She’s only 3. People have told me a million times that traveling with my kid is a waste of money because she won’t even remember it. I beg to differ. If you’ve never tried it, you really won’t know the difference.
Yes, it can get difficult – especially when they reach the age of meltdowns and tantrums. Yes, it is expensive – we started paying for her plane fare at 24 months. Yes, you will get those looks – most flyers want peace and quiet in a plane and don’t want to be seated next to a crying kid. But above all, it is a wonderful experience.
We started traveling with Jellybean when she was only a year old and we’ve done so two or three times a year thereafter. At her age, she’s already been to 7 international destinations and countless local ones. So why do we do it? Here are my top reasons:
- I am a master packer! When I was single, I learned how to travel with only a carry-on. Well, with a kid, that’s really impossible. They take over your luggage space just like they take over your life. So mastering the art of packing breastfeeding covers, pump, sterilizing liquid, bottles, toys, an abnormal number of clothes for every possible situation, a ton of diapers and one or two pieces of clothes for myself is part of the joy of traveling with a child.
- I learned how to hold it in for a 16-hour flight…great practice to avoid incontinence in my golden years. I flew single-handedly with a two-year-old from Manila to Germany with a connecting flight. Just imagine how I managed to not go to the bathroom the entire time because I couldn’t leave my little girl by herself.
- Great cardio and marathon practice. Connecting flights are hell. Especially one coming from a late leg and you have about -10 minutes to make it to the next flight (and seeing as they were only waiting for my daughter, me and another girl, we really could have been left behind). I sprinted the entire Changi Airport from Terminal 1 to Terminal 3 in less than 5 minutes. If you’ve never been to this huge Singapore Airport, I’d say that distance usually takes 20 minutes to walk at normal pace.
- I have amazing upper body strength. I carried my child across Europe for hours and hours on end. I assumed that working a stroller through cobblestone streets was not the brightest idea (and I still stick by that decision), so even now my arms have such great muscle strength I could still carry a 15-kilogram (she’s about 34 lbs) toddler for three or four hours straight without breaking a sweat.
- I learned how to throw the itinerary out the window and just go with the flow. I work in the travel industry and planning has taken over most of my life for the past 10 years. But when you land in a new country with a sleepy/hungry/grumpy toddler, you cannot plan for anything. Just go with the flow (and her mood) and you’ll be able to experience so many new and wonderfully unplanned things.
- It’s a great way to disconnect from technology. This is for the whole family. My kid loves watching videos on her tablet and my husband and I are almost glued to our smartphones for work and social reasons. When we travel, we turn off the phones and just enjoy where we are and really spend quality time together.
- My daughter got over her picky-eater stage and became more adventurous with food. For the longest time, my daughter wouldn’t eat anything but white bread. However, in Tokyo she ate an entire order of rice and tonkatsu for the first time. Now, she loves sushi and sashimi and eats it every chance she gets. She eats a lot when we are traveling and she really tries new things. I’m so proud of her for this.
- She may not remember the destination, but she does not forget the feeling associated with it. How do I know? She reminds me of that wonderful sunset picnic every time a Paris scene comes on when we’re watching a movie and she sees the Eiffel tower. I travel with my toddler for the same reason I read to her. She may not remember it, but it teachers her something. The brain is a complex little thing and every little experience matters. I want the world to be her classroom.
- We met a lot of people while traveling and it has improved her social skills. As with most parents traveling with kids get special treatment wherever we go. She’s a natural ice breaker and we often have conversions with people on the streets because of her. She’s more open to talking to people from different cultures and this has greatly improved her social skills.
- She started developing an early interest in learning different languages. At three, she already knows the difference between English and Filipino. And when talking to non-Filipinos, she automatically uses English now. She is fully aware when we are in a country and the main language spoken is not one she is familiar with. She has even become curious to learn words that are different from what she knows. She often asks me how to say dog or cat or some other animal in another language (I only know how to speak English, Filipino and intermediate Spanish so this is becoming a challenge!). How has travel influenced this? We were watching Spongebob in Italy and she was the one who called my attention to it to tell me that it is not English. She then started point to the TV to tell me they are calling familiar things by different words. She would repeat these foreign words to me. I’ve started letting her watch videos and cartoons in Spanish and Chinese just to see if it’s something that would stick. So now, she already sings some songs in Spanish.
- She’s getting better at traveling as she ages. The first time was surprisingly easy. Then she turned two and it became a little bit hard. Now that she’s three, getting her to settle down in her own seat and enjoy the flight is like a walk in the park. It gets easier and as parents, we also feel more comfortable taking her everywhere with us.
Travelling exposes children to many great learning opportunities that we may not otherwise see in a classroom setting (I know, I studied to be a teacher). It exposes them to different cultures, food, people and experiences in general. There are probably hundreds of other reasons to travel with younger kids but we don’t see how this affects them until they are much older.