a new experience,” says Tanja Sól Valdimarsdóttir in an interview with Morgunblaðið and K100 but she runs the website Iceland with Kids and the Facebook page Krakkar á ferð & flugi (Kids travelling all over).
Treasure the memories
“Travelling with your favourite people in the world is something you will treasure for the rest of your life and keep the memories close to your heart. It is such an uplifting experience to get out of your everyday routine and experience our beautiful country,” says Valdimarsdóttir.
Tanja has two young children, Emil Ingimar who is two and a half years old and Erna Rún who is a little over one years old. Her husband Sverrir shares her love of travelling and Valdimarsdóttir says she wants to give her children the same fond memories she has from her childhood travels with her family.
Slept in a suitcase
“I just know who much I benefitted from my travels as a child. We went all over in a camper and from that time are my fondest memories from my childhood. I have a picture of myself where my dad is preparing a bed for me in a little suitcase when I was only a few months old. That’s why I put so much emphasis on the outdoor life and travelling in the upbringing of my own children, because I loved it so much and learned so much from it too.”
Tanja Sól Valdimarsdóttir has found over 100 places in Iceland that are child-friendly and she list them on her website.
Today the family owns an identical camper as her family used to own back in the day when she was travelling with her dad and it brings back all the good memories. “There is simply nothing better than camping with your kids in Iceland. The children playing outside, the smell of barbeque and all the things that make it a great experience.” She adds that she is often surprised seeing how much more her kids can do than she would have anticipated in this setting.
New skills every day
“They are constantly surprising me in our travels. I am always seeing a new skill that I had no idea they possessed,” she says and adds that last summer was a revelation in that regard.
“Last summer Emil had just turned two years old and it was so great seeing how much fun he had helping with everything. He was fastening the camper like a professional, fetching water and I just saw him gaining new skills daily.
Then we walked up to Múlagljúfur Canyon which is around six kilometers’ walk. Erna Rún was seven months’ old and they both were like true troopers, not complaining at all the whole way. Emil was walking part of the route and he tried drinking from a stream on the way and was fascinated. I was surprised how well it all went, because I had had my doubts beforehand. But I was a proud mother that day.”
The Facebook group Krakkar á ferð & flugi has been very popular since Valdimarsdóttir started the group. People share their experiences travelling with kids and give tips and ideas to other parents. Valdimarsdóttir decided to collect these stories and tips and make a booklet listing child-friendly places in Iceland and you can get it on her website Iceland With Kids. She says she would not have anticipated the sales, but in her booklet there is a list of over 100 places that are ideal for visiting with kids as well as fun activities to do, like museums, camping grounds, swimming pools and playgrounds.
Tapped into a need
“There was clearly a huge need for this information and I have had people sending me messages saying they had no clue about a lot of these places that are fun destinations for families. There are so many hidden treasures in our country and sometimes information is not readily available. I love to hear about people getting new ideas because of my work and it is truly rewarding to feel the interest. It inspires me,” says Valdimarsdóttir who is planning a phase two by creating an app with all her information.
Paradise in the East
Valdimarsdóttir says the Eastern part of Iceland is a dream area for families with kids. “Last summer we camped in Hallormsstaðaskógur and went on day tours in the surrounding area. There are so many things to discover and so much you can do it was like a paradise for both kids and adults. Skriðuklaustur var also a revelation. The area around it is spectacular and they had made all kinds of challenge courses for kids, a maze and other things.“
Travelling with children means you need to be organized. “You have to make sure you have food for the road, extra clothing, sweaters and shorts for different kinds of weather. Preparation is key and you have to make sure your kid has slept enough before you go on walks and what food to take with you. I cover all those things in my seminar, but there are a lot of things you need to be on top of before hiking with the family.”
Skip the excel spreadsheet and follow the weather
She says that obviously it can sometimes be a challenge when the kids are small, but the solution is to organize the trip differently, have more stops on the way and visit different kinds of places that appeal to the children. “Yes, it can be challenging but when you see those smiling faces and all the skills they are gaining it is nothing in comparison, even though there can be days where I feel exhausted.”
She says she cannot stress enough the importance of creating great memories with your family. “The things that are the most cause of stress are the practical things and travelling with so much stuff, but at the end of the day it also can make it more fun and memorable. My best tip for families travelling with young children is to be flexible, and change course if something doesn´t work out as planned. Even though it is good to be organized, you don’t have to have everything in an excel spreadsheet. It is better to feel the mood of the day and follow the weather.”