Introducing you to the team behind Little City Trips.
We speak to one of our editors and founders of Little City Trips, Keri Hedrick to find out a little more about her life as an expatriate in Abu Dhabi, where she lives with her husband and 3 children.
When did you start your life of travel?
Being born overseas, it’s pretty much been since birth! My parents expatriated Britain to New Zealand back in the ‘70’s, then we permanently immigrated to Australia in the early 80’s. Most of my childhood I remember traversing country Australia in the back of a Ford Falcon! We lived in both Perth and Melbourne which were great bases for exploring Australia.
My overseas travel bug only really hit when I made my first solo mission to Europe at age 20. Then I was hooked! It made me realise there was so much big wide world out there. I was determined to take on a career that would allow me to travel. I did work experience at a travel agency, but I knew this was unlikely to be a lasting career to pay the bills…. So I did the sensible thing and became a Chartered Accountant!
I met my now husband on a rugby weekend in Wales, while he was on leave from his job in Afghanistan – he is certainly where I get my sense of adventure for more far-flung places!
How did you find your time in London with kids?
When I lived there it was just everyday life. We’d strap the baby on and just head out for the day. When our second child arrived it became more challenging but still do-able….
Revisiting a couple of years later when I had three kids with me on my own plus a stroller, I realised just how daunting newcomers can find a city like London. We didn’t achieve half of what I had on my bucket list, as fighting through the summer crowds was just exhausting.
The kids did get to see where the Queen lives though, and they loved being shown back to all the parks we used to enjoy. We were blessed with sunny weather, but this certainly isn’t always the case in London!
What would you recommend for London newbies?
Plan your travels outside of London peak commuter times where possible. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it, and keep some sort of name tag or phone number on your kids when you get to very busy crowded places. (You can see more of our tips for getting around London with kids here).
We didn’t get time to revisit the Kensington museums on our last trip – but they are a must! And I always recommend first-timers to take a river cruise down the Thames to Greenwich – have your photo standing on GMT!! Getting an open top bus (weather dependent!) is a great way to get your orientation of the city.
How have you come to now live in the Middle East?
My husband was offered a job in Abu Dhabi immediately after we had our second baby in London. We knew it was going to be near impossible to continue our inner city London life with two kids and holding down two full-time jobs with a commute. So we made the bold decision at that point to start our expatriate lives!
It helped immensely that we had family living in Abu Dhabi who were able to show us the ropes and get us settled in quickly. We had visited Dubai on a few occasions before (and seen it grow immensely over the previous decade!) so had a rough idea what to expect.
We are warm weather lovers which really helps – though we still disappear back to Australia every summer when it gets too hot!
The location in the world for a travel-lover couldn’t be better though. We have great access to both Abu Dhabi and Dubai International Airports which cover flights to most countries in the world. We love that we’re now closer to Asia, but equally can still do long weekends in Europe, or fly back home to Australia on a direct flight.
Do you have a favourite city with kids so far?
Some are special for their own reasons – and it honestly changes based on every age and stage we are at!
Ho Chi Minh City was one of the first really spontaneous, adventurous trips we took and gave us that all important boost “we really can do this with kids” – we’ve been back through HCMC three times now transiting to other parts of Asia!
Our kids truly loved Sydney, I think mostly for its famous landmarks they could relate to! And Singapore was a city stop they really enjoyed, just so many activities to keep them busy. Singapore is so clean and easy to get around, so we’ll definitely be using that as a hub city again.
Personally, I think Cape Town was one of my all time favourite trips though. After living in the desert, we just found it so lush! It’s a beautiful and dramatic city with many sides to it. Definitely hire a car and get down to the Cape Peninsular. We also had a wonderful time in the Stellenbosch wine region. It was one of those truly wonderful family breaks – albeit it’s a long way to fly!
And what about in your home city Abu Dhabi, what are highlights visitors mustn’t miss?
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is always a must – it really is beautiful but won’t hold the kids’ attention for too long. We suggest staying at Yas Island which is in the heart of the cities entertainment zone – you have Yas Waterworld, Ferrari World and the newly opened Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi. We have a few more suggestions of our favourite Abu Dhabi places with kids here.
Is there anywhere you’ve visited that you haven’t loved, or didn’t work well with kids?
It wasn’t lack of love – I desperately wanted to love Phnom Penh in Cambodia. But we had a nasty bag snatching incident there that soured our experience and made us nervous travellers. We did stay in one of the nicest little inner-city haven hotels there that saved the trip – the Kabiki. In comparison, Siem Reap which I’d read some negative reviews about was wonderful, a very different vibe. We could have explored there much longer, beyond just the Angkor Temples. All up Cambodia is great, but hard work with small children.
What’s the one big bucket list city you want to visit with kids?
I think we would all love to visit New York City. The US always feels that little bit too far away from the Middle East, but we are eyeing up cashing in some frequent flyer points if this route goes on sale again soon! My kids are suckers for the big famous sites so will want to see the Statue of Liberty and Central Park, and my daughter would love to see a Broadway Musical.
Now the all-important question, what’s always in your travel bag?
My camera!! Well, my smartphone these days – the camera on the new Samsung Galaxy 9 is insanely good. And a spare battery pack. And wet-wipes. You always need wet wipes travelling with kids!
Where can we learn more about your adventures?
As well as co-editing the Little City Trips website, I have a personal blog for my families travel and expat adventures Our Globetrotters | Instagram | Facebook. I also run a community specifically for visitors looking to visit the Middle East, as we know it can be daunting and a bit of an unknown for new travellers – Family Travel in the Middle East.