When Barbara approached me on the blog and told me about all the kitesurf travels she did together with her husband and baby – I was impressed. She wanted to share her experience and tips on how to make the best out of kitesurf travels with a baby or kid and on how to make the most out of your paternal leave. She gives a lot of concrete tips that make traveling with a kid easier and also help you choose the right kite destinations to make it work. Enjoy the interview with Barbara:
Hi Barbara, so happy to have you on this blog – could you give us a quick intro about yourself, what you do, what role kitesurfing has in your life and your family?
Hi Miriam, happy to be your guest. I started kitesurfing in 2013 and then totally got hooked on the kitesurf world trip I did in 2013/2014 for 8 months. Ever since my husband and I spend every windy weekend on the Neusiedler Lake (our home spot close to Vienna) and each holiday is, of course, a kitesurfing trip. I made a break before and after my baby was born in summer 2018, but now I am back in the water.
Did you kitesurf when you were pregnant and if yes for how long during your pregnancy?
No, I didn’t. I found out I was pregnant in early November, so the question about kitesurfing in Austria didn’t pop up until early April. In April I already had a little baby bump. And as I like to challenge myself and push my limits, it just didn’t feel right to me to put on a harness and go surfing. In addition, the hormones do their job pretty well in pregnancy and kitesurfing steps a bit into the background compared to the prospect of having a baby.
How did you stay fit while being pregnant?
I was lucky because I felt relatively good during the whole pregnancy and did not put on much weight. So I kept on going to the gym regularly doing Cardio and reduced workouts with less weight. And I did pregnancy yoga and went hiking until the week before giving birth.
How did you get started organizing your first trip after the baby was there? What things do you have to think of when traveling with a baby?
Well, my husband and I had the loose plan of going to Sardegna with our campervan as soon as we felt comfortable with our little one, and when he was 8 weeks old we left with a one-way ferry ticket. We wanted to keep everything easy and without pressure, so we left the return date open, giving us the option to return whenever we felt like it.
The big point for us was the campervan, as it meant total independence. Having our bed, toilet, kitchen, kite stuff and everything else with us all the time, meant that we didn’t have to plan the days in advance. Also, breastfeeding makes traveling with baby super easy, as you don’t have to prepare milk bottles or disinfect bottles every 2-3 hours.
If you choose to travel to a destination where you rent a room or apartment, I would strongly suggest having accommodation right at the kite spot. And of course, you should inform yourself about the local health situation (health hazards and health care) a lot more in detail than when you just travel on your own.
What did other people say when they heard you go on a kitesurf trip with a baby?
Most people who didn’t surf were like “you’ll see how it is with kids”, smiling at us. My response was “yeah, true, we will see how it is and I am sure ist gonna be great”. People who kitesurf thought the idea was awesome.
When was the right point starting to travel? Would you recommend a certain age?
In the first weeks with your baby, you just get to know each other and you find out what works easily and what is a bit more effort. So I would say the right starting point is as soon as you feel comfortable with traveling. For us it was after 8 weeks.
Generally speaking: The smaller the baby is, the more it sleeps during the day, making traveling (and surfing) pretty easy. Especially in a campervan where there is not a lot of space, it is easier if the baby is just lying around or sitting (so for most this is in the first 8 months). As soon as they start crawling (or even walking) they wanna explore everything and you start running after them, trying to keep them from kites lying around, cars and everything they could possibly eat 😉 . That might be nice at a warm and sunny place, but kitesurfing sometimes also happens with colder, maybe a bit wet weather and loads of wind. So I found it easier when the baby is still young, but that also really depends on the activity level of your baby.
How do you make the best out of your parental leave? How long was it and how did you and your partner make it work?
Inform yourself as good as you can about all possibilities you have in your country to make sure that you get as much parental leave together with your partner as you can and try to save some money beforehand. Staying at home as a mum can be pretty awesome, but when your partner is working you cannot travel or kitesurf (you can, but not really). So my partner took an educational leave (possible in Austria) before the baby was born, so we could spend the first 4 months together…which meant a 2-month trip to Sardegna. And when the little one was 1 year old, he took two months of parental leave (I took an extra unpaid month of parental leave plus one month of unpaid holiday). This time we went to Mauritius for 2 months.
What do you prefer – kite trips in a van or a “normal” accommodation, what is easier and more fun?
Uuuh, not an easy question… I really love our van, it means home to me. But you have to be pretty tidy (especially with a kid), otherwise you end up searching stuff all the time. On the other hand, you always have everything you need with you and you can sleep at the most awesome places/kite spots.
A normal accommodation is easier if it is situated directly at a kite spot – “from bed to board”. If not, it means a lot of packing and organizing to make kite-session happen.
But when your child is not sleeping well in the nights, an apartment with 2 bedrooms might save your days: You can “share” the “night-duty” with your partner, meaning at least one of you gets some sleep.
I personally prefer the van…and as soon as our son starts sleeping a bit better (he is not a good sleeper), I will enjoy the van-times even more.
How long did it take you until your body was recovered and you could kitesurf again. Any tips on how to get back on the water?
As I had a C-section, it took a bit longer until I was allowed to put pressure on my abs. Having given birth end of July, I didn’t go surfing in Sardegna (mid-September to end October). I am sure I could have done the easy “going right, going left” … but I knew that I couldn’t resist doing jumps, so I stayed out of the water.
