It is a question I get a lot. We haven’t spent much time flying or doing “quick” travel around the world. However, we have logged a LOT of miles in our van with children in tow. I can’t tell you how many parents tell us they can’t go on a 4 hour road trip with their children, not to mention one of our month-long road treks where we hit up 4,000 miles. My simple answer is usually that “the kids do pretty well, considering”! My children are not perfect little angels (nor am I), but we’ve learned a few things on our treks.
However, online group of traveling families recently came across a CNN post about how to travel with children. All of us read the article, and moaned about the terrible advice that the author dished out. I can’t even justify including the link, because it seems wrong to send any traffic to that article. Nevertheless, today this group of bloggers is setting out on a task to disprove her silly advice.
First off, I would like to note that the link to her blog post in the address bar nicknamed the article: “hard-truth-about-traveling-kids-its-hell”. Seems like this is how she originally titled article, which generated the URL, and when she finalized the article she prettied up the title a bit, removing the “hell” bit. But now you know how she really felt. Wow, I’m sensing she had had a recent rough time. Do you want to take travel advice from someone who says traveling with kids is hell? Umm…I certainly don’t!
So, today, we family travel bloggers are going to set a few things straight.
Myth #1. The younger the child, the bigger the suitcase
“Young children are happiest with what they already know. So the favorite stuffed giraffe that takes up a third of the suitcase is brought along, as is an entire library of “Dr Seuss and Eric Carle” books…”
Fact #1. The younger the child, the lighter you can pack
Seriously, the only reason a youngster might have a bigger suitcase is because you are lugging around some extra diapers. A child does not need a security item (or 20) to conquer a new environment. What kid doesn’t find joy in a little doo-dad found along the journey (whether is is a rock from the ground, or a $1 item you just purchased)? I used to let my girls take a Tupperware full of toys, but on our last month-long road trip I allowed them exactly 2 toys each (not counting a few books and coloring books that I packed). The van stayed cleaner, I was less stressed, and the girls didn’t seem to even notice the difference.
Little people=small clothes=smaller suitcase.
Myth #2. The younger the child, the harder it is to get over jet lag+
“Kids will sleep when they’re tired and be up when they’re not. So your young child may be raring to go at 3 a.m., just when your dose of melatonin has kicked in, and of course promptly fall fast asleep when you arrive at Disneyland.”
Truth #2: Kids are just as flexible as you expect them to be
If you’ve forced them into an inflexible naptime/bedtime routine their entire lives, then yes, you probably will struggle. If you’ve helped them establish a routine that can be varied in hours and time of day, then you are set! Don’t know what I mean? Read On Becoming Baby Wise. I’m a die-hard fan (with 3 flexible, great-sleepers to show for it)!
Myth #3. Travel to a destination that serves French fries
“Do not attempt to travel to a place where there isn’t kid-friendly food. This seemingly small detail is essential for a successful holiday with young children. French fries, nuggets, pizza and the like will save your holiday.”
Truth #3: Kids (and adults) need opportunities to expand their food palettes
For the love! Are you kidding me???!!! Again–inflexible children come from inflexible parents (or perhaps too flexible of parents, in this case). Have you really raised your child on a diet of french fries and chicken nuggets? I can happily admit that my 6 year old despises french fries (the 4 year old has my weakness…I love fries!). But that’s not the point…the point is, if your children never have the opportunity to try something new, they will never develop a taste for anything but sodium-soaked junk. Who would have guessed my kids would love Mexican tamales, pozole, or cucumbers drenched in lemon and chili? Not me! But if I’d asked/allowed them to stick with the same-ole, then we’d still be stuck at Square #1.
Myth #4. You can’t have too much inflight entertainment for young children
“If you wonder why parents of young kids travel with five pieces of luggage, it’s because three of those five bulging bags are filled with toys, books, games and gadgets lest junior gets bored for more than a second and all hell breaks loose.”
