Traveling with Kids

Versailles France

Bean at Versailles

I get asked often “How do you do it; travel so much with a child.” I don’t pretend to be an expert. I am only a single mom with one child who travels quite a lot. I strongly believe that travel with children is possible and an enjoyable adventure that every family, regardless of the size can undertake. Here is the thing I have discovered though: parents must believe that it is possible.

For parents, with children at home, reading about our adventures, wishing to do what we do, I would like you to know that it is possible. It is simple. The first step to leaving home is not when you are headed to the airport. The first step begins when you decide in your mind that it is possible for you and your family to take a trip together. After that, everything will fall into place.

As Bean and I go exploring the world, one of the most common phrases I hear is that I am a courageous single parent and that Bean is lucky. Bean is lucky, but most importantly, Bean has no idea that what she is doing is unusual. It is what we have always done. From the time Bean was five months, until now, she has been on the road. Her lifestyle, by design, seems normal to her.

I have been blessed with Bean. We have our difficulties as a mom and daughter who are together a large percentage of the time, but we share a love for the road. We work well together. I tend to be strict with Bean in terms of being polite and having proper manners, but for exploration, Bean is free to do as she pleases. Sometimes, I turn my head in the other direction so that she can REALLY do anything. I don’t want to say something to stop her exploration. I find that is the key to our travels. If I tell my daughter that she can do anything, I must allow her to do anything. I must what she does. I must demonstrate through my actions many things that she can do.

Here are a few things we do together to make travel with this kid possible:

1. We share activities and responsibilities- I realized early on that children can help out around the house. When Bean expressed an interest in sweeping, washing dishes or folding clothes, I let her do those chores. Even if they are not done properly, Bean can help with every day duties. When we leave the house, she carries her own bags.When she was too young to carry her bags, she helped me pull the suitcase, or carried her stuffed animals. Whether we are taking a walk around town, going to school or to the airport, Bean is responsible for her own things.

2. We choose locations together- as much as possible. Bean is learning geography as we go. She may also have an interest in places in the world I would not think to take her because of her age. If the price is reasonable, and the location is safe, if Bean says she wants to go and see something, we do it. In this manner, she feels as if she is part of the decision making process and is more likely to have a great time when we arrive because she chose to be there.

3. We interact with locals- By going places where the local people hang out, Bean gets first hand knowledge of what every day people do. When we go to conversation groups, Bean can share who she is and what she likes. She also feels as if she is helping people to speak like she does. At libraries, cafes and the park, Bean can interact with other children and make friends. We often use home sharing services when we are looking for a place to stay. We also use volunteering/ cultural exchange websites to meet people who are also interested in meeting us.

4. We do some of the same activities in every town- Everywhere we go, we take walks, visit bakeries, do school work, have movie night and the same bedtime. Bean may be in a foreign country, but the activities are not foreign, therefor making adjustment to different languages and cultures much easier. Once I discovered this secret to traveling with children, life became more tranquil. We do take the time to visit museums, amusement parks and other tourist attractions, but often we limit them to one a day. If there are many places that I simply HAVE to see, we take it easy by starting out in the morning with one attraction, lunch and a nap, another minor attraction in the evening, followed by dinner and bedtime. In this way, Bean is rarely exhausted to the point of displaying extremely bad behavior.

5. We keep it simple- Minimalism is the key. We each have one suitcase, and a few clothes. Bean has a few toys, a few books, some crafts. Everything we have and everything that we do is of value to us. We choose activities that mean something to us, not something the guidebooks and travel forums say that we MUST do because we are traveling with children. If we choose to go to a restaurant, we go because it is something that we enjoy. We choose a restaurant where the food and atmosphere is of interest to us both, even if it is fine dining. I accept that there will always be something that we did not do; something that we did not see. That fact does not bother me at all. If we saw everything, there may not be anything for which to come back.

I believe that life should be simple. Often, we make things more complicated than they should be. Travel with children can be enjoyable, interesting and possible. When more parents believe this and began to make plans by preparing their finances, choosing a location and getting out and experiencing it for themselves, Bean will no longer be considered so lucky…but she can live with that!

Please, share with us what you do when traveling with kids. If you haven’t yet traveled with children, but traveled as a child with your parents, what do you remember from that experience?

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