Summer Travel Series: Monica Stott of The Travel Hack

Ella
17th July 2019

We talk to our favourite travel bloggers about what they’ve learnt from around the globe, their top travel tips, and what they have planned this Summer. Read on to get to know affordable family travel expert Monica Stott, of The Travel Hack

Most likely to travel with: partner and kids 

Most likely to travel to: Wales

Budget: Affordable luxury 

Hi Monica! What inspired you to write about your travel experiences? 

I’ve always been the kind of person who writes a journal. Even as a little kid I wrote a journal and I loved the process of sitting down in the evening and writing about my day. I also loved having something to read back in years to come and bring all those memories back, so it was always a given that I’d write a travel journal when I went backpacking for two years in 2009.

At the time, I also wanted to be a journalist so I’d done some work experience with my local newspaper before I left to go travelling. The newspaper has a section on their website with blogs by local people - such as a local councillor and a local mum on the PTA, that kind of thing. And the newspaper asked me to write a blog to be featured on the website too. I was the local girl who went backpacking and, despite the fact that no one actually read it, I felt like I was famous! I took it really seriously from the beginning. It was a hobby but I also saw it as my first steps towards a career in journalism so I updated it regularly and loved sharing my travel stories.

 

How has your blog evolved over the last 10 years?

It’s been really nice because my blog has evolved as I have. It began with my stories about budget backpacking through Asia, progressed as I lived and worked in Australia. It followed me as I moved to London and became a student again, so my travels were very much of the ‘budget’ style. As I began my career in London, The Travel Hack was mostly about short, weekend trips. These trips gradually got a little more luxurious as I progressed in my career!

And now the blog is more about family travels as I have two young children and a third on the way!

The blog has followed me through so many stages of my life and I’ve really enjoyed being able to change my niche as I’ve grown up.

What have you learnt from other cultures and environments?

I’ve learnt that people across the world are essentially all the same. We all want the same thing and we all have an instinct to care for one another. Every country has some bad people but the majority of people across the whole world are good, kind, honest people. Yes, we have different beliefs and sometimes have different values, but I’ve found that people are all basically the same.

What are your top tips for traveling with kids? 

When planning any kind of activity, don’t expect it to last more than 2-3 hours. Before having kids I was used to planning full days out while I was travelling. I’d want to be out exploring from 10am until 7pm and I didn’t think this travel schedule would need to be too different with kids. How wrong was I!

I now plan one little activity for each day and plan to spend the rest of the time at the beach, in the pool, in the villa or just generally relaxing.

Some days you get lucky and can do a lot but most days we keep it simple and easy!

 

What are the restrictions vs benefits? 

The main benefit is for the parents! Parents need holidays too! Lots of people seem to think that when you have children you stop wanting all the things you wanted before, but I didn’t! If I didn’t go on holiday I’d go crazy!

There’s also the benefit of spending quality time as a family, something most families don’t have on a day-to-day basis because weekdays are filled with work and weekends are filled with jobs and chores.

The restrictions are what you make them really. For us, it’s not being able to see as much as would without the kids. For most families it will come down to cost, as the price of your holiday is going to almost double when you have two kids, so that’s going to restrict where you can go and when. 

Are you all about routine or spontaneity? 

We actually do both! We’re all about routine for our eldest son but all about spontaneity for our youngest. They have such different characters that we raise them in very different ways. My eldest likes to be in bed by 7pm but my youngest suffers from serious FOMO so he’ll stay up for as long as we allow!

It wasn’t until we had two children that we realised most parenting styles are dictated by the children, not the parents!

Which countries are most conducive to family travel?

For us, it’s anywhere you can drive yourself. The ease and convenience of having our own car makes travelling anywhere so much easier.

What advice do you have to families looking to travel on a budget? 

Package holidays are almost always the cheapest way to have a budget family holiday. We’ve found that spending a week in the UK costs almost as much as a package holiday abroad so look at the family package holiday specialists like Jet2 and TUI. The hotels also have kids clubs and so many activities for the children! 

What, in your opinion, are the activities to save on, and which are ones to spend on? 

For family travel, we save on eating out and spend on activities. When I’m travelling with my partner or friends then I love eating out and trying all the local food in lovely little restaurants, but it’s not so enjoyable with the kids! We tend to keep the food budget to a minimum and keep the travel fund for activities like hiring boats, water parks and visiting castles etc.

 

What are some easy ways to travel affordably in the UK specifically? 

Airbnb! I love finding unique Airbnb accommodation and it’s often so much cheaper than a hotel.

Lastly, any summer plans? 

I’m expecting my 3rd baby in early October so my summer plans are going to be pretty chilled. I’m going to be spending a lot of my summer in Abersoch, a lovely little village on the Llyn Peninsula in Wales. I plan to take a couple of little weekend trips in the UK but most of my time will be on the beach!

Keep up to date with Monica over on The Travel Hack.