Truth #4: Plug them in, and they’ll unplug
I’ll admit, I enjoy the short breaks I can get from putting my children in front of a movie. Do I think that’s the only way to travel? No. In fact, we own a set of dual-DVD players that strap to the seats in the back of our van. Half the time I “accidentally” forget to bring them on our trips. The other half of the time I hide them under the seat, hoping the kids don’t ask about them. Why? Because I’ve noticed that they get more demanding when I set up a move for them (i.e. “I don’t want to watch that movie!” or “Mom! The movie stopped!” or “Can we watch something else?” or “she’s kicking the DVD player”, etc)! However, if I can busy my children with other activities (coloring, playing make-believe, making up stories, etc), then they are often less likely to complain and cause me even more stress.
In addition, I am completely turned off by young (or old) children buried in hand-held video games. That’s a great way to disconnect them from any new experience. How many times have I seen my nephews oblivious to their surrounds–buried in their games? I think the house could be on fire, and they wouldn’t look up.
Perhaps this disdain of video games stems from watching my younger brother glue himself to video games on end as a child? We ended up friends later in life…but there were some rough years in between when we couldn’t connect. Why? Because he was connected elsewhere.
If you allow your children to plug them into something else, that means they are unplugging from you and their surroundings.
This may mean that while you are checking out an amazing sight at your destination, little Junior will be wishing that he was playing his video game, again. Start them on the right path when they are young! Wake them up to their surroundings, and draw the line! In this day and age when parents are allowing their children to be constantly connected (or rather, “disconnected), it is time to step it up and offer your child a lifetime gift–the gift of discovery.
Myth #5. Strollers are as much a bane as a boon
So you end up only going as far as your young child can walk (to the nearest restaurant that serves French fries and back); or as far as you can carry them in your strap-on carrier (yes the Wat-of-500-steep-steps is too much); or you spend most of your holiday by the hotel’s baby pool.
Truth #5: Teach your kids to be good walkers, and sightseeing can be fun!
The temptation to pack a stroller may be great, particularly if you have a wee-one under 2 1/2 years old, and you’re going to a stroller-friendly destination. If you really must pack one, don’t pack the mother-of-all-strollers that can transform into a small vehicle. If you must pack a stroller, pack an umbrella stroller! However, if your kids are still babies…pack the backpack, instead. The babies will get a better view, stay put, and you’ll get some exercise! If your kid is a lazy 4 year old (as mine is) then this may be the time to teach them to buck up and walk. Saying it doesn’t make it easy (or make me an expert, as is apparent from my previous posts)…but it is the end goal! Do you think the pioneers stroller their kids across the plains? I don’t think so…
In truth, most parents (including us) haven’t figured out the magic formula to the perfect travel experience with children. It will always have its ups and downs, because children (and adults) always have their ups and downs. However, going into a trip with the attitude that your children are going to ruin it for you is certainly not going to help the experience go smoothly. Parents who are flexible can raise flexible children, and flexibility is the key to enjoyable travel!
To read some other traveling families’ advice about traveling with children, check out these great blog posts:
The Surprisingly Easy Truth of Traveling with Kids - A King’s Life
The “Secret” to Traveling with Children -Family Travel Bucket List
Worst Family Travel Advice I’ve Ever Read - The Nomadic Family
Debunking cnn’s rules for traveling with kids – Bohemian Travelers
5 Rules of Travel With Kids: A Traveling Child Responds – Edventure Traveler
CNN’s Ridiculous Rules About Travel With Kids – Have Baby Will Travel
Shocking Tips on Traveling with Kids That Went Unnoticed - Travel Writing pro
5 Amazing Reasons To Travel With Your Kids! - Travel Experta
More Than French Fries – Around the World in Easy Ways
Rules are What You Make Them: Paving Your Own Way Through Family Travel – Suitcases and Sippy Cups
Why “Easy” Travel Options Aren’t Always the Best for Kids - Family Rambling
CNNGo Five Rules of Travelling With Kids Are You For Real – New Life on the Road
Myths, NOT rules, of traveling with kids – Experiential Family
My Reality (Not Rules) When Traveling with Kids – Walkingon Travels
Yes! It is possible to travel with children of all ages – Growing Grace Life