Traveling with Kids

My friend had the following comment about traveling with kids: "They are fun to live abroad with but travel with kids?  It's exhausting!"  I would definitely agree.  Traveling with other adults is a lot easier, but for some of us that isn't an option.  With family far away and no budget for an au pair, we mostly HAVE to travel with kids if we want to travel at all.  Having traveled a fair amount with children in tow, here are a few things that I have found helpful:

1. Airbnb.  Hotels are small.  Staying in a hotel with small children starts to feel like Animal Planet in about 20 minutes and not in a Mommy and Daddy's special hug sort of way either.  Oh, and sharing a hotel room with small children makes "special hug" time extra hard.  Airbnb's are around the same price as a hotel, but you can often get a one or two bedroom apartment for the same price.   Living in an apartment means you can pick and choose when you eat in a restaurant and when you just eat at your apartment.  Perhaps your children are all tiny little diplomats but I know we can only handle one meal in a restaurant per day.  Bonus: Some Airbnbs are rented out by families so there are toys already there for your kids!  However, some hotels offer babysitting or daycare, you'll have to weigh the pros and cons.

2. A comfort item like a portable night light.  Sleeping in lots of different places can prove stressful for our kids so we make sure to pack these items:

One is a pillow pet of sorts and one is a penguin night light.  Both items have been with us in over 10 countries with stays ranging from 2 nights to 4 months.  They really help with the bedtime routine.  

3. Snacks.  Every parent knows this, but as soon as you step in the car/plane/bus/train without provisions and it becomes a sob-fest to rival the last session of an Eat Pray Love book club.  

4. Lowered Expectations.  I walked up to the Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona and my husband and I decided not to go in.  Our children were extra squirelly at the moment and I knew it wouldn't go well.  We went to the other side of the massive cathedral where there was a playground, sat on a park bench and admired the amazing outside.  I am ok with it.  Also I hope I can go back someday.  Perhaps next time I'll bring tranquilizers.  Just kidding.  Maybe.  I have found when I find a way to work with my kids schedules, maybe they give a little, and I give a little things work better. When I just drag them everywhere I want to go feeling like they owe me at least this for all I do for them I end up resenting them and not enjoying it anyway.  Congratulate yourself when things go well and figure out how to re-tool your plans when you start feeling like a lonely cat-herd.  

5. Cajones.  That's right.  Balls. Or for you ladies out there, the va-jay-jay to actually travel with kids.  You can do this. You can do hard things.  It just takes some careful planning.  Give yourself lots of pep talks with lots of well placed swear-words.  It works for me.  

6. Remember Spartans weren't taking a trans-atlantic flight when they packed their tiny suitcase of tube socks, underwear and toothpaste.  You are a parent.  Ask yourself, how long exactly does your 3 year old walk by him/herself before collapsing in a sobbing heap on the sidewalk.  If they are 4 or under, pack the damn stroller.  Kids need equipment.  Unless you live like spartans at home, they are going to need some of the things on the road that they do at home.  I'm not saying over pack, but just don't imagine that there is going to be a miraculous scenario when you don't need a certain item unless that scenario regularly happens at home. That's why suitcases have wheels, so parents can bring all their crap to keep themselves and their children sane on trips.  

7.  These little guys see things I don't see.  A lot of times its rocks and sticks, but sometimes it is a smell or the way a painting makes them feel.   It can be an enriching experience to watch how they discover a new place.  Or at least console you that you won't be sitting calmly at a nice restaurant with your spouse casually sipping your drink as you laugh about how much disposable income you have.  

8.  Keep it simple.  Our best days are ones where we plan two main activities.  One activity for the morning (like going to the museum or going to the beach), and one for the afternoon.  Allow for playground pit stops.  It will give you some time to plan transportation to your next activity. 

9. Mattress protection.  Save yourself the stress of having to frantically scrub out pee stains from a mattress (if you are staying in an Airbnb).  If you have an occasional bed-wetter, chances are the stress of travel and perhaps a fear of going to the bathroom in a new place could trigger the yellow tide.  Slip one of those babies under the fitted sheet and rest easy.  

In conclusion, you can do this.  You can travel with kids.  It will make their lives better and you might just enjoy it.  And also it's illegal to leave them home by themselves.  


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