unsettle down family

Meet: Chelsea, Nomadic Mom and Content Creator

As a little girl, Chelsea dreamed of Sweden. 

The mom behind the family travel site Unsettle Down had distant family in Sweden, and wanted to see what the country was like. Instead, her parents took the family on a two week trip around the East Coast of the United States and up into Canada. 

“That trip has stuck with me forever,” Chelsea says. “From then on, I couldn’t get enough of seeing new places. Every bit of money I saved in high school and college went towards weekends and breaks away. A quick 16-hour drive for a weekend in Miami? No problem. A weekend zip lining in the West Virginia mountains? Yes, please!”

Jobs at trade shows and conferences let her explore the U.S. Early in her relationship with her husband, Matt, they visited 20 states and three countries. They settled in San Diego, but eventually decided to take their 18-month-old backpacking around Europe.

Now they have two kids, 1 and 5, and are “a bit more settled—but plan to hit the road again soon!” 

Chelsea shared her strategy for saving on flights, her favorite travel app, and her advice for families who want to make the leap like hers did. 

In three words, our travel style is…

Flexible, slow, and Off-Broadway. Think Frenchmen Street, not Bourbon Street, Slieve League not Cliffs of Mohr. Our favorite locations have been places that the locals recommend and our favorite days have been unplanned!

If our children could learn one thing from traveling, it would be…

Empathy. To be able to walk in someone else’s shoes is one of life’s most important skills. Everyone, no matter what corner of the world, wants the same thing: a safe place to raise their family, a roof over their head, good food, and happiness. Even though people may look different and have different experiences, we all share the same needs. Traveling will also always teach our kids that nowhere is too far away and nothing is out of reach. 

The key in our travel budget is…

Flexibility. We are able to travel more, for longer periods of time, because Matt can work from anywhere. We avoid expensive locations during expensive times of the year. We love the off-season and we very much enjoy staying at places for a week to a month. Getting to know how the locals live, getting off the beaten path, and finding the culinary gems are our favorite things about traveling. 

My favorite family destination is….

A hard question to answer! We really felt that our kid was most welcomed in Spain, Germany, Croatia, and Italy. In places like Dublin and in the U.K., kids are not wildly accepted at many pubs but we certainly loved our stays there. Norway was an adventurer’s dream, but likely a bit too adventurous for young kids. Spain and Italy certainly had the best cuisine for the littles and adults alike. Of course, our time in Ireland and Sweden (where we visited family) have been among our favorite stays. 

The destinations on our bucket list are…

Europe has been our obsession, but in light of current world events, we have decided to refocus our energy on our own country. Our 2021 bucket list in the States includes Glacier National Park, the Pacific Northwest, Zion National Park, Alaska, and Hawaii. Internationally, Peru, Japan, Costa Rica, Iceland, and the rest of Europe top our list! 

Our best family-travel hacks are…

Search for individual plane tickets, instead of in groups. If you’re able to be flexible, book inexpensive long-term stays near public transportation and use them as a home base to venture out. We have been able to afford to see so many other cities by finding great home bases!  

Our favorite travel apps are…

We love using Rome2rio for train travel and Hopper for air travel. Google flights and Momondo are great resources too! 

Our first flight with Kailen was to…

Chicago when she was 9 months old and she fared fabulously. 

To families who want to travel the way we do…

Don’t call it a dream, call it a plan. If you plan it right, you don’t have to dream anymore. 

Our favorite travel experiences are usually…

The first days in a new city. If we can afford more than a few days there, we usually make no plans and then let the city guide us. We are always so in awe of how authentic our experience is when we have no plans (especially on the very first day and traveling with young kids). 

Other families can learn more about us at…

Our Instagram @Unsettledown. Our website is www.unsettledown.com, where you can find some awesome resources!

Sara Clemence is a freelance journalist, formerly travel editor for The Wall Street Journal and news director for Travel + Leisure. She's the author of Away & Aware, a guide to mindful travel.

GET YOUR FAMILY THE BEST PRICES ON TRAVEL.