“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” –Saint Augustine
Our son has taken 18 flights in 21 months. Are we crazy? Maybe. (Are we lucky? Definitely. I can’t write any further without first acknowledging that.)
We’ve received a variety of looks when we tell people about the trips we’ve taken with our little one, ranging from what appears to say, “How exciting!” to “But…why?” To answer those unasked questions, because of course the easier option would be to just stay home, here’s why we make it a priority to travel with our son.
1). Much of our traveling involves visiting family who live across multiple states and continents. We’re especially lucky to be able to take vacations just for fun, too, but I wanted to clarify that there’s no way our toddler would’ve already taken 18 flights “just for fun.” (We might be crazy, but we’re not that crazy.)
2). The next, most obvious reason is that we love to travel. Not everything in life has to change after having a baby. There’s too much of the world to see, and I’m personally not ready to be away from my son for enough time yet to take those kinds of vacations without him. Rather than wait a decade for another long trip, we opt to bring the little one along.
3). I believe it’s important for kids (and adults, for that matter) to learn about other cultures, meet people whose day-to-day lives are different than their own, experience new languages and foods, see important landmarks, and learn about history. My son is too young to fully appreciate most of this, but (a) it sets a foundation for how he will grow up understanding the world (90% of the human brain develops before age 5!), and (b) if we don’t start now, when would we? There’s always an excuse to not do something, and there’s no time like the present! Our son is a very easygoing traveler, and I credit this to his early exposure.
4). Wherever you are, you deal with the everyday parenting stuff. Once, at a car rental desk, we met an older couple who told us that they also traveled often with their kids while they were little. The woman shrugged and said, “You have to change diapers at home, too.” You can’t escape it, so why not do it in an interesting place? Admittedly, there have been stressful moments during our travels that I’ve questioned my judgment, but that also happens on an occasional Tuesday morning at home, so…
5). Our trips look a little different now than they did in our pre-parent lives, but it’s new kind of fun. Yes, I know my son won’t remember it, but he won’t remember most of these early years of life, and that’s no excuse not to live them. We remember, and it has been so exciting to see the world through his eyes, to watch him crawl around the ruins of a medieval castle in Wales, feed horses at a farm in the Alps, and play in the sand in Puerto Rico. (I mentioned it earlier, but it bears repeating: we are very, very lucky.)
Here are a few things we’ve learned to keep in mind when planning a family trip:
- Keep realistic expectations. Make a short list of “must see” things in each location of your trip, and decide how much you can reasonably do per day. Make a B-list of what you’d like to see if the stars align and you find you have extra time. You won’t see everything, but you wouldn’t anyway, even without kids in tow.
- Novelty is your friend. Bring new activities for the planes, trains, and car rides. Maybe it’s a few small new toys; maybe it’s precious screen time.
- Do a test run at home of how you will transport your luggage through the airport. (Bonus points for things that can be carried on your back, like diaper bags and travel Pack ‘n Plays.)
- Allow time to adjust when you return home. Take it easy those first few days back, if possible, and remind yourself that eventually your schedule will return to “normal,” whatever that is. We’ve actually found that our son adjusts to the time changes more quickly than we do.
- At least once a day, pause for a minute and take it in. Let your children stretch their legs and play while you drink a coffee or your adult beverage of choice at a local watering hole. Put down the phone and the camera; people-watch; notice the details of your surroundings. Traveling isn’t about checking museums off a bucket list, but about experiencing a place. You and your little ones will appreciate the breather.
Have you traveled with young children? Which was your favorite place to visit? What travel tips do you have?