Bron is a passionate advocate for working parents, writing extensively on life balance, common sense and strengths-based parenting and the ‘good enough’ parent. Bron has been writing lifestyle and parenting content online for over eight years, and has been an editor at Kidspot, Mumtastic and SBS. Her new eBook Screen Freedom gives parents winning strategies to get their kids to switch off screens and switch on their potential.
A warm welcome to Bronwyn – our guest contributor today, whom I have known for many many years! Bronwyn is Editor of Mumlyfe a digital platform designed to support mums of older children (you know that in-between age once they hit school and are no longer “little”, but they’re not a teenager either) – yeah, that stage. Today I’ve asked to her impart with some of her wisdom about how she tackled the whole family travel thing. Her interesting take on waiting until your children are a certain age is definitely a topic I would love to hear more about! As a parent, it is all about navigating so many developmental stages as well as personalities that perhaps the ideal time to travel is when your parenting confidence tell you so!
The perfect age to travel with kids
Before my children were born, my husband and I were great travellers. We lived in London and travelled six months of the year for almost five years. We’ve been to most continents and more than 50 countries.
I remember we “saved Asia” for when we came back home to Australia. Somehow thinking that we would work and travel throughout our neighbours once we arrived back home. You will note on this map of where we have been that somehow that never happened:
Sorry Asia, we had kids
We never made it to Thailand, Vietnam, Tibet or Burma. The Philippines, Taiwan, Japan and India have all remained undiscovered by us.
It will come as no surprise that not long after we arrived back in Australia, we started having kids pretty quickly. There’s a reason we are still waiting to get to Asia and that reason is three kids, born close enough in age that we existed in survival mode for a very long time. The idea of packing up and travelling around with three little kids felt completely unachievable when just getting through the day was exhausting enough.
We holidayed most years, even left the country a couple of times, but it wasn’t until my kids were 11, 10 and 8 that we felt ready to take them somewhere further. To take them travelling, rather than simply on a holiday.
The golden age for travel
It’s funny how parenting is so easy in hindsight. The minute we were busy planning that trip to Europe, I found myself thinking, “We should have gone earlier.” It would appear I had completely forgotten how insurmountable that very idea would have been just a couple of years earlier.
The truth is, I think we went at exactly the right time. It’s not really until kids are independent, considerate of others and able to carry their own bags that I think travel is sensible. Before that, you’re merely parenting in a different location.
When we finally boarded our first long-haul flight, I realised why the age my kids were at that point in time is considered “the golden years”. Kids between ages 7-12 are good company, reasonably well-behaved, self-motivated, interested and interesting. It’s the time to catch them before they decide you are way too embarrassing to be seen in public with, but after the time that they are too embarrassing to be seen with.
When we boarded that flight to Europe, I wasn’t carrying a child, their bag, or any parenting baggage. I wasn’t carrying much at all, actually. Just a book and snacks for my youngest who refused point-blank to eat airplane food (she is my sensible one, really). The kids had an iPad, book and a packet of cards each and I barely heard from them at all for the 24-hour flight. No, really.
Instead, the kids were eager and curious about the trip ahead. They had spent the few months before we left researching places that they might want to go. We’d eaten French food and read up about Christmas in the snow (we were off to Brugges for 25 December). Each child had a long list of things they wanted to see, eat, try and, of course, buy.
Once landed, the trip was everything I’d dreamt about for years. I’d go so far as to say that I enjoyed travelling in Europe with the kids just as much as when my husband and I had in our twenties. Golden age kids are able to make friends, talk to adults, ask questions, read a map, research a destination, try new foods, and basically charm the pants off every foreigner they meet.
By the time we made it home, my middle was already planning to live on a houseboat in Amsterdam and the youngest was saving for a moped. The eldest had made a friend he still keeps in contact with today.
The benefits outweighed the obstacles
Of course, I only know a little about what it’s like to travel with younger kids – we made it to Fiji, New Zealand and many parts of Australia before our first European trip – but from what I do know, the benefits of travelling with little kids only just outweighed the obstacles. Travel is sometimes hard work, but not often and certainly not all the time. Waiting until the kids were bigger was a necessity for us, but one that paid off nicely.
We are planning a month-long trip to the USA and Canada next. Soon I’ll know what it’s like to travel with teens…
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