Traveling with young kids can leave most of us verklempt with fear, but having recently braved these waters and lived to tell the tale. I’m here to say, it’s not so bad.
In fact, it ended up being more relaxing than I imagined. For this reason I have taken the top three pros and cons from my perspective. Because I have always preferred bad news first lets venture the top three cons, in an effort to end on a high note.
3 Cons of Family Travel
- The Kids Menu
This is quite possible my least favorite invention ever to hit restaurants. It is enticing because the food is proportional and less expensive. It is insulting because they assume all children have a palate consisting solely of 4 variation of carb and/or dairy with a sprinkle of protein and zero veggies; pizza, pasta, cheese (grilled or quesadilla’d), or chicken tenders. If you are staying at a resort the ‘free kid meals’ are almost always nothing other than grilled cheese or quesadilla. Eating at random hours and snacking make ordering bullshit for kids more feasible, as you don’t want to spend $10-20 on a plate they do not eat. Hence, why this is my #1 Con, unless you are willing to spend a pretty penny on an adult plate that will go half uneaten (or not at all), kids eat crap almost the entire time you’re gone.
Some places may do ‘lunch’ size portioning of adult meals and it is always worth asking, but for the most part, do not plan on well-balanced meals. Instead prepare to stop for healthy fruits and veggies as snacks. Even better if your destination offers accommodations with kitchens that would be the way to go!
2. Stress of Inconveniencing Others
During the flight every time my one year old made any noise, my stomach did flips. The reason being, others are there to travel and I do not wish to inconvenience them in any way. Here’s the deal though, often any loud complaints my one year old made lasted no longer than a couple minutes. Let’s face it, how often have you endured an ENTIRE flight next to a grown-ass-adult that offended you in some way – brought in stank food, talked about themself for hours, invaded space, etc. So why do we, as parents, feel the need to carry the burden of another passengers travel. Children are simply little people, and much like their adult counterparts they will not behave perfectly all the time. For this reason, I encourage not stressing if your kid has ‘a moment’. Do not tune out of their needs by any means, just do your best to ensure they have entertainment and are comfortable. If an issue arises from there, do what is within your power to ease the situation and move on. If you feel the laser beam stares of others, remember in their adult life they’re probably assholes all the time not just in the 5 minute segment of your toddler’s moment.
3. Venturing Vs. Naptime
Depending on where you are traveling, adventuring about can be a bit of a challenge if you still have a kid or two at napping age. If you want to spend the extra hours once the kids are tucked in, you can make adventure plans around naptime. If not you may spend more time resort-side than planned, which for us ended up being perfectly fine. During our last venture to the Big Island, we made it out most days, but despite having the tourist favored Jeep Wrangler to tour the Island our venturing was, lovely, but less frequent than we originally planned. When it comes to traveling with children, often times, less venturing equates to more leisure and the feeling that you (the adult), is on vacation too. Which in the end doesn’t suck.
3 Pros of Family Travel
- Smiles for Days
Seeing the smiles from discovering something your child(ren) have never seen before is, I imagine, the way Alice felt the first time she peaked through the Looking Glass. It is a soul awakening like no other. Not only is it worth every penny spent on flights, car rentals, hotel, food, and fun. But it will have you envisioning their next destination. The smiles and looks of wonder are worth every moment of stress and every hour of overtime put in from packing/planning/and what-have-you. The smiles are the reason you ventured out in the first place, so make sure you stop to take in all their glory.
2. Culture Expansion
Even destinations considered as domestic encompass a new culture to behold. Whether traveling from New York City to Twin Cities, San Francisco to Chicago, or Salt Lake City to Hawaii – there is new food, new weather, and many a new experiences to be had. For us Hawaii seemed the perfect destination to begin practicing another language, as English has become the main language, while the native Polynesian language of Hawaiian is still spoken and available to learn and speak basic niceties. Embrace that and watch your children’s minds expand. Another added perk of exploring other languages, scientific research shows learning another language can ward off brain disorders like Alzheimer’s and Dementia… so there’s that!
3. On Vacation Parents are Less ‘The Man’ and More ‘Tha Man’
No one more pointedly expressed how horrible it is to be the ‘oppressor’ than Orwell, had he only known he needn’t look so far as countries taking over and occupying one another, and focused closer to home in the world of parenthood – what a different set of novels our world would have never read.
Becoming ‘the man’ is parenthood in a nutshell. In order to produce future responsible, respectful individuals (though you hope if done properly you’ll maintain their core spirit and creativity), you must become ‘the man’ a version you likely never thought even existed within you. One major perk of vacation is, not only do you no longer possess the energy to be ‘the man’, you do not feel it necessary.
When you vacation with your kids, it breaks you both away from the responsibilities of everyday life. As much as you hate them eating grilled cheese most meals, you think, ‘what the hell, they’re on vacation’. This is less stressful than playing the “eat your veggies or you won’t get a treat” game. Which is a win-win. You get to be fun again, perhaps even ‘tha man’, which is beneficial for your soul and they think you’re fun, which is beneficial for their soul.
All in all, I highly recommend traveling as a family. It broadens your child(ren)’s horizons, as much as traveling with them will broaden your own. While I understand fears of misbehavior during adventures, I found them so few and far between they were not even noteworthy. Realistically, in most circumstances, I was often surprised by the capability of my 1 year old and 4 year old to not only tolerate adventure, but also welcome it.
In the words of Orwell, “Part of the reason for the ugliness of adults, in a child’s eyes, is that the child is usually looking upwards, and few faces are at their best when seen from below.”
As parents’ we are often looking down, instead of straight on as our children are. Granted we have experiences, which have affected our vision, none-the-less we are often casting shadows on their otherwise sunny day. Whether this is for their well-being or not, from their vantage point during the excursions of family travel everyone is on the same playing field – even them. And let’s be honest, we don’t take selfies angled up for no reason. Family vacations are our kids versions of selfies, the adults are viewed at better angles, look friendlier, and more importantly are looking up at the world – just like them.
*If you do not find your family vacation going smoothly, I recommend taking a deep breath and if that doesn’t work a beer in the shower never hurt anybody.