Here are my 10 tips to get off the beaten track:
1. Pick one kid's activity per day. Sounds simple enough, but when you really look at your holiday itinerary I bet you'd discover most of it is geared towards the kids. Instead of trying to cram your days with aquariums, just pick one cool kid's activity each day and see what else the day brings.
2. Pack away the tourist guide. It's too easy to get stuck chasing crowds around and it can be really costly too. Choose a couple of must-see destinations you know everyone will enjoy and then toss the guide away. You'll save money and be free from pushing through crowds everywhere you go.
3. Stay in an Airbnb. By getting out of a family friendly hotel or caravan park and staying in an Airbnb you get a chance to immerse yourself in the local neighbourhood. On a recent trip to Sydney we stayed at an Airbnb house, which was just metres from Bondi Beach. It was our first time staying there and it was perfect for our family. The host gave us some awesome travel tips, that only the locals knew about, like where to get great pizza and coffee (a must for any parent). And because we got to stay in a house, with a yard, there was lots of space for everyone to relax.
4. Ask a local. The beauty of staying at an Airbnb is that we got to ask the host everything we needed to know about getting around Sydney, suited to our tastes. One such tip resulted in us jumping on a ferry from Circular Quay to Watsons Bay. We had no idea about where we were headed, but it was a highlight of our trip. I also asked my Sydney friends for tips. We got a heap of great ideas for restaurants, playgrounds and must-see spots that weren't packed with tourists.
5. Have no plans. Sometimes the best way to get off the beaten track is to have no plans. Walk out the door with your map and some snacks and see where you end up. Explore the neighbourhood you're staying in or jump on a bus, train, tram or ferry and see where it takes you.
6. Try something new. I know this sounds logical, but we fall into this trap all of the time. We stick to what we know the kids will like, rather than going out of our comfort zone. But remember when you promised yourself the kids would fit around your lives, not the other way around? On each holiday, we now try to do something we've never done before, to open up our eyes to new experiences.
7. Give yourself more time to explore. We've made the mistake in the past of cramming our holidays full of activities. With three kids you want to keep them busy, but they also need time to chill out. Instead of trying to see everything, allow yourself time to wander at leisure. There's more chance you'll discover something new you when you least expect it.
8. Throw routine to the wind. Sometimes you just have to give yourself a break from routines. Tailoring your entire holiday around sleep times can really make it tricky to get into the flow of free exploration. We've had holidays where our kids haven't had a bath for days, nor have they been to bed before 10pm. They survived, we, the parents, survived. In fact, they've been some of our best holidays. Nighttime adventures to get ice cream have become a regular holiday occurrence, so too has not brushing hair or eating balanced meals. Live a little.
9. Don't underestimate your kids. Kids like doing things that aren't always geared at them. They have big hearts, open minds and are inquisitive souls. Recently, we took the kids to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Circular Quay and it was an amazing experience for everyone. Modern art is a great way to get your kids interested in art galleries and this one has a top floor café with the most breathtaking views of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.
10. Take a chance. Simple as that. Do what the locals do and find out more about each destination you travel, rather than sticking to the tourist guides – there's so much more to discover. And your kids will love the adventure as much as you do.