Why I Choose to Travel With Kids
Traveling with kids is not a burden, but an honour
I have been a part of the overall travel blogging community for some time now and I have come across a few unsettling discoveries. Not only is our niche divided amongst our continents of preference, solo female travelers and solo male travelers, tourists, and travelers (the distinction is lost on me) but apparently there is a huge divide between travelers with kids and travelers without kids. Many times, I have been asked: “Why do I choose to travel with kids?”- because leaving them behind is an option, I hear. Other times, I hear solo travelers tell me their life will be over once they have a family and therefore want to make the most of it while they are still young, as well as preferring to spend their money on traveling instead of “wasting” it on children.
If you are offended by any of these statements, I encourage you to keep reading. If you agree with any of these statements, I still encourage you to keep reading. There is no need to us vs them in this community. It is hard enough to be recognized as a legitimate life choice in the first place, without your “co-workers” demeaning your every move (this goes for family bloggers poo-pooing on solo travelers too. We are not exempt from voicing our judgments).
I have organized a group of family travel bloggers to help disseminate some valuable information regarding traveling with kids and to help dispel preconceived notions of what it is like to travel as a family. I have asked all 9 of them the same questions I keep getting asked and they have all given me 9 very different views of the same proverbial coin. To be honest, it has left me thinking a lot about the way I travel and teach my own kids here in Germany.
Travel with kids
1. Have you always traveled with kids or did they come along later? When and why did you start traveling with them in the first place?
Meghan from MarcotteinEurope says her opportunity to travel only came along after she had her three kids (6-year-old and twin 5-year-olds). They moved to Europe for her husband’s work and take every holiday to travel while they still can. They are “rollin’ with it”, so to speak.
Cathy from Mummytravels says she has been traveling since she was a child herself, so having one of her own wasn’t about to stop her. “I travel with her for the same reasons I travel for myself; to discover the wonders of the world, its people, its cultures. To me, its endlessly fascinating and I never want to stop”.
2. Do you think the kids are gaining anything from traveling so much? How to they handle it?
Kerri from Ourglobetrotters says her kids don’t seem to grasp the idea of travel in terms of distance covered, but more in differences between the cultures and physical appearance of the location; “They have been exposed to a lot of different cultures already (living in the UAE). They are inquisitive when we travel…(in the long) term I think this will help them be far more understanding that there are differences in the world”.
Nadine from lelongweekend says this is her son’s new normal, as he has only ever known traveling. “I would hope that by exposing him to so many new places and cultures that he will grow into an open-minded, accepting young adult with an appreciation and respect for the world”.
3. Do kids even remember at such a young age?
(I think this question hints on “isn’t it a waste of money to bring them along”) I have made a distinction between “remembering” and “gaining” for the simple reason that I can gain character or facts (experience) without remembering where I gained it from.
Katja from Finding Malokoko says “children will also not remember how you read stories to them, sang them to sleep, how you took them to baby swimming classes or built sand castles at the beach with them – and yet we all agree these are great things to do with our kids. So why should it be any different when it comes to traveling?” when asked why she doesn’t leave the little one with grandmas while she travels. They are a family and they will do things together, as a family.
Carrie from Flyingwithababy also believes these adventures create much more than just memories, they are building blocks. “My children have learned to taste different foods, meet different cultures and have learned how to be patient on ultra long haul flights – all benefits they might not remember but help for the future”.
Cristin from smartmousetravel has another take on this question. It’s not always about the kids; “it is OK for you to travel to a place with your family simply because you want to explore for yourself.” I think Cristin would agree with Cathy on her next point – Cathy said giving up your passion just because you became a parent is the “quickest way to have a frustrated, resentful mother rather than a fulfilled one.”
Finally, Marianne from Mumonthemove said that even if her kids don’t remember these experiences, she will. She will remember that their milestones were accomplished around the world and it is good enough for her.
4. Is traveling with kids easier, harder or there is no comparison to traveling without them?
Carrie made a great point; the transit may be harder with kids but the destination is the same day-to-day mess but in a new location, and with fewer distractions.
Cristin does concede that traveling with little ones is harder due to the sheer volume of gear required and their special needs, but her 8-year-old is able to manage her own backpack and traveling with her is “no different than traveling alone or with (her) husband”.
