When my husband and I got married we received a lot of sage advice, including the good ole “Go on trips now and get it out of your system – once you have kids you won’t be able to.”
While I appreciate the good intent – I gotta say, we recently returned from a 2 week trip to Paris with our daughters (3yrs and 9 months) and it made me realize that that advice is a bunch of baloney. Here’s why I believe on continuing to travel with kids:
- Traveling more before kids just made me grow accustomed to regularly traveling. So we took this advice seriously and because we love to travel we totally did it up in the years before kids. In three years we did a cross-country Canada road trip, Switzerland and Italy for our honeymoon, Mexico, China, and Vancouver. We loved our trips and planned each with a cheerful “Better fit it in now, before we don’t have the time or money with kids!” … but that made it even harder to stop.
- Life with kids is more work – period. With or without kids, you need to continue to fuel your passions and find inspiration in your life. There’s no doubt that having 2 kids is a drain on your time, energy and patience. But that happens whether you’re at home or travelling abroad. Yes – it takes 2 hours to get out the door vs. 30 min when it was just the two of you. Yes – there are the inevitable washroom battles (“Please go to the washroom” “No – I don’t have to.” “Please pee now so we don’t have to use a disgusting public toilet” “No…” *10 min later en route* “…I have to go pee!!!!!”). Yes – the change in routine and time zone is going to throw them off for a bit (just shift your days and reap the benefits of either shorter line-ups in early mornings or opportunities to enjoy the night life!). However, I really believe if you are planful, space out your activities (1-2 major sites per day, and any additional is gravy), go with the flow, and incorporate park time you’ll still find plenty of hours to enjoy the city together (and quasi-alone while they nap in the stroller) and broaden your experiences & perspectives. Speaking of park time…
- Travelling with kids opens up more opportunities to mingle with locals. Children have some sort of eagle eye for spotting a park – that means they’ll often find some semi-hidden park that may look pretty hum-drum to you, but to them a park = “exploration! adventure! let’s go!” Those park dates are fond memories where we chatted with local parents in horrible broken French. Btw – I learned that Parisian moms are no different than North American ones! Yes some looked super chic,thin and manicured, but most others had the same bags under their eyes, comfy nursing-friendly clothing and Ergo carrier I was sporting. The stink-eye I’m giving off right now is for you, “Bringing up Bebe” book, with your chic mommy propaganda.
- Travelling with kids opens up more opportunities to mingle with other tourists. Children (babies in particular) are natural ice-breakers. It generally starts with other tourists cooing at them. And when you have a particularly social and flirty baby, like ours, who grins at folks then extends her chubby little hand (as if to say enchanté) you’re bound to be on the receiving end of smiles, and cordial exchanges. I once spent 25 minutes chatting with a woman from Columbia during a rain storm at the Arc de Triomphe. She didn’t know English, but it didn’t stop her from engaging in conversation with me in Spanish – first to comment on baby, but then to tell me about her kids, their careers, and their plans for the future. Sans bebe, I’m sure we would’ve just say wordlessly next to each other while the rain poured around us.
- The memories. I have fond memories of eating our picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower, climbing the steps of Notre Dame, thrift shopping some amazing 1 Euro finds, and watching our eldest interact with dozens of French children in the parks. That’s all fine and dandy, but it’s been 2 weeks since we’ve returned and our eldest daughter still savors her memories. She still proudly shows us her souvenir Eiffel Tower, requests “the bicycle story” every night (describing our bicycle tour around Paris), and talks about the taxi and buses we took. She’s 3 yrs old now, so only time will tell if she still has these memories when she’s 6 yrs or older, but regardless, she still gets to relive and enjoy the memories she made on the trip.
Bottom line is – traveling with kids is lots of work, but totally worth it. If the idea spooks you, start by doing that overnight Niagara Falls trip you’ve been eyeing off of Groupon. Know that things won’t go perfectly, but that the tough moments will pass and it will make the good memories seem even sweeter.
I’m happy to be home and reliving our memories. I’m thankful we were able to do this trip and that we were healthy and safe throughout the travels. I’m hopeful that this post will encourage others to set aside their fears and travel with their children.