Traveling with a Baby? It Gets Harder…
Traveling with a baby can be difficult. There are many aspects of travel that are much easier when your children get older. That’s definitely something to look forward to when you’re struggling to maintain your hard-earned sleep routine or dealing with a vacation hangover.
But–and I hate to break it to you–you’ll still be wishing for those “easy” days of traveling with a baby. Don’t worry, I wouldn’t have believed it either!
Here are all the ways how traveling with a baby actually seems easier as your kids get older…
Even if you think you’re going to be the kind of parent who doesn’t think missing school for travel is a big deal, your kids might have other ideas. Maybe they’re struggling? Maybe their school is uptight about absenteeism and it’s an issue you don’t feel like fighting? Or maybe your kids are in sports or clubs and don’t want to miss events?
I’m lucky that my kids do well in school, so missing homework or assignments wasn’t too big of a deal. But once my son started playing competitive hockey, the ability to pick up and go on a whim disappeared. With travel tournaments, I had the fanciful notion of extending our trips to include travel. Sometimes you play somewhere awesome like Stratford. But so far that has not come to fruition. And now that my daughter is in high school, the ability to just take a day or two, here or there, is also rare. So even if we wanted to spend an extra day in Hamilton or Sarnia, she typically can’t come anyway.
Traveling with a baby certainly has its challenges in terms of planning around naps and bedtimes and mealtimes. However, flexibility with the overall calendar is something you’ll definitely miss.
2. They have a “say”
I’ll never forget planning one of our trips to Walt Disney World. My husband and I were discussing some of our must-dos for that trip, and my daughter piped up with her thoughts on the subject. Suddenly, it occurred to me… we were no longer in total control of the itinerary. Since I tend to be a bit of a control freak, this is something that was pretty tough for me to get used to.
When you’re traveling with a baby, you set the schedule and you make the plans. When your kids get older, even if they don’t technically have a say, you kind of have to let them think that they do. It’s hard to believe that your adorable cherub may even come to a point where they don’t want to travel with you. In the meantime, including them in your travel planning and allowing them to choose a couple of activities may help stave off the next item on this list.
3. (Bad) Attitudes
This one came as a surprise to me, as my kids typically love exploring new places. With toddlers we expect to have to deal with tantrums from time to time. And we’ve come to accept that tantrums are normal, developmental blocks we all have to stumble over at some point. So a kid who’s old enough to know better and choose differently can be pretty tough to take if they act out (or pout and sulk) when you’re all supposed to be having a nice time on a family vacation.
Our first taste of this was on a trip to Santiago, Cuba when we left the resort to explore the city. On this trip my mother-in-law came with us, which we realize in hindsight may have exacerbated things. It was very hot, and she found the day of traveling around in a (non-air conditioned) car to be a bit much. And because she is much more responsive to their whining than me or my husband, the kids took this opportunity to whine and complain about being hot and tired.
Initially we were scared that our days of meandering around new places were done. And they kind of are. We’ve learned to respect that our kids don’t necessarily have to love doing what we love to do, but they have to behave respectfully and not spoil everyone else’s time. In return, we make sure to do things and go places with their interests in mind as well.
It hasn’t completely curbed the occasional case of the complaints. But we all feel much more open to express both our disinterest in certain activities and our insistence that they suck it up and put a smile on their face when necessary.
The cost of traveling with a baby is pretty negligible when they are under two. And even once they’re older, typically you can get away with sharing entrees in restaurants while enjoying reduced or no fees for admission to attractions and other activities.
When traveling with older kids, the costs keep going up and up. Airfares are usually full adult fare. Kids’ meals in restaurants are often less expensive, but eventually they’ll want (or need) to order off the regular menu. And now we’re rapidly approaching a point where the average, single hotel room is not enough space to accommodate us.
Once upon a time I complained about paying for extra baggage allotment thanks to lugging along baby stuff. Now I long for those days as we’re almost at the point where it’s impossible to keep a restaurant meal under $100–and that’s not including wine!
