A Passion for Travel Abroad with Our Children
Article and photo by Alice Griffin
Alice and Isabella in Norway
I have always been a traveler. It is in my blood. It is who I am. Ask me why and I do not know if I can give you a precise answer. All I know is that when thrown into a new situation that is unfamiliar to me, when surrounded with fresh sounds, smells and scenery, I find myself mesmerized. It could be something as simple as sitting on a rickety train in the South of France as it trundles along a hot dusty track that captures me. The blue sea running the length of the window, the sound of the chugging engine beneath me, the heaviness of heat hanging in the air. I survey the passengers; their dark skin, mysterious eyes, sweat dripping from their temples, weathered hands mopping brows, and I realize that being part of what is really a simple scene, sets my pulse racing. It is these incidentals that make me feel alive and that is why I love travel, because when I take time out to really look, I feel as though I am truly living. Travel to me is a journey, long or short, near or far, to somewhere that is new and makes me sit up and take notice.
Do Not Listen to the Naysayers
When I was pregnant with my daughter, Isabella, I knew that I wanted to share this passion for the world with her because it is such a huge part of who I am, but throughout my pregnancy I became consumed with hearsay: “life will change beyond all recognition once you have a baby,” and I started to wonder if the rumors were true, that I would no longer be able to travel in the way that I loved—independently and freely—and that I would not be allowed to be me anymore. Instead I would be tied to a life of sterilizing bottles, the routine of being static and a yearly jaunt into the waiting transfers of some all-inclusive holiday tour. The thought of this less independent form of travel did not sit well with us, and quite quickly my husband and I decided that we most certainly would be continuing on our traveling adventures, just with a new baby strapped to us in a sling.
The Magical Adaptability of Traveling Children
Isabella went on her first road trip across France at eight weeks old, to Greece at three months, to Norway at eight months, and then when she was just over a year we headed off on an open-ended road trip across France, Spain and Portugal. This year Isabella is three and we are heading back to Scandinavia for a trip further north where we plan to stay in tiny cabins and take a rowing boat out onto stunning lakes flanked by rugged mountains. We are also busy planning her first Far Eastern trip to Thailand in December, which will see us travel independently from Bangkok to the South and back up to the North. What I have learned so far throughout our journey traveling with a small child is that it is not rocket science, and it need not be difficult. Granted, if you had an adventurous spirit and an attraction to independent travel prior to children, then undoubtedly it will be easier. But regardless of the type of holiday you want to take with your children, be reassured that with a little pre-planning, a calm disposition and a good selection of raisins, coloring books and friendly locals, you can absolutely travel with a baby on board!
Since my pregnancy three and half years ago it seems that traveling with children has taken on a life of its own, and everywhere I look people are telling you how you can do it, what you will need, and where you can go. But although this information is all of use, and is most definitely relevant, I try to not get too bogged down in the minutiae because the fact still remains that it really should not be overly complicated. Children are not magical creatures who must be wrapped up in cotton wool and hidden away from the greater world until it is deemed they are big enough to deal with the realities of life. No, they are inquisitive, energetic and resilient, approaching all situations with enthusiasm and, in my opinion, should be encouraged from an early age to go out there and explore, feel, see, touch.
Practical Tips to Make a Child Part of Your Adventurous Travels
There was no grand plan on how to take Isabella travelling with us from a young age; we simply wanted to share our passion and have her be part of our life. However, if you too would like to travel with your baby/child/children and are feeling a little apprehensive, then I hope you will join me here on a regular basis as I plan to share with you the things I have learned along the way relating to: feeding, changing, packing, sleeping, as well as the places we have been and the items I have found invaluable—hopefully without overwhelming you with too much unnecessary information.
General Advice on Family Travel with a Young Child
- Get as much travel as you can in with a newborn; they get used to it fast, as do you, and you will learn quickly from your mistakes. In addition, there are some cases where travel is much easier with a baby than it is with a 2-year-old.
- If you are not sure whether independent travel is for you then consider whether you would have gone for such options before becoming parents. The odds are that if you were not up for the challenge when single, you most certainly will not be with your child on board. If this is the case, then opt for an all-inclusive tour, but hire a car to take a few day trips and build up your adventurous streak!
- When it comes to long-term options, traveling before your child reaches school age is an excellent idea, although waiting until they are about a year old is favorable as they will have had their main and most important jabs.
- Make sure you carefully consider your own needs when planning a trip. What might have been a simple nighttime adventure when you were single could be exhausting with a baby as you will not be able to sleep it off on the beach the following day.
- The one thing you need to worry about least is your child. If they are young, they will surprise you with their acceptance of new routines and new surroundings.
- In my experience, the hugest benefit of longer-term travel when your child is small is the time you are able to spend together as a family. School and independence comes far too quickly, and our traveling life in Isabella’s early years, I hope, will create a lasting bond.
- I am often asked how we adapted to traveling life as a family and how we could enjoy things with a demanding baby on our back. I have to say that I wholeheartedly believe that if you embrace your child into your life, they will become comfortable with all that you do. We are surprised at how adaptable Isabella is within our lifestyle.Do not be afraid to step out of your holiday comfort zone… you might be surprised at what you discover!
Alice Griffin is a mother, wife, writer, traveler and daydreamer. She documents the travels she embarked on with her young family during the first two years of her daughter’s life. She lives in England on a boat and travels further afield whenever she gets the chance!