Before our daughter was born, my husband and I traveled regularly and widely. Both his job and our personalities influenced the value we place on traveling; exploring a new city is one of the top things we enjoy doing together. When my daughter Ella was born last summer, an important conference meant a cross-country trip for all three of us when she was just eight weeks old. This summer, our travels have taken us to Mexico and England — both with her.
Although I love traveling, I would never describe myself as “fearless” when it comes to venturing to new places. In fact, I am the cautious one in our family. It is easier to stay home where the schedules are normal, the food is the same and the days have a rhythm. So, when Ella was born, I knew that I had two choices when it came to traveling: either put our travel adventures on hold for ten or fifteen years, or … do it anyway. We could wait until she was “old enough” to tie her own shoes, sleep on a plane, and roll her own suitcase. Or, we could go anyway. We chose the latter. Of course, things must change when a child enters the family — there are sacrifices that we must make as parents for her good. Yet, we don’t believe that having a child means putting life on hold — we believe it means living life with her. Our daughter is just as much a part of the family as we are, and so she travels with us.
Our daughter is just as much a part of the family as we are, and so she travels with us.
Is it more of a hassle to take a child along on a trip? Yes. Does it include more luggage? Definitely. Does it require more care with bedtimes and nap times and snack times? Of course. But is it also a joy? Yes. Are new family memories made? Definitely. Is it worth the extra effort? Of course.
Our lives are not being interrupted by our daughter. They are being enriched. And although she may not remember any of these trips in her early years, we will. It will be normal for her to travel and be flexible and value cultures other than her own. We are learning how to do this part of our life together as a family now, so that when another child comes along and when another trip comes up, it will be normal for us to all jump in the car or on the plane together — and to do it with joy and expectancy.
Here are some practical tips for how to continue traveling with the little one(s) in your life:
See what the hotel (or host) can provide.
On that first trip we took when Ella was eight weeks old, we lugged a portable crib across the country. It was bulky, it was heavy, and we didn’t have enough hands between the two of us to carry it along with the baby and our luggage. When we finally walked into the hotel room, there was a crib already there. I felt like crying, even as I laughed about it. I was a new mom — how was I supposed to know that the hotel even had cribs? Many do. Call ahead and see if the place where you are staying can provide any of the basics. It can save you a lot of frustration — and sweat.
Pack twice as many snacks as you think you will need, as well as baby wipes.
We have made it through many plane rides on snacks alone, and baby wipes are indispensible for children and adults alike on any point in the traveling journey.
Take medications along.
Especially if you are traveling to a foreign country, take whatever medicine your child might need with you and keep it in your carry on luggage so that it doesn’t get lost. My daughter has been susceptible to ear infections, and so we take what she would need in case she develops another one.
Seek out child-friendly places.
Look for parks where your kid(s) can stretch their legs and work off some energy after being cooped up in a stroller for a while. Pick the family-friendly restaurant for lunch rather than the one with the five-star rating (but grab a fancy dessert from there — to go — if you want!). There’s not one right way to experience a new city.
Lower your expectations.
Traveling with our daughter is nothing like the traveling we did when it was just the two of us. She gets tired easily. Her bedtime is 7:30 pm. But you know what? That’s ok. We still got to see Oxford, even if we spent more time than we would have planned at the hotel. We still got to enjoy tacos in Mexico, even if it meant it was earlier in the day than we would have enjoyed them years ago.
Embrace the adventure.
If jet lag has you all lagging, or if your son refuses to eat anything but croissants, or if can’t make it out the hotel door until 11 am — remember, that’s ok. It really is. The travel is wonderful, yes, but the real gift is getting to do all of this together. You are creating memories and you are being a family. In five or ten years the children will be carrying their own suitcases and tying their own shoes, and there will be new adventures to be had. But for now, the ones in front of us are enough. And they are worth it.
How do you embrace traveling with children?
Image via Jadyn Noelle