They say never regret. If it’s good it’s wonderful, if it’s bad it’s an experience. Our first family trip was definitely a learning experience, of what not to do. It did however show us it can be done. Like everything else travel with kids just takes time to master. Trip after trip and we slowly realized you can buy diapers anywhere, you don’t need to pack everything the kids own, no one will be hungry… We share the mistakes we made on our first family trip. You are welcome.
1) Waiting too long.
I waited for eight months before finally working up the courage to take our baby on a trip. Before having kids I was sure I’d pop them out and then we’d just go on undisturbed with our daily lives. It turns out that after a 12 hour delivery my life was turned upside down. I couldn’t care less about traveling, because the apartment was too complicated for me to navigate.
Finally I just needed a change of scenery, to stop staring at the same four walls and wondering how I am messing up this whole motherhood thing.
Getting up the courage to travel with kids is somewhat like getting up the courage to pull a band-aid off. Just do it. It only hurts for a second. But the longer you wait the harder it gets – in your head.
And despite our many mistakes the trip to Provence was fun and it made us determined to do it again. By the time we got the second baby, the waiting never started. She was two months old and we flew to Wales, at six months she was on her way to Canada.
2) Baby is not a nuclear weapon.
She won’t break if you change her diapers in the back of the car. The world will not come to an end if put her to sleep half an hour later or skip the evening bath. Nothing will happen if you take a short break from the regular routine. As long as you are happy and relaxed and with your baby, there is not much else they really need. If you are breastfeeding then the baby only requires you and a few diapers – literally a few. Because they sell diapers everywhere.
Since traveling with our kids, we have realized babies are the easiest to travel with. And twos are true to their name – terrible.
So, all throughout Wales our youngest was snugly sleeping in the carrier, while we had to chase the older around.
3) Kids can fly.
I’ve learned this lesson the hard way – traveling by car for 12 hours. I was too scared to take her on a plane, mostly because of the mistake number 4. I didn’t know how to pack for the plane. I could barely pack for the car and leave some things behind. I was aiming more for a truck.
But after our first flight, I realized this is the best way to go. You can still take the stroller and most of the essentials (I used to think her whole nursery was essential) and you get to your destination way faster and with so much less fuss.
4) You don’t need it all.
Don’t believe me, right. I too firmly believed that I’d be neglecting my child if I didn’t take all her stuffed animals along, or special baby nail scissors, or a change of clothes that could last till the end of times for a week long vacation.
Gradually you realize that beside the kids there is only one thing you can’t forget. Everything else you can do without or can buy.
5) Never leave on an afternoon.
I bet even people without kids know that babies in general don’t like afternoons. They are cranky, colicky and just plain grumpy. So, why would I plan for the trip to start after three o’clock, is still beyond me.
In my defense though I was hoping to get a head start – we did have to drive for 12 hours and I managed to convince myself it would work. I can be persuasive.
It didn’t. She was crying, we were stuck in the Italian rush-hour and we strongly considered going back home. We persevered.
But we drove back home in the middle of the night and she slept almost the entire way.
If you have to drive for a few hours, then I suggest heading out during the night or really early in the morning. This way kids sleep and you can get to your destination by the time they wake up.
But never ever go on a trip in the afternoon.
6) Forget Lonely Planet.
The minute we agreed on the destination – Provence – I got five different guide books and started planning like there was no tomorrow. It was more than a year since our last trip and I was like a man starved. For Lonely Planet instead of food. But how could I have forgotten so easily that leaving the apartment and going to the supermarket with a baby was more difficult to accomplish than the Himalayan ascent. I was so upset to realize there would be no visit to Cezanne’s studio, we could only do one village out of the five the guide suggests, we didn’t even bother to wait in queues.
But when I let go of the expectations and realized that I am pushing the stroller down the streets of Aix-on-Provence instead of home, I was happy. This was pretty good.
Kids teach you how to take time to smell the roses. Literally.
Finally “there are some things you have to experience to understand”…travel with kids is one of them. My advice to you is if you love travel then fall in love with travel with kids. It has too many advantages and benefits to be cast aside till kids grow up. Let them grow up as travelers, explorers…