Travelling with kids is a bit like writing your will – you’ll have to do it at some point, but it’s existentially scary and you’d rather put it off as long as you can. Let’s face it, going on a family holiday with young children is not the same as those relaxing breaks you took before they came along.
From hitchhiking the outback to popping down the street to the boulangerie, going anywhere with very young children poses its own set of challenges, but a fully fledged holiday can be testing even for the toughest.
Here’s a few things to help you go in with your eyes open.
Family holiday realities
It won’t really be a holiday
Without wanting to put a downer on things, in this instance ‘going on holiday’ means all the usual baby-related chores are transported to a different location.
Planes are a special kind of punishment
If you have ever so much as waggled an eyebrow at a crying baby, karma is coming for you. Everyone thinks they’re one of the good guys, but we see them there, rolling their eyes, sighing ever so slightly, and giving the person next to them ‘that look’. It’s almost worse than if they came over and told your baby to ‘shut up’ directly to its face.
You’re stuck in a tin can with both a weeping infant AND a the full complement of the Passive Aggressive Society’s annual getaway.
Car trips are barely better
‘Just stay in this country and get about in the car!’ they said, ‘It’s so much simpler!’ they said.
‘Yeah, kids love long car journeys!’ said no one ever.
Screens are sent from heaven
You know those parenting classes that told you to limit your kids’ screen time and try to connect with them face-to-face?
Right, well forget all that, because on a long, stressful stint of travelling there is no greater joy than distracting your magpie-like children with a shiny tablet screen.
Kiss goodbye to travelling light
Babies are small, so baby gear must be small, right? Tell that to the check-in attendant when your bag is 4 kg over the limit.
You have to leave so much contingency time
Travelling with kids is slow.
Sometimes the reason is obvious: A toddler tantrum, a bout of travel sickness, a forgotten favourite toy. At other times even train journeys of preset length seem to stretch on for an eternity.
You have to do loads of research into where you’re going
Does the Inca Trail have changing facilities? No?
You can leave your books at home
Reading ranks alongside sleeping, and relaxing, as activities you abandoned when you decided to travel with young children. You’re going to have to read your new Ian Rankin on the train each morning when you get back to work – not on an actual beach.
You have to talk to people
This one can go both ways. Many a family friend has been made bonding over the breakfast buffet, either out of parental solidarity or because your kid is just so damn cute.
On the other hand, when the twentieth consecutive well-wisher tells you your kid is adorable when they’ve been screaming for the last three hours, you might just snap and join in with the baby.