Australian comedian and The Project co-host Peter Helliar, and his wife Bridget, love travelling with their sons Oscar, 12, Aidan 15, and Liam, 18 – so much so they have written a book about it.
The subtitle for your new book, Trippin’ with Kids, is How to Have Fun on Family Holidays Like You Used to Before You Had Kids. In a nutshell, how DO you do this?
It can be done! Absolutely. I think it begins by getting the kids involved at the planning stage. You need to orchestrate a holiday that caters for the whole family and that includes you parents. We had no interest in making Trippin’ With Kids a play-gym tour of the world.
Peter, why did you write the book?
We decided a little over a decade ago that travel was too important to us to put off any longer. There is always the temptation to wait for the kids to be a bit older, but we just decided we didn’t want to do that. As soon as we made that decision, we felt life immediately became more fun. The planning of our family holiday to France made all our lives brighter.
How has travelling changed since having kids?
There is more planning that needs to be done, that’s for sure. Brij is the more organised one and she is amazing at getting the kids ready, and puts a lot of thought into every aspect of our holidays – which is why I insisted she co-write this book.
What have been your favourite family holidays in Australia and why?
We loved our trip to Port Douglas in 2017. There is so much to do for all the family – fishing, hiking, croc spotting (ideally with a professional tour guide and not by chance) and lazy days at the beach. We also did a wonderful Indigenous walk through Mossman Gorge where we all learnt a lot about the local culture and history.
What have been your favourite family holidays overseas and why?
You could toss a coin really, but our six weeks in France in 2010 I’ll always have such fond memories of, and not just because I was coming off the glow of Collingwood winning the grand final. We travelled anti-clockwise around France starting up north in Normandy and ending in Paris. Oscar was aged two and people would often approach us to congratulate us for travelling so far with kids so young.
What’s been the worst thing that’s happened on a family holiday?
We’ve been very lucky to avoid any disasters whilst travelling. We went to Boston a few years ago to see the Celtics and also the Bruins [ice-hockey team]. There was a winter storm dubbed a ‘bomb cyclone’ which had us snowed in for a day. We managed to see the Celtics win two games, but it got so snowy they postponed the Bruins game. Yep, it was so cold they cancelled the ice-hockey. Now that’s cold!
And the best?
It’s hard to pinpoint one moment, but taking the kids to LEGOLAND Billund Resort in Denmark in 2012 was pretty special. It was simply a joyous day.
Peter, what do you love about travelling with kids?
I find I am more in the moment with them. Travelling overseas often puts you in a time zone where there is no reason to check emails throughout the day, so you are with them physically, but they also have your uninterrupted focus.
Why do you think it’s important?
I have an 18-year-old, so it’s been bittersweet looking back at our family holidays because we are not sure if we have any more ahead of us as a collective. Although Liam has hinted if we are paying, he is happy to come along. Time has flown and we look back at these holidays, grateful we’ve shared that time and experience with the kids.
What’s your best packing tip?
Brij uses dryer sheets that she places amongst the clothes, meaning our clothes arrive at the other end of our journey smelling nice and fresh.
What advice do the Heliars have for other families when it comes to travelling with kids?
Don’t wait. Start planning now. It’ll make this crazy time more bearable if you have a holiday in mind for when we come out of the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic. Planning is part of the fun.
Where would you like to go for your next family holiday?
We are thinking about Nepal once the world opens back up, but we are also very keen to travel within Australia. I would love to tackle Cradle Mountain in Tasmania with the kids, and even Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia.