Bacha Travel Blog› entry 3 of 4 › view all entries
Some people think that once you have kids, it's the end of the travel life. That doesn't have to be true. It is true, kids slow me down when I travel, but you know what? That's not necessarily a bad thing. A couple of months ago I got some great camel pictures when we had to stop for our toddler to use the bathroom on the side of the road in Uzbekistan. And we have discovered the joys of parks like we never imagined now that we have kids to chase around. So, here are some general tips about backpacking with kids:
1) Travel Light! This is the same advice I give anyone whether they have kids or not. When we became parents, my wife thought we were going to need every last gadget to cover every possible situation. How wrong we were! It took a few trips to figure it all out, but the same rules that apply to adults apply to traveling with kids: if you think you might need it, you won't. So leave it behind, and take only what you know you need. And then cut that list in half and take only that. It works much better that way.
2) Take lots of pictures. The grandparents want to see them all, even if they are freaking out before the trip: "you are taking the kids where?"
3) Slow down. You have to be realistic and accept that you can probably handle that overnight train ride in 3rd class after a 12 hour bus ride through the heat of Rajastan. But your 3 year old will make it miserable for you. So don't do it! Just break up the trip into shorter segments, and break the trip up. You go slower, and you see more.
4) Experience the trip through the kid's eyes. It is so much fun to see them interact with the world. Even places that have become familiar to us are fresh and exciting when we go with our kids and watch them get excited. Honestly, I've seen way to many crocodiles in the jungle to get excited about it any more. But with a 3 year old in tow, it is a blast!
5) Don't assume kids are going to hate museums. Just don't over do it. We had a great time with the two boys at the history museum at Mary, Tukmenistan. They loved to look at the patterns to the ancient pottery, and had fun seeing how many colors they could find on each painting. They laughed a long time at some of the funny faces on some little figurines. And our three-year old actually pointed stuff out that we might have walked passed, but that was really interesting. It was cool to see what they find cool and interesting. We looked longer at the rugs and the traditional clothing than we would have without the kids. And the museum staff had almost as much fun as we did. (We had an entourage following us around).
6) Make sure you add things that are fun for kids. We now include stops at city parks every where we go. The boys just need to get out and run around. And it gives us a great opportunity to meet locals in a non-touristy context.
7) Which leads me to the next point. Children open doors to meet locals. Take advantage of these opportunities. Stop and talk to the parents, or if you can't talk, at least laugh together as you watch the kids interact with each other.
8) Now, here's a mirror on the wall: kids act out what their parents' attitude is. If the kid starts to react against some kind of food, or the local kids, etc., it is probably due to something he or she is picking up from the parents. Some of the biggest reality checks for me have come from watching my kids misbehave, only to have me realize that they have picked up a negative attitude from me, only that I'm too grown up to act it out. But who am I fooling? If my 2 year old can pick up on the attitude, why do I think that adults can't see right through me too? So, I have had to check my attitude, and realize that sometimes I am in culture shock, or have a bad attitude, and that needs to change. Kids are great to keep us honest!
9) Don't view your kids as baggage that have to be lugged along on the trip. Make travel the best part of your lives! Make sure you include them in your planning. I can't wait until my sons can read so that I can hand them an LP and ask them where they want to go.
10) Travel can be stressful. The whole family crammed into one hotel room, traveling in tight quarters day after day. Keep the stress down, and look on the bright side to things. Most families don't get that much together time. You are educating your kids in ways few others do. You might need to slow down, adjust attitudes, and listen to what the kids want to do (see above). It does not have to be stressful, and can be an absolute joy!