How to Get Over Your Fear of Traveling with Kids
Are you afraid to travel with your family? Does the thought of traveling with your kids make you break out in a nervous sweat? Do you dream of seeing the world, but think you can’t do it with children? Worse yet, has someone else told you that you can’t?
Well, let’s have a moment of tough love shall we? You can do whatever you put your mind to! If you want to travel, you can find a way to make it happen. It all starts with a plan and if laid out correctly, will happen just by following the plan.
Does that mean we’re not scared when we travel? Absolutely not. There are times when we worry about what a place will be like, if we’ll like the food, if the room will be comfortable, etc. But, by experiencing new things on a regular basis, the small travel fears start to resolve themselves. We have noticed Eleanor becoming a better problem solver and I am convinced she is better at going through airport security than 90% of the adults I’ve encountered.
Here are 5 tips to help you get over your fear of traveling so you can start planning your next family vacation to somewhere more exotic than Branson, MO.
Tip #1: Remember that traveling is a novelty to children
Okay, flying with children is a fear I understand. You will be in a tight enclosed space for a prolonged period of time with a little bundle of energy that just wants to run around.
We’ve been on at least 30 flights with Eleanor and it has gotten pretty easy at this point, but the thing that still amazes me is that she LOVES the experience. Planes are still exciting for her. And there is usually something different about each experience that we can talk about and celebrate. A recent flight in Croatia had us on a prop place (a first for her) and we got to walk onto the plane, up a set of stairs from outside. Super cool for a 5 year old!
So, when you are concerned that your kids will not like the experience, take a step back and think about it from their perspective. Get a few books or activities about planes beforehand and feed into their excitement.
Tip #2: Remember that children are born and raised all over the world
We traveled for 6 months when Eleanor was just a year old. She was still in diapers and I remember people being concerned that this would make traveling difficult. I just simply pointed out that people birth and raise children all over the world so we knew we would be able to find what we needed no matter if we were in a grocery store in Denver or halfway around the world.
We’ve learned to go with the flow (no pun intended). One travel days, make sure you have a few extra diapers for the plane if that is still the stage you are in. I still pack an extra shirt for each of us just in case. You never know what can happen up in the air and a dry shirt is a great fall back.
This is still true even as she gets older. Her needs are easier now, but no matter where we’ve travelled, there have been children of all ages. The toiletries and supplies might be different than what you are used to, but that doesn’t make something better or worse. If you are uncomfortable with too much change, start easy by traveling to western countries in Europe where all of the conveniences you are used to are readily available.
Tip #3: Remember kids will eat when they are hungry
Food and eating in a new country will always be tricky for us. As adults, Brett and I are not very adventurous eaters. While we’re trying to not pass that on to Eleanor, I am sure it is a lost cause. There are some travel days when we do not feel like eating much. It usually does not last long and I make sure to try to find food that sounds appetizing to our child, while always trying to include a fruit and vegetable for good measure.
On the positive side, traveling has allowed us to try new foods. In the last few months, we have learned that Eleanor loves salmon, blue cheese (cheese pizza with gorgonzola is her favorite), green olives (she can even eat around the pits but pimentos are a favorite), and halloumi cheese. Some of these would not have been discovered had we not been traveling. What new foods will your kids enjoy that will surprise you?
Tip #4: Remember nothing is permanent
Just because you are trying something new, going somewhere you’ve never been before, or learning words in a different language does not mean you cannot go back to your familiar world again. Change is inevitable, even if you never leave your hometown, because each day is new and different.
Let’s pretend for a minute that you hate the vacation you are on - the hotel is terrible with uncomfortable beds, the food is bland, the people are scary, and it’s been raining for 4 days straight - you can always leave early. Let’s also talk about how that scenario is not likely to happen. It’s especially unlikely if you book a trip for the right season and use customer reviews to vet a hotel before booking.
But, even in the worst case scenario, a vacation is a relatively short period of time and you can always look to end it early, modify it by going to a different hotel or city, and by asking the locals for recommendations. Before you know it, you will be back in your comfy home and you can write me a nasty letter telling me about your terrible trip.
The good news is, the trip will probably be a blast and I can’t wait to hear about it!
Tip #5: Remember that you are building special memories that will live on
I am a firm believer that traveling as a family is such a rewarding experience. Sure there may be a few bumps along the way, but you will grow closer as a family and look back fondly on the trip. Each person will grow a bit and your children may be more confident in themselves and their abilities.
Everyday, I am amazed at what a big kid Eleanor is becoming. We have made it a point to highlight some milestones by the city we are in. For instance:
First time hanging upside down from the bars on the playground: Amsterdam
First time climbing up a pole on the playground: Seville
Learning to swing on her own: Berlin
Get her own bag ready for airport security: Croatia
Of course there are the new experiences she is getting in each place too (like zip lining in Montenegro and seeing Roman Ruins in Rome), but these are things she is accomplishing on her own and it’s awesome to watch her stand taller with confidence.
This reminds me of a quote and photo I put together from our travels years ago. I love this travel quote.
"The life you have led doesn't have to be the only life you have." - Anna Quindlen
It's good to remember that when you feel yourself getting dragged into a rut or living life in fear, you don't have to stay there! Life is a series of choices we make. We are active participants in how we live.
The photo was taken in October 2012 on my first trip to Europe. Brett and I had rented a car to drive from Rome to Cinque Terre through Tuscany. As you can see, the countryside was beautiful. We made our way north through side roads, getting a little lost (and almost doubling the amount of time the journey was supposed to take) but it was worth it. Finding these little hidden gems was fun and I like the idea that we would probably never be able to find this exact spot again if we tried. It makes that journey and choice of road seem more special now.
Now it’s your turn. What’s holding you back from traveling with your kids? I’d love to know so please leave me a comment and if it’s something I can help with, I’d love to try.