Three Things NOT To Do When Traveling With Young Kids

My husband and I love to travel.  We’re especially fond of the mixed active/lie on the beach vacations where you get the best of both worlds (in our opinion) but really, send us anywhere and we’re happy.  Once we had our daughter, however, traveling took on a new meaning.  Although we had traveling with my stepson, it was less frequent and he was older when we got together.  Traveling with a 6-year-old is different than traveling with a 1-year-old.  We have learned the hard way that there are some things that you should just never do if traveling with the likes of a preschooler or younger child which I’d like to share.  Trust me, these are lessons better learned via someone else…

  1. Do not get on a plane/train/automobile without an extra set of clothes readily available. We recently made this mistake when we went to Mexico with our 4-year-old.  Figuring she’s toilet trained and all that, I didn’t think (at 3am when we had to get up to get to the airport) about making sure I had an extra set of clothes in the bag like I used to.  Of course this was the time my daughter stuffed too much banana in her mouth resulting in her throwing up all over herself.  Nothing like traveling with a banana-puke child on two flights and one stopover to make you realize that your child is never too old for a change of clothing.  (Also, you never know when your luggage is going to end up in another country, leaving you stranded.  Having a change of clothing for everyone is highly suggested.)

  2. Do not travel without child games for your kid to play (by themselves). In an effort to not pack with quite so much, we have made the (stupid) executive decision to travel with the bare minimum play-wise for our daughter.  After all, we’re going someplace amazing, right?  Yeah, in your kids’ eyes, your hotel room is now home and that is where they get to dump out their various toys (cue Queen Elsa, the Ninja Turtles, and Iron Man) and play with them when you’re trying to relax on the patio with a drink.  Without said toys, you are always the toy.  Being the toy is awesome in many ways and at many times.  Goodness knows I love being my daughter’s playmate and do so every day for at least 30 minutes of her-led play, but on vacation there are times I want to sit on a patio with a pina colada and talk to my husband.  Sadly we have forgotten that if we bring her nothing to play with, that doesn’t happen (luckily she’s a child that with things to play with, will entertain herself for ages).  In short: Bring the darn toys.

  3. Under no circumstances does your vacation “start early”. Remember pre-kid when you’d plan a trip with your significant other and it really began the moment you guys got off work the day before you left?  Drinks, staying up late… it all began a day early.  Who cares if you have to get up after 3 hours sleep to hop on a plane?  You’ll sleep on the plane.  Who cares if you’re hungover?  You’ll sleep on the plane.  One of the first time we traveled with my daughter (when she was old enough I wasn’t sleeping every time she slept, trip or not) we started our trip early.  We were responsible enough that there was no getting drunk, but we stupidly thought we could put our girl to bed and enjoy talking and watching movies until some stupid hour before going to sleep for a precious few hours before getting on a plane.  After all, we can sleep on the plane, right?  Ha!  No you can’t.  Your child will have (hopefully) slept and be ready to explore and experience the flight.  In fact, getting on a plane or train or whatever is going to be one super-awesome highlight for your child so be prepared to be on call.  Now, I should add that your child’s excitement on this plane (or whatever) is amazing in and of itself.  Seeing a child be in wonder at this new environment should bring out the best in you, but it’s hard when you’re crazy tired and just want more sleep.  This is why your vacation starts when you’re somewhere where your vacation can actually start, not earlier.  This isn’t about limiting your happiness, but realizing that your happiness is going to come in different ways when you’ve got kids and the travel aspect can actually be more than a siesta or means-to-an-end when you’ve got kids.  It’s part of the fun… if you’re ready for it.

Enjoy your vacations.  Travel with kids is an amazing gift and I wish more people realized how awesome it is to take your kids on vacation with you.  It’s different than traveling alone, but to see the world through your child’s eyes is something special.  However, as the boy scouts say, be prepared.

By Tracy Cassels

March 02, 2015