Perspectives on Parenting: Traveling With Kids

Perspectives on Parenting: Traveling With Kids

Motherhood comes with a host of choices to make about what is best for you, your family, and your child. We at Alamo City Moms Blog have a variety of moms who want to embrace these choices instead of feeling guilty or judged for them! We are continuing our series, Perspectives on Parenting, with a look at traveling. Does your family travel together, or do you and your significant other travel by yourselves?  

To read the other side of this perspective, traveling without kids, you can find Taylor’s post here.

We’ve always traveled with our kids. They’d all flown before they were 12 weeks old, and truthfully, they were (and are) pretty good travelers. It was easy to take them along when they were babies. They went where we went. My husband and I wore them in slings, backpacks, and front carriers or held them in our arms, rarely using a stroller when traveling—that’d be one more thing to clunk around, drop, and run into people.

Riding the Metro in DC

Riding the Metro in DC

I’m not smug, it’s just what we did. What we do. Was it challenging? Sometimes. Like when I realized Benadryl didn’t make Felicia sleepy. It had the opposite effect. Once, pre-flight, I was afraid flying would make a sneezy 18-month old miserable. I thought I was proactive and hey, wouldn’t it make her a little sleepy anyway? Waiting to board, I remember Sis saying, “Why does she keep running around in circles?” That was a fun flight. Felicia wasn’t cranky or sneezy. Let’s just say she was VERY busy, until 15 mintues before landing, when she crashed. You know, the heavy-in-your-arms, rethink-the-stroller kind of sleep? Yeah. That.

The oldest has been to Germany and has nursed in the Neuschwanstein Castle. All three have napped or nursed in Times Square. The Batman, my son, loves lunch with Sue in Chicago’s Feld Museum, and all three played with baby ligers at a random off-the-map cat refuge in Oklahoma. Many of our trips coincided with Dad’s work travel. I’m also great at finding inexpensive (cheap) travel and accommodations. (I’m a little crazy about bidding for deals on flights and hotels. 40 connections to Chicago? Who cares? It’s only $80! Let’s go!)

I took Sis along a lot as a young working mom, but that’s another post. When work included travel, she came along. Baby Sis went to the American Public Health Association Conference. A colleague held her in the back of the room while I presented research. I finished, casually walked back, took her, and kept answering questions. I never considered leaving her at home in Philadelphia while I traveled to Atlanta.

Traveling with a 20 month old in Europe

Traveling with a 20 month old in Europe

When Dad finished post-grad school, we took a short European trip. Sis (almost two) could’ve stayed with family, I guess. It never crossed our minds. She doesn’t remember Germany, but we were a family, so that’s how we went. She has faded photos as proof that she was there.

Prior to leaving the USAF, our family (complete with kiddos ages 12, 8, and under a year) hopped military flights to Hawaii. I’m not gonna lie, the older sisters are a HUGE help with The Batman—we try not to abuse that. The relaxation of the Hawaii trip (once we finally got there) was amazing. I brought my camera and leisurely took photos of each of them on the beach. I treasure those photos, that space in time, relaxing moments waking up and groggily walking to the beach, nursing in the surf, and little girls in beautiful leis, The Batman eating sand. Together we hiked Diamondhead (The Batman in Dad’s backpack), and for more than three hours we took a 45-minute hike to see waterfalls we never found. Yeah, read that sentence again. This last mentioned experience is filed under “challenging travel times for the girls.” Lesson learned? The myth about men never asking for directions is way more than a myth.

It helped that we never had “locational” routines. They didn’t need “their” beds to sleep. Like some babies sleep when put in their beds, they slept wherever: our arms, shoulders, leaning on each other, etc. Good thing, too. Once, teenage Sis traveled to Europe with friends and spent a long night in an airport.

We didn’t give a flip what others thought, so we used Love Handles (aka: toddler leashes, not the floppy belly over the belt). Sis, the typical independent oldest child, loved to cruise the airport or the zoo “free,” without a grown-up’s hand. The harness/leash (similar to this) kept her safe and out of the lion’s den. The more adventurous middle child, Felicia, had little fingers that easily slipped out of my hand one too many times. She wore a wrist leash, like this. Crossing Madison Avenue, upper East Side Manhattan, Felicia saw something shiny, bent down, and the leash saved us all. Say what you want, it worked for us—the path of least resistance.

When they could read, they’d lead through airports finding flight numbers and gates. I said nothing. After landing, they found baggage and shuttle for car rental, hotel, or train station. Our pre-teens independently led us through through airports, rarely needing our help.

They read subway maps, Amtrak schedules, and Metro stops. They’d map out adventures. I’d follow—right or wrong. They learned how to hail a cab, and which ones were available and which had passengers (lights on, lights off).

