So, you have created tiny humans but you still want to travel. Great news! Your new creation and passport can live in harmony. It requires a little work and a change in mindset but it is possible.
You have to change your mindset. Mindset is everything and the best thing is it is a choice you can make! Traveling WILL be different, but different does not have to be bad. The differences you encounter will depend on the age and personality of the children. Especially when kids are younger, travel will be slower and your nights will end earlier.
The phrase “stop and smell the roses” comes to mind when I travel with my kids. There are often things missed in running from one stop to another. Kids are typically lower to the ground, more observant and see beauty we ourselves often miss. To see things through the eyes of a child will give you a new perspective on things. I find myself lost again in the magic of life, nature and food when traveling with my kids. There is nothing more enchanting and innocent than the look of pure joy in a child’s eyes. Do I miss my crazy, fast paced, carefree travel days? Of course, I do sometimes. To me there is nothing better than seeing the look of amazement in my daughters’ eyes when the plane takes off, or we see a waterfall, or run through an open field.
Some people think once you have kids your only travel options are Disney World or other kid focused vacation areas. That is just not true. Kids are amazing at finding joy everywhere! Sometimes places you wouldn’t think of as “kid friendly” will have hidden gems. There are children everywhere. Delve into the local life. You may not get as much quantity out of your travel as usual, but the quality of your time in a location will increase exponentially.
I also had to develop my own personal reasons as to why my children need to travel. Society and people close to you will often tell you to “wait until they’re old enough to remember it.” I disagree. Traveling with children when they are young is important to me. I feel like I get challenged daily to maintain that belief, so you have to be strong in your choice and opinion to travel with children. Bottom line there are children everywhere and we were all children once so I don’t feel anything is “off limits” to these tiny humans. Don’t get me wrong, there are certain places I would never take my children (downtown Las Vegas at 3 am, I’m talking about you), but that’s a personal choice.
I started to travel with my kids while they were young to build a solid foundational love of travel. It gives us an opportunity to do so many great things. We see diversity and culture first hand. It gives us time to truly enjoy life. Personally, it gives me focused time with my kids – I can’t worry about a messy house or work when I am not there. It teaches us to be patient and flexible. It ignites curiosity and passion. Basically, any reason you want to travel is a reason I want my children to travel. I don’t always remember every detail of every trip I have taken, it doesn’t mean it hasn’t molded or changed me somehow.
Traveling with these tiny humans also requires extensive preparation. The groundwork is totally worth it in the end! I do far more research prior to a trip with my kids than I would do otherwise. I research on the areas we will be sightseeing in. I look up restaurants that seem family friendly and note locations of playgrounds or open areas. I investigate local deals and popular attractions. For example, when we took my toddler to Pittsburgh, we went to an amazing children’s museum I had found online prior to the trip. It wasn’t listed as a top sightseeing location or anything like that, but people in Pittsburgh have kids so I looked at places those people go. I try to go into a trip with a loose itinerary in place. I plan what I would like us to do but have plenty of back up plans. Sometimes the kids need to eat at 11 instead of noon. Sometimes they have a lot of energy and we need to see things that burn that energy. We adjust the daily plans as needed so we all have a good time and aren’t miserable at the end of the day.
I also prepare when packing. My go to item to keep everyone happy when traveling: snacks. Hungry people are often crabby people. That goes for kids and adults! I have never been more amazed than when I discovered the power of trail mix at keeping my children quiet and entertained. They will spend 15 minutes silently picking through that mix making sure they did not miss one of those treasured M&M’s. I also bring brand-new quiet toys (think books and puzzles) to keep them quiet and still. Brand-new things hold some special power simply because they’re new.
About Valerie: Valerie is an emergency trauma nurse living near Chicago. Mom to Natalie (4) and Juliette (2) who are well traveled toddlers.