It boggles my mind that four years ago I wrote about hopes and fears for my first flight with my two month old. While I wrote slightly tongue in cheek (as is my wont), my hopes and fears still seem kind of silly after four years of family travel. Getting through security? She loads her own bags now. Checking in baggage? Old hat. And my biggest fear, not wanting to fly with a baby again? Well, I’m still here.
Some fears remain of course. I now know that if my child fusses or spazzes out and the seatbelt sign lights up we’re screwed. And my son definitely creates much more stress than my daughter ever did.
Yet as this post publishes, we sit on my daughter’s seventh (!) international trip. I’m trying to process what I’ve learned over these four years and I process through writing, so here we go.
We could never had done this without the grandparents
First and foremost, I need to give a major shoutout to my parents and my in laws. For starters, both sets of our parents braved living overseas with us for a few years in childhood, which obviously had profound effects on us. My in laws enable us to travel in so many ways: rides to the airport, watching the place, and of course, watching the dog.
And my parents accompany us on many of our trips. Not only is that a great help (obviously), but my kids love traveling with them. I’d say at least 30% of my daughter’s excitement roots itself in getting to hang out with them (they’re sweet when they’re young, aren’t they?). I definitely know how lucky we are – we both get along with our in laws and they’re both supportive of our valuing family travel. The difference between our solo trips and trips with grandparents can be as small as just one hour to ourselves – but it makes a huge difference in our mental space! It’s great to have support, so if you have it, use it.
It hasn’t been easy
Still, family travel gets pretty tough sometimes – even when you’re not going it alone. If I’m being honest, I’m dreading this 15 hour flight to Hong Kong. Somehow things seemed much easier the first time. But double the kids feels like at least triple the problems. But family travel definitely comes with compromises and conflicts. (Somehow I think this latest trip will result in another entry in my Real Life Family Travel series).
At the same time, lots of family situations necessitate family travel. So I’m glad we get to do it on our own terms for the most part; we get practice which really helps when we need to go places.
Update: Didn’t get to finish this before our 15 hour flight. Been in Hong Kong for a couple of days now with a toddler in the throes of jetlag! Post continues…
So when you’re up more times at night on the road than you have been since your baby was six months old, you get to wondering whether the benefits of traveling justify all the hassle. I think this is natural, and while I know not everyone agrees with me, personally I find the struggle worth it. What worthwhile things in life come without one? Few, if any.
It’s strengthened our family
Alright to be honest I wrote this heading before our last two days of crazy jet lag wars with the youngest, but for the most part, it’s true – family travel strengthens us as a unit. Something about being outside of our comfort zone causes us to stretch and to grow. New situations help us to view our regular situations in a new light.
Family travel also helps me gain a greater appreciation for each of my family members. Early on, traveling with my wife gave me an appreciation for art, hiking, and a different way of viewing travel. My daughter teaches me to really enjoy the moment when we travel – she loves every second of it. And my son…is pretty cute.
It beats sitting at home
I think I wrote about this before, but last summer in the UK Jess kept asking if I wanted “to do this again?” And our conclusion was that it beats sitting at home. That’s totally true – if we stayed at home for our vacations we’d all probably drive each other crazy.
I’m also well aware that as the kids get older there will be much more demanded of their time. Piano lessons, sports, summer camps, etc. etc. – we won’t be more free than we right now. So I think even though they are so young, now is the perfect time to travel with them, because they don’t miss out on anything else to do so.
So anyway, no huge conclusions except that I have little to no regrets about all the family travel we’ve done over the last four years. Here’s to four more!