When deciding who we should recommend to follow for the best tips on travelling when pregnant or with a family, we knew we were crazy for blogger ‘Travel Mad Mum’. Karen Edwards, otherwise known as: ‘Travelmadmum’ and partner Shaun Bayes: ‘Travelmaddad’ rrecently took the plunge and decamped from living in Dubai to living in Sri Lanka.
If you haven’t heard of them before then please take a look at their Instagrams and website: ‘travelmadmum.com‘
Originally from Ireland, Karen a nurse, like many of us dreamed of travelling the world and seeing different cities and experiencing different cultures. So when she had her first baby in 2015, she decided this was her chance and used her maternity leave to go for it, packing up her London house with partner Shaun Bayes.
They sold their car, put their house in Purley, south-west London up for rent and Shaun quit his job as a landscaper. Off they went traveling with 10 month old daughter Esme in tow, and they haven’t looked back since.
During their first 10-month trip, they travelled to Ireland, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan and Hong Kong with just one backpack between them.
She describes how tricky it was with a new-born in tow mainly because she was tired a lot of the time:
“Just like any other new mom, I was definitely in that baby daze”.
Karen, who breastfed Esmé during the trip and squeezed all their toiletries into baby food pouches to save space, said her family were very worried when she first revealed their plans to travel with the tot, but they kept going regardless learning a lot along the way, and the rest as they say is history.
They’ve now visited more than 60 countries, and managed to squeeze in giving birth to three more children including twins who are now toddlers. They’ve also won UK travel blogger of the year in 2017.
Travel Mad Mum now has an impressive global following of 150k +, and receive 160k visitors to their website TravelMadMum.com each month.
On their website they try to encourage their followers to quit the rat race and follow their lead:
“Travelling the world may seem off limits to most new parents. However, it does not have to be that way. ‘Travel Mad Mum’ aims to inspire other parents with personal experience, factual information and top tips for travelling with little ones.
“I always attempt to cover a range of topics such as backpacking with a baby, flying with a baby, flying with a toddler, travelling on maternity leave, babymoon travel, packing for a baby as well as destination-based information relevant for family travel.”
Most recently they decided to make a permanent move to Sri Lanka, an island in the Indian Ocean. It shares a maritime border with the Maldives in the South West, and India to the North West. Buddhism is the main official religion.
“It had been on our bucket list for ages,” says Karen but, it never transpired. Then, a sudden chance to relocate somewhere completely different came up! We could work remotely and be wherever we wanted to be.
So in our true adventurous spirit, we moved our family of 6 to Sri Lanka at the end of 2022. Having never been to Sri Lanka, we had no idea what to expect.
We chose Galle as our home which is on the South West Coast. It’s known for its beautiful Dutch fortress and coastline towns. We play ‘tourist’ every weekend and school holiday’s, and have loved exploring this incredible country.”
In her blog she describes how Sri Lanka is:
“A teardrop-shaped island in the Indian Ocean. It has a rugged coastline with sloping palm trees, a dense jungle with all kinds of wildlife, soaring mountains covered in tea plantations, sacred temples with centuries of history and the warmest people you will ever meet!
Sri Lankans absolutely love children and travelling around the country with little ones is likely to open up so many friendly conversations with locals who will want to greet you! They are ever so friendly”.
It was a brave move given the dramatic political turmoil the country has gone through recently leaving their economy in tatters. The political crisis started in 2022 when there was a power struggle between President Rajapaksa and the parliament of Sri Lanka. It was fuelled by anti government protests and public demonstrations.
How safe do they feel in Sri Lanka?
Karen describes how friends and followers have been concerned about them and regularly posed the question ‘do they feel safe living there’?
“The honest answer is yes, we feel safe, and we have not witnessed anything to worry about in terms of political unrest.
We exercise the same caution as every other country. We don’t leave belongings lying around and we don’t travel around late at night.
My biggest issue when it comes to safety in Sri Lanka is the roads. The bus drivers are crazy, to say the least. However, this is no different from many neighbouring countries.”
What time of year is the best to visit Sri Lanka?
The couple recommend tourists visit between December and April.: “There is a fantastic highway which runs from Colombo through the southwest which makes exploring a lot easier.
There is also the Sri Lankan New Year (Avurudu) which is one of the most significant cultural celebrations in Sri Lanka, usually occurring in mid-April.
It marks the beginning of the new year according to the Sinhala and Tamil calendars. Families come together and play traditional games, prepare special meals and go to the temple.
Vesak, also known as Buddha Purnima, commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and passing away of Lord Buddha.
It is a major Buddhist festival celebrated with vibrant decorations, lanterns, and religious observances. Vesak usually takes place in May and includes activities such as visiting the temple, engaging in acts of charity, and lighting oil lamps.
The streets are filled with businesses giving out complimentary food to the people of Sri Lanka. Many businesses close and under no circumstances is liquor sold anywhere during the holiday.”
So how do you get to Sri Lanka?
Sri Lankan Airlines fly direct from a number of different countries worldwide but Karen advises “they are not great with dietary requirements and kids meals. If you use SL Airlines, it may be worth bringing some snacks just in case.”
For those travelling from Europe, there are a number of carriers which may offer a stopover in the Middle East. This may make flights more affordable.
Travel mad mum also recommend the following tips for flying with kids of all ages: