We love travelling but it took time to adapt to travelling as a family. After a couple of, um, exhausting, trips with our infant son, we decided to put the idea of adventures with our kids on hold until we felt they were big enough to get anything out of the experience, and until we would be able to do more than just change dirty nappies and feed tiny kids in places more interesting than home.
This state of mind didn’t last that long. We both have itchy feet and just can’t sit still. We need to travel and to explore. There’s a whole world out there, people!
We soon realised that kids didn’t need to drastically alter that part of who we are. We just needed to adapt how we did things to enable us to start successfully travelling as a family.
And you know what? We were wrong to think small kids don’t get anything from travelling. Ok, so neither child remembers those first few trips we took but our son very much remembers a trip to Portugal just after his third birthday. His love of water parks stems directly from this time and he knows it well! Our daughter was two when we headed off to Mexico for six months. She may not remember details but she still retains a decent understanding of Spanish that regularly surprises us.
So, what changes can you make?
1. Exchange hostels and hotels for Airbnb.
We have no desire to go to bed at the same time as the kids (except when we do because we’re exhausted) and we don’t always want to have to eat meals in restaurants, especially in countries where restaurants don’t always open when we want them to (looking at you, Italy).
2. Try to remember not to book super early morning or late night flights.
I admit we aren’t great at this because, it turns out, we don’t much care if future us has to wrestle stroppy kids out of bed at 3am to pay a taxi approximately one gazillion pounds to get to the airport. Much better to accept the slightly higher cost of flying at a civilised hour.
3. Accept that airports are going to be even more stressful for a while.
No longer do we see airports in quite the same way. Pre kids they were pretty enjoyable places. We’d enjoy the anticipation of a new place with a saunter through security, peruse the shops and have a nice meal before boarding. Now we desperately hope there’s a play area, carry extra food and always, always battle to get our kids to walk sensibly and not run off in crowded airports. Yay. It’s always worth asking your airline if you can take your buggy to the gate though, this can make a huge difference in those first years.
Check out this link to my article on long distance travel with little kids.
4. Be realistic with your food hopes and dreams.
It was hard but we have accepted that we can no longer ‘foodie’ our way around the world. We can manage the odd ‘nice meal’ as long we we acknowledge that it comes at a cost: we probably won’t get to chat to each other much because we’ll be busy entertaining the kids, taking them outside to run or helping them draw while they wait for their food. Far better to go for averagely decent fare in more chilled out places than linger over 14 course meals or all you can eat (ahem, drink) brunches when kids are involved.
5. Accept that sunbathing time will be limited.
My total paranoia about leaving possessions on the beach means we barely ever get to swim in the sea together anyway but now we don’t really get to lie and chat on the beach either. One of us tends to take the kids for a swim / epic sand construction play while the other relaxes. Parental tag teaming at its best.
6. Slow down.
Travelling with kids has meant no longer just being able to be on the road all the time, not least because our little one gets travel sick so really doesn’t enjoy long journeys. Instead of moving location every few days we have learned to plan for more time in fewer locations and actually, slower travelling is pretty good fun.
7. No really, slow down.
Acknowledging that kids need real kid downtime is important. They need to run and scream and play in playgrounds or on the beach. They don’t want to walk around stamp museums or art galleries unless there is stuff to touch or fiddle with. Since accepting that we can’t do these things…at the moment, our travel expectations are lower. It’s ok though, we meet other parents, often locals, we chat and take a moment to breathe and remember that kids are kids, the whole world over.
But it’s still worth it. Every single second is worth it. Kids open doors you wouldn’t believe, and not just the ones marked ‘Private, Do Not Enter’, seriously, travelling with kids in tow is a sure fire way to meet locals and learn more about cultures than you could ever imagine. it’s so true, I even wrote an article about it. Check it out here. I have also written an article about extended travel with kids.
What changes have you made to adapt to travelling as a family? Or are you still plucking up the courage to climb back on the proverbial travel horse?