A question I’ve seen many times in the various travel and parenting Facebook groups I’m in is, “can we travel overseas or are my children too young?” My answer – based on experience – is absolutely YES you can travel the world with young kids!
Before our first child was born, my husband and I traveled as much as we could despite working full time. Once we started our family, we figured we wouldn’t be able to fly long hauls until the kids were older.
Then, one of his best friends decided to get married in Germany and asked my husband to be a groomsman. Coincidentally, his work was also sending him to London around the same time as the wedding. So, although our son had only recently turned three, we decided to all go together. I wanted to see what a German wedding was like! (Spoiler alert: They’re beer-soaked multi-day affairs. One of the most memorable weddings I’ve ever experienced!).
I actually found out I was pregnant with our second child while in Scotland. That sidelined our international travel for a couple years though we continued to travel within the US including Hawaii up until I was 8 months pregnant, and then again after our baby turned 4 months old.
Now a family of four, we recently spent a week up in Vancouver, Canada. This was the perfect first international destination for a young family from SoCal for the following reasons:
- same time zone
- relatively short plane ride (under three hours)
- no language barrier
- flights are plentiful and affordable
- family-friendly city
- reliable medical care
You can also take a scenic Amtrak train all the way from here to Vancouver (though it’ll take a couple days and cost more than airfare)!
What are some other reasons why you can easily travel the world with young kids?
They adjust to time differences better than most adults: We were plagued with fear that our son would have awful jet lag when we arrived in Germany. Turns out, he rolled with the punches. I’ve heard many other well-traveled parents say the same thing. Kids are surprisingly resilient!
Most kids enjoy the plane ride: The first time we flew with our son we were armed with toys, books, and snacks to keep him distracted. Turns out he found the vibrations from the flight very soothly and was far mellower than we expected. He also loves watching the planes on the tarmac. Now we always plan to get to the airport early so he can enjoy the view. This makes travel much less stressful since we’re never rushing there at the last minute like we used to as single folk.
Gets you out of your comfort zone: Routines are necessary, but sometimes we can become a bit too engrained in them. Travel is a nice way to get you out of the familiar and doing things differently. While exploring Vancouver we rented bikes because I read that was the best way to see the expansive Stanley Park. Had I ever gone biking with a baby strapped onto my back before? Nope, but we had a fantastic time and I’m now back home shopping for bike trailers.
Experience new foods and activities: Food tourism is our family’s favorite way to experience a different country. And I think the benefits of children experiencing other cultures from an early age are plentiful.
Staying in a hotel or airbnb means no cleaning and limited chores: We did laundry once, and only used the kitchen to boil eggs and wash bottles. Never made a bed or took out the trash either. Ah, heaven!
Airport lines aren’t as bad as you expect: This might be an industry secret, but our experiences at Heathrow, Edinburgh, and Vancouver Int’l airports were all the same: we got waved through to the front of the line because we had a young child in tow. At Heathrow our flight had been delayed so we arrived after 10pm. I believe the Customs agent did everyone a service by not making us wait in a long line with an overtired toddler! In Vancouver there was a separate security queue just for young families and people in wheelchairs. It didn’t move any faster than the other lines, but required far less walking. That helped keep our son’s patience in check.
Airport playgrounds help pass the time: Only a few US airports have these (Love Field in Dallas comes to mind), but they seem to be more plentiful internationally. Taipei has a fun one that’s Hello Kitty themed. Germany had “kiddie land” zones. Heathrow’s play area is like a business class lounge where you check in and then let your child roam free. Parents can rest on couches until an attendant lets you know your flight is called. How awesome is that?
If you’re thinking you just can’t afford it, I recommend you check out my friend’s blog post with ideas on how to travel on the cheap. It IS possible. You don’t have to be wealthy and childless to see the world!