Travel. With kids. Some would just not go there; some have tried and failed, and some have conquered. It is not easy, well not at this [one and three] age at least. So – should you or shouldn’t you?! Little people will not stop us from traveling; it is our biggest love and what we get the most out of as a family. THE best quality family time. The amazing and the mundane, the enriching, and the complete disasters – when you look back your best memories and funniest stories are always (mostly) those of travel and adventure. So my answer is definitely “should”!
Why? Well whether you travel big or small just getting out of your comfort zone and away from your everyday routines and annoyances, experiencing somewhere new, and spending valuable downtime together, is simply the best. I was told early on that “travelling with kids is like taking your crazy hectic life to a more inconvenient place” – and that could not be more true! But this is also part of the fun, right?! It makes for a good story.
I know our journeys have only scratched the surface compared to some families. We have not yet packed up our life and driven around the country (for example) but it’s often being discussed and it’s definitely something we would like to do when the timing is right. Considering a four-hour car journey goes far from smoothly, and warrants an overnight stop, I am not sure why we even entertain the idea, but we do, constantly. I think once travel is in your blood it’s hard to sit still; there is, after all, a big wide world of possibilities out there.
Generally, we focus on having as many little breaks and at least one decent trip per year. This was us pre-little people and it has not changed since having kids. Yes the structure of the holidays have changed significantly. And the destinations have changed slightly. The holidays are now more for my family than for myself. They are more planned. And a lot more hard work. Much like mummy life in general! But not only do you get to see the newness yourself, you are also enjoying it through your little people’s eyes.
I love watching the children as they are immersed in and amazed by another place and culture; the colour of their skin, the look of their clothes, the taste of their food. Their wide eyes when they see sharks and turtles and crocodiles – or even, simply, parks. The joyous laughter when they run naked on the deserted beach, and collect shells, or swim in the waves and swing on the rope swing… And then we all drink and dance at the beach bar at sunset. Their delight when they can choose any food they want from the buffet, or watch it be cooked by the vendor on the street. When it doesn’t matter that they are barefoot and sandy all the time. When you see them make new friends, and play with kids who speak another language, or come from a different world. Their excitement when they land in a new place or stay up way past their bedtime or ride elephants or simply swim every.single.day.
Most importantly kids are just content being together as a family. Travel is a good bonding experience for big sister and little brother, as they are sharing all these new experiences together, just the two of them. And they are more reliant on each other without friends and schools. The kids always force you to move more slowly and enjoy the simple things, which is good for the soul. Holidays allow you the precious time to do this [slow down]. You are never exactly “relaxing” with kids – whether at home or on holidays – but you are relaxed.
And just because you are relaxing you don’t have to be sitting still – we don’t like to sit still. This doesn’t mean we are joining every tour and sightseeing every famous landmark – because that’s never been us. (we’re more likely to be sightseeing every bar!) Now as we travel with kids we definitely allocate more pool and beach time and choose activities that are reasonably suitable to the kids. But we still do something. Subsequently, if you try to fit in too much, or put too much pressure on yourself to “see it all”, or try completely unsuitable activities, the holiday will become much more hard work than it needs to be. Everyones wants and needs are different but I am all for having a “plan”, so you are not aimlessly wasting valuable time; have a list of “must see/do” but if you miss out on part of something don’t worry – be flexible to what the day brings and what you discover you enjoy. And remember the fact that you have been!
There is no denying our big love is Asia, so most of our trips of late have been there. With that mind it’s possible that some of my “tips” and experiences are irrelevant to families following more of a well-trodden path. My partner is from the UK, so we have done a couple of UK (and Europe) trips, and of course will continue to visit when timing and and money allow it. But unfortunately for the UK family the climate and cost are not usually in their favour! Last but not least we have our own great southern land to explore – and we have a lot more of this beautiful country to see.
I know our kids are incredibly fortunate. Milla has stayed in more hotels than I could remember. She has travelled more in four years than I did in the first twenty of my life. Some would say she is too spoilt. All I know is that I am trying to give them as many new experiences as possible; let them see as many places as possible. Not everyone is as fortunate as us – and everyone has different priorities – but I want this life to be “a great adventure (or nothing at all)”. Here’s hoping that after we weather the storm of the threenager years (!) our children are better off for the experiences. And maybe, if we’re really lucky, even a little grateful!
Yes traveling with little people is no piece of cake and very different to travelling as a couple; you can no longer do everything you want to do and you will miss out on things that you ideally would love to see. But the fact that you have gone (with little people) is a major step and the most important thing. No matter how much you see, or don’t see, just being in a different place and immersed in another community is enriching for all of you and (at this young age) teaching the kids far more than any class room.
And there are those things that I find oh so much easier on the road (in comparison to being at home). Firstly, and most significantly: Daddy is around all of the time to share the load – win win win for all – I’m not facing the bedtime routine alone every night; the kids are not fighting for my attention; and Daddy is part of their little lives all day everyday. Cooking and cleaning and washing are all simplified. And there are no time pressures; no work and activities and commitments.
I’m sure we have done a lot of things that some parents would not approve of [the month when I could count on one hand how many baths/showers they had!] Of course there are questionable moments… but I always come back to the overall amazing experience that we are having and the fact that we vowed (pre-kids) to keep having these adventures and to bring the kids along for the ride. I know they wont remember this age but I am hoping what they have been involved in will help to open their eyes to the world. Here’s hoping…
And my best little people travel tips up next… Jo x