I LOVE to travel, and who doesn’t right. But like I REALLY LOVE it. And I think I can thank my parents for that!
A little backstory
When my parents immigrated to Canada from Brazil in 1988, they left everything they knew behind. The typical immigration story. They left their family, friends, our house, the sunshine and traded it all for a better job, and a safer life.
In the early 90s taking a plane was a huge luxury and ordeal. There was only one red eye flight to Sao Paulo from Toronto and it was expensive and long with 2 small kids in tow. Despite those challenges, my parents always prioritized trips back to Brazil. My mom was one of five sisters and family was and still is very important to her. When two of her sisters moved to the US our travelling only grew. She would pack me and my sister into the car on Fridays after school and we would drive the 5 hours to Detroit just for the weekend. And when one of my aunts moved to Delaware (a 12 hour commute) that didn’t stop us from seeing her on every long weekend we had. My dad always said that if you ever have the opportunity to travel you take it.
Traveling as a parent, should I bring my kid?
So I guess it is no surprise that after having my first baby the travelling never stopped or slowed down, and yes we brought Jaden every single time! When Jaden was born me and Josh were in the middle of grad school. Showcasing our research projects at international conferences was something that went with the territory . So in Jaden’s first few years of life he had traveled to Porto Rico (twice), Italy, British Columbia, Brazil, New Orleans, Vermont, plus all around Ontario on camping and football trips. Even my dad, who instilled this confidence in me, was surprised. People would comment that I was brave to take my son on all these trips. But I was not brave. I just didn’t let fear limit my experiences. I never thought that just because I had a child I had to say no to travelling or to experiences I would otherwise say yes to.
But! I did have to make mindset changes and alter my expectations!
What I learned very quickly after having my first son was that I would not experience life like I did before. So I should not expect to experience travel the same either. So with that came the need to adjust and change my expectations and mindset over what travelling now looked liked for us. That mindset change allowed me to experience these opportunities in a positive and really rewarding way. My expectations of maintaining the babies schedule , routines, or having kid-less down time flew out the window. I then allowed myself to just exist in those moments of travel. And it was extremely freeing! That is not to say that it came without struggles. Everyone knows a cranky baby just sucks! But, traveling is a temporary experience. And keeping that mindset and releasing my expectations helped me stay fluid and adaptive. Kids will surprise you in how natural they are at adapting. Jaden learned to sleep in the stroller, I always made sure to have snacks on hand, etc.. And when we got home I never once thought that it was not worth it! Not one single time! Life passes sooo quickly guys! Don’t limit yourself over the need to maintain your kids schedule, the fear of a tantrum or the unknown.
Then I had my second child. Avery is many wonderful things but adaptive he is not. He was much more reliant on schedules and routines. When he was born I was no longer in grad school and me and my husband had full time jobs. So the traveling and flexibility we once had was at a all time low. Therefore we did not get to travel as much as we did with Jaden. However, we did still manage to traveled to Brazil and British Columbia and maintained our weekend Ontario trips for my husbands football tournaments.
Traveling with two kiddos, one of which was a much less adaptive baby, was defiantly more challenging. But it solidified for me that need to stay adaptive. I learned this lesson really quick during my husbands football season. Some tournament days I would have to spend 6 hours on a field in the rain with 2 little kids! It became strikingly clear that if I maintained my flexible mindset with the mantra that was temporary, I could get thru it and even manage to have fun. You see confidence to travel with your kids doesn’t just happen from sitting at home. You will never know your true power until you just do it. Waiting for you kids to grow up, or become less fussy or difficult is only robbing yourself, and you children, from the opportunity to gain the confidence and flexibility you are seeking. I’ll never forget our St. Lucia trip (you can watch that trip video below) . Not a trip many people take with 2 very small kids. We decided when we were there to take a catamaran tour to see a volcano and chocolate plantation. A full day trip with a 4 and 2 year old, on a boat, in the sun, with no control. Not surprisingly, they were the only children there. We got the standard ‘ oh your so brave’ comments from almost everyone! But by the end of the day trip a few parents said they were regretful that they did not bring their children.
Were we nervous to take our kids! Hell YES. Was it perfect, heck no. But we did it and it was the most life changing experience for both my kids. The confidence, joy, exposure and experience they both received was a gift I was happy we could provided for them. And it gave me and my husband the confidence to do it again. So now as a mom of 3 this mindset and the confidence to travel is well established. Travelling with 3 kids is not at all what it was like traveling with my first kid. It is much more challenging in ways I didn’t expect. But we still do it and we try my hardest to stay fluid and flexible. Waiting for the right time or opportunity is only hurting your chance of having a really awesome time, and growing as a parent along the way!
