As travel loving moms people often come and tell us – “you make it look easy – but in reality it is a lot of work to travel with a baby and I would hardly call that a vacation!” We totally get it! Its definitely a bit more effort than traveling on your own or with friends and partners. But, as highlighted in a previous post, think about all the fun stories you build together and a unique way to bond with your kids.
Good news is, there are things we can do to prepare kids for travel, in the weeks/months before the travel, to get them excited about the travel and to make our lives a wee bit easier. Here are a few things we do to raise a traveler:
Experiment with food at home: yes it is important for kids to form healthy eating habits but I think if you plan to take them traveling, expose children’s taste palettes to a variety of flavors and textures. Noodles, pasta, a variety of breads, pastries, exotic fruits and vegetables, fried chicken or even some safe Sushi. If they are open to experimenting with food, kids will be much easier to travel with – they will eat what you eat. See a previous post about food while traveling and how you can relax some nutrition rules while traveling to make it easier for you.
- Encourage being active: travel often requires a lot of walking and it is unfair to ask your child to keep up with with that demand if it is not a part of her daily routine – so take them for regular walks/run/or other physical activity – you can start this as early as 2 years old. Active children also adapt better to schedule changes due to change in time zones.
- Encourage curiosity: one major trait that connects travelers globally is curiosity – they want to learn about new locations, cultures, people, food, history… children are just the same. We can encourage curiosity by answering (even the most ridiculous) questions they ask about the world, pointing out fun things about the day, asking them questions that pique their wonder (as silly as what do you think is at the end of the rainbow?). I find that reading is extremely effective in raising curious children.
- Work on their socialization: I know that not all children are social beings, but depending on the child’s comfort level, expose them to different types of people – children, adults, older people, people that speak different languages, people from different socioeconomic backgrounds, so that they perceive the differences between how people look and behave – this will help make sure they are not caught off guard or spooked when they people that look very different from their parents.
- Encourage independence (of thought and action): of course you want children who can eat on their own and dress themselves so it is less work for you on holidays. But you also want children who can tell you what they would like to eat (from a menu of options presented to them) or tell you when they are tired or if there is something they need or want. Now, this is a fine balance – because you cannot give into every unreasonable want/demand the child makes, but you have to give them room to have their opinions, and know their own wants. In the long run, this saves you the energy that goes in guessing and stressing over figuring out your child needs.
- Allow for schedule flexibility: Although it is very important to maintain a schedule for babies sometimes it is equally important to maintain our sanity. In preparation for a trip cutting some slack from regular routine every now and then will help. Try to extend their nap time or even let them fall asleep in the car seat or stroller outside of their usual timings once in a while to get them used to such changes happening during travel as well.
- Involve them in planning and build excitement and expectations: As a travel loving adult you know the world map and a planner are enough to get your excitement through the roof. The same can and will happen to kids too as they love being involved in whatever the parents are doing. Although you may not let them pick the destination (as there is a real possibility they would pick Antarctica!) once you make travel plans – books, stories, fun facts, as well as topics of discussion can revolve around the place of travel as well as how to get there etc. (E.g. – its going to be super cold there, and we have to all keep our caps and gloves on; or we are going to take a flight to Milan and then drive a few hours to the ski resort). This process gets them excited as well as makes them brave any struggles along the way as they are more informed and determined to get there.
We would love to hear additional things you do to make children fall in love with traveling! Add your tips in the comments below!
Sylekhya and Rashi