Hey everyone, Tyler here. Jessica was kind enough to let me do another post today and I wanted to share some thoughts about a question that comes up every now and then when talking about travel. The question is usually some form of “What’s the best age to travel with children?”
And what is my definitive answer? Drumroll please… Whatever age your children currently are. You’ve just had your first infant? Well, then book something great and go. You’ve got a four year old and a two year old? Also a great time, get going. Maybe you don’t have kids but have just found out you are pregnant? They call that one a ‘babymoon’ now. Book it, you’ll love it.
Jessica and I have travelled extensively both before and since having our little ones. Our trips since having kids have changed in some ways, and other ways they have stayed quite the same. We did a trip while Jessica was pregnant with Henry, another extended trip when Henry was 11 weeks old, and then yet another when Henry was 16 months old and she was pregnant with Tom. Once Tom was born we did our longest trip yet (13 weeks) through 20 countries. That’s right, 20 countries, over three months, with two boys. And do you know what? I think it was our best trip yet.
Each of these trips was unique because of the ages of our boys when we went. The truth is there are some challenges to each and every age when traveling. These make for memorable stories and so I suspect that they are likely shared disproportionally when discussing travel with kids. What I’ve found though is that there are some very real and wonderful perks with each age as well that we never would have discovered if we had waited until the “kids were a better age.”
This post could go on and on, so for today I’ll stick to infant travel, and another time, I’ll cover older ages. So, with specific regard to infant travel, let’s talk perks…
Luggage No extra luggage needed really — just some onesies, several receiving blankets, a few bottles, and (depending on where you are off to) some formula (if you chose to, or are required to formula feed) and diapers.
Cost Added cost to travel with your infant? Negligible. The taxes on a flight. I honestly think that is it. Your infant doesn’t need a seat on the plane, nor are they charged in hotels. Maybe if you wanted a crib they might charge for that, but I doubt it. We co-sleep and always enjoyed the king size bed just fine. They don’t need a restaurant meal, they don’t get charged admission anywhere. All they need are diapers, your milk or formula, and your time.
Your time I would argue that there is a strong case to be made that you are never more present with your little one than when you are away from the responsibilities of home. Some of our most precious memories with Henry were watching him coo at strangers on long train rides, or simply kicking on the floor of our AirBnB. No emails to get to, no housekeeping to maintain, just time to focus on family.
Jet lag What about jet lag? Well, isn’t infancy just one long bout of jet lag anyway? Kidding aside, in our experience, when our boys were infants they adjusted to time changes mores smoothly than they did as they grew older. We also found that we’ve never been treated better at an airport or by an airline than when we’ve traveled with an infant. Expedited security clearance, priority boarding, and a sympathetic smile for the hiccups that occur along the way.
Parental Leave There is a good chance you are off of work with your infant now anyway. What difference is it if you are at home,adjusting to life with a little one, or abroad? As long as you are comfortable in your settings, your infant will be too.
When Henry was eight weeks old we wanted to dip our toes into the ‘traveling with kids’ phase and so flew to Eleuthera in the Bahamas to an AirBnB we had rented for a week and we were amazed how similar it was to our travel pre-kids. I think this has a lot to do with what you are used to and what kind of travel you enjoy. Friends of ours took their infant deep backwoods camping in Northern Canada for several weeks and I thought they were straight up nuts. After telling them as much they laughed and countered that they thought the same of us taking Henry through more than a dozen European countries by train, plane, and rental car, staying in all kinds of different accommodations. Because they are so comfortable backcountry, it was nothing to add an infant to the mix. And for us in Europe, the same. Jessica often says you could drop her anywhere in Europe with zero planning, and she would have a great time. I believe her.
I will admit that if your idea of a great trip is jam packed 16 hour days, reading every plaque at the museum, or hitting the clubs (do people still say that?), or some adrenaline seeking cliff diving nonsense, then yes… your travel set up will need to change more than ours did. For us though, that has never been our style. We like slow to moderately paced days to begin with, wandering new cities or countryside, hikes, water activities etc. and our boys have fit into that style well.
When we first got to Europe with Henry, he was eleven weeks. It felt like an adjustment at the time, but in hindsight, it was pretty easy peasy. Jessica wore him in the carrier and he often slept as we wandered European cities looking in shops, or seeking out a good coffee. We would go to restaurants during non-peak times and ask for a table for four. Henry got half, and Jessica and I got the other half. He was so young there was no worry that he would even roll over yet. It really was great. Did he cry sometimes? Oh yes. Did it bother those around us? Maybe, but I don’t think so. Mostly I think they were so happy to see a wee young baby and a happy family having the time of their lives. So if you are about to have a little one, or you already do, it’s a great time to travel. Do it. Go, I’m confident that you will be glad you did.