Twelve reasons to travel during maternity leave

There are a number of people that don’t agree with my decision to travel during maternity leave. I have learnt this through the backlash I received in the media when our story went viral in 2016. People’s concerns were always the same – “You’re selfish, this is about you, not the baby” or “What about travel vaccinations?” or “How did you finance it?” I felt I could answer everyone’s questions but essentially it’s each to their own I think! No harm came to Esmé and we had the most amazing first year of her life, all together as a family.

As many of you will know, we packed up our home when our newborn was ten weeks old, sold our car and rented out the house to travel. We started our trip off visiting Singapore first, a few months in New Zealand followed by an epic journey commencing in Australia and through a large proportion of South East Asia. All before our daughter turned one!

I know many people have envied our trip because they may have been too scared to do it themselves. It’s been so lovely for us to hear we have already inspired many others to take the leap since they’ve heard our story.

12 Reasons To Travel During Maternity Leave

travel during maternity leave

Let me see if I can help you to make the decision to travel on maternity leave…

1. When else will you have this period of time off again?

I just feel it’s an opportunity not to be missed. Now, I know Mums outside the U.K have different maternity leave entitlements so it makes it near impossible to do what we did if you live in America, for example. However, for the rest of us from the other places where we can have a year off, why not do something different and use your maternity leave to travel?

Travel during maternity leave

2. You do not have to maintain a household

This is something I just loved! No cleaning or dealing with general household administration whilst trying to get used to being a new mum.

Travel during maternity leave

3. Quality uninterrupted time as a family

We did it together rather than doing it alone on my maternity leave.

maternity-vacation

4. The second parent develops an equal relationship with baby

I appreciate there are many single parents, however as Shaun was able to be with us for the majority of the year, he has an equally amazing bond with Esmé. She doesn’t just cry for Mum, she always asks for both of us which I feel is really lovely.

Travel during maternity leave

5. When baby is exclusively breastfed it is the best time to travel

I recently interviewed an infectious diseases doctor, Dr Sarah Logan from University College London Hospital. Her opinion was it is the best time to travel with baby when they are exclusively breastfed. This is due to the amount of immunity they get from the milk as well as the reduced risk of water / food contamination. This is such a big topic that I wrote a whole page about family travel health here.

how-to-make-the-most-of-maternity-leave

6. Do it now whilst they are a little less mobile

Although we still travel extensively, I really appreciate the time we spent travelling on my maternity leave when Esmé was a baby. It is just so much easier compared to when they start walking!

Travel during maternity leave

7. … and before they cost an arm and a leg at age 2

I think I can safely say we have made full use of babies go for 10% before they are two. With most airlines, come two years old, it is almost full price for a toddler’s ticket making it more expensive for families.

family-gap-year

8. It may be more cost effective than staying at home

In our financial circumstances it was more cost effective to travel during maternity leave and spend a lot of time in South East Asia. It was the difference between having a year off and not. This is due to the cost living and a mortgage in London.

Travel during maternity leave

9. It’s harder to spend money than you think

So you would think it’s really expensive to travel as a small family for a long period of time but the truth is it’s harder to spend money because you just can’t fit in as much as one use to pre-baby. During our maternity leave travel we had to take things nice and slowly, we didn’t do all the activities for obvious reasons and we didn’t drink our own body weight in alcohol (as we would have pre-baby).

maternity-leave-travel

10. It’s character building

Many people have said to me “she won’t remember any of it, what a waste”. I agree she won’t remember anything but as we all know baby’s brains are a sponge and absorb the most amount of information in the first year of life. Why not expose them to a multitude of sights, smells and sounds? Why not allow them to interact with a multitude of different people from other cultural backgrounds? Anyone that knows Esmé will surely tell you she is the most sociable baby going. I think that may be how the experience has impacted on her the most.

maternity-leave-travel

11. It may reduce the chances of postnatal depression

A large claim I know and I don’t have any scientific evidence to back it up. But I think if you are leading a fun-filled lifestyle alongside becoming a new mum, it can only help with reducing the blues, not make it worse. For me, I was lucky enough to have my partner with me for the year. His constant company definitely helped. I have no idea if I would have developed postnatal depression if I stayed at home, but I certainly can see how it happens to a number of new mums.

maternity-leaving

12. You will take the most amazing photos and create special memories

I think one reason the media went crazy on our story was because of the tonnes of amazing photos we have of Esmé as a baby in different environments. From sitting outside picturesque temples in Vietnam in her hippy Asian print dress, to enjoying the steepest cable care ride in the world, we are so lucky to have this evidence to show her when she gets older.

maternity-leaving

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I would love to know if you would travel during maternity leave and if we have inspired you in any way to take the leap. Make sure to leave a comment and let us know!

