CNN’s Ridiculous “Rules” About Travel With Kids

toddler, airport, suitcase, family travel, travel with toddler, traveling toddlers

He Was Born A Travelin’ Man…

This Spring, Have Baby Will Travel will turn five. I created it because I was looking to find information and support on traveling with babies before our first trip with our daughter, and was surprised not to find it. Since then, a bunch more adventurous and wonderful parents have created their own websites and blogs about family travel, and all of our combined experiences, I think, will help encourage parents to keep traveling with their kids. Have Baby Will Travel’s mission is to inspire, motivate, and help families travel with babies, toddlers, and young children. Sadly, for the most part, the mainstream media’s mission seems to be to alienate and inspire fear into those hoping to travel with kids.

This CNN article in particular, has caused my family travel community to say “enough”! Elaine Ee’s bio says she is a mom of three, but not that she has traveled extensively with them. My guess is that she hasn’t, because while that first trip may be a challenge, it truly does get easier and easier – even once they become toddlers.

I think rules are meant to be broken, so now I’ll break Ms. Ee’s rules one by one…

What Ms. Ee says:

1. The younger the child, the bigger the suitcase:
…So the favorite stuffed giraffe that takes up a third of the suitcase is brought along, as is an entire library of “Dr Seuss and Eric Carle” books and, not to mention, the space-consuming nappies, wet wipes and milk bottles needed for the really young ones.

While you may not be traveling as lightly as you used to, and I often joke about my mammoth packing list, the reality is most parents are wise enough to choose a few select items for baby that truthfully don’t take up too much room. Plus, the younger the child, the more easily distracted they are by you or by the in-flight magazine, and most certainly don’t require an entire library of books. You can sterilize bottles in a hotel room, so you don’t have to bring many baby bottles, and for travel consider purchasing a few Diaperbuds to take up less room in your carry-on.

What Ms. Ee says:

2. The younger the child, the harder it is to get over jet lag:
Very young children cannot force themselves to go to bed or wake up just because local time says it’s the right to do so. Kids will sleep when they’re tired and be up when they’re not. So your young child may be raring to go at 3 a.m., just when your dose of melatonin has kicked in, and of course promptly fall fast asleep when you arrive at Disneyland. Babies who haven’t yet regulated their sleep pattern fall outside this, so in this respect traveling with infants is easier than traveling with young children, although you may be curious as to what wonders of Tokyo/San Francisco/Paris/the Maldives can be appreciated by a little one whose world has barely extended beyond his mother’s breast.

Her tone is most offensive to me here, in addition to being actually incorrect. Whatever you think of sleep training, Dr. Ferber is the director of The Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders, at Children’s Hospital in Boston and has been researching sleep and sleep disorders in children for over 20 years. He mentions that kids’ circadian rhythms are more flexible, and that jet lag in children is easier to cope with than in adults. And Ms. Ee’s quip about what a young infant can possibly appreciate about being in a foreign city? Probably nothing, but who cares? The memories and photographs will last forever, and traveling young instills a love of travel that’s hard to extinguish.

What Ms. Ee says:

3. Travel to a destination that serves French fries:
Unless your kid has an abnormally educated palate, hold off on that culinary tour of India. Do not attempt to travel to a place where there isn’t kid-friendly food. This seemingly small detail is essential for a successful holiday with young children. French fries, nuggets, pizza and the like will save your holiday. If you’re the type of traveler for whom the most worthy destinations are places where there isn’t a basket of fries to be found, then you have some compromising to do. While sampling local cheese, wild curries and exotic meats may be exciting for you, all a young child wants is some fried, fast food or at the very least, a bowl mac and cheese.

While this “Rule” is most upsetting mostly because of what it says about Ms. Ee’s children’s eating habits, I seriously doubt there’s anywhere in the world that does not serve “kid-friendly food”. Although I bristle at the use of that phrase because it suggests that all kids want to eat is junk. Even the pickiest of eaters would find food in India just fine. Ever heard of Basmati rice or Naan bread? Also, last time I checked (ie: GOOGLE) they have McDonalds in India, they just don’t serve beef. They do, however, serve deep fried pizza.

