“Travel while you can, because once you have kids you won’t be able to.”
I can’t tell you how many times my husband and I received this advice in our first few years of marriage. And the sad thing is, I actually began to believe these words. I told myself we wouldn’t travel as much once we had kids and tried to temper my expectations. I decided that we would go when the kids were older.
But then my daughter Claire was born, and . . . my passion for travel didn’t go away like I imagined it would. A lot of things in my life did change – but my wanderlust was not one of them. And while I’m all for leaving kids at home with trusted caregivers from time-to-time, the truth is: it’s easier in some ways to bring them along.
We take our daughter with us. Everywhere. If anything, we’ve traveled more since we’ve become parents. We just travel differently.
So for newbie parents who are aching to see more of this beautiful earth or seasoned parents who haven’t traveled much since having kids, here are some tips and tricks that have made it easier for us as young parents to still travel with babies and toddlers in tow.
Start Packing a Week Before You Leave
Yes, you may trip over said suitcase in the middle of the night when you wake up to feed the baby. BUT you will also remember things you definitely would have left at home if you started packing the day before. Things like a hat for the baby, sunscreen (which you should always bring with you), bug spray, and headphones. You’re far less likely to forget something you might need if you start early. Packing cubes are also tremendously helpful when traveling with kids. It keeps everyone’s clothing separate from each other and lets you sort the dirty clothes from the clean clothes as you go.
Bring Whatever You Might Need for the Kids
Not necessarily things like picture books and toys. But children’s fever medicine, a thermometer, and a small first-aid kit are all good ideas. Not to mention your child’s comfort items like pacifiers and blankets. Most of them don’t take up that much space but are so nice to have on planes or in new situations. We have a special bag we fill with all of the things we could need while traveling with kids and pretty much just pull it out when we travel. We don’t always use them, but wow, have some of those things have come in handy at 4 a.m. in Zurich, Switzerland.
It’s hard for everyone to sleep in one room. Not only can the kids see you after you put them down, but then you have to go to bed — or pretend to at least for awhile, until they are asleep. (We learned this the hard way our first night in Jamaica). What adult wants to go to bed at 7:30? Whenever possible, we ask to either upgrade to a suite or book an apartment on Airbnb, so we have separate sleeping quarters. They sleep better. We sleep better. Everyone wins.
Manage & Adjust Your Itinerary (Around Your Kids, Duh)
On our recent trip to Europe, we found that our two-year-old is a nightmare in museums. Like “touch priceless works of art and get us kicked out of the National Gallery in London” kind of nightmare. So . . . we adjusted our itinerary. We visited cathedrals instead of museums in London. We went on nature hikes in Zurich. We played for hours at the park at the base of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona — the best view you can get from any angle. We would love to go back and visit the museums we missed. But I don’t regret going to those places just because museums were off the table this visit. I tell myself everywhere I go, “We’ll come back.” Whether that’s true or not, it makes me feel better. And I’d always rather go than not go.
There will always be people who criticize you for traveling as a young parent — whether you leave the kids at home or bring them along. Some say it’s selfish to so drastically change their routines. Others think it’s inconsiderate to fellow passengers and tourists. Well-meaning people will say that it’s not worth it because “the kids won’t remember it.” Someone recently pointed out to me that not taking your kids on trips because they won’t remember it is like deciding not to read to your kids because they won’t remember the books. Your children hear sounds, see new things, and learn while you read to them. Traveling is very similar. It not only can bring you closer as a family, but it also teaches your children to be flexible, patient, and, tolerant. Haters gonna hate. Raise your children how you want and respect your own ambitions by traveling with them. … not taking your kids on trips because they won’t remember it is like deciding not to read to your kids because they won’t remember the books.
… not taking your kids on trips because they won’t remember it is like deciding not to read to your kids because they won’t remember the books.
Check Your Ego
No matter how much preparation you put into it, traveling with kids is humbling. We took a 14-hour flight to Sydney with Claire when she was 18 months old. Instead of sleeping (like we assumed she would on a red-eye), she got restless and kind of hyper. Those 14 hours were some of the worst of my life. BUT we got through it and now we laugh about it. We have been scolded, shushed, and received more annoyed stares than I can count when traveling with babies and toddlers. And you know what? We’re all fine. We got to see the world as a family and had a wonderful time doing so. Hopefully, those angry people were able to do the same.
We try to look at our travels with kids as an adventure — not a vacation. That way, when things (inevitably go wrong) which, they will with or without kids, we’re prepared. The airline lost our stroller once we landed in Fiji? Traveling without one will be an adventure! The toddler dropped a glass on her foot in Switzerland and needs to go to the ER? The hospital experience with a language barrier will be an adventure! No matter what, traveling is exciting. Kids just add another element of unpredictability. And seeing their faces when they see something or eat something new is one of the most rewarding parts of travel for many parents.
By waking up each day ready for new experiences, we’ve been able to travel more than we ever have, with a baby and now a toddler in tow. And you know what? We’ve loved every minute of it.
Are you a young parent who’s pursued your globetrotting dreams with your kids? Got any additional tips? Leave them in the comments section below.