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2019-06-24T10:54:30+00:0050 Comments

50 Comments

  1. Jenny October 29, 2016 at 8:29 am - Reply

    Thank you!! I truly believe that baby is happiest when parents are happiest… So don’t listen to the hate, its envy…. I don’t have a baby yet, but I totally feel inspired by your story! 🙂 We also have one year of maternity leave here in Germany, so why not!
    I love your blog, thank you.

  2. Julia November 10, 2016 at 9:31 pm - Reply

    Amazing story !Who said having a baby has to change your life & character and your love for travel. I don’t think it’s selfish at all,yes obviously you need to think of safety and do research and have a lot of patience but it’s a best imaginable way spending your maternity leave; it’s the same as taking a gap year from uni to what I have done the only difference it’s at a latter stage of your life and lucky enough with your family. It’s an inspiring story and for our family something we are planning to do in a future and even when our children get bigger I don’t think we would stop at taking time off work and school, I think it’s the best gift you can give someone its to discover the world. Whomever say it’s foolish I think they are just scared of what’s out there and how much harder you’ll have to work while travelling with a baby. Best of lock to you 🙂

  3. Hannah November 22, 2016 at 9:03 pm - Reply

    I love your blog, we are keen travellers too & have just had our son. I want to go back to Thailand when he’s going to be 1. I’m interested in the practicalities, such as injections: was Esme able to have all she needed before you left? What did she have?
    What did you do about car seats?
    And how was she on the flights?
    Is there anything you wish you knew then, that you know now?

    Thank you so much for your blog – you have really inspired us!

    • Karen November 22, 2016 at 10:12 pm - Reply

      Hi Hannah,

      I have a page called family travel health which has all the load down re injections etc.
      In relation to a car seat, I usually bring it if we will travel in cars. However when I went to Cambodia and Thailand I did not bring it as we travelled on rickshaws etc.
      Esmé was okay on flights at that age. No real issues at all. Check out my two pages flying with a baby or flying with a toddler to see if you can get some tips from that.

      Thanks
      Karen

  4. Valérie Canuel November 28, 2016 at 9:24 pm - Reply

    Very inspiring! Which destinations would you recommend with a baby, considering that we like to hike? Thank you so much!

    • Karen November 29, 2016 at 8:22 am - Reply

      Hi Valerie,
      I guess somewhere cooler would be better for hiking with a little baby, especially if you want to do it for longer periods of time. Where are you based and how far are you willing to travel?

  5. Mai2 November 30, 2016 at 3:38 am - Reply

    Lovely!! I’d like to experience that too when 2nd baby comes out on April. It’ll be so handy that I’ll be breastfeeding and babywear. Hubby will be in charge of our 3yo then toddler as we go on a trip together.

    I just feel sad that we only have 2-month maternity leave here in the Philippines. Or do you think it’ll be okay to travel before new babe gets 2mos?

    • Karen December 3, 2016 at 2:45 pm - Reply

      I feel breastfeeding is key to being able to go as early as you like

  6. Helen January 4, 2017 at 5:20 pm - Reply

    Hello

    Its looks amazing but my husband and I would be stopped at the airport by the Grandparents ! lol

    Helen

    • Karen January 4, 2017 at 9:23 pm - Reply

      Haha yes we had the same but they understood and both sets had some time with Esmé

  7. Filippa January 13, 2017 at 11:17 am - Reply

    How wonderful to read your blog! It’s nice to hear someone else having the same thoughts when traveling and experiencing are such passionate parts of ones life. Me and my partner have been having the same thoughts about traveling with babies, and it’s amazing to see how people actually have fulfilled their backpacking trip with a little one. We have no baby yet, but are hoping to do the same when it’s time for us.

    Warm regards from Sweden 🙂

  8. Jodie January 14, 2017 at 9:05 am - Reply

    I’m 28, have travelled well over the last few years, and heading to Canada and Japan this year plus a few city breaks. My partner commented on your article and it definitely has inspired me to travel during maternity leave – whenever that may be! You have a great attitude to making the most your time with baby and enjoying yourself with your partner – rather than being sat in a house for 12 month. Also, Esme will look back at all the photos when she’s older and what a great story for her to tell to everyone she meets throughout her life. It’s refreshing to see that you just got on with it, can-do mentality and no excuses for why you couldn’t travel the world with a year off 🙂 I think more mum’s should take a leaf from your book and go for it!

