5 Thoughts On Traveling With Kids

This topic came up frequently in January and February – what is it like traveling with kids? Why would you travel with them? You can’t travel AND have kids! What makes a good vacation with kids?

So… here’s a compilation of some thoughts from Adam and I on it.

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Asha at the Changi Airport.

1. Pick your routing intelligently. We’ve had good luck with direct flights or with long (6+ hour) layovers – enough to get out and see the city, have relaxed meals (in the airport or out), and to give Asha playtime. Direct flights offer the convenience of only going through security once – which could be make-or-break with some families and their children. We prefer either those long layovers, or direct flights. We’ve especially enjoyed our one in London – enough free things to do (though you definitely need at least 6 hours, preferably 8, to handle getting out through immigration and into London proper on the train, and going back to the airport and clearing security). The long-layover route also lets you get a sampling of another place to perhaps visit down the road.

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Historical site: that’s nice. But there’s DIRT here! I CAN DRAW IN IT!

2. Figure out what activities are in the destination location before you go. Whether it’s aquariums, parks, or making sure that your historical sites have child-friendly spaces (as above, the Angkor Wat complex – all this dirt, great for drawing in!), it’s not fair to the kids to plan a trip that isn’t suited to their ages/activity levels – or you need parents who are willing to not go see certain things in order to wrangle the offspring so the other parent can see the sites in question.

 

3. We have found budget things tend to be more child-friendly than high end things. This is in part due to the fact that budget things seem to be more “eh, whatever” than high-end, whether it’s restaurant or hotel or event. If you’re a self-conscious parent, the relaxed attitude of many budget establishments lends itself to a more relaxed experience for you and the kids as well.

4. Food can, surprisingly, be easiest. Unless your kid has an allergy, as long as the parent doesn’t express aversion – and/or lets the kid decide on their own! – most are remarkably gastronomically diverse. When it’s street food (what we prefer – because it’s tasty and cheap and child-friendly!), there’s usually enough noise and bustle and casual attitude about the entire affair that no one cares if you have a squalling infant or an enthusiastic toddler. There was one vendor in Penang who was thrilled when he heard that Asha polished off an entire fried oyster omelet on her own (the crafting of which is the middle picture, below).

Adam – and Asha, and Rohan, and I! – like getting to watch our food being made. You always should, when it’s street food, to make sure it’s fresh… but there’s the additional visual fascination of seeing how some of these intensely tasty and unusual dishes get made.

5. Give the kids some ownership. Even our toddler, at two, was surprisingly vehemently enthusiastic about her backpack and water bottle and rarely wanted to be parted from them. The backpack (MEC Fledgling) and water bottle (a Camelbak – good for toddlers who like to bite their straws!) were undeniably hers, and that made it easier for us to give her responsibility in carrying some of her own stuff – and to make sure she kept drinking water from her bottle. She was very enthusiastic 90% of the time about carrying her own bag with her own things in it, too.

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One more gratuitous shot of char kuey tiao in progress.

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