"Vacationing" With Kids

The simple rule:  Vacations cost money, time, and sometimes physical energy.  They provide excitement, fun, memories, and sometimes physical rejuvenation.  We will choose to vacation as long, and as often as, it's costs are equal or greater to what one gets out of the vacation.

OK, we'll return to that.  A bit of back story.

If you know us, or even if you read this blog without really knowing us, you quickly figure out that Rachel and Eric enjoy traveling.  In fact, I (Eric) often say that traveling with Rachel is one of the best things I have found in this world.  Some couples don't travel well together.  We are not one of those couples. Within a 12-month period in 2005, when we lived in the US, I went to Turkey, Zambia, Botswana, Holland (and neighboring countries) and Costa Rica.  And then I felt like maybe I would want to stay in the US.  For at least 6 months.  So, that's who we are.  One must always figure in the various costs, but in general, if we can find the time, it's not too hard for a vacation to be "worth it" for us.

Enter children.

How exactly the presence of children will change vacation decisions will be highly individual.  But I offer to you the following principals for how this will certainly change the equation in certain directions:

On the cost side:

  • When they are really young, they might not cost any more money.  Under 2 years old for planes, and in most public transport in Europe, under 4 is free.  It's a pretty mean museum ticket agent who asks for another ten bucks for a kid in a stroller.  Similarly, subways are free, though getting through those turnstiles with a stroller is quite a doozy.  However, as they get older, they quickly get to cost almost as much as another adult.  We will soon rapidly enter that phase.
  • For physical energy, the cost goes up dramatically.  Our kids are pretty travel-savvy, and it hasn't been easy to make them that way.  Nevertheless, they never sleep as well somewhere else, and so the parents are always more tired.  If you're exploring a city or region, there can easily be a lot more stroller pushing and carrying, as well.  Time zones?  That ought to need no explanation.  The fact that it is still nighttime is not a reason for a little to kid to stay in bed if they are not sleepy
On the benefit side:
  • This is where I've really been learning a lot.  Think about it:  If it's just adults, you wake up and eat, and spend the morning doing whatever.  You lunch whenever.  You spend the afternoon however.  You eat dinner wherever.  Afterwards, you can go walking or...whatever.
  • Depending on the age of your kids, this may look quite different.  Our last trip was really a best-case scenario for little kids.  One kid takes one nap, and it's doesn't even have to happen every day.  OK, so you get up and head out for the day.  You have about 3 hours from opening time of most places until lunch.  After lunch is nap, until maybe 3:30.  It's a quiet time, if you're all in the same dark room, but it's somewhat relaxing.  Then you have about 2 hours after nap until dinnertime, which is not quite so flexible for the kiddos.  After dinner, there's not really enough time to do anything before kid's bedtime.  After bedtime, the parents can hang in the hotel bathroom planning the next day until they are ready for sleep.  So the whole day of experiencing the destination has become about 5 hours.
  • Memories.  Well, the youngest of the kids won't remember it at all, and I'm not sure how much my kids will care, in the future, about how we've augmented their travel "statistics".  I get to see my kids chase pigeons in St. Mark's Square in Venice.  That's nice.  For me (since they don't care about the square, just the pigeons).  And it is.  Point one for traveling with kids, but I would be mistaken to prioritize that too highly.
OK, I'm done.  You can see where this is leading.  I truly have no wish to rant or rain on anyone's parade.  But these are the thoughts that have made us really reconsider how much traveling we will be doing in this phase of our lives.  And I'm thankful for the revelations, because they don't come easily for someone like me, whose travel plans have to be pried from his unconscious fingers oftentimes.  These thoughts free me to let these things go, realizing that this just isn't the same.  One day, it probably will be again, but not for now.

Will we totally stop all traveling for fun?  No.  Will we change the way we make such decisions?  Yes, significantly so.  And I offer it to those of you who think "Well, Eric and Rachel don't seem to have any trouble doing it."  Let it be known.


tscarlet said...

That's funny...I was actually wondering about this very thing as I read your last few Italy posts. Glad to know that we are not the only ones who have had to re-adjust our travel ideals and shift our expectations of what we are going to do on any given vacation day. How much traveling do you have ahead of you between France and Burundi?

Anonymous said...

No doubt. Sarah and I have been deferring our travel dreams for about 5 years now... Someday we'll get to the continent.


Mrs. Wong said...

"Children tie the mother's feet." -Tamil saying used by Amy Carmichael when she chose to give up the itinerant evangelistic work that she loved to stay home and build a family of orphans.

And then there are the parents who love to travel but find themselves staying home to create a stable launching pad for their young adult children who have opportunities for amazing, enriching international adventures...