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Moms Around the World:
Tips for planning vacations with little kids from a local mom in the know
Today we touch down in tropical Cairns, Australia with mum of three and Director of Cairns Family Holidays, Peace Mitchell.
Peace has lived in the Cairns region of Australia nearly all of her life. Naturally, she loves the Great Barrier Reef, the islands, and the gorgeous rainforest there. She also appreciates the tropical climate and lifestyle there that is far more relaxed than that of most families in Sydney and the larger cities. Peace says her three sons, ages 4, 6, and 8, love fishing, bushwalking, snorkeling and swimming in their free time.
My favourite place to take the kids is to the beach. We have gorgeous beaches here, where the rainforest literally meets the reef. I love to pack a picnic, call up a few friends and head down to the beach with the kids for the day.
There are also lots of great walking trails in this area that take you to secret waterfalls and spectacular lookouts. We usually visit rainforest trails because they're closer, but in wet weather we like to head west for camping and bushwalking in the nearby outback region.
[She pointed me to the following links for her recommendations for going to the beach and also into the outback.]
Car seat laws:
The laws for car seats are quite strict in Australia; children under one year must be carried in an approved child restraint suitable for the child's weight and size and properly fitted.
Babies under 6 months must be restrained in a backward facing infant capsule or child seat.
Children up to 4 years must be in a forward facing child restraint and children over 4 and up to the age of 7 years must use a booster seat.
If you are traveling by taxi and a restraint is not available, you are exempt, but children under 12 must not sit in the front seat.
[What’s more, the car seats must be marked with the AS Australia Standards mark—your car seat from the U.S. probably doesn’t qualify.]
Public transportation: Public transport is limited in my area. Cairns city has buses but I would recommend that families coming here hire (rent) a car—don't forget we drive on the left! The larger cities of Australia, like Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, all have well established public transport systems with trains, buses, ferries and trams. The ferries are my favourite.
Cairns has some great family-friendly restaurants [she has a terrific guide of her own here]. Most of the ones along the esplanade will accommodate children and many offer early bird dining discounts which is perfect for families! I always carry a notebook and a couple of pens in my bag so that the kids can draw or play while they wait for meals to come out. My number one lunch recommendation is Skippers Cafe located inside the huge playground on Cairns Esplanade.
Most baby supplies, such as diapers, wipes and baby food can be found at our major supermarkets - Coles, Woolworth’s, Bi-Lo and IGA. For specific infant medicine or creams you'll need to visit a chemist or pharmacy.
For families visiting Australia and in particular Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef, I would say bring hats, sunscreen and long sleeved sun shirts. We are very much an outdoors nation and children can become sunburned quickly. Also, keep in mind the local seasons when planning your travel. April through November are the best times to visit Cairns. If you're travelling with young children I'd recommend visiting one of the islands. Or to see the rainforest, I would recommend taking a trip on the skyrail. We also have lots of great toddler-friendly playgrounds, wildlife parks and beaches.
Raising children has changed a lot in Australia since I was a child. Women are returning to work sooner and having less time off with each baby. I think it's as much a reflection of contemporary societies' expectations of women as it is of financial pressures. I stayed home with my children until they were 4 but I was an exception to the norm and it was a very conscious decision that we made.
Maternity leave: As a teacher I am entitled to 7 years unpaid leave, so I was always able to return to work should I need to or want to. Australia's maternity leave policy is something our current government is looking into as each company has their own rules as to how much time you are allowed to take and whether it is paid or unpaid leave. Some companies unfortunately still have no allowance for maternity leave at all. Few have any allowance for paternity leave.
Breastfeeding culture: Breastfeeding is acceptable in public places in Australia. Most large shopping centres and department stores provide parenting facilities. However, outside of the cities the regional towns have very few facilities making breastfeeding in public the only option for mothers traveling with infants. My non-profit organisation Mothers Helping Others, which some friends and I formed three years ago to help local families following cyclone Larry, has been working towards addressing this issue of parenting facilities by speaking with government representatives and in 2008 introduced the charter for inclusive communities in our local area to ensure that future town planning took into consideration the needs of infants, parents and caregivers with young children.
Thanks for sharing Cairns with us, Peace, and your wonderful advice and photos as well. For more tips about vacationing in Cairns and Australia's Tropical North with your family, check out her site: www.CairnsFamilyHolidays.com.au.
is the author of the award-winning guide
Travels with Baby: The Ultimate Guide for Planning Travel with Your Baby,
Toddler, and Preschooler.
Copyright (c) 2009 - 2014 Shelly Rivoli, author of Travels with Baby. All rights reserved.
Adapted from an earlier article by Shelly Rivoli that appeared in the national edition of Examiner.com.