How Travelling Changed When I Became a Mother
I used to traverse the world armed only with a backpack, open–ended plane ticket and nobody to answer to. Now I have my own mini globetrotters aged 7 and 4 in tow, my travels involve an itinerary, pre–booked accommodation and baby wipes. Having kids doesn’t mean you can’t go on vacation and see the world. It just means you travel differently. The key is in the preparation. Here are my tips for travelling with kids.
Every year, my family picks a US state at random and we embark on a road trip. Rather than taking a free–spirited approach, wherever the highway takes us, Ibook most of our accommodation in advance, swapping the charming B&Bs I used to stay in for family–friendly motels or Airbnb rentals.
When it comes to packing, the trusty old backpack of my youth or sleek carry–on of my twenties just won’t cut it. I opt for lightweight suitcases that will enable me to cram in all of my children’s necessities (items for my husband and I are almost an after thought). Pacsafe’s Toursafe EXP anti–theft wheeled gear bag is big and sturdy, but lightweight enough to wheel through airports with children in tow. I also now consult a packing list and check things off methodically. Trust me, this is a step you definitely want to take. I learnt this lesson the hard way, spending a day of my Thailand trip hunting down a shop selling swimwear for a 3–year old!
Flying used to be a relaxing event, reading amongst the clouds and dozing off after a Bloody Mary or two. Flying with a toddler is an exhausting experience, from taming tantrums to wiping up endless spillages. I admire my parents’ generation who had little technology to depend on – how did they entertain us on long–haul flights without an iPad loaded with episodes of Peppa Pig?!
The nature of your trips will also change as your kids get older. When they’re young, you can be a bit more selfish. A baby is a fairly easy accessory while taking a leisurely stroll on a city break but a whining 4–year old who won’t sit in a stroller is not. I often have to remind myself to relax, it’s ok that we aren’t seeing all the sights a city has to offer. We march at a slightly slower pace and add in fun things to do with kids such as playgrounds, parks and children’s museums.
Pre–kids, we would seek out the culinary highlights of a city from a popular street food cart to a 5–star Michelin experience. With young kids it’s all about convenience, easy food and a high chair! These days I will check online to ensure a restaurant is set up to accommodate young children.
Do I miss the carefree life of travelling without kids? Cycling down the world’s most dangerous road in La Paz? Floating down a river in Laos with a beer in each hand? Experiencing the action of a live tuna auction at 4 am then sampling the world’s best sushi for breakfast?
The honest answer is that I do miss the spontaneity and adventure of travelling without kids. However, I’m determined to show my kids as much of the world as possible. I love watching their faces as they try new foods and catch their first glimpses of magical places around the world. Who knows, perhaps one day I’ll be begging them to take me with them on their backpacking adventures around the world!
Nicola Burke is on a quest to discover all things family travel. She chronicles her adventures on Jetlag and Mayhem, helping other parents travel easier with the kids.