My daughter has garnered more passport stamps in three short years than I had in thirty plus. She learned to skip in Singapore. She learned to whistle in Ecuador. Just weeks ago, in London, she learned the fine art of balancing a profound wanderlust for this wide planet with the delicate yearnings for home:
“Can we come back again, but this time with our house?”
And so, for all of the advice out there, I will simply say this: Find a way.
Find a way to travel with your kids. Find a way to make it work. (But they won’t remember it!) Of course they might not remember it. But you will.
You will remember how uncomfortable it felt to walk up and down the airplane aisles jostling a teething 9-month-old, the graciousness of a stewardess bringing you a plastic cup of merlot on your twentieth lap. You will remember the kindness of strangers carrying your suitcase down subway stairs. You will remember running out of diapers somewhere in Tokyo; you will remember the resourcefulness of a t-shirt.
You will remember it all.
This world unfolds in ways not unlike the very map we use to navigate it with. Travel stretches us. It is taxing at times, and achingly beautiful at times, and we will always, always return home a bit crumpled but a lot changed.
We can do this anywhere: the crumpling, the changing. We can drive across deserts for dollars, finding provisions for pennies. Free yoga in a San Franciscan cathedral. Complementary tours through Portland’s international rose garden. Art installations galore in NYC, yours for the taking: The Earth Room, Broken Kilometer. Free Friday nights at MOMA, free Tuesday night stargazing on the High Line.
You will remember it all.
If your kids do, too, it’s a bonus. And yet, I don’t know that it’s more memories our kids need. They’ll have what they have, the oft-mundane mental snapshots of summertime in the sprinkler, of birthday candles atop icing, of Christmas carols in church.
They’ll have their past.
Travel will offer them their present.
Travel will offer them our time. Travel with offer them ourselves. A parent with heightened senses; a parent paying attention. Togetherness. An afternoon unhurried at the park (Can we feed the parakeets?). Yes, yes, feed the parakeets.
No, they might not remember it.
But you will.
And so, if you’re ready to fill your gas tank and get on with it, here are some helpful tips we’ve gained throughout our own travels…
Your official traveling-with-kids mantra will be this: “It’s an adventure, not a vacation.”
Repeat this daily, both in the weeks leading up to your trek, and whilst in the thick of it. It’s a game-changer in terms of expectation management. In other words: if you’re prone to viewing getaways as a time to recharge and renew and drink a Mai-Tai on the beach, traveling with kids is not that.
I’m all for packing light, and this gal shows you how it’s done.
One tip: If you’re flying with toddlers, the single best airplane toy I’ve encountered is a few rolls of washi tape. Use it to “draw” on airplane trays, spell favorite words, practice the alphabet, make tape sculptures. It’s tiny to pack, doesn’t leak, and it’s quiet. Win/win/win.
Before you leave, read my friend Tsh’s book. She circumnavigated the globe with her husband and three kids in tow, so you’ll be learning from the best of the best. (Plus, it’s beautifully written.)