I hate it when I hear most people saying: traveling’s over the moment you have kids! Well, guess what? In my case, real travel started after I my son was born and we’ve already been one full month speed-traveling in Europe before he was 2 years-old. We’re now preparing to spend one entire month in Budapest and we’ve already started planning a 3-month retreat during the winter months somewhere where it’s warm. And we’ll do everything together with our son.
You can travel a lot and have fun with kids. Or toddlers.
But it is indeed different, at least in our case. The biggest problem? You can’t really speed travel as we did before as the little ones burn out pretty fast and stuff will be a bit more expensive. But in the end, the line is drawn by you and you decide how much extra (if any) you are willing to spend and how slow or fast you should travel.
I would personally suggest slow(er) travel at least. Being in one country today just to be in a different one tomorrow and leaving for the third one the next day is extremely tiring for adults, let alone kids. Plus, you don’t really get the chance to experience the cultures and actually see anything if you do things too fast. When traveling with kids, I think that the minimum amount of time you should schedule for any given location is 4 days. That’s how we did it during our month-long trip in Europe and it worked fine. However, at points, it still seemed too fast, so I believe that ideally you should spend 1 week in each location. 2 weeks is better, one month or longer is even better especially if you like the place.
Kids have a pace of their own and no matter if we’re talking about a three-year old or a 10-year old, they will have interests that are different than yours. They need to rest more often, they need to walk less, they might not care about that museum or statue or castle or whatever you think it’s nice. They have their own personality and it is us who must adapt to their needs in order to have successful travels and return with amazing experiences. Don’t look at kids as weights you have to carry after you, look at them as travel partners and everything will change. Everything will be better!
We had two major problems traveling with our two-year old: his sleeping schedule reduced a lot of the time that we could spend outside, exploring or at least changed the times at which we could travel. This was also a bonus: he usually wakes up at 6-7 AM and has to sleep at around 12-1 PM for a up to a couple of hours. Then he goes to sleep again at 7 or 8 PM at most. This meant for us that we had outside time early in the morning and during the afternoon, missing the more touristy times. Which is not necessarily a bad thing: the crowds are not huge and you can really experience everything at your own pace. When we visited Verona, we thought we won’t even make it to Juliette’s balcony because of the crowds, but we were shocked to see only a handful of people when we got there. That’s what happens when you arrive at the site early in the morning! And we turned the con that we had to be inside at 7 PM into a pro: we used the time to work as digital nomads and do some planning. Plus, it kept us well rested as we too usually went to sleep at 10 PM. You have to adapt and everything will be OK.
Now, the second problem that we had: the costs. We did pay a lot more, mostly on accommodation, because we had the little one with us. It was not because of him, though, but because of me: I wanted us to sleep in separate rooms, mainly because I am an extremely light sleeper and I thought we won’t be able to sleep in the same bed. But we were forced to in Trieste because I couldn’t find anything affordable with two beds and guess what – we all slept perfectly! So even the “more money needed” problem is dependent on how you want to live and travel. Yes, you will probably have to say no to shared rooms in hostels or similar places, but you don’t have to get three bedrooms either!
So, if you have kids, don’t let them stop you from traveling if that’s what you want or what you dream of! If you don’t have kids just because you think you won’t be able to travel afterwards, understand that it’s not true. You can still travel and have a great time with kids. You just have to change your habits a bit and adapt, but it’s all doable.
And trust me – when you see the happiness on their faces, the joy of seeing new things, experiencing new cultures, the same joy that you get when you travel, it will all be worth it.
So how to travel with kids? Just plan your move, take it slow, pack your bags and leave. That’s all!