Travelling to Paris without anywhere for the baby to sleep
Many of our customers are families travelling with children and we know there's nothing quite like taking your little ones on an adventure overseas. Seeing their faces light up when they try something new for the first time is priceless. However we also know that travelling with young children can also be stressful and sometimes you feel like you need another holiday after organising your trip! That's why when we found Travel Without Tears we knew founder Sally Webb was onto a winner. We couldn't resist asking her some questions about her new business and her own travels.
How long have you been in the travel and tourism industry?
I’ve always been a prolific traveller but I joined the “industry” officially about 20 years ago, when I was living in Rome. I started writing travel guides for Lonely Planet, as well as articles on Italy for Australian and international magazines and newspapers. But when I was at uni in Melbourne I had worked as a tour guide with inbound visitors, so it’s something I’ve been involved with for a long time.
When did you realise you wanted to start your own travel company?
My connection with travel has always been through publishing, as a writer, editor, guidebook author and publisher. I’d worked for some large companies in that space, but a redundancy forced my hand and made me decide to do it.
How long has Travel Without Tears been going?
I launched my original website in 2014 and published my book that same year but as often is the case, it took time to clarify the vision. I adjusted the business model and rebuilt the website in late 2015. It’s been all systems go since then.
Where did you get the idea for Travel Without Tears from?
It was very organic and based completely on personal experience. I was working as a travel editor when I had my son, Archie, and I realized pretty quickly that I would have to either change my life and my job or take him with me on my adventures. I chose the latter. Through trial and error and some very funny moments I became a bit of an expert on travelling with kids, but not just travel – really meaningful, experiential travel where the kids really get to touch the culture they’re experiencing. I spent years dolling out advice and encouragement to friends and colleagues – including on destinations that might suit them and their kids for holidays – and it occurred to me that there was a market for this, consulting to families who want assistance in putting an incredible itinerary together or matching them with a travel provider who specializes in travel in a certain area. Ultimately I’m passionate about getting families to travel, especially those who lack the confidence to do it.
How many members of staff do you have?
We’re a small team. I work on the business full time, and I have a terrific marketing assistant who has more energy than anyone I’ve ever met and a wonderful bookkeeper who keeps me sane. I’ve also got a fantastic extended network of creatives who assisted me with developing the branding for the business, publishing the book and forthcoming ebooks, making our videos, and some fabulous partner tour operators and travel wholesalers.
How many destinations do you have?
There's no set number - we don't do "tours" as such and those on the website (taly, South Africa, Rajasthan, Lord Howe Island, Vietnam, Spain, Borneo, East Africa and Singapore) are just an indication of places we go/can organise a trip to. We can make it work regardless of destination.
What’s your most popular location for customers to book?
I’ve consulted on many itineraries to Italy, as well as itineraries in the UK, Ireland, and the USA, but both India and Africa are proving popular for more adventurous trips.
What’s your favourite thing about your job?
I adore travelling with my own kids, and with Travel Without Tears my favourite thing is all in a day’s work.
Have you got any funny anecdotes to share with us that happened during one of your Travel Without Tears holidays?
There are many. One that always makes me laugh is the baby into the bassinet incident. This is an extract from my book: “Travel Without Tears: 645 ways for families to take on the world”
The chicly dressed Air France cabin attendant casts a withering look at me and then at 18-month Lulu. Our flight from Paris to Singapore has just levelled out and the attendants are delivering the coveted sky cots to parents travelling with babies.
“Ziz bebe will not fit in ziz bassinet,” she announces emphatically.
“This baby will fit into this bassinet,” I counter. “She did on the way over and she will on the way back.”
Spurred by my very first long-haul flight with Lulu’s older brother Archie, when the sky cot request got lost in the system, I had requested the bassinet right at the start of the booking process and confirmed it repeatedly several times before we flew. There was no way I was going to sit with Lulu on my lap for the entire flight.
