As summer approaches, I’ve heard a lot of talk about “should we travel with our kids?” and “I’m not sure if they’re old enough to remember a trip” and as someone who has schlepped twin boys and all their accoutrements on trips for the past 8 years I thought I better weigh in. If you are waiting to travel with kids until the magic time when it will be perfect, I’m sorry to tell you that this time doesn’t exist. When they are under two and free on airplanes, they are the most unpredictable and controlling and they need the most amount of accessories. After that they are always entering a new stage or exiting another and then they have school commitments and social commitments and all the other things that come with growing up. Perfect travel with kids or anyone for that matter does not exist, but the almost-perfect and near-disasters tend to make the travel memories that ultimately shape our lives.
I was traveling with my kids when I read this article about science behind not traveling with kids and it really upset me. I get the need for kids to have routines, but doing the same thing in a warm place with ice cream year after year just seems like I would be bubble-wrapping them and myself and maybe that’s not the kind of traveler that I am. My family travels for the journey, for the adventure and for learning about our world. We travel to embrace change as a family unit and I think we try and show our kids how we can adapt to all situations whether they are uncomfortable or full of bliss-and this is the same approach we use to deal with all the chaos in everyday life. Change is inevitable and I’m realizing that the most horrific part of waiting to travel to places we dream about with kids until they are older is that we get older too. We, not just the kids, change without even knowing it and we are getting older every day and we can’t stop time for us while we wait for them to ‘catch up’.
This part hit me hard very recently, when we set off for Australia with our two 8-year-old boys for nearly 6 weeks. My husband and I have talked about going on this trip since we first started dating years and years ago. The flight always seemed so far from Seattle and Australia is such a big country that we thought we needed a lot of time to actually travel to all the places in Australia we wanted to see. Over time, our kids arrived and began traveling with us and still we had not visited Australia together because it was too far, too expensive and too big-the boys began to expand on our trip plans with dreams of seeing Uluru, a mighty red rock at the heart of Australia and talk of snorkeling with colorful fish at the Great Barrier Reef.
This year, nearly twenty years after my husband and I first started making our trip plans, we found ourselves with the “big chunk of time” we needed to see ALL that we wanted to see together and the four of us set off on the trip of our dreams.
The minute we exited the airplane we realized we should have visited Australia ages ago. We should have visited sooner and made more memories with friends who live here who we’ve missed for way too long. We should have made concrete plans when we first heard ideas of the country calling our imaginations and we shushed those ideas saying “Not now. Try again, when we have more money and time.” It is very true that time doesn’t wait for any of us and all the to-go morning coffees I’ve had in the past twenty years could have easily funded a trip years ago. I wish we had gone before kids and when the kids were little and I want to go again before they get too old and don’t want to travel with us anymore. Australia is a place that totally has my heart hooked and I could easily live there if it wasn’t so far away from family I hold too dear.
A few days into our trip we would have been quite happy with what we had seen and I could have easily gone home and dreamed of coming back again.
A few weeks later after hanging out with koalas and biking around the desert and playing on the beaches there is still so much to see.
And with a few days left on our itinerary, even though our hearts began to yearn for home, we thought of all the places we visited in Australia and all the places we still wanted to see there, knowing we would leave planning the days until we could one day come back.
Maybe Australia isn’t the place you dream about with your family, but if you’ve read this far, I’m sure there is a trip calling to you somewhere in your heart. You may be engulfed in the overwhelming chaos of new parenthood and need a change of scenery, or maybe you’re wondering about road-tripping or jetting off with your family to a place you’ve seen in your social media feed that you just need to know that it exists in real life. It doesn’t have to be a long trip or a far away one or an expensive one, but if your heart has dreamed up the adventure, it’s probably time to go or at least making concrete plans and goals to get there ASAP. We are going to make so many mistakes on this parenting journey that we are going to hear about as the kids get older, but I don’t think any kid is going to say “I totally wish they didn’t take me on those trips.”
(PS. I do have to tell you that traveling with nearly 9-year-old twins is a whole lot easier than back in their baby days. I saw how we baby-proofed this hotel room ages ago and it feels like a whole different life, but this trip was still one of our dearest.)