After five years of parenthood, three kids and travels around Europe and Asia, Tamara Zidar, photographer, doula, founder and organiser of Putospektiva – gives us her experience about traveling with kids.
We traveled alone. Then together. The two of us, with backpacks on our backs and a desire for adventure. Then we were joined by a new member of our little family. We didn’t lose our desire for adventure – with his 6 months we went to Sri Lanka.
We experienced all sort of adventures: “the outbreak of the first teeth on the plane” adventure, “we have lost all the baggage” adventure, “a child is eating sand”, “child swallowed a marble”, “child pooped a marble”, “mosquito ate our child”, “our child ate a mosquito.”, etc.
We have three kids now – have we given up traveling? No way! We’re just smarter, more experienced and now we prepare a little better. Mentally and physically.
The Internet is full of articles and blogs with advices what to bring while traveling with children, how to pack, what toys and necessities shouldn’t be forgotten. But what they don’t say is that the things you need the most – don’t cost a dime. Of course, I’m not talking about the ticket, passports and pocket money you should have.
Take at least twice as much time for activities you have planned to do, or sights you want to visit. An unwritten rule says that the child will have to go to the toilet the moment when you were all ready to go, or when you’re rushing to get somewhere before closing.
Have patience for yourself to adjust to the new environment, but also for your children. And for butterflies and stones and birds and cats, houses, random passers-by, dressing up, changing and children’s desire to explore every detail of the way. Because, you went on a trip with your kids. In addition of having shorter legs than you and a moving slower, they have other interests and they see what you don’t. Let them and let yourself be. Maybe you’re will enjoy casual details and little pleasures.
A will to get up, to run, to jump, to play board games, to build a tower of sand, kick the ball, to read children’s books, to explain, to repeat, to show signs that interpret the signs, to divert, to contrive, to devise, to manipulate… I’m kidding, I didn’t say “manipulate”. I meant to say “find other ways to reach your goal.”
Be persistent in your patience and will. Be persistent not to give up on some ideas, such as giving your kids regular meals, even though they will try to convince you that they don’t need food to survive. Be persistent in repeating. Although sometimes it seems that they do not hear a word when they are talking to them, the latest researches say that children hear very good and activate on softly whispered word “ice cream”.
Be persistent in the idea to stay on the journey as long as you planned because you have no other options. Unless you want to give extra money to change the date of a return ticket. Or worse, to explain your friends you came back so early from your trip. And if all goes well, you will quickly forget all the bad things from the trip. Parental amnesia will do all the work for you. For free.
Sometimes you have to accept that you won’t be able to make to every place you wanted to. Once you lower your criteria and satisfied yourself with that fact that everybody is alive and healthy.
You will have to improvise all the time. Using a scarf to carry your baby, cover them at night, wipe their noses, shelter from the sun? Why not? Lids, bottles, keys, bracelets, necklaces as baby rattles and toys. Excellent. Cookies and milk for breakfast, lunch and dinner? We will not tell anyone, I promise.
In challenging moments, try to remember those perfect moments with the children, while they sit on your lap, and you read them a book. Remember how they were sweet, small, adorable, cuddly, smiling… Remember that you wanted to take a trip with them because you love them, because you want to give them a new experience, a school for life, because you think that they belong next to you. And then, after a hard day, when the children fall asleep, sit down, relax, have a beer and you’ll love them even more.
If you went on a trip with children, adjust it to your children. Do not expect a lot of time for meals, the concentration for museums, enthusiasm for shopping, patience in the queues, and their interest in art, history or classical music concerts. Find a place that will be fun for children and concentrate on that. You know your kids best and try to find something were everyone will have some fun. There will be time for the long sleep, drinking coffee and romantic dinners. When traveling without children.
And finally remember: traveling with (small) children never ever call a vacation. You learn best on your mistakes. Next year it will be much better. Repetitio est mater studiorum. Children are ornament of the world.
If you are still skeptical, here are few specific things that can help you while traveling with children.
- Check children’s (and your own) passports. If you need a visa for any country, it is necessary that passport doesn’t expire for at least 6 months.
- If you are traveling by plane, carry all baby things with you. They are small and can fit into a regular bag, and if you lose your check-in luggage, you won’t be in big trouble.
- Have a high-quality baby carrier. This will be very helpful in the transportation, at the airport, on the plane, while walking… You’ll have two free hands, and the baby will be happy because it is near you.
- Breastfeeding babies, in addition to being healthiest, it makes things simpler while traveling. Meal is always ready, on the ideal temperature and nutritional value for your baby.
- Be careful when choosing accommodation – choose one with the elevator or on the ground floor if plan to carry a stroller.
- Bring entertainment for children of the plane. Books, games, toys, cartoons… You know best with what your child will be most interested in. And remember, the plane is not a good place for bringing up children and it is important to respect other travelers.
- Thermometer, essential drugs for lowering the temperature, cream after the mosquito bites, and consider buying travel insurance.
- Mosquito repellent spray and after sun lotion
- Dedicate some time before traveling to research places you plan to visit. It is worth to find information on parenting blogs from these countries and get informed about all the places of interest for children and times when it is best to go and visit them.
- Keep in mind that you will, unless you go to an inaccessible location, will be able to buy everything you need – on site. Sometimes even at lower prices (depending on the country you are visiting).
- Don’t push yourself, or your children. The journey is not a race. Try to enjoy it more with the children, to give them a new adventure and view of the world, to try new flavors, meet new people, see new landscapes and return home with memories that you will all remember for the rest of life, whether in photos, whether in your head.
And of course, don’t forget a towel! 😉