Traveling with the Arevalos
Hi Everyone! So as many of you know, we just got back from a week long vacation in Martinique. I’ve had so many questions circling around this trip, so I thought I’d write a post to answer some questions specific to Martinique, as well as some tips on traveling with kids while on a budget!
So, Martinique… Well, first of all, it is a gorgeous little French island tucked in between Dominica and St. Lucia. Most people haven’t heard of it before, and honestly, neither had I! The island is a beautiful blend of Caribbean and French culture. As it is technically part of France, they operate on the Euro and the island is very well maintained. They don’t need or thrive on tourism, so you won’t find massive resorts or hotel chains, or see people trying to sell you things on the beach. In fact, chances are, if you meet people, they probably don’t speak English. For us, we like visiting off-the-beaten path places and immersing ourselves into different cultures. The kids loved greeting everyone with a ‘bonjour,’ and people were very generous to work through our hand gestures and crude French haha.
If you do decide to visit, you will definitely need to rent a car, which is relatively cheap. This is the best way to get around the island. One of my favorite outings from the week was a trip to the Jardin de Balata. It was a beautiful garden that was very easy to walk through with kids, and it had beautiful vegetation and views of the volcano, Mt Pelee, that is on the island.
We spent the majority of the week hanging out at our AirBNB. This place was honestly my favorite part of the trip. It was a gorgeous home with an outdoor covered terrace, private pool, and private beach access. It was perfect for our family! Instead of having to load up a car, pack lunches, drive to a beach, and keep a newborn out on a beach all day, we had all the luxury right at our backdoor! Jackson could nap on the covered terrace, staying cool and out of the sun, while I could be in the pool with one kid and Ron at the beach with the other. It was all so easy to enjoy. We would head outside at 9:00 every morning and not come back in until 6! It was a dreamy week of living for sure!
Okay so on to some travel tips…
We travel a lot. And with kids. We want our kids to experience different cultures, see different ways of living, marvel at God’s vast handiwork, and feel small and humbled in this giant world. So, how do we, as a family of 5 living in one of the most expensive cities in the country make it happen?
Let’s start with how we ended up on this little obscure island. I literally just googled the cheapest flights to the Caribbean. If you search on Google Flights, you can search flights to an entire area, rather than a specific destination. You could search the Caribbean like I did, or Europe, etc. So when I saw $200 round trip tickets to this place called “Martinique",” we jumped on it! This isn’t the first time that we have chosen to go somewhere by simply seeing what the cheapest option was! What a fun way to explore the world!
Now, if we have our hearts set on visiting a specific place, I try to plan that out more in advance. For this scenario, I spend months watching flight prices and trends with price trackers, so that I know when it’s the right time to buy! While a $100 difference in price might not matter so much to the solo flyer, it certainly does when everything is x4 for us! I remember last year watching flights to Australia for months and then one day there was some crazy deal (I’m talking $800 round trip!!) for that day only. It can certainly pay off to plan in advance to allow yourself time to get the best deal on flights!
Another huge thing that helps us be able to travel is subletting our apartment out while we are away. This usually pays for a large portion of our trip, and without it, we wouldn’t be able to travel nearly as much. Now of course, if you are outside of New York or another major city, this probably isn’t a feasible option for you. But get creative! Have a yard sale, use your tax refund or annual bonus. Traveling is one of our top priorities as a family. So anytime we get any extra cash, it gets dumped into our vacation fund!
Ok remember that awesome AirBNB I was just telling you about above? You were probably thinking, “Wow, a beach front house, those Arevalos are big spenders!” Well, you wouldn’t be wrong in thinking that it was an expensive house. I saw it on AirBNB and just loved it so much. I messaged the owner and simply asked if he offered any discounts for the time of year we were staying/for staying an entire week. He ended up giving us 60% off the usual price!! Wow, what a steal! It never hurts to ask! This is one of the reasons we usually stay in AirBNB’s over hotels when we travel. Plus, with little ones, it gives us a little more space to relax and spread out!
Another tip, travel at obscure times if you can. This will help you get flight and lodging discounts! We are currently trying to take advantage of this while it still doesn’t really matter haha. (Side note: don’t be intimidated if the school tries to pressure you out of a trip! In NYC, there are no actual repercussions for absences [not until about 3rd/4th grade]. Just work with the teacher and make sure your child is doing well to be able to play catch-up or to miss completely!) Again, for us, we see travel as something just as important as schooling!
Okay, now for a couple children-specific tips…
Since we were renting a car this trip, we needed to bring our car seats along. We use a foldable booster seat for Aly, and Jackson’s car seat sits on our stroller, so those two are easy. But we still needed to get Fynn’s heavy car seat to the airport and what not. This trip, we bought this luggage cart for it! It was perfect; it allowed us to wheel his car seat around instead of carrying the heavy weight, and then when it was time to offload it, we just threw the little cart in with the car seat inside the travel bag. Easy peasy!
Okay, I’ve saved my best and most favorite tip for last.
Are you ready?
How to Get a Seat for Your Infant for Free
Okay. So maybe you already know about this little trick, and I’m just 5 years late to this game. But, if not, did you know that if a flight is not fully booked, you can simply ask to keep your car seat with you on the plane, instead of stowing it underneath the plane, allowing your child to have their own seat? I mean, when I think about it, it makes sense. If there is an empty seat on the plane and an adult tries to spread out, it’s not like a flight attendant will tell you, “You can’t put your stuff there, you didn’t pay for that seat!” So why shouldn’t I be able to put my car seat there, right? It totally makes sense. So with that said, be persistent. Both flights, I had to ask about 5 different people before someone would confirm with me that yes, row 10 is empty, and yes, you can put your baby there! Your best bet is to ask directly at the gate, right before boarding. This was such a nice treat without having to splurge for an extra plane ticket!
Okay, that’s it for this post! Please comment with any of your favorite travel tips or tricks! I would love to hear!