Cathy agrees that little ones require more gear, planning and provide less opportunity to be spontaneous, locals seem to be drawn to her and her family; “countless people help me out on our journeys, restaurants happily let my daughter order off-menu and people welcome you more as a family rather than another faceless tourist”.
5. Does the child’s age determine how much you plan on doing during your travels?
Nadine says her children’s age has made her a better traveler; “we see and experience things we wouldn’t have if we were just rushing through an attraction or place. You notice the details when you have to slow down. Plus, I find locals are more willing to engage with you when you have a cute toddler at your side”.
6. Do you feel you miss anything by having the kids/family with you?
All moms can agree that they do miss the nightlife aspect of traveling, and adventure traveling is not always possible with such young children, but they make it work the best they can. They switch babysitting duty with dad in the hotel room to take a walk in the evening, make a list of places to revisit when the kids are older (or moved out), or just schedule an activity like a museum, to best suit the child’s schedule (like nap time).
Ruth from Exploramum, made a great point, however; “pubs in Scotland do not allow children in after 7 pm (so) it is hard to find somewhere to eat. But kids also help you meet other families.”
7. How much do the kids input into the travel planning stage?
So far, most of the children are a little too young to be making actual plans. They do, however, make a series of basic recommendations like waterfalls or castles.
Katja does, however, “look into the possible kid-friendly activities and try to book accommodations with a pool… and this can save our day”
Cristin, on the other hand, believes her 8 years old “has the second most input into planning an itinerary…I find that if I include her in the planning phases I get a lot more excitement from her before and during the trip than if she is not involved”
8. Overall, how do you survive parenting and traveling at the same time? Isn’t it too stressful?
Marianne says it is all about stress management; if planned, researched and organized properly before heading out, the less stressed everyone will be. “We used to wing it a lot more before the kids came along, now I find it easier to have everything booked and organized before we go.”
Kerri says parenting at home is just as stressful as on the road. With 3 kids and school holidays, “we can spend it at home, not doing much, fighting over toys and TV or we can spend it traveling. But at least we feel like we are doing something.”
As Stacy from Strolleringtheglobe put it; travel is just parenting but with a prettier backdrop.
9. Are you still able to check off your bucket-list with your kids in tow?
For the most part, these family travelers say it is all about prioritizing their list. Moving items around for when the kids are a little older and placing kid-friendly destinations higher on the list. It isn’t a matter of removing an item, but waiting a little longer, until they can experience it properly.
Waiting until the children are old enough to take the proper precautions, like Malaria tablets, for example, will also greatly impact destination choices, but once they have passed that hurdle, there is no reason not to visit.
10. How do you budget for a family vacation?
Airbnb and couch-surfing are still a real possibility with a family, it just takes a little more research to find the right accommodations. Hotel rooms can be a little cramped, and most will not allow more than 4 bodies in a room, regardless of age, so families with 3 children need to rent a second room or find apartment style rooms.
Personally, budgeting for a vacation is a little difficult, only because there are so many unknowns. Most bloggers here agree that they budget during the planning stages – hotels, flights, and transportation, but everything else (meals, souvenirs, even attractions) have a nasty habit of blowing that budget each and every time. This, however, has nothing to do with the kids. I also travel this way. I will only be here once, I spent all this money to get here, I will not go home wishing I had spent an extra $100 to do something amazing just because I was being “cheap”. My next vacation may have to wait a month longer to refill the coffers but I will have a great time on vacation, I demand it.
Meghan, on the other hand, has a real “live in the moment” attitude. She says her time in Europe is limited and she may not have the opportunity to continue traveling when they are sent back home, so they are making the most of it while they can and worrying about money later. They “do what (they) have to to make sure (they) get where (they) want”.
Travel with kids doesn’t have to be a chore, a waste of money or a Debby-downer. A person’s choice to have (or not to have) children is their personal choice and none of us are pushing one way or another. What we are pushing for is acceptance. We are tired of being refused at hostels, hotels and other budget accommodations. We are tired of being told we are less-than-optimal travelers. And we are certainly tired of having our choices belittled only because they are different and misunderstood.
I hope we have given you a little glimpse into our various ways of traveling with a family, especially traveling with kids. If you’re still not convinced about traveling with kids, check out Why traveling with little ones is the best, but if you secretly hate traveling with the kids or just need a little laugh, check out The ugly side of traveling with kids.
Traveling with kids essentials
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