How many times were we told that Selima would bring the end of our travel lives? Too many to count. People would say "you did it right. You got your traveling out of the way before children". As if when the she came out, there would be this invisible barrier that prevented us from walking out the front door of our house. Or even worse, when people found out we were having a baby they would say "Well, I guess you're traveling days are over!". As if that little embryo crawled up Kailah's uterus and flipped the ol' "travel switch" permanently to off. Honestly, it was disheartening. But it was also motivating. And fortunately for us, we made the commitment to each other to continue to do what we love.
Selima has now been to 4 countries (Iceland, Switzerland, Austria and Germany), California, Washington and Texas. She's flown on 10 different airplanes. Chugged along on over 25 trains. And walked (or been carried) tens of thousands of steps. Kailah and I are proud of ourselves.
I say all of this, to say…that it has also been hard. We'll be the first to admit that travel is far from the same with a baby or toddler…not to mention if you have multiple. There are minimal dinners out past 5 PM (unless we invite grandparents on the trip!). Rather than sightseeing, or enjoying a relaxing glass of wine on our balcony, we very well might find ourselves at the park in town swinging and sliding. What it comes down to is that we would rather be traveling with Selima, than not traveling at all.
Many people have asked us how we've "done it". How have we continued our love for visiting foreign lands, with a baby (and now toddler) in tow. For those that do travel with their kids, they know that there isn't a single answer to that question. We are all different people, with different children and since our kids are constantly growing, we are always traveling with a new version of our child. So how the heck can we help others by providing advice? We can only do our best to try.
Instead of listening to me babble on about in-flight tactics and travel planning with kids, I think it's best to talk about our high level mindset (however, don’t hesitate to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for any specific questions!). The entire ordeal of travel, from a difficulty standpoint, is really all psychological. If we were traveling alone, we would deal with most of the same stress that we do with Selima, but with her getting added to the mix exaggerates those worries. For example, after a long day of flying, the last thing you want to do is stand in a line for two hours at customs. When you add a screaming child to said line, the anxiety can sky rocket.
So how do we do it? We start by booking the flights…
Well "duh" Kyle. Everyone knows that. But seriously, it's literally one of the most difficult things we do. When we commit ourselves to hundreds (if not thousands) in airfare, it creates a pretty damn good motivator to follow through. It also does something more important. It starts the ball rolling. It represents action and commitment. There is such a huge difference between planning a trip that we have purchased flights for and planning a trip we haven't. Especially when traveling abroad.
The next part is discipline. And this really starts at a young age. When 4 month old Selima was screaming in her crib and had been for 30 minutes, we watched with frantic, weary eyes from the baby monitor. All we wanted to do was go in there and pick her up. But the doctor said she'd learn to put herself to sleep. 10 minutes later…she was out like a light. It seems small, but it's this level of discipline that is so helpful for us when traveling. It helped prepare us, and Selima. When you know that screaming baby is ready to close her eyes for the remaining 7 hours of a flight and you just have to fight through the next 20 minutes of bouncing, shushing, screaming and crying…it gets easier, and less stressful. This goes for more than just tired babies. Once you've learned to keep pushing through, that cancelled flight, or two hour wait in customs doesn't seem so bad. Last week in Switzerland, my phone stopped functioning (thank you Selima for punching it repeatedly), Amazon compromised our credit card (and then did it again 2 weeks later) and somehow we got separated at the train station in Bern. I literally watched in disbelief as my wife and daughter drove by me on a bullet train headed for Interlaken, while I stood on the platform. These types of things would be stressful at home, within our comfort zone. But in a foreign country? …Only if we allow it…
The final piece when traveling with children, in my opinion, is "expectation versus reality". We do not travel with the expectation that we will be able to follow our plans. We ALREADY KNOW that kids AND travel are unpredictable. So we set that expectation in our PLAN. If we convince ourselves that one dinner out on the entire trip would be "nice", then two dinners is a bonus! (plus, shopping for local foods and sampling them at your apartment rental is a blast and cheaper). If we want to see multiple sights in one day, then we might leave the next day open. If the first day's plan goes awry, no problem! The moral of the story is that we will do less, but still more than if we were at home. We just need to be sure to set our expectations correctly.
To tie it all together, the key to travel with kids is really like doing anything else in life. It's a combination of the “why”, our discipline and expectation versus reality. We do it because it's WORTH the effort to us, we remain disciplined to push through the difficult times and we set our expectations correctly. If we do these things, we are at least setting ourselves up for success. The rest is just noise. Usually screaming…