I think traveling is one of the most important experiences a child can have. I fervently believe it broadens a child’s horizons and exposes them to new cultures and life experiences that are simply impossible to recreate at home or through a textbook. I also believe it teaches them resiliency, flexibility, understanding, and patience.
The following tips have really helped make our travels as a family much easier. I share these with hope that it might inspire parents to travel with their children too:
YOU HAVE TO BEND OR YOU WILL BREAK
Travel is definitely going to throw curveballs in your direction. How big the curveball will be is unknown. It is very rare that everything will go as planned. I have found through traveling the world on my own, however, that usually when plans go astray some of the most memorable experiences of the trip end up happening. Flexibility is key to surviving change, as well as reminding yourself that change does not necessarily have to be negative thing. My Type-A personality has had to learn how to bend with these situations, because otherwise I know I will break. Children can definitely detect fear or stress from their parents and if they do that is when disaster can occur. Thus, try your best to remain cool and calm and go with the flow for the sake of the family and the overall memories of the trip.
PERFECT PARENTING IS NOT THE GOAL
You simply cannot be perfect when you travel. Give yourself a much needed break. Allowing your children more screen time or a different diet does not in any way mean that you are a bad parent. And having a few days like that when you return home does not mean you have failed either. Being perfect is totally overrated! Having said this, I really do think it is best to stick to your child’s routine as best as you can, just know that if they miss nap time it is not the end of the world.
TRAVEL IS NOW ABOUT THEM
When you travel with children, you need to accept that the days where you could do and see exactly what you desired are gone. Traveling with children means missing certain attractions in favor of a playground. Guess what? The joy you will have watching them experience a new place for the first time will make you forget all about your needs and wants in a heartbeat. It is one of the best feelings to witness your child’s curiosity blossom right in front of your eyes.
EXPERIENCES ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT
Buy that souvenir if you want to, however the memories you will bring home will have a much more lasting effect on your family than anything else. Even if the memories you are creating are ones your children are too young to remember, trust me, you will remember. Travel allows families to spend a very different kind of time together. As a parent, you get to see sides of your children that you might not otherwise knew existed. The time that you can do this is remarkably fleeting. On a side note, you can never take too many photos!
CHOOSE A CHILD FRIENDLY HOTEL
Do your research before booking your hotel. Many hotels cannot accommodate children. If you are in a child friendly hotel, not only will it allow you to pack less, it will also help you relax, since you know that the other guests there can understand and sympathize with you. No matter what, try to let go of fear of judgement from others. Your priority is your children and not what others think. Children cry and throw tantrums, that is just a part of life and there is nothing to be ashamed of. The same goes for flying and restaurants as well.
PACK ONLY THE ESSENTIALS
Children need a surprising amount of stuff, which can contribute to travel stress. Honestly, this is one of the biggest reasons it took me so long to travel with Joaquín. The idea of packing for him completely and utterly overwhelmed me. The reality is you do not really need to bring that many things that are considered “essentials”. Rather, you can buy most of their necessities on the road. Remember that packing light will reduce stress and make the family happier. I find that if I make a list and start packing at least a week before the trip that helps tremendously. I made the mistake of bringing too many toys for Joaquín on his first trip (two bags full) and he had zero interest in them once we were inside the hotel room, as it was a brand new environment for him. I think we could have gotten away with only bringing one or two toys period.
What have you learned from traveling with kids? Please do share in the comments below!