A London woman is using her maternity leave for her second child to travel the world with her family.
Karen Edwards, 33, is traveling through the U.S., Central America and South America with her husband, Shaun Bayes, their daughter, Esmé, 3, and 4-month-old son, Quinn. Edwards also took maternity leave after her daughter’s birth in 2014 to travel the world.
The family left London on their months-long adventure when Quinn was just 9 weeks old.
“I try to explain to people … it’s actually easier than being at home because at home you’ve got so much more things to do in just running a household,” Edwards told ABC News. “We’re really happy with what we’re doing.”
The family visited Spain and Canada and drove down the West Coast of the U.S. before visiting Belize, Guatemala and El Salvador.
They’ve stayed in beach cabanas, camper vans, hotels and with local families along the way.
“I do believe that it’s definitely character-building,” Edwards said, adding that Quinn “doesn’t blink an eyelid” to being in a new bedroom almost nightly.
Quinn has already visited seven countries in his four months of life, while Esmé has visited nearly 30 countries at age 3.
Edwards and Bayes decided after Edwards unexpectedly became pregnant with Esmé, they would keep traveling as they’d loved to do as a couple.
When Esmé was 10 weeks old the family left London for Byes’ native New Zealand and then traveled throughout Southeast Asia.
Edwards, a nurse manager at a London hospital, receives full or partial payment through nine months of maternity leave. The last three months of her leave are unpaid but the family rents out their house in London to help cover expenses.
Bayes works in construction and has flexibility with his work schedule.
Edwards said the great experience spending a year traveling with Esmé inspired her and Bayes to do the same with Quinn.
“The most enjoyable bit was just having unlimited time for Esmé and seeing her developing without having many distractions,” she said. “We didn’t have a house to maintain and we didn’t have errands to run so it was just her and us two parents being parents.”
Edwards and Bayes started a blog where they document their travels with their kids.
“Most of the [reaction] is positive and heartwarming, that we’ve inspired them to do something similar,” Edwards said.
The family has faced criticisms for exposing their kids to foreign countries at such a young age. Edwards reminds critics that she is a nurse and they take “all necessary precautions.”
“This is the thing, we were already really into traveling,” Edwards said. “If it’s something that you really enjoy anyway, you want to pass that onto your kid in some way.”
Traveling with young children and traveling on a budget are both easier than people might think, according to Edwards.
Here are Edwards’ tips for other families:
How to travel on a budget:
1. “We use an airline credit card for all our spending and pay it off at the end of the month. We build up thousands of air miles from this and also get a companion flight voucher each month.”
2. “Go for middle of the road accommodation and maybe have one night as a treat in a luxurious place if that’s something you like.”
3. “Set up accounts as frequent flyers with every airline you use and try to collect points from hotels. Use the same booking platform to build up genius status and get discounts in the future.”
4. “Try out some of the various options for free accommodation. If you have a property, rent it out to have your mortgage covered while you are away.”
5. “Save save save. The best way to travel is to have a location-independent role.”
How to travel with a baby:
1. “You don’t need to bring the kitchen sink. One or two small toys, two outfits per day (with access to a washing machine) and a baby carrier are all you really need.”
2. “Just buy enough buy baby products for the journey and get the rest on the go.”
3. “Get baby used to sleeping on the go. … We’ve never really had routines and just do what fits naturally for our kids. If they need a sleep, they can do it on the go and are not bothered. We instilled this early.”
4. “Breastfeeding makes things so much easier. We don’t have to worry about sterilizing, water supply etc. I also pass on immunity, which is really great when travelling. That said, we know formula-feeding mums manage just fine.”