Family Traveler Spotlight is the section of our publication where we profile families who love taking their children along on their travel adventures. In this edition, we meet Leah Smileski at the Kid Bucket List. She shares with us why the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel was amazing, why families will love the Melbourne Zoo and why true luxury when it comes to family travel is time.
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Tell us about your family.
We are an Aussie family of 4: Leah (me), my husband T and our two children aged 8 and 10. We’re raising our kids bilingual, with both speaking English and Macedonian.
Where do you live when you’re not traveling?
Our little family is based in Sydney, Australia which provides us access to a plethora of activities and sites at our doorstep. The only drawback is that most flights are long haul to our favorite destinations.
Tell us about the Kid Bucket List.
One summer I had this idea to create a list of all the things I wanted to experience with the kids before they started high school. It was a huge list that included simple ideas like “milk a cow” and “catch a fish” through to more complex experiences such as “fold paper lanterns in Hiroshima” and “Find Nemo in the Great Barrier Reef”. The idea quickly morphed into an online journal, and with a few tweaks became the Kid Bucket List. The Kid Bucket List recently turned two and has fast become one of Sydney’s most popular family resource for sourcing activities in our city, Australia and overseas. Everything we cover we have actually experienced (or are about to), providing our readers with a real family perspective of the places and spaces we visit.
Why do you believe in traveling the world with your children?
We are incredibly privileged to have the flexibility and opportunity to travel regularly with our children. With each trip we open our children’s minds a little more to the world, enhancing their knowledge and understanding of different cultures, history and cuisines. Children learn by doing, by experience, by seeing and hearing things themselves – traveling with my children provides educational opportunities that no classroom can ever come close to. On a selfish level, I suffer major wanderlust and traveling with my children helps to fulfill my dreams as well.
Luxury means different things to different people. How do you define luxury when it comes to traveling with your family?
For our family, travel is one of our priorities in life and is where we pour most of our savings. This affords us the opportunity to top up our travel with a little luxury such as 4- and 5-star hotels and unique experiences that aren’t often sought by the average traveller. But true luxury, when it comes to family travel, is time! Having the time to take things slow, to be able to sit down soak in the destination over a family meal, to let your kids set the pace of your adventure is pure gold.
What’s the best travel experience your family has ever had?
Oh my gosh, how to choose! I think our Californian Adventure was one of the best experiences. The kids were old enough to cope well with the long haul flight from Australia and suffered virtually no jet lag. There were so many squeals of delight from both of them throughout the trip and I can’t recall a single moment where either of them sulked or were unhappy. I still clearly remember my son drawing the curtains back in our suite at the Roosevelt Hotel and jumping up and down in excitement when he saw the Hollywood sign in the distance. Closer to home, our summer trip to the Melbourne Zoo is an adventure the kids still talk about with our itinerary featuring numerous animal encounters which saw our little family going behind the scenes to train the seals, feed the lemurs and hold the spider monkey’s. I think that trip is etched our memory banks forever.
What’s your favorite family-friendly luxury hotel?
The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel was amazing. The staff went out of their way to ensure that every whim was catered for throughout our stay. There were numerous moments where the kids begged to stay in our room rather than go out because they loved it so much. My daughter spent a few hours walking around in her hotel robe and slippers. As a mother, I loved that my room appeared to magically self clean each time I left the room for a moment. I suspect this is an unusual hotel to mention as it doesn’t include a kids club but we never ever utilize such facilities when we are away.
What three items do you never travel without?
For the last five years, my latest iPhone has been my constant travel companion. It acts as my map, hotel booking mechanism, connection to home, access to funds and, of course, my camera. I think I could travel almost anywhere with just it! I can pretty much do without anything else (excluding the mandatory passport, currency and clothing). When we’re traveling, my kids are often unplugged so iPads aren’t a huge necessity however our recent uptake of Pokemon Go might change all that!
What’s your favorite online travel resource?
Besides Google Maps which always has my back, I’ve joined a number of travel focused Facebook groups that have become my go to resource when I need to know a little about a new destination. Of course, Instagram has my heart and I can always count on our little following to give me some insider tips about our next destination.
What’s the worst mistake you see other parents making when traveling?
One of the biggest mistakes that parents can make when it comes to traveling with kids is trying to pack as much as they can into their itinerary. Travel changes when we include kids. You need to slow down and reduce the amount of things you are trying to cover with the family in a single day – and you need to eat regularly (something I would forgo before kids so I could keep exploring). What this does provide is lots of opportunity to really see things, to spend more time exploring the sites and to see it from a different perspective. I also encourage parents to start traveling now. There is no “perfect’ age for traveling and your next adventure doesn’t need to be far away.
What’s on your travel bucket list?
My travel bucket list is incredibly long and ambitious. Japan is my ultimate destination at the moment and we’ve just booked flights for early next year. Beyond that, Iceland, Denmark, Spain and China are on the horizon with a few Australian travel destinations thrown in such as Kangaroo Island and Tasmania. Our whole life is in front of us and my plan is to continue to travel each and every year!