Traveling isn’t always easy. Parenting isn’t always easy. The combination of traveling with kids requires patience, dedication, and enthusiasm; and it helps to have clear communication between the adults of the group. I’m grateful that my husband and I are generally on the same page. However, as in many cases, rather than making assumptions, it is vital that we articulate our expectations of the trip in order to avoid unnecessary miscommunication.
Three key conversations to have before a trip include:
1. How do you plan to divide the parenting workload during the trip?
The key is that at the end of the trip, neither of the parents should resent the other for doing less than expected. For us, it depends if my husband is working during the trip or not. If he needs to work, I mentally prepare myself to handle the kids on my own. If I know in advance that is what I am getting into, I can plan and set my expectations accordingly. If he doesn’t have to work, we have a ‘divide and conquer’ approach. I do the overall itinerary planning, pre-trip shopping, and pack for myself and the kids. He packs for himself, and then handles most of the heavy lifting during the trip. I usually baby-wear our daughter, and my husband manages the toddler and stroller (since both need to be lifted at certain points). I am not a morning person, so thankfully my husband handles the majority of morning shifts. The rest of the feedings, diaper changes, baths, handling tantrums, and all the other aspects of child-rearing are pretty much 50-50 throughout the trip. We don’t keep ‘score’, but we try to make sure that the overall effort of parenting is somewhat equal. If one of us ever needs a short break, we are comfortable to tell the other (so that our little monsters don’t wear us down like they clearly aim to :))
2. What rules for the kids will you continue to apply during the trip vs. what rules will be flexible?
Taking kids on trips means that certain aspects of the routine might differ from the daily standard, so it is key to discuss which rules are flexible and which ones are non-negotiable. While traveling, we are more relaxed with the rules, but still try to enforce them as much as possible. These are the primary areas that we discuss.
Schedule for Meals and Sleep: At home, during our standard routine, we generally stick to a fairly strict schedule for mealtimes, nap, and sleep. While traveling, we both prefer to keep our kids on a flexible schedule, within 30 minutes of their schedule at home. If we can get our kids to sleep in the stroller/baby carrier, we are willing to stroll the city that way; but if they do not fall asleep within 30 minutes of their scheduled time, we head back to the hotel to get them down properly. Over time, we have determined this is the window of time that works best for us and our kids. At home, we prefer for each child to sleep in their own bed/crib; but while traveling, there might be more family cuddles in our hotel bed.
Screen-time: When at home, we try to keep screen time to a minimum of TV or FaceTime calls with relatives. While traveling, we are generally more relaxed about screen time on the Amazon Kids Tablet for the toddler. Regardless of being at home or on a trip, we don’t let our baby watch any screens (our goal is to avoid it until she is 18 months). Additionally, while we eat meals together at our home, we don’t allow screens or TV. When we are at a restaurant, we will do what we need to do to keep our toddler still, happy, and not ruin the experience of the other people around us (this means we take the Tablet out :)). Our non-negotiable for screen time is that the show needs to be age appropriate. These are parenting decisions that my husband and I both agree on and make sure we implement.
Sugar Intake: For meals, we like to limit our toddler’s sugar and junk intake during our daily lives. But on trips, my husband and I are usually indulging on desserts, and we let our toddler have a bit more than he normally would. We try to not go overboard, and give him smaller serving sizes. We don’t let the baby have any sugar, and don’t plan to do so until she is over a year-old, minimum. It helps to stay on track with this goal because both my husband and I feel strongly about it.
3. What are the priorities for each parent on the trip?
Even though traveling with kids means that a lot of the trip will be centered on accommodating the kids, each parent should be able to pick an activity or item that gets prioritised as a must-do on the trip, whether it is kid related or not. If you don’t say it, your partner might not know that it is important to you, and the activity might not happen. During our Paris trip, I clearly told my husband that I wanted us to have a family picnic in a garden where the kids could play in the grass, and we could eat our high-carb desserts. My husband’s one wish for the trip was to have amazing croissants and cappuccinos. Because we both clearly expressed these wishes, we were able to make them happen!
Clear and direct communication is key for the parents when traveling with their tots. What are some other items that are good to discuss beforehand??