The “Secret” to Traveling with Children
I recently read an article from CNNGo about the "hard truth" of traveling with kids. After a few paragraphs, I began to wonder if the author even HAD children and, if she does, felt a great deal of sorrow for them.
But I always have a hard time with anyone who doesn't see kids as a blessing, but a "curse" or an "oops" that they now have to figure out how to live with and around.
The truth is, for me, I don't like to travel without my children. There was a time when my husband used to talk about taking a trip, just the 2 of us, to Europe. I couldn't imagine it. I never wanted an ocean between my little ones and me. It's just not who I am, nor my husband anymore.
Not that there aren't challenges to traveling with children, because there are, but the benefits FAR outweigh the headaches.
When we used to take long trips in the car to visit family several states away, we had a few things we NEVER left home without:
- Blankets and/or pillows to make the long drive more comfortable and, hopefully, allow the children to sleep some on the road. It was also nice to have because no pillow sleeps as good as your own. :o)
- Snacks, cups for everyone and a roll of paper towels. Sometimes even an opened bag of breakfast cereal to eat at hotels that didn't have anything I liked. Yes, I am a picky breakfast eater, much picker than my children.
- DVDs to watch. I hardly ever listened to music while driving, but have heard the movie Bolt more times than I can count. If it keeps the children from fighting, I'm alright with that.
- ONE toy per child. Okay, this rule was broken often, but you have to let them bring something to play with.
Planning to travel overseas was a bit different. Each child had her own backpack and she knew that the clothes went in first, toys went in last. And if it didn't fit, it didn't go.
That's one thing about the article I mentioned above that I took offense to. The author makes it seem like you have to pack the entire contents of your child's toy box for them to be happy on the trip. But if it takes 100 pounds of toys to keep your children happy, you have bigger problems than traveling with children.
As for food options, I have a basic rule of thumb: if I can find something to eat, so can my kids! Yes, they love french fries and chicken nuggets, but they have also learned that they like lentil soup, gallo pinto (rice and beans dish), tamales, among other dishes they'd never know they liked if we catered to their every want!
We really have only seen one major limiting factor when it comes to traveling with our children and that's the expense of getting to the destination. Sure, $187 airline tickets are AWESOME until you multiply that by 7.
I would much rather shell out $2K in airfare to build some amazing memories with my children than to leave them out. I recall going to a fireworks show at EPCOT center one evening after a dinner ended at a MOPS conference and feeling SO alone without my children there to "Ooo" and "Aaa" with over the beautiful explosions overhead. There I stood, with probably a good 3000 people around me, and all I wanted was my husband's and several pairs of little eyes to share the experience with.
Traveling with children, I believe, is as hard as you make it, or rather, a reflection of how your life is at home. If you spend every waking minute wishing your kids weren't around OR trying to appease their every whim, travel will be no different. However, if your children are used to expectations of being patient when things don't go as expected and know how to find ways to amuse themselves without 100 pounds of toys, they'll likely be just fine…and so will you.
I'm not the only traveling parent who took offense at many of the points in the article on CNNGo. Here are some other family travel bloggers' responses:
Worst Family Travel Advice I've Ever Read by Gabi Klaf @The Nomadic Family.com
Debunking CNN's rules for traveling with kids by Mary @Bohemiantravelers
How Do you Travel with Children? by Alisa @ Living Outside of the Box
5 Rules of Travel With Kids: A Traveling Child Responds by Jennifer Miller
CNN's Ridiculous Rules About Travel With Kids by Corinne at Have Baby Will Travel (@hvbabywilltrvl)
Shocking Tips on Traveling with Kids That Went Unnoticed…It is Time to Demystify The Five Rules of Traveling with Kids by Claudia Looi @travelwritingpr
French fries and chicken nuggets are travel essentials: The worst family travel advice ever by Nancy Sathre-Vogel @familyonbikes
More Than French Fries by Lisa Shusterman
Rules are What You Make Them: Paving Your Own Way Through Family Travel by Jessica @Suitcases and Sippy Cups
Why "Easy" Travel Options Aren't Always the Best for Kids- a Rebuttal to CNNGo "5 Rules of Traveling With Kids" by Jody Halsted; Family Rambling @iatraveler
Myths, NOT rules, of traveling with kids by Kate Rehkopf, Experiential Family @experientialfam
My Reality (Not Rules) When Traveling with Kids by Keryn Means/Walkingon Travels (twitter: @walkingontravel)
Forget the Rules of Travel – Try Backpacking with Kids in Yellowstone National Park by Sandra Foyt @sandrafoyt