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If you have children and you travel, then inevitably you will be faced with the decision about whether or not to bring your children on some trips. Some trips like Disney, visiting family, family ski trips etc. are overtly child-centric and the decision is easy. However, if you have a child, should all trips be child-centric or even child-inclusive?
This topic came back to the forefront of my mind as a result of a discussion in the comments section of this post. In truth, the issue is often on my mind. My husband is on the road every week for work, so adding any of my own work or leisure trips to the mix does make for an interesting family schedule. My own personal opinion is that when you have children, they have to be the priority. Period. My background in child welfare and my 2.5 years as a mom have done nothing but reinforce that belief. However, that doesn’t mean that your own hobbies, work requirements, and interests are forever ignored. That may work for some people, but for the rest of us, it is about finding a balance of “individual time”, “couple time”, and “family time”. That is true in all walks of life, including travel…..at least for me.
For reasons way beyond our control or desires, our daughter spent several nights away from us at three days old. I spoke some about that on her second birthday. I know it sounds sort of corny and ridiculous, but getting through that episode really set all three of us up to be both a strong unit, and tough as individuals. The next several months with her were very rewarding, but insanely difficult. Colic barely begins to describe it – she was in real pain, and we were all at our wits end. Part of what kept us from losing our mind on those sleepless days and nights that were filled with sometimes constant crying from C was a trip we had planned when she turned five months old. This trip was planned months before she was born so that we could go to a friend’s wedding in Puerto Rico for a long weekend. It’s not that we wanted to get away from her, its that we wanted to support our friends. We needed sleep. We wanted time as a couple. We needed time as a couple (and we needed sleep). There were nights that all three of us were up at two in the morning crying together because we were so exhausted and could do nothing to make our daughter comfortable. It was all worth it, but it was extremely difficult.
Bringing a five month old for a long weekend to a wedding at a resort in Puerto Rico is doable, but it wasn’t the right thing for us. I think I slept more than anything on that trip, but we also got to hang out with our friends that we had barely seen in months, we got to spend time together, and we got to focus on celebrating our friend’s wedding instead of focusing on keeping Little C from crying. At the same time, our daughter got three nights with her grandparents who were not worn down and exhausted like we were. She had a fantastic time, and we got a minute to catch our breath and re-center. It was a turning point in our first year as a family (though part of that was she started sleeping more around 6 months). It really was a win for all parties. I can’t emphasize how important that trip was to focus on during some of the hard nights. Even looking at the few photos we took on that trip we appear……off……and sunburned.
Thankfully, over time our kiddo outgrew her stomach issues, and things leveled off a bit. However, the issue of whether to bring the little one or fly solo isn’t one that will be outgrown for quite some time. On the one hand, families like ours choose to bring a little one into the world. Shouldn’t we want to spend every possible moment at home and on the road together? Should we shelve all “adult” trips for 18 years until she is in college? Does it make you a selfish wench if you do want some trips where the kiddo stays behind with Grandma? I do have some friends who have children who are four or five years old, and they have never spent a night apart, so I know that some families choose that path. We blew that record up when she was a few days old.
On the other hand, while I am a huge advocate of family travel, and am lucky enough to take an average of one trip every single month with my kiddo, I feel there are some trips where it is better for everyone if the little one stays behind. And that is coming from someone who took her toddler to Vegas! For example, we are planning a trip to London and Ireland early next year. We want to see some sights, go to the Guinness Factory, hang out in some pubs, etc. We could do some of that with a toddler, but it would be a very different trip. I think that you can have a successful family trip to Europe with a young child, but that isn’t the trip we want this time…..and I think that’s okay. Though I have no doubt some will disagree!
I’m a huge proponent of balance. Eat some salads and some cheeseburgers. Have a 401K, a 529, a savings account, etc and splurge on some awesome boots on sale you can’t live without – just purchase them through a portal to earn points. Take memorable family vacations and fly away sometimes by yourself or with your spouse. For me that balance means that sometimes both for work and for pleasure my travels will temporarily take me away from my family. Those trips give me a chance to explore a different side of me or us as a couple. I am a mom first, but I’m also just a girl who likes travel.
Though in truth, sometimes the best part of the trip is the hug you get when you come home. Maybe that is part of the point. 🙂
Clearly this is an issue that everyone has to decide for themselves and their family – I’d love to hear your thoughts!