Ms. Ee says:

4. You can’t have too much inflight entertainment for young children:
If you wonder why parents of young kids travel with five pieces of luggage, it’s because three of those five bulging bags are filled with toys, books, games and gadgets lest junior gets bored for more than a second and all hell breaks loose. The extra bags are filled with several changes of clothes (for when junior throws up all over himself), a mountain of wet wipes (to clean junior and everything within a five-metre radius), children’s drugs (we’re not using them to get the kids to fall asleep, promise) and a bottle of whiskey for mum and dad hastily bought at duty free.

Even my extensive carry-on packing list only suggests items that can easily be packed in the usual luggage allotment. Generally I save the electronics until all other means are exhausted, but the iPad has seriously help my kids develop from good travelers, to absolutely no trouble at all. A few new shows and apps uploaded before our last trip, and my kids were silent for the entire duration of our last flight. No joke. Also? Kids clothes are small, changes in case of accidents don’t take up that much room.

Ms. Ee says:

5. Strollers are as much a bane as a boon:

Skip your morning workout and push a fully loaded stroller across the beach instead. Being able to strap a child into a stroller and load it with stuff that would otherwise be on your back is huge relief for an exhausted parent. But when on the road other considerations come into play that sometimes thwart this:
1. It is not humanly possible for one adult to push a luggage trolley laden with four suitcases (remember the stuffed giraffe) and a stroller at the same time (yes it’s okay to balance your child on top of the suitcases)
2. While airline staff swear on their life your stroller would be waiting for you when you got off the plane, it is often found at the baggage carousel, a good 15-minute walk away
3. Your exotic destination is likely to be non-stroller friendly so your buggy sits folded up in your hotel room for most of the trip.
So you end up only going as far as your young child can walk (to the nearest restaurant that serves French fries and back); or as far as you can carry them in your strap-on carrier (yes the Wat-of-500-steep-steps is too much); or you spend most of your holiday by the hotel’s baby pool.

Here’s the thing, when you’re traveling with a stroller-aged child, a stroller is not just a stroller, it is a high chair, a bed, a baby jail, and also a luggage trolley. A stroller that’s easy to travel with plus a good lightweight carrier or sling means baby has options and so do you. Also, savvy parents know what type of stroller their destination is most suited towards. Here, Ms. Ee is just being kinda insulting. (And no, the Wat-of-500-steep-steps is not too much, if you’re prepared with an appropriate child carrier and realistic expectations of what you’re trying to accomplish. Sheesh.)

Ms. Ee finishes with:

Despite all of the above, traveling with young children is great fun and terrific bonding time for busy parents; but it is hard work. So make it easier by choosing travel options that the more intrepid of us would recoil at (that’s right, no backpacking around India), but the young one would love (Club Med, theme parks, all-in-one resorts win).

While I would never disparage Club Med, theme parks, or all-inclusive resorts, (well maybe I would, back in my travel snob days), the idea that doing India with kids – or anywhere else for that matter – is not an option, is ridiculous.  Today’s parents are well-traveled and well-researched, and can and should plan for the type of travel they want to do and are prepared to do. Ms. Ee’s article comes off like a woman disparaging feminism, thinking it will make her more attractive to men. And I think it’s unfair to let articles like this go unchecked, because if parents want to travel, they should and they can and it’s really not as hard as the mainstream media would have you believe.

I wasn’t the only one annoyed by this article, check out what some others in the family travel online community had to say!


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27 Responses to CNN’s Ridiculous “Rules” About Travel With Kids

  1. Emily E at #

    Ok- well that was just ridiculous. I traveled extensively when my daughter was an infant/toddler and only once did I even check a bag (and that was because it was a cruise and that’s the only time I check bags- kids or not). If it didn’t fit in the diaper bag or my rollaboard, then we didn’t need it or it could be purchased at the destination for less than the cost of checking a bag.

  2. Mary at #

    I agree and can’t understand why the media is so hell bent on scaring parents, especially someone who IS a parent!

    • mikes at #

      It’s tough to believe that she really is a parent. She was obviously pissed about having to write the article, or something like that. Maybe she should have had her nanny write the article? Based on her perspective as a parent, it seems pretty likely that she doesn’t do the hard work of parenting day-to-day.

