More than two weeks have passed since our van pulled into the driveway, the kids excitedly jumping out and scrambling to find their long-lost favorite toys. The days that have gone by since then have been a blur of unpacking and laundry, restocking the house with necessities, breaking up sibling squabbles when our house full of toys becomes narrowed to one favorite, and trying to catch up on lost sleep. Suitcases still line the walls of our bedrooms, the car still holds remnants of crumbs and travel activities, and I haven’t quite figured out the flow of life at home again. To say traveling for a month with the kids was exhausting would be an understatement. And to say I enjoyed every moment of it wouldn’t be quite true either.
So why do I do it?
Because as the dust settles and I scroll back through my pictures, as I remember all the places we went and all the memories we made, as I see that this time of our lives won’t come back around, but we’ve made the most of it and explored beyond our boundaries, I realize, again and again, it’s all worth it. Here are ten reasons why you should try traveling on your own with kids, despite the struggles.
1. If you wait for the perfect circumstances, you’ll never do anything.
I love the trips we take together as a whole family, and it is so much easier having a second adult on board. But that’s not always possible, and I don’t want that fact to stop me from exploring with my kids. Because even though it may be harder, and the circumstances less than perfect, I want to teach my kids that it’s still worth doing. If I had to build all of our adventures around my husband’s availability, there are so many experiences we would miss out on. I am incredibly lucky to have a lot of flexibility in my schedule and a husband who supports my adventurous spirit, so I don’t want to waste my opportunities to travel waiting for the perfect timing or conditions. It’s empowering to see what I’m capable of, and the kids too, when we have no choice but to go it alone.
2. Sometimes life is easier on the road.
There’s no doubt that traveling on your own with kids is hard, but in some ways, it can actually be easier than just staying home. When my first child was a baby, she would sleep her longest stretches in the car, so roadtrips proved less stressful at times than being at home and trying constantly to put her down for a nap, only to have her awaken two minutes later. In the car, kids are strapped into carseats, meaning they’re not precariously climbing furniture, uprooting houseplants, or smearing peanut butter on the wall. For better or for worse, the mayhem is somewhat contained. And now that my kids are old enough to understand they’re going somewhere exciting, that excitement buys us about an hour more of upbeat attitudes than if we were just sitting at home. And I find life easier when I take breaks from being in our house and all the mess that entails.
3. It pushes you out of your comfort zone.
So much of everyday life with kids is mundane and monotonous. It’s easy to get stuck on that hamster wheel of convenience and comfort, just getting by. And it’s ok if life needs to look like that for a season. But I’ve found that I can’t live in that place forever, because the best parts of my life happen when I wander to the edge of my comfort zone. A venture to somewhere new, with all the everyday stresses that tag along, will be hard and stretching at times. But experiencing something new together will also feel wonderfully expansive and rewarding.
4. There are endless learning opportunities.
It’s true what they say: kids are like sponges. And there are times, especially when you’re stuck in the car and you’ve answered your millionth question from the back seat, that they will soak up every last drop of your sanity. As exhausting as those questions may be to answer, there’s no lack of new curiosities to explore when traveling with kids. From the color and speed of cars racing next to you on the highway to the unique flora and fauna on walks in a new locale to the history of various places along the way, the world is bursting with things for them to learn. It excites all of us when we can expand our knowledge in this interactive way, carrying it back home with us as a secret souvenir.
5. Kids get that needed attention and interaction.
On solo trips, the kids get more of my focused attention. When my husband an I are both in the front seat, there tends to be this delineation between our adult world and their kid world. However unsuccessfully, we try to maintain an adult conversation while the kids chatter and play in the back. When it comes time for stops and explorations, there’s a heavier focus on what the adults want to do. But when it’s just the kids and myself, their needs, wants, and conversations become the priority. In the car or out, they don’t have to vye for my attention in the same way they would if another adult was on board.
6. It provides a perspective shift.
I’m a big believer that there is magic in the ordinary moments of life, but sometimes we need to shake things up and press the reset button to see the beauty living right in front of us. Traveling with kids offers a new perspective. What I enjoy most about traveling with my kids isn’t necessarily the location itself, but how my kids interact with a different environment. Seeing somewhere new allows me to see my children anew.
7. Seeing the world through their eyes.
One of the biggest joys of traveling with children is the opportunity to experience the world through their eyes. And when I’m traveling solo with kids, their excited voices and small hands take center stage as we experience somewhere new. They notice things I would overlook. They slow down the pace in a beautiful, if frustrating, way. Even when we go back to visit places I’ve been a hundred times before, it’s amazing to watch how they experience it in a new and different way than I ever have before.
8. Giving them a glimpse of the world through your eyes.
To me, traveling is a beautifully intimate experience, a conversation of sorts. Just as I love to watch how the moss in the forest feels to my children, calling to be touched by their smooth fingers, I love to show my kids all that I find special and interesting about a place, too. In the quiet of just me and them, it’s easier to share my experience with them. In places that are new to both of us, it’s a quick and excited back and forth. But my favorite travels may be taking my kids back to locations that hold a special place in my heart, and sharing that piece of myself, my history, with them. Watching it become a part of their story as well.
9. The stories are everything.
In the moment, traveling with kids can feel enormously exhausting. I wonder sometimes what they’re getting out of it, and whether they’ll remember anything from it. I fear that we haven’t done enough on our travels, because I’m just one under-resourced overburdened parent who doesn’t have the energy to take them to do all the fun things at every place we visit. But days, weeks, even months or years after we’ve returned home, I hear the stories. I hear their small voices tell with excitement of doing even the simplest things on our travels and I know how worthwhile that time together was.
10. Because you’re a badass and you can do it.
I am guilty of making a lot of excuses for why I can’t do things. But when I push through my fears and hesitations, I feel so damn proud of myself. That’s how it is when I take to the road with my kids, too. I know it’s not always going to be easy, I wonder sometimes if it’s worth it. But then, when I get home, I feel so proud and accomplished that I proved to myself, and those little people watching from the backseat, that I could do it.