Bron Leeks is an amazing mum of three kids. Cooper (11) who is adventurous, strong willed and has an awesome sense of humour who also happens to have Cerebral Palsy. Pepper (7) who is empathetic, dramatic and intuitive and Woody, (4) who is funny, flexible and affectionate.
Bron, her partner Andrew and their three kids live in suburban Melbourne and are currently building a new house on the Mornington Peninsula.
They LOVE to travel and have recently started a travel blog called Smiths Holiday Road sharing their family adventures and their tips & tricks to creating wonderful family memories with a focus on wheelchair accessibility.
MLTS: Thank you for chatting with us Bron! You’ve just returned from a trip the Northern Territory so you’re probably exhausted! What is it about travelling you love so much?
Bron: For me, it’s the spontaneity of travel. You never know what you will do each day which is the opposite to the normal routine of life! We like exploring new countries and testing and challenging ourselves. We enjoy learning about other cultures and exposing our kids to difference and variety.
MLTS: You’ve probably faced some tough challenges since Cooper was born. Do you have a motto which helps get you through the hard times?
Bron: Since Cooper was born our lives have changed dramatically but honestly for the better. Cooper’s brain injury and consequently his disability (Cerebral Palsy) allows us to really slow down and never take things for granted. Challenges change all the time as he grows and changes and the tough times are usually brought about by societies downfalls in regard to inclusion. When things get a bit much thats when I tend to jump online and book a trip!
MLTS: Where have you travelled to with the kids so far and what has been the longest flight?
Bron: With the kids we have been to Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, UAE, England, Wales, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, and France. The longest flight was 14 hours to Dubai and the kids were amazing travellers.
MLTS: Wow that’s an amazing amount of countries! Which were the kid’s favourite?
Bron: Cooper adores Europe especially Italy and all the amazing food. Pepper loved Laos for some rustic adventures. She loved riding a bike around the town and Woody enjoys anywhere with a pool!
MLTS: I’m sure you have many to chose from, but what’s been your most memorable moment on your travels?
Bron: It would have to be when we went to Laos. We adventured overnight from Bangkok on the sleeper train then got a car for five hours to Vang Vieng. While in Vang Vieng we explored a temple in a mountain cave and the only way to get up there was by over 100 steps. I helped Cooper walk up those steps then carried him down in 40 degree heat but it was so worth the view and adventure.
MLTS: What do you love most about travelling with the family in comparison to on your own?
Bron: When we travel with kids we get to speak to different people. Local people are more likely to approach us with the kids and they act as a beautiful icebreaker. Plus it’s never boring!
MLTS: While travelling Cooper uses a Quickie Zippie manual wheelchair, have you found this has held him back at all?
Bron: At home Cooper uses lots of different mobility devices but while we travel we can really only take one. It doesn’t hold him back as such but it doesn’t afford him the same independence as his walker and power wheelchair do at home.
MLTS: I hate the pressure of having to pack for the family before we go away, do you have any tips when it comes to packing?
Bron: We pack light. The last few flight see have done carry on only luggage. It means that one person can push Coopers wheelchair and hold Woody’s hand while the other adult carries the bags. Pepper carries her own pack too. We really only pack our essentials which includes a few outfits each, medicines and toiletries and electronic devices. We mostly travel in warm climates and stay somewhere with a washing machine.
MLTS: Smiths Holiday Road is a new blogging venture for your family, what made you decide to start a travel blog?
Bron: I had been blogging about disability for 6 years and it came to a point where the journey was now Coopers to own and things changed a bit. We had a trip to Europe booked so I thought it would be a great way to share our stories and a great way for the kids to blog as part of their world schooling. It has grown since then and we love sharing our inclusive accessible adventures on our blog, FB, Instagram.
MLTS: What do you think makes Smiths Holiday Road different to other travel blogs?
Bron: Our travel blog focuses on travelling with young kids but also focuses on how wheelchair accessible places are. It doesn’t necessarily highlight disability is is just part of the package which is how we see disability as part of our family too. We have three kids one of whom happens to use a wheelchair.
MLTS: The thought of travelling with kids can make many of us fearful, what’s some advice you would give to other parents planning an overseas trip?
Bron: I think its all about expectations! and lowering them! ha! Travel with kids is just different. It’s noisier, more challenging but so much more rewarding. Its important to plan but also important to just go with the flow and do not expect everything to work out perfectly.
MLTS: You have just returned from a holiday to Central Australia with Cooper to celebrate his 11th birthday, tell us about some of your highlights from this trip.
Bron: I wanted to surprise Cooper for his 11th birthday so packed our bags, boarded a plane and we explored Uluru (Ayers Rock) for four days. We still cant believe how amazing and big The Rock is and just how spiritual the whole area is. It was somewhere I had always wanted to go and I am so glad we went. I realised how well we travel together, how alike we really are and that he is great company.
MLTS: Geez Bron! Way to put the pressure on the rest of us for birthday presents this year! What an amazing present! Where are you planning on taking the family next?
Bron: We are exploring Tokyo, Japan for 2 weeks in April together. We have booked an apartment in the city and can’t wait to show the kids this amazing city.
MLTS: What would you say to someone who has a child with special needs and is reluctant to travel because of the difficulties they may face?
Bron: Never say never. Start small then work your way up to bigger adventures. It doesn’t have to be overseas or a cruise it can be an hour away in the car to a new destination. It is about stepping outside your comfort zone and proving to yourself and your kids that anything is possible.