    • Karen January 14, 2017 at 3:17 pm - Reply

      Thank you so much Jodie

  9. Fiona January 16, 2017 at 8:30 pm - Reply

    Brilliant blog! It’s really reassuring (and an inspiration) to see how much you have travelled with Esme already. We are expecting our first in June and although we won’t be doing anything as adventurous as you guys, we defo want to introduce our little one to the experience of visiting new countries as soon as possible. We’ll find your blog a great source of useful tips when planning our first getaways as a family and look forward to seeing your continuing adventures!

  10. Jenine January 20, 2017 at 2:24 am - Reply

    I have a 1 year old and love traveling, I never back packed before and would love advice where to start, planning and doing it on a budget any advice would be great thank you

    • Karen January 21, 2017 at 11:08 pm - Reply

      Hi Jenine,
      If you go to the search bar on my website and lookup
      Financing a baby gap year
      and
      Backpacking with a baby
      All the details are there

  11. Lucie February 7, 2017 at 5:04 pm - Reply

    Hi,

    I’m expecting my first little one this June, and one of my concerns was about traveling with my baby. I don’t believe that what you have done is selfish at all – I know we are going to love our baby with all our hearts, but and both have promised to ourselves that life will go on as normal as possible (even though I totally understand things are going to change, and we will have to adapt). Your blog had reaffirmed that traveling with a small one is possible on any budget. I’m not a big flyer at all, and have only recently got the travel bug and I’m really looking forward to sharing this with our baby! I am sorry to hear about the backlash – I always believe in keeping a open mind no matter what the circumstances! Keep those adventures coming….xxxx

  12. Leah Urbasik February 7, 2017 at 5:04 pm - Reply

    You rock, good on you and your family. I grew up traveling with my Mom, and now as a new Mom myself on Maternity leave I am taking every opportunity available to do the same.

    As a fellow ‘Travel Mad Mom’ it’s super inspiring to read about your adventures and philosophies on traveling with children, its still a scary concept just leaving the house some days so knowing that there are other people out there still exploring this wonderful world of ours and adapting to travelling with a child, is a huge comfort.

    Thank you for sharing your journey, tips and adventure.

  13. simona February 16, 2017 at 10:21 am - Reply

    Hey Karen,
    OMG! I just loved reading your story!
    I am supposed to give birth soon and would love to travel with my husband and baby.
    Where would you recomemend to travel for a period of 2-3 months and why?
    Where would it be easiest for us as new parents?

    Thanks,
    Simone

    • Karen February 16, 2017 at 7:41 pm - Reply

      Hi Simona,
      Thanks for your comment. Where are you based and how far are you willing to travel? What kind of climate are you after?

  14. Dale C Rubin February 17, 2017 at 7:12 am - Reply

    I think it’s not good to travel during pregnancy it can hurt both of the lives mother as well baby too

    • Karen February 17, 2017 at 3:58 pm - Reply

      Hi Dale,
      I disagree. If it’s an uncomplicated pregnancy, it is deemed safe to travel.

  15. pnr status February 22, 2017 at 5:43 am - Reply

    I am enjoying your blog post. Thanks for sharing beautiful blog post.

  16. Alexandria Ball April 8, 2017 at 8:26 am - Reply

    Hi Karen
    I am due to have my baby in September this year and I can wait for it all to happen. I love to travel and have lived and worked in a number of different countries as well as being a flight attendant for 8 years. This is the first time I have seen anything like this and I absolutely love reading your posts. How unbelievably amazing and what a wonderful finstead year to spend as a family. I think your posts are totally inspiring and I can with to see your next baby gap year. Unfortunately my partner was not so inspired otherwise I would be planning ours right this second. Oh well I suppose you can’t win them all. Good luck to you and your family, keep blogging so I can feed my wanderlust thirst ??

    • Karen April 8, 2017 at 8:31 am - Reply

      Thanks so much Alexandra xx

  17. jessie April 9, 2017 at 7:02 pm - Reply

    yes you have!!!
    my wife and i talk about doing this all the time.
    Not for a year, but at least for a month-two months
    I’m in love with your pictures and this idea! Will you be posting a blog of your itinerary from your year?

