Of course, as a parent of a 4-year-old girl and a 2-year-old boy, I am not so delusional to claim that traveling with small children is, by any means, easy but worthwhile. For all the following reasons, my husband and I are planning to make an international trip or two while our children are still small. By sharing thoughts and experiences from our family travels, maybe it will help you see your little travel companions with a different perspective when you’re met with those inevitable challenges and inconveniences along the way.
#1. No School Schedule
While small children come with their own schedules — feeding, napping, and sleeping schedules, factoring in the school calendar wouldn’t factor in when trip planning. This means more freedom to go when you want and stay as long as you need. It can also mean some savings on trip expenses since you are able to plan trips during the off season instead of peak travel seasons like school holiday breaks or summertime. Tickets, reservations, and accommodations are often more reasonably priced and readily available during non-peak travel times, leaving you with more options.
#2. Connecting with People
Babies and children tend to be great conversation starters, I’ve realized since becoming a parent. People often enjoy sharing stories about their kids or grand kids and it is easier to connect with strangers about the children in their lives. My extroverted daughter has been the initiator of many conversations often to the dismay of her exhausted, sleep-deprived, introverted mother…but it’s for this reason, I am so excited to have new experiences with her and my 2-year-old. They are so innocent and have such a different way of connecting with people and viewing the world than adults. Often, people will smile and then stop and chat with me after my kids shout “hi” and wave while out for a walk or in the grocery store and allows me to have a conversation with a stranger I would have never made a connection with otherwise.
#3. Everything is more exciting
The excitement of traveling with little ones can go both ways. It’s exciting in a good way in that it is refreshing to have a child’s viewpoint on now books, ideas, destinations, and pretty much any topic since nothing is off limits but also exciting sometimes in a not-so-great way when you have a 1-hour layover to get everyone fed, diapers changes, and catch 2 trains to make it to your gate for boarding. With some preparation and planning, hopefully the negative surprises are kept to a minimum during your travels so you can enjoy the excitement of seeing the world through your children’s eyes.
#4. Slow down
Although traveling can be hectic while traveling with infants and toddlers, you have schedule down time for feedings, diaper changes, naps, and getting from here to there. Children have no sense of urgency and being on time or late has no meaning for them which can be difficult at times, but also means taking time for small things and enjoying more every-day experiences while away from home. So instead of a 14-hour road trip for 2 days, you may decide instead to take 4 days to make more stops and enjoy the drive or do things like find a playground instead of spending your entire trip, museum-hopping. Children have a way of making you stop and realize what’s important.
Another thing I’ve noticed about my children is how observant they are. People and things I would have never taken the time to notice are very urgently brought to my attention by my little ones. I also find myself looking for and pointing out things I know they enjoy such as the birds and squirrels we see on our walk or spending time making our shadows jump and dance. It doesn’t matter where we are or how much in a hurry I get, my children remind me to take time to notice and appreciate all the little things around me.
Yes, traveling as a family with kids at any age always present unique challenges but also provides unique opportunities to spend quality time together and be a part of broadening their world view which will make them into more informed, open-minded individuals. And, to me, that is worth all the trouble.