Reading road maps (pre-GPS and smartphones), they alternated navigating my driving. I’d follow their directions, even wrong turns, taking opportunities to calmly find our way back on track.

But don’t go thinking our traveling was only about learning. Far from it. It was new experiences, finding our way out of jams, and working together. It brought us closer. It wasn’t all Bradys and Huxtables, either. Plenty of Simpsons and Belcher (Bob’s Burgers) moments, too. We seemed to come out happy in the end. Or at least the next morning. When I recently asked them about memories of traveling together, they only recalled the good, fun stuff (whew!).

On Broadway with Hunter Parrish

On Broadway with Hunter Parrish

Bigger bumps in our adventures as a family included being in NYC for Spiderman on Broadway and realizing our tickets were in Texas. A ten-year-old boy’s complete meltdown was averted by mom talking to the ticket office: “We canNOT be the first people in the universe to forget our Broadway tickets in another state!” Guess what? We weren’t. They have a system for that. Basically, it’s “show them your email, be seated five minutes before the show starts, and get arrested if someone shows with actual tickets for your seats.” It’s all about perspective, friends. Especially mom’s perspective. Staying calm and out of jail also helps.

Traveling with kids meant taking them places I love and seeing these through their eyes. Walking home from that ticketless Spiderman musical, I told The Batman about my first Grand Central Station experience. It was the ’80s (think Mayor Koch, NOT Giuliani). A man was taking a dump as I got off the Times Square/Grand Central shuttle. After my son and I had just finished laughing about my experience, we glanced left to see a man relieving himself behind a construction sign. One of those stop-in-time moments, we looked at each other (not missing a step), he smiled really big, and we high-fived. (Yes, I have that sense of humor.) “Welcome to New York, dude!” We still giggle about that.

Watching my girls see the Chincoteague ponies was fantastic. Living literature! They squealed seeing these saltwater grass-eating, chubby-bellied ponies in real life. Having read the Margurite Henry books together (Misty of Chincoteague), seeing the same ponies gave them photos they hold dear to this day. I, of course, took tons of photos, none of which I could find for this post.

Always a popular road stop

Always a popular road stop: McDonald’s in Oklahoma.

We took a lot of road trips, too. Road trips are challenging. Audible books and iPods are a good distraction. We listened to Harry Potter, took turns choosing music while singing songs at the top of our lungs (OK, I sang songs at the top of my lungs). I have some steadfast rules: Stop at least every four hours. Make special brief stops: a comic book shop for The Batman, a mall for the girls, a zoo for everyone. (Side note: The biggest McDonald’s in Oklahoma, the 57-year-old Vinita Service Plaza, is a MUST stop!) I also love early morning driving—everyone belted in and asleep, while Johnny Cash, Bette Midler, the Violent Femmes or M.I.A. (I’m kind of eclectic) play. I was a long-distance truck driver in my past life.

Plane, train, or automobile, once we arrived I kept things in age-appropriate bites. I never expected a seven-year-old to spend three hours at an art exhibit I was dying to see. I planned things like plays, eating, exploring, even some downtime in a hotel room watching a TV (important for us introverts and exhausted extroverts). I tried to plan for success—a good trip with pink ponies and happy skies. And, yes, sometimes there were sacrifices. I rest knowing that when they’re grown I can travel and sit all day in front of Van Gogh’s finest works. Then, I’ll call Sis and remember when we breathlessly ran up the National Gallery of Art steps at 4:45 P.M.—dragging Felicia—found the information desk, grabbed a map to Starry Night, and found it. Stopped. Gasped. Breathed. “It’s five o’clock. The museum is now closed. Please find the nearest exit.” Cue Christine Lavin’s song “Two Americans in Paris.” Song nerds can find lyrics here.

Traveling made the girls confident and competent—that’s what they said when asked in preparation for this post. Young adult daughters are an advantage. A few years ago after Christmas, they went to Grandma’s sans parents. (The blog post they’ll have to write for Perspectives? “Traveling Without Your Parents.”) The connecting flight home from Chicago got canceled. Snow. Big SNOW. At 9:00 P.M., they were bused to a hotel with their little brother in tow. They admitted it was mildly stressful, but because they’d gone through airports and to hotels before with us, it was less scary. They stayed calm, and little brother stayed calm. We knew they were competent and confident. (Doesn’t mean Mama didn’t worry….) All worked out well.

This last July, we traveled without them for a little less than a week. It was fun. It was relaxing. We enjoyed ourselves. Sure, we missed them, a little. They stayed home alone (benefits of having a 23-year-old). We still enjoy our time traveling and the adventures with them. There is a new era on the horizon. I can see it. I can’t wait. I dream of traveling…with grandkids. Oh, the places I can take them! (I hope their mamas let them come along!)

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