“Let’s go abroad!”
“Wait! We have toddlers!”
“So many things to prepare especially if you travel with kids.”
“Let’s just do it next year then.”
This is a common dialogue between husbands and wives who have toddlers. Postponing a trip abroad because of all the inconvenience of traveling with a toddler. Well, if you can relate to this kind of problem you are not the only one.
But traveling has to be one of the most prominent new luxuries of this decade. With the prices of airfare getting more affordable and with services like Airbnb making stuffy, pricey hotel accommodations a thing of the past, there’s never really been a better time to see the world more.
It’s easier than ever to see different places without getting lost or put at significant risk thanks to constant portable internet connections that can help you map a walking route or find a museum or temple or coffee shop at a moment’s notice.
Let’s Travel With Our Toddlers
The same is true, really, for those who have kids to consider, even parents of toddler-age kids. Sure, there are a few vital considerations to keep in mind before leaving the house with the little ones, but if you’re sure they’re ready to appreciate the trip and the destination, don’t let naysayers hold you back.
There are a lot of personal parenting benefits to bonding with your kids over travel, not least of them sharing some significant “firsts” like going to an unusual, memorable place for the first time together. They’ll always be able to look back at that experience (which is, incidentally, potentially harder to accomplish once they’re older because you’ll also be older).
Breaking out of the nest has its benefits, but it also has potential pitfalls like any new experience. Here’s how to make the trip more relaxed and more fulfilling.
Pack well in advance.
This is usually good advice even when you’re just traveling by yourself, but it makes even better sense when you’re traveling with toddlers who will undoubtedly have their own specific needs and particular items that need to be brought. This is especially true if the trip is going to be a lengthy one. While we’re used to hearing that we should pack in advance, we tend to take this for granted the more we travel, because we get so used to doing it that we figure we’ve got it down to a science.
It’s much easier to forget items or things like medication or formula we don’t know whether we can reliably and quickly find abroad when they’re our kid’s and not our own. You’ll see that, as the travel date approaches, you’ll start to cross things off the list and new ideas will pop up.
When you start early, you build in time to let yourself make these common errors without ending up stressing yourself out due to lack of time to fix them.
2. Keep luggage to two categories: backpacks and wheeled bags.
Kids ages 3 and up can be taught to use and be responsible for simple luggage like a light backpack of their own (with a limited count of their essentials in them). Kids ages 5 and up can manage a rolling carry-on. Traveling can be a teachable moment, and this is one way you can teach the kids personal responsibility while keeping expectations and real workloads realistic and not overly burdensome. When kids pitch in, they appreciate the effort it takes for you to do it as well.
Buy clothing that helps keep comfortable on the plane and on the go.
For example, many people find that for long flights, their legs start cramping or having circulation problems. This is easily avoided or mitigated with the use of comfy compression socks, which have a snug fit to ensure proper circulation even when you’re seated for extended periods. The same will be true for long drives or train rides when you’re there, or for long walks that might strain your leg muscles.
Stick to the routine.
As a parent, you know all about how vital routine is in raising kids — it makes everything predictable and gives kids the structure they need to guide them through the day. It doesn’t hurt that it gives you a lot more control over how the day is laid out.
Many parents, though, treat traveling as a chance for their kids to be off the regular routine — maybe because this is true for them as adults. While we can be more flexible, however, kids need structure wherever they are in their lives, so keep to the routine where you can.
If the kids have an afternoon nap while at home, try to work that into the day’s schedule. Some flexibility is favored, of course, because it’s likely you won’t be able to fit the exact blueprint. But do the homework to make sure the routine is at least partly maintained, and you’ll be rewarded when you get home and have less need to adjust.
Teach the kids, but don’t go overboard.
Don’t use the travel experience as a school-substitute field trip alone (there’s value in that too, mind) — teach kids how to travel. Why are passports important? How do we take care of them when we travel? What’s the difference between walking, taking the train, or taking a bus or a car to get from point A to point B to point C? Why would anyone bother with the other methods?
Small processes like this are second nature to us, but to a kid, it can feel like the tide just pulling and pushing them from place to place as scheduled.
Involving them (and even letting them make small, meaningful choices) will allow them to appreciate the thought process that goes into it, and prepare them for more travel as they grow older.
That said, don’t make the trip purely educational. Sure, it’s tempting to bombard the kids with culture, but museum after museum will lose its appeal after a while. While planning the itinerary, mix things up with a fun, unusual, and colorful place or two — a museum, then a park, then a temple, then a zoo. They’re only going to be young once, and letting them be that will have the side benefit of not making them resent or avoid museums and other educational spots as they travel more.
So, if you want to travel. Travel now with your kids while they are still young!