The myth that as soon as there are children, you only drive yourself anyway-vacation on the farm or on the Baltic Sea has always worried me. When I started the 10-month-old Levi on our adventure on the Trans-Siberian Railway, I heard the same comments over and over again – "irresponsible" or "you can’t expect a baby to do that" it said; in the best case just “brave”. But I didn’t want to believe it all – and the fact is, I was right. The issue of long-distance travel has by no means died with having children – you just have to rethink and do it differently.
Since Levi and Jari were born, I have not stopped touring exotic corners of the world and discovering them together. What I stopped doing is wanting to get from A to B super-fast, or let the little things keep me going. Our trips as a family are as educational for me as for my sons, which is why I have summarized my most important “Lessons Learned” for you here:
Selection of the travel destination
One of the main reasons why long-distance travel with young children is stigmatized as irresponsible is the possibly inadequate health care at the destination. And yes, for a moment I thought I was a terrible raven mother when I hurried with Levi to a Siberian hospital that was more like a dilapidated warehouse. Although everything went well and I still do not want to assume the worst in advance, it is of course important to weigh the risks of the target country.
Is there malaria? What is the standard of hospitals? How quickly can help be there? All important questions that can help you choose your travel destination. Did you know that there is no trace of malaria in Arusha National Park in Tanzania because the area is too high for the mosquitoes? And Bangkok is home to some of the most modern hospitals in the world. Quite often, wonderful prejudices hide child-friendly destinations.
The long-haul flight
It would be nice if all of our exotic dream destinations could be reached within the few hours of flight time, which coincide exactly with the little ones’ bedtime. Ultimately, however, long-haul flights are usually more strenuous for parents than for children. Here are my top tips:
- Book night flight
- insist on a gangway
- Carry instead of strollers
- Pack your own food and snacks if you cannot put the child down and therefore cannot fold down the table during meal times
- Pack toys for amusement
- do not respond to annoyed comments from other passengers
A striking argument to fly far with small children is that, firstly, the tickets for the little ones are much cheaper, and secondly, trips are also possible outside of school holidays – either at the ideal travel time or off-season at the best prices.
At the travel location
Fortunately, toddlers need only one caregiver to feel good. If mom and dad are happy, the child is too happy. This means that the long-distance trip with the child is relaxed as long as the parents can relax. Book a nice, child-friendly hotel that invites you to relax. Steer clear of stressful schedules and prefer to spend a few days in the same place. Allow enough time for breaks and regular meals. Don’t plunge into new adventures every day, but take time to digest and sometimes do nothing. I learned that in Siberia – the beauty of doing nothing.
The best thing about traveling with my children, however, is the new places in addition to their own perspective also perceive through the eyes and the change of my sons. In addition, the little ones often perform social miracles – you like children everywhere, and contacting the host culture is a lot easier if the little ones lead the way.
Long-distance travel with toddlers and babies may sound like a great risk at first, and who wants to run a tiring organizational marathon before they even start? In truth, it is very simple, and the difference is not that big.
For more inspiration, take a look at the offer at Unforgettable Journeys – there is everything from family-friendly hotels to travel routes specially designed for families to Africa, South America and Asia!
Here you will find ideas for unforgettable trips with kids and my individual travel coaching
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