I’ve been traveling with kids for a long time. As the oldest of five siblings, stepmom to two (now grown) boys and mommy to my own two, soon to be three, I have my share of family travel stories. My son went on his first trip when he was only three weeks old. I’ll never forget the sound of him screaming in his carseat because he was hungry. Here we are ten years later with dozens of pins on our world traveler map. My son and daughter each have a mile-long list of places they want to see and it is rare that a day passes that my kids and I don’t talk about past or upcoming trips. Here are some truths about traveling with kids but as you will see from #5 it’s always worth it.
1. The kids will get off their sleep schedule. Unless you’re magic, staying in a friend’s or family home in your own timezone, or keeping a ridged routine, expect the children’s nap and bedtime schedule to get blown. It doesn’t matter what their age is. Even today my now older kids end up staying awake much later and end up sleeping in. By the time we get home it takes a few days to a week to get back into a routine. But don’t fret. Teaching the kids to go with the flow is beneficial in the long run.
2. The kids will eat more junk food. The first day or two of a road trip my family eats super healthy (fruit, veggies, nuts) because I can pack what I want. But as soon as the food is gone and the ice is melted, forget it. It’s fast food and convenient store snacks. Flying isn’t any better because we’re at the mercy of restaurants and somehow the kids always end up with a dessert finishing their meal. And it’s okay. Mickey Mouse shaped ice cream, old-fashioned candies, and all-you-can dessert offerings on your cruise won’t hurt them. Kids are so naturally busy they will burn off the calories as quickly as they consume them. My suggestion: substitute. Urge the children to opt for the side of carrots or apples instead of fries or order a milk or water rather than a soda.
3. Your idea of a souvenir and their idea of a souvenir are totally different. Plastic swords, spinning light things and the cheesiest of t-shirts may end in your shopping bag, but that’s okay, too. What’s important to them is likely going to be age appropriate. If you feel strongly that they have something memorable from your trip, then buy them a “nice souvenir” that they will always have and a “fun souvenir” that lets them relish in the joy of childhood.
4. The kids don’t remember the painful moments. Well, that’s not true, they will remember when your car got broken into, the time the fire alarm went off and you had to evacuate the hotel, or the rain on the cruise. However, when they think on your trips their fond memories will surprise you and you will find the uncomfortable situations are simply (now funny) stories to tell.
5. The more you travel the better they get at it. And this is why you shouldn’t be afraid of traveling with your baby, toddler, high-energy school aged kid, or grumpy teenager. One day they will look back and say, “Remember when…” then they will blow you away with something you had completely forgotten about or recall a moment that you didn’t think they noticed and you will smile and think to yourself: Yes, it was all worth it.