Now I am not suggesting that a mindset change will solve all your kid related needs or make your kids little angles. But don’t let fear ruin your chance at an amazing experience. I say this about your kitchen and now I say this about your life! You CAN be adaptive, you CAN travel with your kids and YOU can have a great time too! Whenever I get nervous about being stuck on a plane with my kids, my mom looks me in the eye and says ” they may be difficult, but you will survive”.
So to anyone nervous about travelling with your kids. Who came here looking for lists upon lists on how to handle ever obstacle, or hiccup, or how to be prepared for it all. I say to you to take a breath. The best advice I can give to you is to change your mindset and expectations and to just DO IT! Try your best to live in the moment while you travel. If I can live by this mindset then so can you. I am not more special, or well prepared, or less type A then you are. I get just as nervous before every trip, I worry about the same things you probably do. But the difference is that I then release those fears and just accept the experience we have for what it is.
I will leave you here with another real life example… Back in 2017 we went on a 7 day camping trip. We were so excited to go and I was convinced we would have great warm weather the entire time. We ended up with a tornado warning, lots of heavy rain and temperatures that dropped to 5 degrees in August (the joys of Ontario living)! Before the trip I was convinced it was going to be sunny and beautiful the entire time! Luckily we were prepared with rain gear and warm clothing, thank you hubby! But my point here is that we made the most of this experience and taught our kids resilience along the way. Even though it was tempting to pack up and go home (you can watch that trip video below)!
A little word about your A-Hole kid screaming down the hotel lobby
I think the biggest thing I worry about when I travel with my kids is their behavior. And news flash, your kid will most likely have a temper tantrum, maybe a few of them during your travel! They will behave badly at one point and they may not want to eat, swim, or go on that hike you planned 3 months ago. So how does this fluid mindset fit into these situations? How do you stay confident knowing this may occur? That is when you breath, you stay present with your child and you enjoy the day whatever it ends up being. Yes you read that right, let me say it again WHATEVER IT ENDS UP BEING! If that means your kid is being an A-Hole and you have to relax in your hotel room, well then order a drink, get some room service and just live in that moment. Figure out a way to make that time positive for you. We had a few of these days in St. Lucia and in Brazil. During those trips Jaden had a few very bad flare up (he has celiac disease, which is extremely hard to manage in other countries, you can read more about it here). So on bad days we would go back to the room, Avery would nap, Jaden would watch a show, and me and Josh would order a few drinks, maybe a snack and sit on the patio and just hang out. Would I prefer to be on the beach, hell frickin ya! But that was not the situation that was presented to us. So I released my expectations and desires for that moment and found joy in hanging out with my husband and having a drink and feeling the sun on my face. Whatever it is just stay in it. You will be amazed at how freeing and rewarding that is.
What the future looks like and the benefits of travel
Currently to date (May 2019) my kids are 16 months, 4 and 7. Jaden, who is 7, is now better able discuss his feelings and his own desires. So travelling with him is much easier and more flexible then it once was. He can understand our expectations and we can have conversations with him on what each day will look like, his own desires and expectations. Avery, who is 4, is still developing this ability to reason and understand the needs of others as well and communicate his desires. And Micah who is still a toddler, is pretty much going to do whatever he wants, lol. What I mean here is that as time passes travelling get easier. While we still maintain a flexible mindset, especially with Micah’s needs, we can be a bit more structured with Jaden and Avery. They understand that screaming in a hotel room is not OK, they want to be at the beach or on a boat ride, or to play on the football field. We have traveled with them enough now that they are themselves adaptive and flexible to the situation that arises. And they became this way because of how flexible and adaptive Josh and I were when we traveled. So while I am still slightly nervous for our upcoming trip (first time on a plane with 3 kids), I am confident that we will survive, we will adapt and more importantly we will have a blast!
So My final words to you are this. Do not wait for the right time to take that trip with your family. Don’t let fear ruin your experiences and remember that confidence is only built if you first take the step towards building it!
P.S: Ok so seriously if you really are a list person stay tuned for my next post on what we packed and brought on our trip down south as a family of 5 (and hopefully a video too!)