Travel was, is, and always will be my love language. From a single girl traveling the world in my late teens to exploring the world as a newlywed with my husband in my twenties, we knew it was deeply ingrained in us to continue living our passion for adventure once we introduced kids into our family.
My son took his first luxury vacation, by the blessing of my husband’s job, at just ten-weeks-old to a resort on Coronado Island in California, his newborn toes getting to wriggle on the sandy beach for the first time. From there, we continued to plan vacations for our family and the feedback from outsiders has been mixed:
“I can’t believe you travel with your baby!”
“How do you handle road trips/flights/theme parks with a young child?”
“Travel surely can’t be as fun with kids in the mix.”
I’ve heard comments on both sides, from judgmental to joyfully cheering me on for living our life with kids, and it inspired me to write a little tip sheet on how we believe (because we live it out) that you CAN travel with kids. And not only travel, but travel WELL and LUXURIOUSLY with little kids. A mix of ‘WHY YOU SHOULD’ and ‘HOW YOU CAN’ can be found below.
YOU Set the Standard on What Travel Can Be
This was a big goal of ours out of the gate. We wanted to show our son that road trips, flights, hotel life, and sometimes being off-schedule for an adventure day was a part of life. It's why we started early. Taking a trip at least every other month—even if it's just a drive up north for a two-hour drive—shows him (and our future children) that it's just a part of our family culture. I honestly believe our attitude and commitment to traveling so regularly helped with how well he travels. I'm not saying there isn't crying or tantrums, but it has been overall a very positive and fun experience.
Give Each Other Space to Disconnect
One of our tricks to feeling truly relaxed and disconnected is that my husband and I give each other "wellness" time while we are away. Just like at home, we each allow each other to carve out some time—whether that be to get a massage at a resort, enjoy the room alone to nap or read, snorkel for a while, or go ride a big roller coaster solo—while the other cares for the little one(s). This is key to really soaking in the luxury aspect of what your resort or destination may offer.
Schedule In Downtime
To avoid additional tantrums or tears due to overstimulation, exhaustion, or hunger make sure downtime is part of your vacation. This applies to all vacations, but especially ones where theme parks or busy, packed schedules are involved. We usually book our busy vacations with an extra day, so that we don't feel rushed to get everything in one or two days. You can go at a more leisurely pace without the stress, return to your room for a nap, or take a pool or local bookstore day for everyone to recharge.
Making a plan is in my nature as a type A mama, ha, however I know it's not everyone's personality. My husband is more go with the flow, but I know when traveling with an infant or toddler, this needs to be a part of the big picture for travel and he lets me take the reigns on it. This includes having a general idea of when naps could happen on both travel and trip days, always having healthy snacks at the ready in the car, plane, the diaper bag, or your purse. Having little books, mess-free color pads, and toys are great as well.
Make the Journey a Kid-Friendly Adventure
Diving deeper into what I stated above, making sure the kids have entertainment DURING the travel portion of the trip is important. Children value play so greatly that sitting in a car or plane for hours on end with zero stimuli is a recipe for meltdowns. To avoid them, pack plenty of easy to pack toys, car games, color books, mess-free color pads, mini lego sets, or molding clay. If you don't mind screen time for travel (we allow it during the traveling portions on our trip), a kids tablet or movies downloaded to your phone can also pass the time. You can also make up games along the way. Even though our son is still just two, he LOVES "I Spy" or finding shapes in the clouds—a GREAT one for air travel.
Be Smart With Infant Travel
A germaphobe by nature, I didn't plan to travel with our son as early as we did, but work called and so we went. When traveling with a baby under the age of one, there are many precautions you can take to help their immune systems and minimize contact with places or surfaces that may make them sick. I first let our doctor know we'd be traveling out of state, as a naturopathic doctor she gave us some wonderful homeopathic immune boosting drops safe for babies, and as I was nursing, she urged me to take Vitamin C and D to boost his C and D through my milk. Babywearing is also a GREAT way to not only keep your hands free while traveling, but you minimize exposure to strangers and surfaces their little hands may be curious to touch. I also wipe down all surfaces from plane tray tables (the germiest place on a plane, even more so than the toilets, ew!) and eatery table surfaces to ride handles at amusement parks with natural germ-fighting wipes. You can also consistently wash your hands and wipe down your baby's hands. Lastly, do not fly with an infant unless it's necessary. Until Grey was 2, we only took trips we could drive to, to cut down on exposure.
Travel with Friends
I learned the perks of this tip most recently on a trip to Disneyland, where we traveled with my husband's sister and her husband. Traveling with friends isn't only a fun way to make memories together, but having an extra set of hands on the road and at your destination is such a help. We travel with friends that our son trusts and loves, and it made it so great for my husband and me to have a little time alone in Disneyland to ride rides our son couldn't yet or grab a quick bite alone. It can feel like a mini date and such a marriage refresher! On our most recent camping trip, friends of ours played ball with our son, so I could relax with a novel in the tent. Make sure to thank them and return the favor to them as well!
Talk About Travel Regularly
We are consistently talking to our son about our travels, both past and future. Since he was a baby we would narrate where we going to be going and seeing. Upon returning, we'd regularly show him our trips photos and videos and talk about the memories we made. We hope these actions help to form memories that will last for him, but if not, it grows vocabulary and builds connection and communication, and enhances family culture from a very young age. While you're on your trip, make sure to talk about the highlights of your day as you all lay down at night to begin to learn what they like to do best and learn their travel personality as its forming. What an honor!
Memories vs. Experiencing the Now
One of the biggest negative comments I get when we talk about our travel is: "He won't even remember, why are you doing it now?" Well, for a few reasons. 1) Our life is happening now, we aren't pausing it until he's a certain age. 2) There may be things he doesn't remember, but we will and these trips are as much for us as they are for him. And we will have stories, photos, and videos to show him all the things he's seen and experienced. And most importantly: 3) Experiences at a young age have been shown to enhance brain activity, boost learning capability and creativity, and strengthen bonds in the family unit. These are all worth it to us, so we travel!
Take Photos – SO Many photos
Lastly, take pictures of SO much but stay connected to the moments. Don't spend time on social media, be in the moment. I only take my phone out to make videos and take photos. Take more videos than you think you should, you'll want to see how they talked, walked, and their mannerisms at every age. We make photo books of our big trips and back up everything on external hard drives always. And most importantly, relax and have fun!