Traveling with children – which one to leave home?

My children literally climbing up the wall of our hotel in Singapore

The idea of long term traveling with children fills most people with either pure horror (people who dont have them) or horror mixed with wonder(those that do). And there is a good reason for it – its generally so much harder than traveling on your own. There is no comparison. You dont get to go exactly where you want to go, you usually cant eat in peace, most definitely cannot cover as much ground as you can alone, and in general its rarely only about what you want.

But, is there an age when all the stars line up and it all suddenly becomes much easier?
Since I have three kids in different ages and we have been doing the traveling thing for 2 months now, I thought I can be of help to those of you trying to decide if and when to go.

 

Cost

This is the biggie. Everyone that hears about a big international trip with kids brings up the subject of costs. So what is the scoop?

10 year old – is pretty much an adult – eats as much, needs a bed, although still qualifies for a child ticket from time to time

6 year old – eats little, can sleep with you, still at child ticket age

2 year old – other than plane tickets, its like its not even there – eats your food, sleeps in your bed and is mostly free everywhere. Bonus: their cuteness often actually gets you free stuff and the adoration of everyone around – priceless.

Conclusion: save up madly or bring only the  2 and 6 year olds

Tegallalang Rice Terrace close to Ubud, Bali

 

 

Luggage

When you travel by yourself, its pretty much up to you how much you can and want to carry, but if you want to bring some kids along, which one should you leave back home?

10 year old – carries their own backpack, except that big fat winter jacket that snuck into daddy’s bag.

6 year old – smaller clothes, so pretty much carries their own stuff bar a few odds and ends (also in daddy’s bag).

2 year old – IS a backpack. Carries nothing, and even if he did, you will have to carry him, so it doesn’t count.

Conclusion: leave the little one home.

Following the locals in Wanagiri village, Bali

 

Toilet

Whichever child you have, just accept that the toilet will play a major role in your trip. In fact, I would advise you to make it a project and maybe start a blog about toilets around the world, or write essays on the subject. You  will spend a lot of time looking for them, in them and talking about them, make the best out of it.

10 year old – toilet damage is no more than if it were another adult incapable of holding it in for longer than,say, 30 min. If there is no toilet paper, this one is capable of being creative and trying new things like the “bum flusher’ in most of Asian toilets – all of that without complaining.

6 year old – has to go more often, more urgent and has false alarms from time to time. If the toilet is not up to standard won’t go and then you have to find alternatives.  Be wary.

2 year old –has to go now “leally badly”. Can pee on hotel beds from time to time, which can be quite a shock in the middle of the night. Bonus: you can use any tree or grassy area to relieve pee loads without having to worry about being looked at strangely.

Conclusion: get a frequent pee-er card  or deposit the 2 and 6 year olds with family that has a toilet nearby.

Black, stoney, dirty and messy beach - none of these things matter for kids (Lovina, Bali)

 

Walking

You may want to scour the city in one day, climb the hill in the morning and make rounds of the market in the evening, but will you have followers or backpacks on your hands?

10 year old – walks fine, can keep herself safe on the street and handles longer walks ok. Some complaining is not uncommon.

6 year old – walks fine, has some trouble containing herself while doing so thus needs supervision close to streets. If she has other ideas of things to do can be quite nagging about it. Otherwise acceptable.

2 year old – other than the rare occasions when he sees things he wants to touch or experience or stairs to climb, this one does not walk. Consider him a backpack and plan accordingly.

Conclusion: unless your children are seasoned trackers, postpone the high mountains for a few years and if your back is not strong, conveniently leave the 2 year old with unsuspecting family members.

Cleaning big ants from hair (Melaka, Malaysia)

Food

10 year old – eats a wide variety of things and is proficient in chopstick use. More than capable of confidently reading and ordering from menus. Bonus: orders wildly and you may end up trying food you would have never thought of having and be left pleasantly surprised.

6 year old – right at the end of the picky period, so this one is a very particular eater. Will eat noodles, but just the right ones, will eat rice, but only if its done that special way.  Sushi always. Needs help reading and choosing from the menu, often long negotiations and some frustration. Still makes a lot of mess for you to clean up.