After winter I went back to kitesurfing in April and – after not having kitesurfed for 1,5 years (!!!) – started to work on each and every single jump I did before. To be honest, to feel truly recovered and completely back to normal (when doing demanding moves on the water) it took me more than a year after birth, although I didn’t gain loads of weight during pregnancy, was hiking, snowboarding and working out on a regular basis after giving birth and was looking like before after about 4 months.
But this is really individual, depending on how birth was, how your belly-muscles recover (this is something you can only support but not force), how much sports you did and do and how well you listen to your body.
What trips did you do with your baby and which ones were your favorites?
We went to Sardegna with the campervan for two months, Croatia for kitesurfing with the campervan for two weeks, Mauritius for two months in apartments (3 different spots) and of course weekend trips to the Lake Neusiedl, our home spot.
I couldn’t say which were my favorites, each of them was special: Sardegna was the first trip with our boy, Croatia was together with friends and the 8 weeks on Mauritius were a once in a lifetime experience. And now we are looking forward to 3 weeks Capetown and Langebaan in February.
Which locations are ideal for traveling with a baby or young kid and which ones should you avoid? Which boxes does it need to tick that you didn’t think of beforehand?
Hm, I would say locations with nice warm weather and not too much wind, where the little one can either play in the sand or on a beach with small stones (they love pebbles). Definitely the box of medical support and possibly infectious diseases. Also the infrastructure directly on the spot, like shadow and wind shadow, toilet, water and food supply.
What was the funniest moment on your travel? And one of the most desperate where nothing seemed to work?
I cannot tell the one funniest moment…with a baby (especially when they start running around) you have a lot to laugh 😉 For example when he chases birds on the beach, falling down every second step as he just learned to walk and is not used to sand. Or when he sees kites or cars and is totally freaking out.
The most desperate one was in Croatia: Our little one woke up every half an hour crying in the night in our campervan and decided to get up at 5 every morning … and we were just “zombies” after a couple of nights. But then I had the idea to rent another caravan on the campsite (just a few hundred meters away) and that saved the holiday as at least one of us could sleep.
How does a typical day look like for you when you’re on your kitesurf travels with a baby? How do you decide who gets to go on the water first and how do you work around your baby’s “schedule”?
There is no typical day, but for example, on Mauritius we used to get up (early!), have breakfast on the terrace, play around or maybe go out for a coffee (to a child-friendly place) or do some shopping. Then after lunch let the little one take his noon-time nap (and sometimes nap with him or use the time to get all kite- & kid-stuff packed) and leave as soon as he awakes around 1:30/2 pm. Then head to a kite spot and get on the water as quickly as possible, doing an intense session and directly handing the kite to my husband, so he can go for a session. Then chillaxing and playing on the beach and heading home for dinner. As wind usually is building up in Mauritius I always had the advantage to go first, as my husband wanted to wait for stronger winds.
Sometimes, if the wind was light, the noon-nap also happened in the stroller on the spot. (for the noon-nap an accommodation “from bed to board” would be perfect, but that was too expensive in Mauritius for such a long time). Make sure to always have enough food for the baby with you and some toys.
How did a long-distance flight go with your baby? When did you decide you’re ready for it and how it would react? Any tips?
The flight to Mauritius went via Dubai, so it was 2 flights with about 6 hours each. The day flight was pretty easy, as we had space so play around with him in the big airbus. The night flight was ok, but until the lights go out and with lights going on for breakfast 1 hour before landing, there were only 4 hours left to sleep.
We just thought “let’s do it” because you never know how the little one will behave on a plane. Even at home days and nights are very different, sometimes ist easy-going, sometimes ist challenging. The same on a flight.
Tips for long-distance flights with a baby:
Take the front row with more leg space, pack enough food, diapers and toys and be creative with keeping him entertained. Book a special meal (f.e. vegetarian Indian) online for one of you: This comes before all other meals, and so there is enough space for the tray (as you don’t have to „juggle“ the content of 2 full trays at a time) and one of you can eat while the other one is entertaining the baby and then the other way around. If both meals come at the same time, you will not be able to eat in peace.
Did you meet a lot of other young families when kitesurfing?
Yes, we did, especially in Mauritius. It’s nice when the little ones are entertained as they play with each other and you have someone adult and similar-minded (in terms of surfing) to talk to, while your partner is on the water.
What changes when you go on a kite holiday with your baby? How are the experiences different than before?
You have to plan and organize a lot better in advance. And before the crucial point about a kite holiday was the wind… now its the child 😉 no, to be fair, if you keep your child happy and entertained, you will have a great holiday. It might mean, that you spend less time on the water, as you have to swap with your partner. And it might mean that you will maybe miss a windy day, as you put more focus on a relaxed and easy travel day instead of rushing and putting pressure on all of you.
But for me the time on the water has intensified since I have a kid, meaning I have developed super-forces in terms of getting ready for a session quickly & setting up the equipment, I don’t fuck around for hours about what kite size to take or waste any time on the water. The feeling of freedom on the water also intensifies, as you – on top of feeling the elements and your body – also have a „time off“ from your kid…meaning not beeing „mummy“ for 1-2 hours but just beeing a sporty woman that has fun and challenges herself.
Any last words of encouragement for young moms/parents who would like to go on a kitesurf holiday with their baby?
Just go for it! With proper preparation beforehand and a common goal (spending a relaxed holiday with as much time on the water as possible), you will have a great time as a family. If you stay flexible and whenever possible take things as they come, you will be able to enjoy time on and also off the water with your little future kiter 😉
If you would like to ask Barabara some personal questions you can get in touch with her on facebook.