The wail of what sounded like a donkey being impaled on a stake cut through the recycled air with the same savage ferocity and speed as a taxi driver in India cuts through traffic .. my tired, bloodshot eyes shoot open, leaving my vision blurry and my senses confused in a rush of adrenaline pumping fear… Convinced that either we’ve been hijacked by a Nazgul or the sound is the tortured last gasp of one of the jet motors seconds before it explodes, sending a turbine blade through the fleshy side of the plane. My heart was pounding and my mouth was dry but after regaining my groggy consciousness slowly I soon realise that we weren’t yet falling towards the ocean at terminal velocity…
‘WHAT IN THE NAME OF EVERYTHING HOLY WAS THAT?!!’ I practically yell at my similarly semi-conscious girlfriend. Sleepily she says ‘Somebody’s stupid kid’s yelling, it’s probably just sick or something’, before she once again, slips back into unconsciousness. I was shell-shocked, aghast, horrified and disturbed all at once, sitting quietly in my chair trying to compose myself and mop up the blood now flowing freely from my burst eardrums… A whole new world of bizarre and awful possibilities now opened up before me. ‘Holy Crap’ I said ‘imagine travelling with one of those!’…
Yes, travelling with kids can be an exhausting, trying and interesting experience. Recently in my travels, I met several parents on the road who had been travelling around the world (or part of it) with young children. Given my vast experience with children (this one time I held a baby for about 7 minutes), I had no idea what it would take to travel with a couple of mini-me’s and just sort of presumed that they’d probably eat, drink, pee and poop in much the same way as myself.. wow was I wrong. I now have a new-found respect for parents… I’m currently having enough of a challenge travelling around the world with just an inanimate object to look after (my bag) and I’ve almost left that on 2 trains, dropped it in a river, half melted it with a fire and left it chained to a bush overnight for safe keeping.
After chatting to a few experienced world travellers who have enjoyed travelling with children, I got some top tips on how they (very impressively) get by day to day.
1) Plan ahead: Kind of obvious when you think about it but your planning skills need to increase along with your patience. Make sure you have accommodation and your days planned in advance since trying to look for the best accommodation deal with 2 kids crying in the background is just not fun, pre-plan and save the hassle.
2) Don’t let your kids pack their own bags: Or you will end up with a small Micky mouse backpack filled with crayons, dinosaurs, Barbies and half eaten sandwiches…
3) Give them a Camera: Kids love cameras, just make sure that the camera you supply them loves them back (child proof = water + shock proof). Cameras also equal hours of distracted fun and surprisingly often some really great knee-high photos of the family experience that parents can keep from just above the grounds point of view.
4) Medication: No, probably not good idea to give your kids a few Diazepam pills on that long haul flight, as tempting as it may be… The best plan apparently is to keep the kids pain free at all times, things like earache and colds are very common so the best options are to have medication specifically designed for kids health on hand to treat any speed humps along the journey; pain free children tend to scream less.
5) Activities: Keep them coming! Toys, games, puzzles, anything stimulating and absorbing. Yep it doubles your baggage weight but then again, when travelling with kids you often have to make the trade off between agility on the road and sanity… I’ll take sanity I think.
6) Advantages: There are lots of concessions parents can take advantage of when they travel with kids. Things like skipping lines, family discounts, seats on public transport and other such ‘bonuses’ that parents can take advantage of while abroad. Depending on where you are in the world this applies to some place more than others. Yet it’s worth noting that parents should try and take advantage of these options as much as possible just to make with lives a little easier.
There were many more of these types of tips I gleaned from my encounters with young travelling families, some were even brave enough to take their kids travelling on bus rides in the US.. imagine. yet these were the big ones that came up across more than one conversation. My newfound respect for the patience and love parents show towards their kids keeps growing when I hear about some of the ‘nightmare’ stories some of these guys have had.. imagine 16 hour flights with 2 kids that both have earaches and then both also start vomiting.. everywhere..
To parents with young children who have the courage (and organisation skills) to travel the world… I salute you.