When people see us boarding a plane with our two kiddos (now aged 3 and 1), we usually illicit some type of strong reaction. People either coo/awe over our (hopefully sleeping) baby or loudly groan and roll their eyes. Two kids! Ah!
Honestly, sometimes I feel that way too.
For us, traveling with our young children falls into one of two categories. Sometimes they are perfect angels and sometimes they wear horns, carry a pitchfork, and incessantly kick the seat in front of them.
Traveling with young children is far from easy and less than glamorous. Instead of “vacation”, we’ve started calling them “trips” or “adventures” because it is far from the relaxing image that the term “vacation” conjures.
Yet, traveling with our children has been incredibly gratifying. Why?
One of the things that makes me proud as a parent is watching my three year old son, Mr. O, in the airport security line.
Seriously, this kid has it down. He grabs his own bins. He takes his shoes off before the TSA agent can reassure him he doesn’t have to. Occasionally, we have to watch him to make sure just the shoes come off. He proudly walks through the metal detector and goes to find his shoes and backpack again.
Honestly, he does better than me.
What makes this remarkable is not just that he can navigate the security line as a three year old, but how much confidence he has doing it. Waiting in line can be hard and at times the TSA agents are intimidating, but there he is, just taking off his
pants shoes like a pro.
“Why is the sand wet all the way up there?” Mr. O wondered on our trip to the beach on South Padre Island.
Like most preschoolers, Mr. O’s favorite question is “Why?” Hearing “Why?” a thousand times a day can be exhausting, but his questions show me what sparks his interest. I’ve also learned that he is more observant than I realized.
Want to teach children about the tide? Go to the beach in the morning and then go back in the evening. Want to encourage observation and promote fine motor skills? Go shell hunting with a toddler.
There are so many learning opportunities that can naturally be woven into any adventure.
Young children thrive on routine. We worked hard to create routines that give our children cues so they know what to expect next. Bath time, PJs, story…they know that bedtime follows.
And sometimes we take those routines and throw them out the window.
Dinner is normally at 5:30? Well, tonight it’s at 7:30 because our plane was delayed, so here is a snack. Nap time is normally in your crib in a quiet, dark room? Well today it’s at the aquarium in your stroller because we were having too much fun to leave before naps.
Weirdly though, having a routine has encouraged flexibility with our children. Both Mr. O and Miss H have shown me they are more adaptable and flexible than I gave them credit. And being flexible doesn’t mean those routines have to go away completely.
Sometimes, our bedtime routine looks like: Changing into PJs and brushing teeth in the airport bathroom before boarding the plane, then stories in our seats.
It may seem obvious, but until recently I never realized how much our children learn from watching us learn.
Patience is not a virtue my children are known to have, so stopping at the signs along the nature trail can lead to boredom quickly. This was a common occurrence until we started reading the signs out loud. All of the sudden Mr. O was running from one sign to the next wondering “What does this one say?”
It is my hope that by learning together, we are teaching them to have a lifelong curiosity about the world.
Making Memories as a Family
One of the most common arguments I hear for avoiding travel with young children is that they won’t remember the trip anyway.
Who says the memories have to be theirs? And are you sure they won’t remember?
One infamous trip both my husband and I laugh at now, but was far from funny at the time, was a flight from Orlando to Minneapolis when Mr. O had just turned 2.
He was learning his colors, so we were walking around the airport waiting to board and he would point out the blue airplane, the white airplane, the yellow airplane. He was so excited to board the yellow airplane. No sooner had we strapped him into his carseat on the plane than he decided he was “all done yellow airplane,” a phrase he repeated for the next four hours.
A few months later, on our way to the airport for another trip, he asked if we would be riding on the yellow airplane like last time. We were shocked he remembered.
Sure, Mr. O won’t remember that he first touched terra firma as a two month old on the beach in Tulum, Mexico, or Miss H won’t remember the first time she joyously toddled into the ocean surf much to the dismay of her parents, but those are memories my husband and I hold dear.
Yes, traveling with our young children can be stressful, inconvenient, and just plain hard. But it is also an incredibly joyous and gratifying experience for everyone in our family. We are grateful for the opportunity to travel with our children and have no plans to slow down anytime soon.