How to Use Maternity or Paternity Leave to Travel
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For people who love to travel, any time out of the office is time available to get away. One exciting prospect of having a baby can be the authorised absence of up to a year away from work. Should you then start planning how to maximise your maternity or paternity leave by hitting the road?
Sometimes called a ‘familymoon’, more families are chosing to spend their maternity leave abroad. My family used Shared Parental Leave (SPL) in 2016 and again in 2018, taking trips to the US, Norway and South East Asia. While maternity leave and caring for a new baby is definitely not a holiday, the change of pace and escaping the dark UK winters with your family is certainly a luxury.
Learn Your Maternity and SPL Entitlement
Start by finding out your company’s policy on maternity, paternity and SPL and pay. Read the UK government’s website and ACAS guidance. As SPL only came about for babies born after 1 April 2015, it’s still a relatively new system. The important part to know for travel is that you can take SPL at the same time as your partner, so you can travel as a family. Currently, only 1% of new parents take SPL.
Decide How Long to Travel
Some families take off for the entire year, pulling any older children out of school, renting out their home and using whatever maternity and paternity pay they receive to live off while travelling. Heather of Wanderfullfamily did just that. She and her husband Mark left London for eight months in 2018 and went through 22 countries and 12 US states with her three children and lived off her (enhanced) UK maternity pay.
During my two maternity leaves, I travelled for 12 weeks at the same time as my partner using SPL. We found that by renting out our place in London while we travelled, we had more of a budget to work with and could keep our flat, nursery place and not have to pack up our entire lives.
Using Points and Miles on Maternity Leave
A key part of maximising my maternity leaves was using points and miles. We used a BA Companion Voucher and a stockpile of Avios to fly Club World to Hong Kong and return from Singapore. We also used Avios for Cathay Pacific tickets within Asia. On all of these flights, our baby only cost 10% of the Avios plus taxes and fees.
Many parents I spoke to used hotel points to help subsidise the cost of their trip. Additionally, many did a version of high/low travel, meaning they’d stay in lower-cost accommodation for part of the trip and then splurge on a few nights at a nice hotel, often using points and miles to cover that portion.
Embrace the Familymoon
Don’t forget to alert hotels ahead of time that you are on a special trip — although, of course, never expect anything. We found that hotels were happy to upgrade us when they had availability and were very accommodating with baby supplies and even gifts. If it is your first child, they do sleep a lot during the day, which leaves you and your partner with time to actually speak to each other. It is an amazing bonding time as a new family.
While traditionally spent at home alone by the mother with her new baby, maternity or paternity leave and SPL can now be spent all over the world as a family. You can trade pushing the pram in the February rain for babywearing in Bali and use points and miles can help you get there.
All photos by the author.