2 year old – eats just about everything and you can just share your plate with him. Will not pester you with calls of I am huuungry or when is lunch? . As easy as they come.

Conclusion: leave the 6 year old home with a pile of sushi and a box of fruits.

Dancing up on St.Paul's Hill in Melaka, Malaysia

Fun

A crucial part of traveling, really if there is no fun whats the point?

10 year old – well versed in irony and adult humour, this one is a lot of fun to have around. She will get your jokes and throw a lot of quite good ones back your way. Lots of fun. Even though some teen self consciousness can creep up, she is still capable of running wildly on beaches and splashing on street paddles in the rain.

6 year old – middle of nowhere stage, she cant always understand what you are laughing at, but her perceptions and the way she sees the world will bring you a good supply of bursts of laughter. Ideas converging on genius will leave you frozen in your tracks and fill your parental heart with pride and joy. Free as a bird and nothing is beyond her – dancing with the old woman on the Malaysian food court stage? no problem, rocking it up in front of the Indian music store? you betcha.

2 year old – if you want pee-in-your pants fun, this one is priceless. Forget about smart jokes, watching your son proudly wearing your bra and offering to breastfeed every member of the family will bring tears to your eyes, the good kind. At the moment his most favorite thing is to touch buses and look for “durian trucks”. He can have fun with anything

Conclusion: the choice is yours – depending on what kind of joy you are after choose the appropriate child

Play in the rain on the underwhelming beach of Amed in Bali

Parental shoulder-patability

They say traveling is such a great thing for children, so as parents daring to do  it we are expected to get a lot of points in the parental good deeds jar for doing it. So do we?

10 year old – old enough to understand everything that is happening and importantly will likely remember a lot of the places and people you get to see and meet. Capable of doing her own research and digging deeper into the culture and history of the areas you visit. Lots of points in the “good parent” jar.

6 year old – cares more about the playground than the fascinating architecture around it. May or may not remember the experience, but it will definitely leave a mark on her.

2 year old – most likely will blame you for doing the trip when he was so young and thus he remembers nothing of it. So prepare. In order to plop those points in your parental jar, you will have to work hard at exaggerating the value of the different cultural exposures at that age and how much of it will be left after returning home.

Conclusion: to score the most, bring your 10 year old triplets along.

Buddhist Monastery in the mountains of Bali

 

Final conclusion

None of this matters. Yes, just like a lot of other things in life, this issue doesn’t have a sweet spot at which traveling with kids is perfectly easy, flawless, filled with joy and enriching them to a point were their ears let out highly concentrated culturally-educated smoke. Traveling has little to do with logic and calculations. Its an experience, full of ups and downs, crying and laughter, easy beach days and crushing summer noons under heavy backpacks. It is full of surprises, unknowns and plans that don’t go quite as planned. Doing it with kids changes none of that, it only makes the experiences stronger -the laughter is louder, the backpacks heavier, the hard times lower and the a-ha moments can bring tears of joy flowing down your sweaty from the tropical heat cheeks.

Its traveling multiplied.

Bring them all and the memories will last you forever. Forget the kids, they can make their own when they grow up ;)

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If this didn’t quite answer your questions, ease your fears or left you with even more of them, do not fret.
A group of us blogging-traveling families  decided to write on the subject of pros and cons of traveling with children at different ages and I am sure one of their posts would have what you are after.

Check them out:

Highs and lows of traveling with a teen and a tween by wandermom.com

Taking your kids to work by globetrottingmama.com

Traveling with two children under 6 – insanity or a great idea? by ourtravellifestyle.com

Travels with a ten year old by travelswithanineyearold.com

The age of perfection by aroundtheworldineasyways.com

What is it like to travel with a 3 year old girl by trippingmom.com

Attack of the Asian baby snatchers by thedropoutdiaries.com

The amazing adventures of baby Cole by almostfearless.com

Traveling around the world with a 5 year old by ridebymyside.com

Traveling with your kids: the good, the bad and the ugly by eastsidecurry.com

Why we love traveling with our daughter by wanderingeducators.com

What age is best for travel by familyonbikes.org

What is it like to travel with kids under 10 by livingontheroad.com.au