Traveling with Kids. Why You Should Go For It.

As someone who’s had the blessing of two sets of children in two distinct phases in my life, I wanted to share a few thoughts about why traveling with kids is a pretty great idea. In fact, if travel is in your soul then you’re going to want to find a way to make it happen, even if you think that having children means your travel plans have been shelved. Here’s why.

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I had my first set of children fairly young, during my early to mid twenties, when time and money were in short supply. I was building my career and raising a young family. Who had time to travel? Not this girl. And I sure as heck didn’t have the money. When the girls got a bit older, I made it a point to start taking a vacation each year because travel had always been on my bucket list. We started small by renting a cottage a few hours from home for a week each summer. When that worked well, I added a second week. And then we started camping because we couldn’t afford much more and I still wanted us to get away on the weekends.

When the girls were a bit older, I made the time and saved the cash to take road trips to Florida, South Carolina, and other southern destinations that took us out of the suburban Canadian world we lived in. We even flew to an all inclusive Jamaican resort one year where I had the opportunity to learn that I don’t like all inclusive resorts. Not as adventurous as I wanted to be but at least we got out there. And those trips were amazing even when the girls drove me nuts. Because they were teens by then and they drove everyone nuts.

Thinking about traveling with kids. Here's why you should.

Once they grew up and didn’t want to go anywhere with me anymore I continued to travel by myself. And then I suddenly became a parent again in my mid-forties to two tiny little boys born 12 months apart. I cried a lot because I was afraid life was going to go back to the same mind-numbing way I had been living when my first set of kids were younger. Until one day I decided that I wouldn’t let that happen.

So we traveled. Always by car for the first couple of years so I could feel somewhat in control (ha!) and always around my work schedule. By the time the boys were 3 and 4 they had been to Florida 4 times, hung out in downtown Nashville on a Friday night, been on a pirate ship in the Gulf of Mexico (twice), and spent every weekend one summer camping in a glamper on the shoreline of Lake Erie. Still pretty safe and predictable but I liked the fact that we were getting out there.

Since then we’ve been back and forth to South Carolina, to Cuba twice, and we’re currently planning to spend the summer in Europe and South Africa where the boys will turn 5 and 6,

There were meltdowns and tantrums and all sorts of chaos. And I know there will be lots more to come. One kid forgot to get off the elevator after the doors closed. The same kid cut his face and blackened an eye in Alabama. The youngest fell asleep standing up in an elevator after a particularly late dinner one evening. By late, I mean dinner ended at 9:30 pm. He’s a good sleeper and enjoys going to bed. Bless him.

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This is Aiden eating alligator sausage. 3 years later and he only eats PB&J sandwiches.

But we mostly laughed, spent time together on purpose (as opposed to just existing in the house at the same time), and enjoyed ourselves tremendously. On our last trip to Florida, I had the luxury of three weeks which means there’s a whole lot less pressure to do everything in a week before rushing back home so I let the rule book fade away. One day we hit up a beach bar right on the Gulf coast where I ordered a daiquiri at lunch, we ate whatever we wanted without worrying about nutrition, and I let the boys dance to eighties rock music out on the dance floor. I use the term “dance” kind of loosely here. Best day ever. We made friends everywhere we went, not just because the boys were cute, but because people love kids. Even wait staff in the most obvious tourist places who were exhausted with people loved to hang out and chat because of those little boys.

Then there was the time in Panama City Beach two years ago, where Liam told all the young ladies his name was Ricky Bobby and became the most popular guy at spring break. Even Aiden, who had some serious shyness issues back then, waltzed off into the deep end with his date that day without looking back. Best half hour of free babysitting of my life. I actually closed my eyes for a few minutes that March afternoon and just relaxed.

Why you should travel with kids.

I learned something on those trips. Kids are the ultimate people connector. Even the hotel/condo staff or most aloof server, cracked wide open when the boys showed up. They wanted to chat about their own kids, or their relatives kids, and I got to know people in a very different way than when I traveled with adults. Kids, I realized, are your ticket into the local culture and for someone who’s kind of shy and introverted, they’re a ticket to conversation and immediate camaraderie. Which is pretty cool when you’re socially awkward and introverted like I am.