When you’re traveling with a baby, extra space is nice to have to allow for some grown-up time while baby’s napping or in bed early. When you’re traveling with older kids, extra space becomes necessary especially when your kids become the size of adults.
My husband is a big man at 6’7″. At 14, my daughter was taller than me. And, my son is rapidly overtaking me as well. The typical hotel room with two queen (if you’re lucky) beds is becoming a bit of a squeeze. Although we try our best to be tidy and keep order in our room, with four adult-sized people comes four adult-sized bags and belongings. Upgrading rooms or booking two adjoining rooms will soon be a necessity which will also drive up the cost (see #4).
Those early days of feeding baby on holiday will seem like a breeze when you realize that eating issues don’t necessarily disappear once you can actually discuss eating with your child. Picky toddlers can (and do) become picky teenagers. That baby who happily ate anything and everything can (and will) grow into a middle-schooler who insists on following restrictive eating regimes. And this is not even touching on the stress and fear of managing severe food allergies or intolerances.
Also, the sheer expense of feeding a growing child in restaurants for three meals per day totally adds up. When you’re unable to keep a restaurant tab under $50 for the simplest of breakfasts, you’ll be pining for those days when you were worried about dirty looks when breastfeeding in public.
You know those babies whose sleep patterns you so carefully manage and maintain? Eventually they decide to stay up and sleep late and there’s very little you can do about it. Yes, you can nag and threaten and confiscate devices. Sometimes they still won’t sleep.
And when you’re sharing one of the aforementioned typical hotel rooms, mis-aligned sleep patterns can wreak havoc on your sleep as well. It’s important to discuss and agree upon bedtimes and sleep routines when you’re staying in such close quarters. It sucks to have to drag an exhausted teen out of bed for an activity or day trip when you know they stayed up texting when you told them not to. Clear boundaries and expectations can help, but sleep can become a big issue for families for many years.
Newsflash: one day soon your kid won’t be content with crayons or playgrounds or even any tech you deem appropriate for toddlers. One day your kid will have their nose stuck in their phone and they’ll care more about your hotel’s wifi than its pool or beach. And it will break your heart a little bit but, again, it’s one of those things you’ll have to work out in advance.
What has helped us is working in some agreed-upon downtime into each day that gives them unfettered access to their devices. Usually, on a beach vacation, we’ll take some time before dinner to relax in our air-conditioned room and take our time showering and getting ready. This seems to be a good compromise and keeps my kids out and about during the day.
We do allow them to take their phones with them, but they are allowed to use them to take photos only. Any texts or social updates have to wait until our agreed-upon downtime. What’s helpful is that I now have to practice what I preach, and stay off my devices as well.
9. Getting Around
So you no longer have to travel with a car seat. This definitely falls into the easier category. Honestly, that’s about it. You will miss traveling with a stroller even if you hate lugging it along. Because lugging tired 10-year-olds is no fun, especially 10-year-olds who hate walking.
Public transit isn’t free past a certain age. Airfare is full price. Taxis and Ubers are easier because of no car seat, but those expenses really add up. Even car rentals cost more since bigger people with bigger people belongings don’t always fit in the compact cars that cost less.
10. Kids Are Still Kids
Traveling with a potty-training toddler is a pain. But older kids rarely give you much notice when you’re in a strange city and need the restroom. (Tip, McDonalds is good for this) All of the issues that are frustrating when traveling with a baby or toddler are even more so when they pop up with an older kid. Because we expect more from our kids when they’re older but sometimes we forget that they are still kids.
Being out of your usual routine can be unnerving, even if it’s for something awesome like a vacation. Remembering that will help get you through those challenging parenting moments that can and will continue to pop up. Even if you think you should have moved past them.
Traveling with a baby? Traveling with older kids?
It’s always something…
Knowing that traveling with kids gets easier when they get older can get you through those challenging early days on your first trip with a baby. And remembering those sweet and cuddly baby days can get you through those challenging days with a pouting teenager.
Traveling with kids of any age presents challenges and issues, just like if you were parenting at home. But, if you love travel and seeing the world, bringing your child along for the ride brings you closer, creates memories, and helps you all become more adaptable and accepting of each other’s differences.
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