The first time we took The Kid on a proper trip, she was 7 months old. She is almost 10 now, and a lot have changed along the way; in her as an individual, us as parents and how we travel with her. This year also marked the first time she went to summer camp and spent a full week away from us. I can’t help feeling that soon she will be off on her own travels!
But we have always loved travelling with her, even with the challenges at each developmental stage. I know when I’m old, one of my fondest memories would be us, travelling as a family with a young kid and watching her grow a bit during each trip.
Aside from a short trip to Germany to visit relatives, we didn’t start taking her on a proper travel until she was 7 months old, when we took her to Bali. As first time parents, we tried to make sure that we’ve got everything covered and prepared for, with the result that we packed way too many baby equipment and supplies, including 2 different types of strollers, a travel cot, jars of baby food and several packs of nappies.
But everything went great; she was well-behaved on the flights, slept well, and coped really well with the climate change. We ended up with one broken stroller (not from Bali’s uneven pavements, but because we used it to carry a bit too many beer bottles up some stairs, so our bad), but we had a spare. Once we used up the jars of baby food from home, it was rather tricky to find new ones that she liked, so she mostly ate congee and fruit for her solids. It was challenging, but it was good for our confidence to learn that it was possible to travel with The Kid and enjoying the whole thing.
Tips for this age:
- A good time to start travelling with a baby is when they’ve established a reliable habit of sleeping through the night. Keep the home sleep routine once you arrived. Travelling is not fun if parents and baby are sleep deprived.
- Once baby can sit on their own, pack a cheap umbrella stroller for the trip and leave the more elaborate stroller at home.
This was a difficult year to travel with The Kid, since it was The Horrible Tantrum Phase. In fact, she was so difficult and volatile at this age, we decided not to travel at all with her, aside from going to the grandparents at Christmas. Instead, hubby and myself took turns to travel on our own, while one stayed home with her.
Fortunately, she grew out of The Horrible Tantrum Phase (seeing that it never won her any favours). By the time she was 2.5, she was a normal human being again, albeit small, and we decided that we could all use a family holiday. This was the time when we took her to Malta and then Provence, and then Bali once more. She was still in nappies until she was 3, and while not eating baby food anymore, she had a limited palate. We used to stock up on cereal and fruits, and fed her a bowl before heading out to dinner (where she could have an ice cream while we have our meals).
We didn’t need as many baby gadget as before, but we still had to lug around a nappy bag, she still needed to take naps, and she couldn’t walk very far, so we still brought along an umbrella stroller. Plus, this age requires the bulkiest type of carseat. In a way it could be more challenging than taking a baby.
Tips for this age:
- Meltdowns are still a possibility at this stage, so try not to overtire your toddler.
- Keep a semblance of home routine, but allow flexible adaptation of it, rather than getting too stressed about enforcing it.
- This is the messiest stage as well. Bring lots of wipes.
This was a great time to travel with The Kid. She’s out of nappies, ate normal food, and she could speak properly in Dutch and English, and a little bit of German. She was also eager and curious. It was a joy to take her to the zoo or a park, or anything really, as she was enthusiastic and wide-eyed about everything, it’s infectious. Even a small trip to the playground was a source of delight.
She was happy throughout our road trip to Denmark (with the help of Charlie and Lola DVDs in the car). She also flew our longest distance flight to date to Australia like a pro, fearlessly taking part in the local playground scene and started making friends right away, discovering that those kids spoke a language she knew!
When asked what my favourite age is from The Kid, it was 4-6 years.
Tips for this age:
- When your kid is at their most curious and enthusiastic phase, it’s the best time to introduce them to a whole range of new food. Once you passed this phase, they might not be as open minded anymore.
When she was 6, she learned how to swim and read, both very essential skills that added a lot to her travel experience. Since we spend a lot of time in our boat and around water, we’re truly happy when she got her first Swim Diploma; something Dutch children get when they passed their survival swimming exam. She has always loved being in water, but being capable to swim safely opened up a whole range of water activities that she could do, including learning to sail on her own. Being able to read doesn’t only mean she could now read books on long journeys, it allowed her to become more aware of where she was from reading what’s around her.
She was more assertive at this age compared to the earlier stage, but she was also more independent, and able to entertain herself when we just wanted some quiet time. She was not a baby in tow anymore, she became one of the team.
Tips for this age:
- This is a great time to travel with your kids. There are so much more things they can do at this age compared to the preschool stage.
- If you’re (planning to) travelling a lot with your kids, being able to swim is not only fun, but it is an essential skill for them to have.
Things changed this year after The Kid turned 9. She doesn’t care about playgrounds anymore, and she’s more cautious about making new friends. She is still a sweet kid with mild temperament, but she had her moments when things are simply ‘boring’ or that she’s done them before, or that she’s in the opinion that it won’t interest her, even though in general she loves travelling with us. Parties and socialising with kids her own age became a big thing, and this year she also asked if she could go to summer camp, which she did (and already asking if she can go again next year).
It’s always a bit sad to realise your baby has grown up, but it’s a change best embraced. While she still loves her stuffed animals and still wants to cuddle before bed, we understand she appreciates getting some privacy and time alone. We’re happy to give her the space, knowing as introverts how important having personal space be. Besides, it also means she doesn’t mind being left alone in the hotel room while we have some quick drinks at the neighbouring bar.
On the other hand, she also found new topics of interests that didn’t usually excite her, like history, natural science and culture. She’s more engaged with the places we’re at, and asked interesting questions. She is less adventurous with food, because she feels she knows what she’d like or not, but she’s already has quite a wide palate that usually there’s always something for her to eat no matter where we are.
Tips for this age:
- It can be frustrating when you’re looking at a great view and your preteen is more interested in her book or tablet, but sometimes I just let it go. It’s her off-time too, and there’s no point on forcing her to look at miles of maize fields if she doesn’t find it interesting.
- Do find out what they find interesting and spend some time together on it.