    • Shaun Bayes April 9, 2017 at 9:54 pm - Reply

      Hey Jessie, I can give you an overview if you like?

  18. Mya April 19, 2017 at 2:09 am - Reply

    So lucky you are to have a so long maternity leave & the possibility to travel. Here in France we just have 8 weeks! That’s not enough to learn bein a mom and benefit from Baby !!!

  19. Richard Shuler April 22, 2017 at 10:25 am - Reply

    travelling during maternity leave is a bit of a no-brainer for me. If you love travel it’s the perfect excuse to squeeze a whole suitcase full of adventures in. Whether your workplace offers a generous twelve months of paid maternity leave or the bare minimum statutory pay, there’s no denying it’s a unique period in your life when you can escape the office for a decent chunk of time.

  20. Auzzi May 8, 2017 at 7:00 pm - Reply

    The idea of traveling on maternity break is just sooooooo brilliant. It bugs me a lot that a mother ends up ruining her career for raising a person for our future society. This is a fantastic idea to make the most out of it for all sides. Every mother should do that. Discover the world and use this as a positive opportunity rather than a burden.
    Best wishes for the second baby!

  21. Iveta May 12, 2017 at 8:50 pm - Reply

    Amazing!!! I am fed up with people saying that once you have a kid,you can’t travel as before…with all the critics of the world (and which i didn’t care at all) we visited with our little princess around 25 countries in 4 years…incredible how this made of her an independent, open minded,flexible and extremely curious little global citizen always asking when will we be flying again? ?

  22. ukRache May 20, 2017 at 12:46 pm - Reply

    Hi karen, its sounds amazing im trying to convince my boyfriend that we should do this. How many weeks old was your baby when you set off ? Did you have to take out any specific insurance for any medical issues that could occur whilst there? Do you recommend doing it as soon as possible or waiting until the baby is about 6 months old? I think i would only travel for 6 months so that our parents didnt get too upset about their new grandchild not being around, were both of your families supportive ?

    • Karen May 21, 2017 at 10:53 am - Reply

      We left when Esme was 10 weeks old. We saw my parents ride before we left as they live in Ireland anyway. Our second stop was seeing the other grandparents in Nz. We wanted to get out of our house to keep the costs of mortgage down. I am really happy we did leave because I felt I would have gone insane sitting at home in dreary London for 6 months with a baby. We skyped so regularly with the grandparents, literally every morning so they didn’t miss too much.

      We are about to do it all again with the second baby who is due any day soon. x

  23. Mary July 26, 2017 at 3:54 pm - Reply

    Totally inspired. Looks amazing. And as challenging as it would be with a baby, its going to be that little bit more challenging when you have two or three of them. Well done!

  24. Olja August 23, 2017 at 9:47 pm - Reply

    We are doing almost the same thing. As I am on maternity leave and my partner is made redundant, we took an advantage to take a time off and travel all together and enjoy our time as a family. We started our journey when Mila our daughter was only 3 weeks old with a short trip to Brighton for a weekend and then first trip abroad at 5 weeks to Budapest, Hungary and then a night train to Belgrade Serbia where we spent 2 weeks with family. At 9 weeks done the camping and retro festival in Uk, next trip is when she is 12 weeks to Isle of Man and then again Serbia and with borrowed campervan Europian roadtrip, and then we will see where the journey is going to take us.
    Love your blog.
    ❤ ?❤

  25. Kim November 5, 2017 at 8:43 am - Reply

    Hello! Yes. I am inspired to travel during maternity leave. I’m pregnant with my first baby and plan to take a full year off of work. We have a February due date and already plan to move our base from our home in Hertfordshire, England to Porto, Portugal for five months between May-September. This is an opportunity received through my partners job. I’m inspired by travelling families’ blogs and have begun my journey to consider how to make the most of this break from my full-time job in London and continue my love of travelling. I’ve considered starting a blog, do you think this is a key step to learning more from this community in how this is possible?

