Lonely Planet Writer

Travel-blogging parents using maternity leave to see the world with their family

In 2014, ten weeks after having their first child, Karen Edwards and Shaun Bayes decided to make the most of maternity leave, packing up their belongings, renting out their London home and hitting the road for an adventure that took them across New Zealand and South East Asia, all with newborn daughter Esmé in tow. Karen’s unique experiences led to her starting a successful blog called Travel Mad Mum, where she offered advice and information to other parents and would-be-adventurers. And now, having had a second baby in June, Karen and Shaun have done the exact same thing again, this time heading to Central and South America with the now three-year-old Esmé and the latest addition, four-month-old Quinn.

A family portrait taken in San Francisco.
A family portrait taken in San Francisco. Image by Marissa HB Photography

“The first time we did it, we would not have changed it for the world. We had a year together and our undivided attention was solely on Esmé. We loved exploring with her and we feel it has somewhat shaped her personality. Of course she doesn’t remember anything from her first year but we show her photos and she recalls as far back as being two. So far her earliest memory is from Venice when we took her on our honeymoon last year. She remembers going on gondolas!” Karen told Lonely Planet Travel News. That first trip taught the family how to make decisions on the bare necessities needed for travel, taking only one backpack for the three of them.

When the year ended, Karen went back to working full-time as a nurse. The family also managed to make time for buying and renovating a house, getting married and travelling to another 12 countries. Following the birth of Quinn this year, Karen and Shaun once again rented their house out and decided to sell everything they had, including their car, in an effort to fund the new trip. The planning was done towards the end of the pregnancy, with the couple charting a route that started in Calgary and saw them road tripping to Vancouver and down the entire West Coast of the USA before flying to Belize, Guatemala and El Salvador. Following that, the family plans to fly to New Zealand before heading home.

Karen and Quinn in a pool in Guatemala.
Karen and Quinn in a pool in Guatemala. Image by Travel Mad Mum

As well as sharing her experiences, some of the informative topics covered on Karen’s Travel Mad Mum blog include flying with babies and toddlers, travel health and vaccinations, feeding fussy babies abroad, financing a baby gap year and which buggies and carriers are the best to use. Both Karen and Shaun use Instagram to document their adventures with the family, using the monikers Travel Mad Mum and Travel Mad Dad.

A post shared by TRAVEL MAD MUM (@travelmadmum) on

“We’ve learnt that it’s actually easier to be away from home than being at home with a new baby. That might sound ludicrous to most people or creatures of comfort. We don’t have a house to maintain and we have two parents around 24/7. Essentially it’s easier than being at home running errands, cooking, cleaning, attending classes, working and so on. If you want to do it, go for it. Save hard and plan in advance,” Karen said.