How Having Kids Changes the Way You Travel — And Gives You New Perspective
I grew up in a small town and rarely traveled farther than an hour or so outside of the area. However, ever since my very first trip overseas in my late teens, I was totally hooked. I knew that no matter what happened, I wanted to continue traveling. When I met my husband, travel continued to be a valuable part of our life.
Whenever the topic of children came up, something we always agreed on was that we didn’t want to stop traveling, even after kids. Many people take a break from traveling after having kids, waiting until their kids are older. However, we’ve chosen to travel as a family since our daughter was very young.
She had her first plane ride at 2 months old and has been to eight countries and counting now at age 2. Travel is certainly different now than it was when I was single, or even when we were newlyweds without kids.
However, instead of giving up travel altogether, we’ve decided to adapt. Here’s how travel changes after kids. These are the things we’ve lost and the priceless things we have gained from traveling with our daughter.
The Things We Pack
This seems to be a given. When you add another person with totally different, complex needs, it can be assumed you will need to pack differently.
My days of stuffing a couple of outfits in a carry-on for a week-long trip are over. We still find ways to pack lighter, but now must account for diapers, food, clothing, toys and more for our toddler.
We definitely show up with a bit more luggage.
I’ve always been a bit of a planner when it comes to trip details, but now even more so. If things don’t go as planned, it’s a much bigger deal now that we have a toddler than it was before kids. So, we need contingency plans. Of course, things can still go wrong, but I try to do my homework and sort out as many details as I can in advance.
My daughter is fairly flexible as far as kids go, but we still aren’t as free to be spontaneous as we once were. Adult-only activities require childcare. Transportation is a bit more difficult. Little people have loud opinions. All of this means we follow more of a plan than we ever used to.
Lost Sleep and Slower Days
In the old days, my biggest concern on a long-haul flight was whether or not I would be able to sleep and if I would be stuck in a middle seat or not. Now I am on duty the entire flight — entertaining a small person.
Sleep in a hotel room comes at a premium; the nights are often harder and longer and being quite the go-getter when it comes to travel, we often get our day started later than I ever dreamed I would on vacation.
In my single days, traveling Europe with my backpack and friends, I traveled hard. I would never pass up a chance to see something or do something new during my trip.
Nowadays, even though we visit some of the most exciting and sought-after destinations on the planet (Bali anyone?!) we don’t always take it all in. I’ve come to accept this and have lowered my expectations about how much we can see in a day.
We have a new pace, we travel slower. However, even with these small losses, I wouldn’t trade anything for the priceless things I have gained.
Seeing the World Through Little Eyes
Traveling with my daughter has given me the single most valuable gift I have received in my travels — the ability to experience things as she does, even if just a little bit.
Things like seeing her touch an elephant for the first time, or her excitement at the airport every single time we get on a plane have changed our travel for the better. She sees the world as wonderful and exciting to explore. That has refreshed and enlightened my travels more than I ever could have dreamed.
My daughter breaks cultural barriers far faster than I would alone with a phrasebook. Universally, most people love children. My blonde-haired girl with her big brown eyes wins over strangers every time. We talk to people we would have never talked to.
She plays with other kids with no attention to language or skin color. It’s truly beautiful to watch.
Sure, travel is different now, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. It’s certainly different, but it’s not as horrible as some would make it out to be. Better yet, the experiences we have traveling as a family and the things we are learning about the world far outweigh the inconveniences that come from traveling with kids.