I’ve always believed that traveling would do my children a lot of good, although some parents beg to differ. They say that traveling with a small child is a waste of money because “they won’t remember it anyway.”
My husband and I have been taking our kids on trips since they were 6 months old. When my son was a baby, we brought his nanny. We took our first trip alone with him when he turned 3, and soon after, we brought our daughter, but sans nanny.
Many people ask me how I manage to travel with kids and no help. “Are you stuck doing kiddie things? How do you eat? Do you get to go anywhere nice?”
The answer is simple: We do everything my husband and I want to do when traveling with the kids.
We teach our kids to be good travelers from a young age so that everyone can enjoy the trip. The point of a family vacation is to be together and for everyone to enjoy.
I taught my kids several things that have resulted in great trips.
1) Everyone has his turn.
The kids have learned that everyone gets a chance to do what they want on a trip, and everyone else needs to be patient. This stops them from feeling entitled to doing “kids only” things such as theme parks and toy stores.
They have learned that not everything revolves around them. My husband and I spread out the kiddie events throughout the trip, but usually plan to do one thing right away, such as go to one amusement park early on.
After that, we move on to do other things, including shopping and visiting museums. My kids have learned to wait patiently while I shop.
2) Don’t bring a kids’ kit.
On the plane, we have books and things for the kids to do. However, when we go around town, we do not take coloring books, iPads, games or any form of entertainment for the children. We don’t use iPads anyway, because I believe the kids are still too young.
I have seen parents whip out coloring books, crayons and activities for kids to do at restaurants to keep them occupied. I suppose there is nothing wrong with this, but for my children, I believe they should take part in the conversation at the table and be part of the meal.
If a restaurant provides drawing material, it’s obviously the type of restaurant that is more casual and family-friendly and we let the kids do it. We never bring anything ourselves.
My children have sat through 10-course meals that have gone on late into the night. They eat until they are full and take part in the meal with the rest of us.
When they are sleepy, we tell them it’s okay to quietly fall asleep on our laps. I believe it’s important for children to be treated as part of the group and not exclude them just because they are kids. This teaches them manners, conversation, patience and social graces.
3) Each trip is a learning experience.
Before we go on a trip, we teach the kids about the history and the culture of the place. This way, they are excited to see the real thing when we finally get there.
We ask them what they think would be interesting to see and then include this in the itinerary. This way, they feel like they have a hand planning the trip.
4) Let them plan their outfits.
Since we do not bring any help when we travel, I like to pack everything myself so I know where everything is.
Now that my kids are aged 7 and 4, I expect them to also have an idea of what clothes they have and how to dress. Before we leave, I tell them what the weather will be like, how many tops and bottoms they need, and they go off and pick out what they think is appropriate.
They learn how to style themselves in clothes that are appropriate and acceptable (tutus and fairy costumes are not cold-weather clothes).
We are likewise able to impart the proper way of dressing—my husband enjoys doing this with our son. By the time we get to our destination, they can more or less dress themselves and make outfit choices for the day.
5) Make them aware of the medication they need.
I travel with a massive medicine bag filled with stuff for almost any ailment. Thankfully, we never use it, just the few meds for runny noses or allergies.
My kids are aware of the names of their medicines and know when they think they should take something.
For example, when one child gets an allergy from pollen or dust, I tell him/her what medicine I am giving, so that they know what makes them feel better. By showing them cause and effect, they become aware of their bodies and can identify when they are feeling bad.
6) Teach them to be thankful.
I always tell my kids that they are very blessed to be able to see the world, and that not everyone gets to do it at their age. This way, they do not feel a sense of entitlement when it comes to travel. Rather, they need to see it as a privilege and, therefore, appreciate it all the more.