      Heck, we find travel to be easier in some ways because (1) we are both there 24×7 (2) many things are provided, so to $peak (3) more/different entertainment options (4) relatively little clean up.

  3. You definitely have a point about rule #3. Maybe your kid isn’t the most adventurous eater in the world but I doubt you have to only travel to french fry friendly countries to ensure they eat. Why shouldn’t you try to expose your child to new foods? They might end up loving them!

  4. Jessica at #

    Great job! I think you did a great job of debunking the myths and addressing the anti-kid tone of the article.

  5. Well said. Between of all of our posts I think parents will have a new view on traveling with kids.

  6. Susan at #

    When you said, “traveling young instills a love of travel that’s hard to extinguish,” you couldn’t have been more right. Thankfully, my parents took us to Costa Rica numerous times as a child, as well as to West Virginia to visit family. Learning about other cultures and people (and knowing that there’s more to life than what’s in your personal home’s 20 mile radius) has stuck with me. My first trip abroad was when I was 1 yr old. No, I don’t remember it, but I DO know that my parents loved me enough to INCLUDE me in their travels. To think they’d leave me behind because I was too hard to deal with is sad. I hope Ms. Ee’s heart can be softened towards taking her kids traveling. It can make a WORLD of a difference!

    • Corinne at #

      I’m loving all the replies. Wouldn’t it be nice if the mainstream media took our lead?!

  7. Deep fried pizza in India? Oh no! As if it isn’t oil-laden enough, already! Haha! Great article and some great points. Thanks for sharing!

  8. You have made sense out of a scared parents insecurities. Hopefully more new parents will listen to those of us who love traveling with our kids and make it happen no matter the obstacle, and they will not be put off by those who say it just can’t be done, or is too much of an inconvenience to OTHER people.

  9. It is so good to read that I was not the only one that was really upset by the article on CNNGO! I can’t believe that she is a mother of three and still wrote all of that??
    Surely she cant be serious about Fast Food, Drugs, Drinking, and Backing so much into bags???
    I so loved reading your thoughts on the subject.


  10. Never knew about that info on children’s flexible sleeping patterns and not truly being effected by jet lag! And I love your statement about traveling young instills a desire that is hard to extinguish..I know that travel is addicting to me and I think it may be because I spent my childhood traveling !

  11. Betsy W at #

    Wow. It sounds like Ms. Ee does not like traveling with children. I love to travel with our now 2 year old. She was 2 months old for our first trip and is about to take her 7th trip! Of course it is nice to have the typical French fry type food accessible, and most likely wherever you go to eat will have something like that, but it is great to expose kids to all different types of food. We eat where we want to eat and there’s ALWAYS something our toddler will eat. In a worst case scenario, the milk and goldfish crackers I have in the diaper bag will suffice until we can get her something else. I totally disagree with her take on strollers. Ours has been a Godsend!! And it has ALWAYS been waiting for us when we get off the plane. It’s great to have just in navigating through the airport and our daughter naps and eats in hers as well. Oh, and I would never condone drugging a toddler…I’ve heard of devastating results from doing that and that alone is reason enough not to do it!

  12. Shawna at #

    Wow! What a strange article she wrote. It doesn’t sound like she has EVER traveled with her kids, and she has written about her own fears of what travel with kids would be like. And on top of that, she is trying to scare the pants of parents who might want to travel with their kids. So glad that there are now more of us out there who can write about all the amazing positive experiences of family travel, to more places than Disney and all inclusives, and to let other parents know that although travel with kids can be hard, it is always worth it. (PS: What the heck are her kids eating?)

  13. Julianne at #

    Wow, the tone of her piece is so negative. But I learned a lot from her commenters and yours too.

    We’ve only taken our son on an Intl trip and we learned a lot. You really don’t have to bring so much stuff with you, they have babies/kids where you’re going, buy what you need there.

    Now we have two kids and are thinking about an Intl trip, so I’m doing what I call “travel training”. There’s lots you can do to prepare your children for a trip. We’ve done field trips to the airport, taking public transport (we live in LA so yeah that was something we had to introduce them to), going to restaurants that serve different food, teaching them about hikers etiquette, and spending weekends away from home in hotels. “Travel Training” has been a great adventure all on it’s own.

    • Corinne at #

      I love your “travel training” idea!


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