I will never forget the words of one of my dear friends: “Be sure to travel before kiddos come into the picture.” Obviously, I was clueless and didn’t really understand what she meant. I think we are all oblivious until we are deeply seeded into parenthood but there is an element of deceit. The media is not very realistic about the struggles of travel with children. From various travel advertisements to social media, most parents present this experience as a happy and easy one. No one likes to depict the cranky mornings or the restless flights with toddlers so our perception of travel with children is a bit skewed.
I mentioned in one of my other blogs that I don’t really consider travel with small children a vacation because what I consider a “vacation” is a restful period of time. Trips on the other hand are active periods of time, which is what travel is with small children. You are not going to rest the entire time but that does not mean that you can’t have fun. You just have to be realistic about your expectations when you do decide to travel.
Our son is a little over two years old now and we have dared to travel internationally with him and have taken a few trips that demanded a plane rides. Here are some things we have learned when it comes to travel with small children:
Accommodation Really Matters
One great way to make trips or “vacations” (I still have mixed feelings about using this term but what the hell) with small children is to find accommodation that is kid friendly. Invest in a nice resort that will make this experience easier on you. From providing a crib or toddler bed, kids play areas, toys, kids pool(s), kids menu, and other forms of entertainment that both you and your child can enjoy, it really will make a difference. Invest in a place that will focus on making family vacations fun filled experiences. Most places offer some form of accommodation involving children but not all have the same level of options. The Four Seasons in Costa Rica for example even offered babysitting and parent’s night out if you are comfortable with it. Our son was a bit young for this but it’s just nice to know there are many options out there. They had an entire section named “Kids for All Seasons” that involved days filled with activities and entertainment for children of various ages.
Be Strategic with Your Flight Plan
If you are going to travel with children, book a direct flight if you can. Don’t make it more stressful than it has to be. If there are no options for direct flights, be strategic and don’t put yourself on long layovers, avoid night flights with infants or toddlers (they will not sleep), ask for a free seat (just by asking, we were given an extra seat for free on flights that had extra room), and try scheduling a flight when your child tends to take their regular naps.
Bring Entertainment for the Plane
This is kind of a no brainer but we didn’t really think things through and actually lacked on variety. We brought the usual toys and a few new ones but if you are going to travel for a longer period of time, bring a lot of new toys. Now that our son is older and enjoys electronics, we will probably have him watch his favorite songs to keep him entertained. Just make sure that you have plenty of things to keep your little one entertained because they are very excited to be on a plane and if they can’t move, they will give you a hard time so be creative with what you bring with you.
Bring Your Parents If you can
On one of our first trips with our son we traveled with one set of grandparents which allowed us to have some alone time at the pool/beach and take turns when we needed some rest. It’s also just a really fun way for everyone to bond and have a good time. Other times we did travel without the grandparents and occasionally also took turns to give each other a break here and there.
The point of travel is to have a good time so don’t stress more than you have to. I think its a little harder when you are a new parent and not used to traveling with children because you tend to overthink and over plan every single scenario. That’s ok but remember that children live and survive in many places on this planet just fine. Everything will be ok and if you choose a safe location (and yes, choose a safe location), there will be resources for almost every scenario. Take lots of pictures because this is your time with your family and they grow up so quickly. The beauty of travel is that you will introduce your children to new experiences with you so that they become used to it as well.