2 months in – Things You Learn Travelling with Kids Under 5

We’re now 2 months in! Every place we go Issy says “Can we live here forever?”. This is a change from 2 weeks in when the home sickness in all of us was immense. We are also only days of leaving Sri Lanka for the time being.

We take Issy’s state more as an indication of her happiness to spend time with us than her want to move to a foreign place where only a few kids speak her language. It’s also surprising given her time is spent playing with her two defiant little sisters, and equally defiant (at times) parents. It also isn’t the truth, she still talks much about home and missing Prancer (our cat!) and Maxwell (her bestie).

We’re in March and the elephant pants the kids are wearing, Adam’s body odour and Lisa’s underarm hair tell us that we are most definitely in a rhythm of travel. (Jokes about the underarm hair Lise.)

We’ve spoken about the kids learning alot (I think that should be one word so I’m using it as such, sick/sic), but like we spoke about before we left, this year was about an investment in time as us as a family, and Lisa and I are certainly learning the rules of investment this year. There is no payoff without effort.

What we’re appreciating from our February travels is:

  1. Not all play is created equal
  2. Moving days are the most disheartening
  3. Slow travel suits us
  4. A Family Budgets get hit by a 10% service charge, 50% family room surcharge and a 15% banana pancakes tax

1. Not all play is created equal

The girls are forming very close bonds and are playing extremely well (on the most part). It takes a lot of 4-year-old effort and willpower for Issy to negotiate the wants/demands/flitting attention of a 2-year-old. She often doesn’t have enough of it. She draws the line with 3 kid play and including Evie. Fair enough. It is the difficult part of travel for Issy not to have time away from her parents, and we will continue to monitor this as we go. It’s as important for her, as it is for us.

There is a huge difference in imaginative play and active play for 4 and 2 year olds

There is a huge difference in imaginative play and active play for 4 and 2 year-olds and we seek out parks and grass as often as possible to give the girls a break from the need to create imaginative worlds with each other (normally Mums/Dads/Babies and Brotders (sic)). It’s restorative for everyone and uses a lot of their tank in the process which helps them sleep better later.

There was a great park in Kandy, a sweet kids play area at a cafe in Galle and the beach tends to allow for a similar type of active play for the kids.

The kids rarely reach into their toy bags for sustained play and we’re wondering how necessary a lot of the toys we’ve brought for them are.

2. Moving days are the most disheartening

They encompass packing 5 people’s clothes, numerous toys, and the electronics kit that inevitably gets spread across a room.

Gone are the days of being responsible soley for one’s own gear. We have lost quite a bit in the process including:

  • Adam’s rashy
  • Adam’s cap (lucky it was worth $3)
  • Issy’s dress
  • Etta’s knickers x 4
  • Etta’s toothbrush
  • Evie’s toothbrush
  • Etta’s hats x 2

Gone are the days of being responsible soley for one’s own gear.

Adam has also abandoned 2 pairs of shorts and a shirt so is winning the battle of most stuff replaced on the trip. Lisa has decent that darks and prints are much better for the girls than pretty whites and pinks.

We still travel light with one big backpack, one day pack and the carry-on pram (BabyZen Yoyo). We could only shudder at the hassle of carrying more, or moving faster.

Travel days are also energy sapping, often sitting in cars/trains/buses for hours with kids champing to get out and move around. We’ve most certainly had our zen on dealing with the idiosyncracies and delays associated with Asian traffic schedules and traffic jams.

3. Slow Travel suits us well.

Our 5 days of travel with the grandies (Ian and Kath) were the most exhausting on our trip, having been in cars/trains for 13 hours in total to move through the high country. Ideally we’d do it slower, but we’ve taken the risk of fast travel to see some of the hill country with Lisa’s Mum and Dad.

Slow travel is THE ONLY WAY with three of these.

Many travelling families we have met are doing it much quicker, but context is everything, and we reckon 3 kids under 5 requires some pretty special provisions. I think if we only had the older two (4 and 2), faster travel would be possible, and certainly in 5-10 years a “breeze”, but at the moment, slow travel suits us and the kids well.

Speaking of fast, Kandy for 2 days was as hectic as we remember. It’s proper old world, dirty/traffic jams a plenty/zero sign of other westerners and the main attractions being the Buddhist temple and botanical gardens. They are both an oasis of calm needed in a city as hectic as this. We only got to the botanical gardens, but you could spend 2-3 days in there exploring its corners with kids. Ours were super tired on the day and we spent a few hours, but some sleep and tantrums back home were called for instead.

Ella calls people to slow down. Almost every cafe has good tea, expresso coffee, cricket streamed, pizza and bean bags. It’s Bali in a tea bag really. We’re here for 2 days this time, but you could while your days away here reading Shantaram/The Beach pretty easily. You intersperse this with some lazy walks about small mountains and down railway tracks. Heaven. (Oh yeh, and they just opened a 500m zip line two weeks ago for $25 a ride…)

4. Budgets get hit by a 10% service charge, 50% family room surcharge and a 15% banana pancakes tax.

We’re aiming for around $100 a day and would be spending more like $140. That’s probably pretty good really. We’re not going crazy, but we’re not missing out either. Given the type of trip where on, we reckon we’re happy with that.

It’s moments like these…

a) The 15% banana pancakes tax

Lisa and I eat locally most days. It costs around 200 R ($1.50 to feed both of us a delicious curry) but the girls are a little more discerning (read: fussy) requiring their hit of pizza and banana pancakes. We reckon 15% of a budget could go to servicing these ‘needs’ through splashing out. God knows, we need it sometimes as well!

b) The 50% family room surcharge

Accommodation with three requires a larger room (for us). We want some space to have a good rest and are happy to pay for it. We’re averaging around $60 per night and staying in lovely places / airBNBs that have access to a garden and kitchen. It makes travel with kids possible in our opinion. If it were Lisa and I we could probably we staying at places for between $20-$40 a night with a similar standard and sans kitchen/garden.

Many travelling families (particularly Europeans) co-sleep with their young family, and therefore don’t require the extra bed. This could save us money but I think the need/want for space is ingrained in our Australian psyche. Ironically one of us ends up sleeping with the two girls each night, as they migrate into our bed throughout the night, and one of us finds sanctuary in the spare single over the other side of the room. Thankfully we’ve got Evie sorted, safely cocooned in her own Kidco Peapod portacot…a sanctuary that she contentedly crawls into at the end of each day.

c) The 10% service charge

Asia also has a 10% service charge attached to most bills. We continually forget and so our minds are probably budgeting for $110 a day (rather than $100) and we’re still blowing it. No big deal, but at some point we will have to rain it in, or come to terms with the level of spending.

Missing your guys back home, and enjoying all the other travelling families stories on Instagram. We have realised that Instagram is actually a fantastic place to give shorter updates and tell our story so feel free to find us there @thesmalllane. We can’t promise not to cause too much wunderlust in your life so apologies in advance.

Love, cuddles, screams and cries, The Rosses xoxo


  • Sue Morgan

    Love the way you write about your life in the slow lane, I feel like I am listening to you speak, missed the photos but
    Love Sue

    • thesmalllane

      Thanks Sue. We are hoping to be honest with our writing. Missing home and looking forward to exploring Taiwan now!

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