I had always wanted to travel. I can remember being 12, and dreaming that my perfect life would be to get away and visit Japan, Greece, Hawaii, anywhere I could get to. I didn't come from a wealthy family. I didn't think it was something I would ever be able to do.
4 years ago, my husband and I made a huge decision. We decided that instead of traveling the world like I had always wanted, we would have kids. (Seriously the best decision I’ve ever made!) But basically thanks to television/movies and social media, we believed that we were 'ending our social lives and giving up all ability of travel'. No one travels with kids, right? You can't possibly take children on your adventures, it's too much of a burden. Everyone will hate you for bringing your kids places and they will only scream nonstop. Blah, blah, blah. I figured we went to Hawaii already for our honeymoon, we were good right?
Well lucky for me I am stubborn as all hell.
And on a side note, people can get over themselves. Children are a part of being human and people that don't want to see children should reside themselves places where children aren't allowed or just become spinsters. You don't have to have children, but sometimes you will have to deal with them. Move on. *rant over*
We had a best friend stationed in Hawaii, on Oahu, and that was our first big adventure with Oliver when he was 15 months. It was a perfect way to start! Very relaxing, loose itinerary, and a great comfortable place to stay and rest between daily adventures. Since then we've also taken them to Japan, Nashville, and several road trips to the Oregon coast and up to Bellingham, WA and Great Wolf Lodge. These were mostly places we had friends or family residing which does help a lot when traveling with little ones.
If traveling with your children is something you want to do, I have some tips to share from my own experiences.
Oliver at 15 months at Hanauma Bay, Oahu
1. Be Flexible.
Make a very flexible itinerary and know that you may not see everything you want to. We tend to really not make much of an itinerary at all (sounds crazy right?!) except for hotels and moving city locations. I make a list of things to do in each area that we stay in and depending on how the kiddos feel that morning we pick one or two off the list to do. If the kiddos aren't feeling well, we stay closer to the hotel so we can return as needed. Heck, I get sick on vacation more often than not so sometimes I need the relaxing for myself!
2. Have a good discipline strategy worked out.
Obviously this doesn't apply much to infants, but with your order kids make sure you're communicating well with them at home before you take them abroad. I have SEVERAL positive parenting books I love and I strive daily to communicate with my son. (No Drama Discipline is an excellent choice). It's one of my biggest priorities in parenthood. If your child feels safe with you and knows they can express themselves, you'll have a much easier time with hiccups along the way during your adventures!
3. Don't travel at the expense of your children, travel with and for your children.
Seriously, know your child's limits. Don't let them get too hungry, pack a lot of snacks or take a lot of nursing breaks. When they're tired be prepared for that. Some destinations are great for strollers, others like Tokyo, I prefer an Ergo or Poco carrier. I can still carry my 4 year old on my back. Your kids will get tired. If your trip allows, take breaks at your hotel room. In Tokyo we were honestly just going nonstop, but having the carriers and a ton of snacks really saved us. Find and plan things your child will like. I was sure to have a few things in mind for at least one day dedicated all to my kiddos enjoyment.
A two day adventure at the aquarium, LEGO, & arcades for Ollie
4. Keep a single routine if possible.
Some sort of anchor for your child. Sing or read books at night, a bath time, whatever you can keep while you're out. We would be out all day so we would usually return to our hotel or accommodations pretty early in the evening to unwind and relax.
Unwinding after a long day
5. Book a seat at the back of a plane.
Not only are mortality rates better in the back (hahaha, I'm a nervous flier) but the noise from the engine helps lull your kiddos to sleep. And honestly don't be afraid to find some age appropriate decongestant. I take one before I go or else my ears just won't pop and my kiddo is the same way. When their ears are clogged, they get grumpy, cry, or scream. Juice boxes for take off help too! Have lots of little activities packed and honestly I feel like there's no such thing as too much screen time on a flight.
6. Child carriers are your best friend for children up to 5 or 6.
Oliver suffered from major jet lag on our first trip to Japan, so we were carrying him so much since he spent much of his time sleeping. Rides on the train or buses put him to sleep quickly and having him on the carrier didn't crowd the trains or give him a chance to get lost in a sea of people. He was nearly 3 in Japan, so walking long distances wasn't going to work for him either. Pop the ergo on and continue your sightseeing, shopping, etc. When you get somewhere they would love, give them some time to run around and let out their energy.
This ergo seriously saved us.
7. Seize every opportunity to travel.
If you have willing friends or family living elsewhere, seize it. We visited Hawaii, Japan, and Nashville because we had friends/family living there. We will soon plan adventures to lands where we know no one, but for our first travels knowing someone in the area was a saving grace!
If you minimize the things you buy, and prioritize experiences, you may just find you have the funds to do so. Having a travel rewards credit card that you pay off each month (think using it only to pay bills that you have the money for), you can rack up the rewards for your airline tickets! Don't be afraid to travel with your children, as long as you are communicating and listening to their needs you'll do great!
8. Be organized, be organized, be organized!
Have all your paperwork with you and neatly organized in a travel wallet if you have one. I prepare for months in advance so I don't have to worry about everything super last minute. We did our passports around 8 months in advance! I exchanged currency a month or so before and tried to capitalize on the best rate possible. I also made sure I had emergency credit cards that would work in Japan. Everything had its own labeled pocket so I could access it without fuss. Last thing you want to be doing is holding a melting toddler, digging through a never-ending abyss of a purse just looking for your ID/Passport. I had separate money envelopes for each budget (such as food, spending, hotels), each with a different pattern to make it easily identifiable. I love to be organized though, so maybe I go a little overboard. But being organized will definitely decrease the time you spend in the stress zone!
*I am just an average mom offering up what I've learned in my own adventures. I mean no offense or shame to anyone. :)