Parenting little kids means doing the things that make them smile, taking pictures of said things, sharing them on social media and putting them in a picture book, and being perpetually exhausted and in debt every minute of every day. It’s why you find parents dragging half-asleep 3-year-olds through the airport to catch a 6 a.m. flight to Disney World. Or why you see a mom with three kids about to pee their pants at a truck stop in the middle of Oklahoma. Because as parents, we know that even though traveling with our kids when they are young is the exact opposite of a “vacation,” it’s worth it. Here’s why.
They have low expectations
Young kids know nothing, so parents should definitely capitalize on that, financially, and when planning the trip. They don’t yet know what’s at Disney, so if you go, and you visit one park for one day, they’ll think they’ve done it all. Or don’t. You can just as easily amuse your 3-year-old with a trip to the water park down the street, get her a shaved ice, and earn your “best mommy ever” badge that way too.
Have you seen how excited kids get at hotels? That’s really all you need—a new place to sleep and a hotel pool. Boom. Happiness. Or, try this—I took my son to the mall last month and we rode the escalator. He said it was the best day of his life. Just sayin’.
They may actually love each other
Another thing I love about traveling with young kids is how they morph into kinder humanoids who sometimes get along. They may even create a new bond. Now before you scoff at this absurd notion—I mean how would they possibly fight less when trapped in the car for 20 hours?—hear me out.
Sometimes when you leave the house, when you take away their toys and playroom and comfort of their regular surroundings, kids change. All of a sudden seeing a wild turkey cross the road is exciting. Or passing trucks and getting them to pull their horns becomes the best game of the day. Sharing snacks, communal waters (you gotta let the germ phobia go when traveling, seriously), passing toys back and forth… all of a sudden, you might hear giggles and look back and see them having fun. And then your motherhood heart chamber bursts open as you realize that they really do love each other.
Read more: Check this out before you travel with kids
They go to bed early
Obviously, there are benefits to traveling with older kids as opposed to babies and toddlers. Older kids can do more, and you can probably relax knowing that they won’t poop themselves or jump into the lion cage or something. But here’s the good part about traveling with younger kids—they go to bed early. So guess what that means for parents? After an exhausting day of waiting in lines and visiting more public bathrooms than you care to count, once you get back to your hotel, you wash them up, say goodnight, and then it’s grownup time!
Although the hard thing about young children is that they have an attention span of like 3 seconds and super short memories, this is also a good thing. They live in the moment, and if the moment is seeing a rainbow or feeling the plane take off, it’s magical. And it’s joy. Years later they may not remember their first plane ride or that time you all pulled into an old-fashioned cash-only ice cream stand in a middle of nowhere town, but you will.
Traveling with kids is probably one of the most exhausting things you can do. You’ll question yourself the whole time. Like why are we this stupid? Why are we lighting money on fire when our toddler is asleep in the stroller at this amusement park? And then you hear distant music, and the march of a parade coming your way. Your little one wakes up just in time to see Moana pass by on a Hawaiian float, look right at her and wave. And when you see the joy on their face, you whisper to yourself, That’s why.
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