Travelling with young kids means holidays are no longer relaxing

February 1, 2022 by No Comments


What no one tells travellers before they become parents

I can’t see anything out of the back of the car. The view of the road behind us is blocked by a stroller, a small mattress, a port-a-cot, a bag full of “bedroom stuff”, a toilet seat, a high chair, some emergency provisions and about 50 changes of clothes.

We have all this stuff for a four-day trip. Four days away from our house, in another house about an hour up the highway. Seriously, if we’ve forgotten anything – which, going by the state of the car boot, surely we haven’t – I could just drive home and pick it up and be back on our holiday again in time for lunch.

Four days, and yet the car is absolutely chock-a-block. Seriously, you could barely fit a cigarette paper in there.

This, of course, is because we have kids. Two kids. Young kids. One aged three, the other, one. The three-year-old is talking non-stop from the back seat as we zoom up the highway, about trees and birds and cars and Harry Skinner from daycare and space wings and Buzz Lightyear and how he’s going to show us he can fly. The one-year-old is blubbering along in unison because this is apparently what we do.

My partner and I are frazzled. Fried. The sheer effort it takes to get out the door with these two children. The days of planning and packing. The military-style checklists. The physical work of getting it all done. “This is going to be fun, right?” my partner says. “I mean, it has to be better than our last trip…”

There’s no such thing as a relaxing holiday when you have young kids: there’s no relaxing, and there’s no holiday. They just don’t exist. You can’t switch off. You can’t stop for a minute. The concept of holidays ceases to exist.

This is something no one tells you before you become a parent. Particularly a parent who likes to travel. From now on, or at least for the next four or five years of your precious travelling life, the pursuit you love is going to be hard. Really, really hard. Unrecognisably difficult.

On this “holiday” up to Patonga to “relax” for a few days, my partner and I are reminded of a great article she recently discovered, detailing all the differences between a “vacation” and a “trip”. A vacation, the story says (it’s American), is the thing you used to take before you had kids. Now, you take trips. Now you look at each other in the front of an overstuffed car and say things like, “This is going to be fun. Right?”

You can travel when you have young kids, of course. You can go places and you can do things. In fact if you take a glance at the comments section below this story you’ll probably find all sorts of people talking with genuine sincerity about the wonder of travelling with children and how pleasurable it is and how the presence of your offspring can make the whole experience even more rewarding.

And to those people I say: you don’t remember travelling with young kids. Babies. Toddlers. “Threenagers”. Holidays with these guys just… are not.

Picture yourself on a family holiday to somewhere far away, showing up at the airport with everything you need to travel with a few young children: a stroller, maybe two, at least one port-a-cot, a couple of car seats, games, toys, spare nappies, a change mat, changes of clothes, an iPad or two, and maybe some stuff for yourself too.

You’re going to stay with family on this trip, probably, so you have someone to help you out. Or at least a resort with childcare (have you ever been so desperate to visit a resort with childcare?).

You’re staying somewhere with a kitchen so you can still cook the kids the food they like to eat and no one has a diet-related meltdown. You’re hoping you have enough bedrooms so you can put the kids to bed really early and not have to turn all the lights off and sit there in the dark for a few hours until you feel like going to sleep, too. You’re spending days organising activities and repacking the car and putting up with tantrums and yelling at people and asking them why you even border.

I’m not saying don’t do it. I’m sure it gets better. I once chatted to a fellow travel writer, whose identity I will keep to myself, who told me there came a point in her parenting life when she actually preferred to have her kids with her on holiday, that their presence actually enhanced the experience, that she actually looked forward to it.

Hard to wrap your head around when you’re elbows deep in dirty nappies and you have no idea what you did with the kid’s goddamned teething toy and you’ve been awake since 3am because the baby suddenly decided sleep is not a thing he does anymore.

Holidays. It probably gets easier. You probably get used to it. Um, right?

Have you travelled with young kids? How did you handle it? Are you considering becoming a parent? Do you think it will affect the way you travel, or how often you do it?

Email: [email protected]

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See also: Flying long-haul with a child is tough. During COVID it’s a nightmare

See also: The 10 mediocre attractions that become great when you have kids

LISTEN: Flight of Fancy – the Traveller.com.au podcast





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