I have discovered only recently how much I love traveling. (I am a late bloomer, I know!) I have found the excitement in exploring new places with my husband. Just the two of us. To somewhere we’ve both never been to before. But what I have found also is the excitement I get when traveling together as a family of five.
Traveling with three kids, two of which are below 5, sounds like a handful. Especially when in the day to day, we have nannies to help us to care for them. But there is such joy in the hassle. Heart pumping and adrenaline in the running around, exploring new things, trying to be spontaneous while still maintaining the regular routines – even if only the really important ones like their feeding and sleeping time.
I come home from every trip with aching back and aching feet but with hearts oh-so-full. The tiredness I feel after every holiday can never overpower the joy that rushed through my every veins. And every time my children talked about the fun they experienced, I would give myself a huge pat on the back and high-five my husband. People have asked me how I manage to still have a great time with three kids in tow. I tell them that I have great kids and an incredible husband. Because really, that’s all there is to it.
But if I could tell you five points about traveling with kids, it will be these:
1. Preparation is key.
Make sure you do a thorough research about the place you’ll visit, like how you can get around, things you can do there, the best (and by this I mean convenient) kid friendly places to stay, etc. Use that to create a detailed planning for your trip, such as length of stay, transportation and schedules and so on.
2. Create an itinerary with room for adjustment.
Allow A LOT of room for adjustment. What I usually do is have one big chunk of activity per day and I’ll be sure to put in activities for the kids on the first days of the trip. For example, on a four day trip to Hong Kong, I would put Disneyland Hong Kong exactly on the next day after we arrive. And that will be all for the day. Or on a three-day trip to Singapore, I arranged for the earliest flight (because not only it is the cheaper airfare, it is also the most efficient, time-wise) and then we’d head straight to the Singapore Zoo right after we check in at our hotel. In having only one thing to do every day, we set the expectations right. Not only do our children know what they will be doing that is enough to get them excited, we also don’t stress ourselves out with wanting to cross off too many things on our agenda. Allowing room for adjustments also means allowing room for spontaneous adventures. Now that’s the fun part, because you never know where the day will lead you. Sometimes you’ll be dead tired at the end of the day, and your kids might not even remember anything, but you will. And you’ll learn to prepare for the next trip even more.
3. Stick to routines whenever possible.
I try not to go off routines too much, whenever I can. By routines I only mean the basic ones like eating and sleeping. I try to keep them eating their breakfast at 7 and lunch at 12 and dinner at 6 – our time, and to let them nap whenever they feel like it (that’s why we always have a stroller in hand). There are two reasons why I do this: a) so that they will not get sick easily and b) so to maintain stability for when we come home.
4. Have a mentality that is ready for battle
(or “mentalitas siap perang”, as we call it around these parts). The mindset. This is important. Maintain your expectations. Expect to be tired. Expect to be bothered a lot. But also believe that you will have a lot of fun. Remind yourself that this is about investing in the lives of your children.
5. Savor every moment.
Take lots of pictures. Collect moments not things. Enough said.