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“Can I travel with kids?”
You’d be amazed how often people ask this question! Of course you can travel with kids! You can travel with big kids, and you can travel with small kids. At this point, ours, both under six, have been to almost 30 countries. Jenia often quotes this dialogue from the Paris, Je T’Aime movie:
Vincent: Claire, make Gaspard a balloon, not a ball and chain.
Claire: Was I a ball and chain?
Vincent: Mon Petit Claire, You were not the ball and chain. You were the zeppelin.
“I bet traveling with kids is different from traveling without them.”
Yes, traveling with kids is different, but it is not necessarily harder. Here’s why. Babies are not the least bit picky about where in the world they are, as long as their needs are being met. Turtle breastfed atop Notre Dame de Paris, for example, and he was also thrilled to spend his days napping in a carrier in Sri Lanka. As Jenia wrote several years ago, “After 8 weeks and 9 flights I came to the conclusion that traveling with a baby is no different from doing everything else with a baby. We only needed 4 things: my milk, diapers, patience, and flexibility.” Accordingly, traveling with babies can be simple. Making a few changes to routines and itineraries becomes necessary as the kids get older.
“You must have to do a lot less exploring with children traveling along with you.”
To an extent this is true. We’ve definitely reduced the scope of our sight-seeing, especially as the kids have gotten more independent, but it’s not a severe limitation. On a typical day we locate a park or playground where the kids can cut loose in addition to doing more typical tourist stuff. We also make sure we’re back to our home base at a reasonable hour. We see less, but we get to know a specific area better, so it’s a bit of a trade-off. Also, we get to explore places we won’t necessarily see otherwise, like parks, fire stations, and certain museums.
“How do you travel with kids? You’re so brave!”
No, we’re not. We’re normal parents and we have our ups and downs. The simple fact of the matter is that traveling with kids is like doing anything else with them. There are times when it’s frustrating, but so is staying at home with them. When we travel we make sure to do some preparation ahead of time for the kids, and we also keep certain routines of home in place, since this provides a sense of continuity (click to read about how we do this). More often than not, traveling with kids simply amounts to spending time with your family–albeit in different, exotic locales! And, what’s more, there are moments when traveling with the whole family is simply wonderful–everyone gasps in awe or laughs in delight at something new and unexpected.
“Do your kids ever have meltdowns when you’re traveling? How do you deal with that?”
They do indeed. We deal with it like we would anywhere else. If one of them is falling apart, we let him or her get their feelings out, as long as it is safe to, and after it passes, things go on. There’s no special trick to it. Naturally, we make it clear we’re not rewarding bad behavior, so those incidents never result in them getting whatever it is they wanted. One thing that sometimes helps prevent the kids from getting upset in the first place is to talk about eventualities–for example, as we depart for a trip to the Science Museum in Hong Kong, a place Turtle has wanted to visit for a long time, we explain to him, “Sometimes tickets sell out and people can’t get inside. If we can’t get in, we will find something else to do, like go to the playground nearby.” While it doesn’t mean they won’t be let down, a simple talk like that can prevent extreme disappointment and hence tantrums. For the most part, we must say, our kids are good travelers, just as they are good kids.
“Should I travel with kids?”
We think so! If you have the ability to, why not show them more of this big world? Let them experience how different life is in China, or the UAE, or Nepal, or wherever. Give them a glimpse into other regional lifestyles, cultures, languages, and religions.
“Can I travel with kids? Are you sure?”
As we said above, we find traveling with kids to be like doing anything else with them. If you can look after your children, you can do it somewhere else. It’s not daunting. We definitely think that traveling with children is worthwhile. We think it can help your children develop into well-rounded human beings, and that is quite a gift to them and the rest of the world.