Finding friends while on the road is so super important when you’re traveling with kids, very much so for an only child, and especially an only child traveling with just her mum!
Emmie needs friends to play with and to enjoy kids games and kids fun. And when we find good ones and Emmie’s having fun, we stick around for longer (another advantage of never having plans!).
There are a few ways we make sure Em spends time with kids her age. Here’s how we do it:
1. Other traveling families
There are so many other families traveling either on short holidays or long term and you’ll find them along the way. We met two wonderful families at Lazy Beach in Koh Rong Samloem in Cambodia…all up there were six kids all running around the beach, swimming, playing on rope swings, making up concerts and playing practical jokes. We loved it so much we extended our stay for an extra five days. We are still in touch with our wonderful Koh Rong friends and hopefully we will meet up again one day.
2. Hotels, resorts and Kids Clubs
When Emmie needs kids and I need some downtime we book into hotels or resorts with Kids Clubs.Often she makes little friends to play with but sometimes it can backfire if there aren't any around. But she still enjoys having time to play craft and have all the attention of the staff at Kids Club and I go into kids club with her - especially if we are at a Shangri-La, they always have awesome climbing and playing gyms - and we play together and she will do activities with the staff while I do a bit of work or lay by the pool for a bit. At the Sun Siyam Iru Fushi in the Maldives Emmie made a lovely little friend, Vienna, and I met her parents and we all had dinner together and a wine tasting…fun times.
3. Look up local Facebook groups
When we went to Chiang Mai I found a few expat mum groups online, and some lovely ladies and their kids who were keen to play. One had a craft day at her home that Emmie went to (while I worked in their loungeroom) and two other ladies met up with us for swimming catch ups. They knew of weekly slack-lining in the park that we went to and other fun activities for kids. We went to a restaurant with a huge kids pay area and just had a really nice time. They were so welcoming and we really loved it - until we decided to take off for Hoi An, Vietnam and international school.
4. International School
International school can be a little expensive but when you enrol your child in one where the cost of living is low it’s kind of justifiable I reckon. We did two stints at Greenshoots International School in Hoi An, Vietnam. The first was for one month and then we went back for three months. International school is great for many reasons:
- you can enrol your child for a short-term at many schools (one month)
- they make friends
- you get a break
- they can catch up on schooling
We love Greenshoots and would always go back if we had the chance. Emmie made such lovely friends there and it was a really fabulous time.
5. Meet up with holidaying friends/visit friends
We did both of these! We were lucky enough to catch up with some good friends who visited Hoi An at the same time we were there and we made sure to visit friends who were living in Saigon. All of them have children so Emmie got to catch up with her buddies and make new friends too.
6. Parks and play areas
Just like at home parks overseas are crowded with kids. Emmie had such a great day running around the Jardin du Luxembourg with a Korean friend she made that day. They had such a lovely time together and after days of roaming around (and loving) Paris with me it was so nice for her to run around the park and all the play equipment with a buddy.
7. Arrange to meet up with other traveling families via FB/online
There are lots of traveling family and world schooling Facebook pages that you should join when you’re traveling where you can share experiences and advice. You’ll meet families who are travelling and often your paths will cross. We’ve met up with a few like Sophie and her hubby and four kids @justsix_backpacks who we spent time with in Sri Lanka. So good!
8. Local kids
Emmie played with local kids in front of the cafes at Angkor Wat, at the beach in Bohol, Philippines and really all over the place while we've been traveling. Kids are fabulous, they don't need to speak the same language to be able to communicate and have a good time.
Hostels are awesome for the whole family, we stayed in lots and Emmie made friends everywhere - and not just with kids. In China young travellers taught her card tricks and how to make paper planes and some even patiently played pool with her. Hostels are so chill, they’re awesome places to stop because there are lots of people around, talking and sharing their adventures - we get lots of tips and advice whenever we’re at hostels. They’re not like what they were back in the day and most have family rooms
10. Be open - you can make friends anywhere
Most of all, just be open! We’ve made friends everywhere, and some we just adore and will definitely see again like the awesome expat family we met in a restaurant in SIem Reap (Try Me - look it up, it’s divine). We just started chatting and then went to putt putt golf, and had a few days out, and we caught up when we returned to Siem Reap. We will see them again too! And the family we befriended who owned a cafe in Coron, Philippines. We went to their church on Sunday and the kids had a great time.
There are lots of opportunities for kids to make friends and play when you’re traveling. It's also a time to further build that wonderful family bond that you don't get to tend as much as you'd like when you're rushing about with work/school and the routine of life at home.
Most importantly, just chill, let it happen and get ready to make lots of new friends from around the world. Kids and adults!!