It’s an age old complaint, but if you’re a parent, travel with kids can be a difficult thing to manage. When you’re young and single, travel is a breeze. It’s relatively easy to splurge on a few hundred dollars for plane tickets and jet off to some exotic destination for the weekend. Packing is simple, you’ve got it down to a science, and there’s no need to bother with checking a bag, because everything you need can easily fit into your carry on. Every destination is exciting and new, and you want to pack in as many activities as you can so as not to miss a single minute.
And then you get older. You find a life partner. You keep traveling together. It’s a bit more complicated now, only because instead of one schedule to worry about, you’ve got two. But the spontaneity and flexibility is still there, and the two of you share the same love of adventure and excitement.
But then something changes. You have kids. And suddenly, travel becomes a lot more complicated. There are double the number of tickets to buy. Diaper bags and snack bags to think about. Nap schedules to work around. Suddenly, jet-setting on a spontaneous weekend trip sounds more like a chore than a relaxing break. The trips become less frequent, the experiences less adventurous. You may even decide you’re better off not traveling until the kids are out of the house.
Before this happens to you, I want to say, “Stop!” Parenthood doesn’t have to mean an end to travel. Just because it becomes exponentially more challenging than it was when we were carefree young adults, doesn’t mean it’s not feasible. Despite the complications, there are five very good reasons why we should travel with kids.
Reason #1: Family bonding
Some parents opt to take vacations without their kids, and I think that’s okay. But you miss out on a lot of family bonding time that way. In 2010, our family took a road trip from Washington, DC to Seattle, WA by way of the Southern states. My step-son was 13 years old at the time, and my daughter was only 3 months old. Conventional wisdom would warn us that this is a bad combination. A teenager AND a baby stuck in the same car for hours at a time. The very thought conjures up images of crying babies, sullen mood swings, and whines of “are we there yet?!?”. But we had a blast. The kids had a great time hanging out together, and we even got to visit some fun places like Disney World and Las Vegas.
Reason #2: Travel is educational
There is so much history and culture to be had in travel. As a family, we’ve traveled to places like Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia to learn about how life was like in the colonies. We’ve also visited Balinese temples in Indonesia, Hindu shrines in Singapore, and old Catholic churches in the Philippines. These visits afford our kids a much more interactive learning experience than just reading about them in books. It’s one of the great educational advantages of travel with kids.
Reason #3: Travel connects our kids to the world
Our first overseas trip as a family was to Southeast Asia. My husband, who is half Filipino, was amazed by our trip to the Philippines. But the biggest surprise came from our eldest, my step-son who was 15 at the time. Normally non-chalant and ambivalent about most of our family activities, he was completely enamored by everything he saw during our travels, especially when we were visiting some of the smaller villages on the island of Luzon. Being in a developing country for the first time really opened his eyes to how people in other parts of the world lived, in conditions much more humble than what he had back home.
Reason #4: Kids help break down barriers
On a recent trip to New York City, we decided not to rent a car, and opted instead to take the subway. My youngest son, who was only eleven months old at the time, was not yet walking, so I carried him around in a baby carrier most of the time. This proved to be a perfect way to engage in conversation with people, especially when crammed like sardines in the subway. I thought people would get annoyed by having a baby around, but there was something about his cute and curious stares that would melt people’s hearts.
Reason #5: Kids bring a different perspective to travel
When my husband, daughter, and I visited a friend of mine in Paraguay two years ago, we were definitely in for some unconventional travel. We stayed for a week at a farm, surrounded by various animals and fields. Being a city person, I can only take so much of nature and the outdoors, but my daughter was in absolute heaven. She spent most of the days running around barefooted on the grass, chasing chickens and playing with the cats on the farm. Her absolute enjoyment of the experience helped me to find enjoyment as well.
No matter how you look at it, travel with kids can be an enriching and engaging experience for you and your family. Sure there are plenty of challenges, and I’m sure I can come up with a list of why you shouldn’t travel with kids, but it wouldn’t match up. To me, it’s a no-brainer. I would happily take my kids along with me on the next adventure, even if it means enduring multiple pit-stops, sleepless nights, tight budgets, and unplanned mishaps. In the end, travel is not about the destination, but rather, it’s about experiencing the world with the ones you love.
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