Do you want to travel more, but are concerned about traveling with your kids? Maybe you’re thinking about having kids and wondering if you’ll have to stop traveling? I talk to people regularly who answer yes to both of these questions. I’m writing this post to persuade you to think again!
Why do I care? I care because travel has changed our lives and the lives of countless others. Travel opens us to the world, gets us out of our comfort zones, and challenges us to see life in new ways… it’s transformative. When families step away from travel, parents forgo some of the greatest transformational experiences available, kids are grow up without the rich life education that new experiences offer, and the family unit misses out on the growth and connection that are built having new and enriching experiences together.
Thanks for reading the rant… now let’s get practical! we’ve traveled near and far, for fun and for business, to see sights and to chill on the beach, etc. Before Daniel was born we traveled a moderate amount. After Daniel was born we moved to India for 2 years and started traveling heavily… we actually travel more now than before Daniel!
What have we learned?? Three words… planning, preparation, and participation. With the right planning, preparation, and participation traveling with kids is awesome!
Where to go? Big question! There are so many places in the world and different ways to experience them. When we’re planning a trip with Daniel we compare potential destinations against the following criteria.
· Activities available and how appealing they sound to us
· Age restricted/appropriate activities
· Accommodations that will be comfortable for the 3 of us
· Availability of downtime activities… for example, pool, playground, park, beach, etc.
· Food options
· Age appropriate learning opportunities
Planning a trip that will be fun, comfortable, enriching, and safe for the whole family is really important. There are places that we don’t plan to go to until Daniel’s a bit older because of the types of experiences we want to have. A great example is a safari in Africa… for lots of reasons kids under 12 are not permitted on many of the safaris. I’m sure we could find a safari that would take Daniel at age 8, but we’ve decided to follow the general guideline and hold off.
What to bring? Kids are little people, and even the tiniest ones need lots of stuff! The more prepared we are, the smoother the travel. This is particularly important when a trip involves long travel days (i.e. long plane, car, boat, train, etc. ride). What follows are some items to consider.
· Snacks… load up and have more than enough available!
· Clothes for both traveling and the destination… sometimes planes, boats, and trains are cold… it’s also important that travel clothes are comfortable.
· Activities are critical… books, finding books, activity books, sketch pads, coloring books, iPad/tablet/other electronics, movies, cards, travel size connect 4…
· A few familiar things… we always let Daniel take a little bag of toys and a favorite stuffed animal.
· For babies and toddlers…
o Bring enough diapers for the whole trip when traveling out of North America.
o Bring your own formula.
o Consider bringing a pack-and-play if you’re not sure what will be available at the hotel.
o Unless traveling with an infant, we strongly recommend buying a seat (primarily applicable for plane travel) for the child even if not required… we always took Daniel’s car seat and he felt comfortable in his own familiar space and we felt more comfortable too.
Daniel’s first trip on a plane was to India when he was 14 months old. He has become one of the best travelers we know. We joke that when he was really little Todd and I often didn’t have much of our own things in our backpacks, but having a content kid on a long plane ride was worth it! Now we have him take a very active role in preparation… it helps him get excited for trips and we’re sure he’ll have plenty to eat, will be occupied, and will be comfortable.
As we’ve traveled one of the biggest mistakes we’ve seen parents make (and we’ve made from time to time) when traveling with kids is not participating. What do I mean? Kids often want to do stuff… kids aren’t satisfied laying by the pool reading a book. When the parents don’t participate the kids get bored and try to get attention… this is where it all goes wrong! We’ve all been somewhere and there are kids running around like crazy and the parents are sitting checking email. Why spend the money to go on a trip together if you’re not going to do things together?!
As parents we need to go into the trip expecting to have a different sort of experience than we’d have with adults. There may be more activities and they will likely be different, and we may not have as much relaxation time as we’d normally have. Does this mean that parents need to sacrifice everything? Not at all… what follows are some of the things we do to make sure we all have fun and get some time to relax.
· We talk about the things each of us want to do the most and ask Daniel to participate with us too… we find that when we are balanced Daniel’s really reasonable.
· We talk about taking relaxation time and make sure Daniel has some things that help him relax too… Daniel’s at the point now where he looks forward to a little relaxation time.
· We have some activities where we take turns… these are especially great at restaurants because we don’t have to be completely engaged all the time and can relax and have a conversation. One of our favorites is what we call “group art”… we bring a sketch pad and take turns drawing… it’s really fun to see what the page looks like at the end!
· We always have a little speaker and play music we all like to listen to.
· We look at the activities available for kids… many hotels and campgrounds offer a lot and Daniel usually picks a few things he’d like to do.
· Todd and I each have activities that we do one-on-one with Daniel. These activities give each of us great bonding time with Daniel and some time alone.
· When Daniel was little we stuck to his nap schedule and booked rooms with patios or balconies… during nap time we relaxed, read, talked, listened to music, etc.
Ready to book a trip? Planning, preparation, and participation won’t let you down! Go out and see the world!