  26. Brandi January 6, 2018 at 5:59 pm - Reply

    Absolutely inspiring! I’m Canadian and just started my nursing career at the age of 33. Because of that we have only been able to travel the last few years (I’ll be 36 this year) as I’m finally no longer a starving student. I’ve struggled with whether or not to have children because I don’t want to “give up” the life we’ve created and we have to make that choice soon as my clock is ticking. I first read your story last year and both my hubby and I instantly knew it was the perfect solution! I can get a full year of mat leave so as long everyone is healthy and able to breastfeed we’ll hopefully soon be following in your footsteps. I too wanted to do SE Asia but I’m starting to look at Central and South America instead as it’s so much closer and also cheap. Thank you so much for sharing your story! You’ve helped so many women who struggle to find balance. Much love – Brandi

  27. Hannah January 14, 2018 at 7:56 am - Reply

    This is beautiful. I actually can’t believe people would bash you for something so amazing you did as a family…. I see nothing but love in this blog post and it is truly inspiring!

    http://www.chausadventure.com

  28. Dave March 5, 2018 at 5:25 am - Reply

    Enjoying the Blog. Thanks! My wife, daughter (7 weeks old) are planning on “traveling” for two months. Rather than back packing or touring too much we were thinking of stationing ourselves in a cool place and living and exploring the culture and surrounding areas. Of all the places you’ve been we’d love to hear about where you’d go live if you had two months off. We’re thinking 1,2, maybe three destinations. We’re from Toronto, Canada and have done lots of traveling. Similar to you we like things off the beaten path but also enjoy the city life comforts (wifi! etc).

  29. Kayla April 27, 2018 at 8:32 am - Reply

    Thank you for sharing! I’m a travel maniac and it brought me to my Nicaraguan partner, we are excited and awaiting the birth of our first child in October 2018! Due to visa restrictions he is not able to be in Canada with me for about 10-12months after the baby is born which means I’ll be heading back to Nicaragua at around 10 weeks aswell! I would love to take the year to travel as it will be the only paid time off I will ever have with only one child!! Though I am concerned mostly about the baby being more vulnerable to an illness in a foreign country. What are your thoughts??

  30. Neli Baptiste May 1, 2018 at 2:38 am - Reply

    I enjoyed reading your story and I wish I could do the same. We bought a house shortly after our baby was born and our mortgage is more than I get during my mat leave (not 100% of salary). My husband wouldn’t be able to take such a long leave which means he would still have to rent if I went on my own for the majority of my mat leave. I am going back to my country of origin for a month with the baby and I am attending a wedding there. I look forward to reconnecting with friends who live all over Europe and seeing relatives. Being in Canada got in the way of missing countless reunions but I make it once in a while at least 🙂

  31. Anna Gawn June 14, 2018 at 7:40 pm - Reply

    Thanks for this! We’re going away for 3 month with a 3 month old and 3 year old. Geeky question but did you have any kind of routine or structure for the baby when so young to get her sleeping well etc. whilst on the move? If yes, how / what’

  32. Steph August 30, 2018 at 10:16 am - Reply

    I am currently pregnant and when i started to think about traveling during my maternity leave (as i don’t think staying in London sounds really fun) i also thought everybody would tell me i’m crazy… and then i found your blog! we are so going to do it!

  33. Maddy October 25, 2018 at 7:52 pm - Reply

    I love reading your article, I’ve read it a few times already. We’re planning our travels on my maternity leave with our 4month old (at the time of travel). We’re planning to go for 3-4 months around South East Asia. At the moment we’re trying to sort out babies vaccinations. We can’t wait to start travelling. We’d appreciate any extra tips.

  34. whitsundays tours November 1, 2018 at 1:56 pm - Reply

    hi nice post

  35. Vijay Patel May 27, 2019 at 7:26 am - Reply

    Great Tips! Very Well explained and very well mentioned. I love your blog, we are travelers too & I have just become a father. I think it’s very inspiring! which destinations would you like to visit with a baby, please recommend, so that we should also go someday with our baby. I just love reading your blog. Thank you for sharing. Keep Posting.

    • Travel Mad Mum June 11, 2019 at 10:16 am - Reply

      Our favorite destination for travelling with a baby was definitely Bali, although definitely take a browse through our destinations page and see if anything looks particularly good to you! All our guides are built for family travel!

  36. Gemma Brown June 11, 2019 at 8:16 pm - Reply

    Your thoughts and comments about post natal depression could be damaging and I would suggest that you remove that point. Post natal depression can affect any mother 1st time or 2nd or 3rd time round and beyond. Post natal depression does not develoo because the mum is not living a fun life. It can relate to hormonal changes which could develop even if a mum is traveling with her family or having a regular time at home. Your comments could affect mums who are wondering if what they are feeling is “normal”,the comments could lead some to dismiss feelings or signs of depression because they consider themselves to be leading a fun lifestyle.
    Please consider.

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