If you and your partner were globetrotters before you decided to start a family, or even if you’re deciding to up sticks and see the world with your children, there’s nothing stopping you. The world is a far more flexible place these days; competitive flight prices, understanding bosses and renting mean that we’re able to take flight with relative ease; yes, you’ll need to plan, but it can be done.
Travelling with children and babies is very different, though. There are plenty of blogs out there that show a wider picture of what it’s like to see the world with a small person, and all the benefits and challenges you might face. It’s tough, exciting and hugely rewarding - but what are the pros and cons of travelling with your kids?
You’ll grow as a family. Apologies for the saccharine opening, but it’s true - the more you experience together, the stronger your bond will become. A three-week safari where you live without hot water, central heating and a microwave will be more memorable than a week on the beach.
Your kids will develop a sense of perspective. Children in the first world are often shielded from poverty and the harder, nastier parts of life, but showing them how others live isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Suddenly, not getting that new Xbox game for Christmas might seem relatively unimportant.
You’ll develop their tastes. Put simply, kids who grow up who have been exposed to travel are often much better eaters than children who have been allowed to get away with feasting on toast and ketchup. Travelling also teaches children to cope with situations outside their comfort zone and manage their sleep patterns.; you might be surprised to find that your child can suddenly fall asleep anywhere, noise doesn’t bother them, and they can manage tiredness on their own terms.
You’ll expand their horizons. Children are capable of making their own minds up, and early experiences can shape their personalities for life. A child who was delighted by Europe’s cuisines or loved London’s architecture may develop a passion they can explore in later life, and possibly pursue it with a career built around developing their passion.
It might be their only chance. Lots of people plan to see the world when they get older, but money, job commitments, having families of their own and other unforeseen knocks mean that sometimes these plans don’t materialise. We’re not scaremongering - it’s just worth considering, and having these experiences as a child or young adult doesn’t make them any less valid.
It’s tough for kids. Air travel, being away from home and in unfamiliar places can be confusing for kids, and even if you’re feeling pretty good about Thailand’s lush weather and swimming in the sea, there’s no guaranteeing your child will feel the same. Their ability to be maddeningly contrary has pushed many a holidaying parent to the edge.
Some travel experiences can be exploitative and upsetting. Coming into contact with cultural differences, poverty and environmental or social problems during an overseas trip can be an educational experience, and not shutting tourists off from the reality of life in the area they are visiting can be beneficial for both parties. However, avoid voyeuristic ‘poverty tourism’ and be aware that seeing the aftermath of a tornado, homeless people, or street children reduced to begging for a handful of change can be upsetting for a child, especially if they don’t understand why and how certain cultures are so different from their own. If you are taking your children to areas where they may see such struggles, you want to be prepared for their questions.
They may not remember - or care. Don’t kid yourself (pun intentional); younger children won’t have the memories that you’ll take away from the trip, and you may find that they’re more engrossed in sleeping/having a tantrum than gazing at the Taj Mahal or taking in the Northern Lights. It’s unwise to expect them to be as awestruck as you are, and it’s unfair to for you to pile the pressure on if they’re looking a little, well, bored.
They may get tired and ill. Smaller people have weaker immune systems and they won’t accept that the flight’s delayed for five hours with a disinterested shrug. Be prepared for colds, coughs and the odd tummy bug - and the occasional screaming fit on a plane.
You may have to limit yourself. If you’ve got big plans for the day, such as getting to the top of the Eiffel Tower by using the stairs or riding all the rollercoasters at Disneyworld, be aware that smaller members of your party may not be entirely up for that, and will make their displeasure known. The same goes for late nights, beach parties, and being out past 10pm. So make sure you plan in extra time to get around and do what’s most important on a family holiday: relax and enjoy each other’s company.
What are your experiences with taking kids overseas? Do you think some travel experiences should be R-rated? Tell us on our Facebook page.