While it’s true that your travel style with children DOES need to change, traveling itself doesn’t have to stop because you have chosen to have a family. Traveling with children is possible. Our son will have visited 20 countries before the age of 3, and whilst he won’t remember them (maybe) at all, my partner and I will.
Here are a few things I have learnt along the way, as well as a few pieces of advice I have heard about travel style with children.
Now you have a Child you won’t be able to Travel
Should I only be allowing my child to venture into our garden or the local park instead? Variety is essential to a child’s education and understanding of the world, and there are a few things they can’t learn from just watching.
These places are fantastic short term, but how is a child going to experience the feeling of take-off and landing on a plane, or skiing down a mountain? Traveling is a great sensory activity in itself; seeing, tasting, smelling, and touching authentic food from different cultures, hearing different accents and languages, and seeing the different colours. You will have to change your travel style with children.
Travel is a learning Experience
Travel also instills an understanding of geography and conditions high level problem solving skills. Give a child a map, explain what they can expect to see in each area, and they will choose where they want to go from your descriptions. If you want to take it a step further, you can print off a mini map and ask them for directions (left or right if they are young; trust me when I say little people are more intelligent than we give them credit for). Associate flags with different countries and ask them to colour the flags in from memory. While you change your travel style with children, they can also be a great help!
My child knows where he lives on a map, and after each destination we print off photos from the trip so he can associate the activities, foods he’s tasted, and the animals he’s seen with the places on the map. It’s great for cognitive memory.
Learn a new Language
Teach them a new language. This not only gives them the ability to communicate easier with multiple people and increase their curiosity, but is also scientifically proven to keep dementia at bay as they get older.
If you’re a travel-holic and have at least one child, as I do, you would have heard a few of the following statements at least a few times. People don’t seem to believe that changing your travel style with children isn’t a figment of ones imagination and they’re quite naive in thinking that it’s actually not possible.
These statements are usually consecutive with displeasure and frustration from those who seem content in telling you they’re right in proclaiming such BS, and it couldn’t be further from the truth.
Should you choose to ignore their unsought advice and live like you don’t have a new person in your pack to look after, people will change the topic to sentences beginning with lots of disbelief.
You can’t go to these Countries with a Child
No responsible parent would put their child at risk just to get “that Instagram shot”. Do your research first. Make sure you have everything you need when planning a trip and more than likely you won’t experience any problems. Check the Government websites for each country you’re planning on visiting (and also speak to natives of that country).
My family and I decided to take a road trip through Europe in January 2018 with our 18 month old, with one backpack each. I planned the trip for 6 months prior and did all the research I possibly could to know we were prepared. Europe is cold during the winter months.
Preparation is Key
I am lucky enough to have spent a few years growing up in Norway as a child so the notion of layers was already inbuilt into my system. From that experience, along with hearing “prior preparation prevents piss poor performance” for most of my childhood, I over-packed snow suits, fur lined boots, balaclavas, gloves, and hats for our child, while always making sure everything was waterproof. Mistakes aren’t a good idea when you’re standing in -15.c temperatures with a child.
Visiting cold countries is easy if you are prepared and you triple check everything. But it is a different thing when people are saying it’s unsafe. When it comes to Europe (the countries we visited specifically), I knew there weren’t any unsafe reasons not to go if we were prepared to deal with the cold… So why not go.
It’s okay to go Solo
As long as you have support around you and available childcare I don’t see the issue with this. A word I’ve been hearing a lot recently is MOMCATION. Research actually shows that mom’s need a holiday break every now and again, alone or with friends. Happy and relaxed mom = happy and relaxed children.
We as a family live together. I think it’s strange that my partner has never been questioned as to who is looking after our child when he is away on his camping trips or at work, yet as a female I am questioned as to who is looking after our child when I take a momcation/ break.
Divide and Conquer
I think this stems from mostly being raised in a male dominated environment as a child. I lived with my father and watched him work, go to College, raise 2 children, cook, clean, and look after the house at the same time – granted we had au pairs to help, but for the most part he was a lone parent.
Mothers need to be less thought of as the only parent; I’m not sure why I even have to write this in this day in age. Yes I miss my child while I am away, but I will also miss him when he starts school, when he goes to a friends’ house, when he leaves for the week to go on a school trip – should I not allow him to experience these things in case I miss him? I’m one of those parents who highly believes in instilling independence into their child. I will always be here if he needs me, but he will grow up with the notion that his own choices have their own consequences, and that I won’t be watching his every move when he’s 21 at University.
This is only not the “norm” to people who haven’t experienced it. Normal is only normal if it’s normal to you. This is such an obvious statement but it’s surprising how often people forget it’s meaning.
Plan Pit Stops
Tired after chasing your children around Bran Castle or the Eiffel Tower? This is a con which will always be outweighed by the pro of traveling.
From experience it’s always a good idea to plan for organized pit stops to a beach, a park or even a field so they can release some of that energy and make the journey a little more relaxed. I’ve done it before, walked around a random field watching him running, or kicking a ball. You might think this is a waste of time but trust me, it’s well worth it compared to a frustrated toddler for hours on end.
Put the effort in and they will most likely sleep in the car on the way to your next place. And when they do this and you don’t feel like driving you can use this time an opportune moment for you to do the same. Even if for an hour, pull over in a place you’re comfortable with and allow yourself some shut-eye. And if all else fails, iPads/Tablets are excellent for long haul trips; there’s nothing wrong with this as long as the things they are watching/ playing are actually constructive and educational.
Our next family trip is in December 2018. We will be taking another road trip through Europe so I’m back to the packing and organizing stage! Traveling with children is doable.
Kayleigh loves adventure and is on a quest to visit every country in the world. She is the mother of a 2 year old who explores alongside her and her partner. You can follow Kayleigh’s trips on Instagram.