The cabin attendant makes tut-tutting sounds and continues to glare. She has a point; set up, the bassinet looks smaller than the one on our last flight and there’s a clearly marked sign – “maximum weight 10kg, maximum length 70cm”. It’s the peril of codeshare travel; there’s a huge variation in the size of bassinets on different airlines. I try to recall how much Lulu weighs – we’d last checked several months earlier during routine vaccinations - I have a nasty feeling she is hitting the 12kg mark. But I’m not letting on.
So we stuff Lulu into the bassinet, her little feet sticking up over the edge. If we push her feet in, her head pushes and rubs against the side. Too much Lulu, not enough bassinet. It’s like Cinderella’s stepsister trying to squeeze into the magic slipper to claim the hand of the prince. Only the princely prize, on this occasion, is a flight where the baby can sleep.
Clearly French babies don’t get fat. And they certainly don’t get long.
Tell us about the bigger picture. Where do you see Travel Without Tears in 5 years time? Or where would you like it to be?
I want to own the space for information and inspiration on family travel and travel with kids – to be the go-to influencer for anything to do with the subject.
I’d like to have cemented strategic partnerships with travel companies, airlines, insurers, airlines a small team of dedicated consultants who can help families organize incredible trips under my direction.
What keeps you passionate about working in the travel industry?
The desire to help families have that unforgettable, possibly life-changing trip.
Do you have any advice for people who are considering starting their own travel/tourism company?
It’s a tough market, with low commissions based on volume. If you’re focused on quality offerings for individual families travelling privately, as we are, it can be really challenging. But stick to your vision and niche and voice and eventually they will find you.
What’s your favourite city in the world and why?
Probably Rome as I lived there for four years and know it so well. It’s full of history and beauty and what you see on the surface is only a fraction of what is there. And the food! But I also have soft spots for London and New York, very different places but both great urban centres.
What’s your dream travel destination?
My bucket list is long and just keeps growing. Right now I’m hankering to explore some of the national parks in America, with Yosemite top of the list, and I want to take the kids to New York. The other place I am dying to see is Antarctica. If I could only ever travel to one place though, it would probably be Italy.
What is your dream destination that you would like to add to Travel Without Tears list of locations?
I can’t name just one. Sri Lanka, Antarctica, Namibia, Japan, Mongolia are all on the list, although it might take some time, as I like to have road-tested our destinations personally before we market them to others.
Name your must have travel accessory.
Other than my passport, it’s probably my iPhone. We’ve got some serious camera equipment in our household but my favourite shots and videos are usually taken on my phone.
What’s your favourite leisure activity whilst your travelling/on holiday? It could be something mellow like lying on the beach, or something more active like rock climbing.
The activity will always depend upon where we’re going; so if hiking or skiing or snorkeling or scuba diving are the must-dos in a particular place, I’m there. Rock-climbing is possibly a step too far! With any trip I curate for other families or my own, I try to build in an element of cultural immersion through hands-on activities to really make the experience unforgettable and educational. So that might be simply a fabulous interactive tour with a treasure hunt in a museum, or a craft activity such as making a traditional Carnevale mask in a workshop in Venice.
I love the beach but we’ve got some of the best in the world right here in Australia so it’s not something I generally hanker for on my travels.
What’s your favourite travel app?
I think of these in two categories – useful planning tools (for me) and educational apps for the kids. In the former category I’d include Tripit which combines all the elements of your travels in one itinerary. Packing Pro is great for getting organised. I’ve just downloaded the XE Currency app. I’ve used website for years but only recently realised they had an app. And I’ve heard good things about Google Translate. You hold your camera up to a sign in a foreign language and it translates it for you – great if you’ve arrived somewhere and don’t know the language. I’ll be road-testing it on our next trip.
I’m not sure why I bother hunting apps down for my kids. At 11 and 9 they are much more likely to find them for me. But I have had success with Duolingo which drills you on basic words in the language you choose. And I want them to start making dairies – so we’re going to give Travel Diary App a go.