Before Liam was born, I went to Hawaii on a solo vacation. I think I spent that entire week in Oahu with my head buried in a book and not speaking to anyone because of that whole shy/introvert thing. And in doing so, I lost a huge opportunity to connect with local people.

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Assuming they would have me since that tourist thing is huge in Hawaii and all. But kids are never going to allow you to bury your head in a book and ignore what’s going on around you. Everyone wants to chat to the boys, and by extension, to their mom. Sweet. Mostly. Because, shyness, and all.

Everyone has choices and there a lot of them to be made once you have kids. Should I take that job even though it’s farther from home? What car should we buy? Do we need a minivan now? Breast or bottle? (Although that’s thankfully off the table when you’re not the bio-mom!)  Soccer or baseball? Girl scouts or ballet? Buy a bigger house or travel more? I’d rather the questions in life be more along the lines of Bali or Thailand?

If you’re at all interested in travel and worried that it can’t be done with kids, stop freaking out and go do it! The older they get, the harder it gets. Do it before the kids lose interest because they will and that’s going to suck. Or before they need to be entertained all the time and don’t know how to just enjoy being somewhere different. Because kids do that.

Why you should travel with young children

Have you successfully traveled with young children? If so, I’d love to hear about it. Leave me a comment below or email me at Jenna@24cottonwoodlane.com and share your story.

Summer Travel Series 2017

It’s June and you know what that means? It’s time to talk summer vacation and all things related to traveling with kids. Because let’s face it. Your standard for what makes a great vacation on a girls trip is probably a little different than what you’re hoping for when you travel with kids.

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I have loved to travel as long as I can remember which is one of the reasons I struggled at the thought of raising another set of children after my older girls were grown. As a single parent, no less. I was always looking forward to having grandchildren some day. You know, to play with them and do fun things. I didn’t actually have plans to raise them but here we are.

And if I’m going to see the world, I’d better get on it which means the boys are coming along. Cuz I ain’t getting any younger or any less high maintenance as I age. The amount of money I spend on high thread count sheets is pretty ridiculous, just as one teeny tiny example. Along with the number of hours it takes me to actually fall asleep these days, but I digress.

We’ve had great success most of the time in our travels since these fellows came along. We’ve made numerous road trips to Florida, starting when Liam was just 2 months of age. We actually managed to spend the last 6 weeks of my parental leave with Liam in beach house on the Gulf Coast of Florida, which was a lovely break from our crazy Canadian winters.

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Panama City Beach, Florida

I’ve done road trips alone with the boys and one solo trip to Cuba last spring. I took them back to Cuba again last fall with my oldest kiddo and we had the best time. All inclusives are great when you’re not looking to do much but eat, sleep, and beach. (And the all you can drink buffet really seems to buffer the sounds of kids fighting with each other over who’s coconut is whose. I kid you not.)

Varadero, Cuba

 

The only epic fail I’ve had was the time I totally overstimulated my guys and forgot about their disabilities in my effort to educate them and do all of the things I wanted to do in South Carolina last spring.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Alligator adventures #fasd
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

My bad. They literally kicked the front seat, and either shrieked from manic outbursts or were crying hysterically most of the way home. For the entire last day of the trip. That’s right. For 10 freaking hours. You can read about that fiasco here. If you’re parenting a child with FASD, you’ll know what I mean and probably don’t need any further explaining lol.

However, I haven’t given up on the travel plans and I’m finally adding a travel section on this site. Because travel is about experiencing life differently. It teaches you to live big and live in the moment.  It also teaches patience, compassion, and it pushes you out of your comfort zone. For me that’s huge since I like to be comfortable and I’m starting to get pretty complacent on my pretty grey sofa. Which is why I’m kicking of this June with a summer travel series.

So in 8 days, we’re leaving on our big summer adventure!! We’re traveling to Paris, Germany, Amsterdam and South Africa this summer. We’ll be sharing our stories here, and our photos on Facebook and on Instagram so come follow us and we can be travel buddies. Well, cyber travel buddies but that’s cool, too.

I’m also in the process of combining my travel website with this one, so there will be lots of other travel inspiration as the sites merge over the next few weeks.

HAPPY TRAVELS! PIN IT FOR LATER!

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