It may seem strange, but after having our 2 kids, we seem to travel more than we did when we were childless. Part of the reason is we visit grandparents more and we realized we travel a lot differently when we visit them versus going on vacation elsewhere. I thought it would be interesting to talk about the 6 things we consider when traveling, and how they differ depending on where we’re going. Some of this will only be relevant for younger kids (ours are 4 and 1) so we’ll see how they evolve over time.
1. Do we need a stroller?
Traveling with a stroller isn’t the hardest thing to do, but if we can avoid it, it’s always nicer. Our 4-year-old doesn’t need it and if we can, we’ll take our daughter in a baby bjorn since it frees up our arms to roll luggage or just be able to grab something, if needed. The one benefit of visiting family is we made them all buy (used) strollers so we don’t have to ever carry them when going home.
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2. Do we need to take a pack and play?
No! We tried it once when we just had 1 kid and we never did it again. Every hotel we’ve been to has cribs and just as above, grandparents bought one so we haven’t lugged that around in years. We actually only keep it now if friends or family come and they have babies. We’ll be getting rid of it soon.
No more lugging this around!
3. How much planning should we do before our trip?
This one is tough. We like to be spontaneous, but we realize that certain things cannot be avoided when dealing with kids. For example, we recently took an overnight trip to Portland and we looked up restaurants in advance as well as things to do. Even for a short weekend trip, we find ourselves much more focused on maximizing the fun (or minimizing the risk of not having fun) because kids can definitely change their mood pretty fast. I’m torn on this because growing up, I found that disappointment occurred and while it sucked at the time, it really wasn’t that bad. Part of the fun of travel is improvising and experiencing things that you didn’t know about before so I expect we’ll be planning less going forward.
4. What time is the flight?
People in general like to take flights that are convenient for them, but we’ve found that we plan around odd considerations (“odd” to pre-kid us, but not to those with young kids) like is this flight during nap time (ideal for a more peaceful flight) or is it too early in the morning or too late at night?
We are more flexible than most because since our son has traveled quite a bit domestically and internationally, we find he’s become more flexible about when he’s traveling. So preparing them for the trip and telling them everything they’ll be able to do helps temper the crankiness.
Read more: When is the best time to fly with young kids?
5. Are we going to a big city or a smaller town?
Both trips are fun, but there are definitely some differences in how we plan based on the type of place we’re going. For example, in a big city, we’re less likely to rent a car than we are in a more spread-out place. We like to walk and my son loves taking the subway or bus (if one exists) and that’s much easier in a bigger city.
Other things we factor in depending on where we’re going are the types of things we’ll be doing, the food that’ll be available and what sort of lodging options we’ll have. In big cities, there’s usually a wide variety of activities that we can take advantage of, many of which are kid-friendly. When we go to smaller towns, part of the appeal is that we can unwind a bit and not feel like we’re forced to do a lot expect enjoy the area. A downside for us is that large cities will have a lot of food options while smaller towns understandably lack those (important to us because we have kids with allergies). Last, in big cities we tend to expect worse lodging options, mostly because the cost becomes a prohibitive factor, but of course, we try to stay out of the hotel as much as possible.
6. How long should we go for?
Outside of normal considerations like how long can we take off from work, we try to make sure we have a trip that’s long enough to be worthwhile, but not too long that it’ll become boring for the kids, or us.
Part of this comes from the planning mentioned above, but the more travel we do, the better we are at judging how much time to spend in any one place. Domestically, we aim for a minimum of 3 days if we’re flying, but that also depends on where we’re going. Oddly, when we went to New York, 3 days would have been plenty because our then 2-year-old son had a hard time with the crowds and the small hotel room that he just wanted to go home. We were there for 5 or 6 days and he quickly grew tired of it, but we thought we’d definitely want to spend at least that much time there since every time we’ve gone (without kids), we always have a ton of things we want to do. On the flip side, we go to Hawaii every year and 5 days isn’t close to enough since the kids love being able to swim or just be in the water all the time. Age clearly plays a role in this so this one I’m sure will change over time.
I’d love to hear what other parents think about when they’re traveling or thinking about traveling. And maybe I’ll revisit this post in a couple of years to see how things have changed!