Over the last few weeks I did something that I haven’t really done since I was a child myself. I traveled with children. And by children, I mean a 1 and 2-year-old. Dale’s sister and her family came to Italy to celebrate Christmas with us and we were able to take several small trips with them. We had a great time and I am so glad we got to spend so much time with all of them. Let me tell you though, traveling with children is not the same as traveling with adults. And I’m not saying I wish we hadn’t taken the kids with us. I loved having them along. I’d just like to share some of the differences I noticed.
One of the biggest differences is the amount of time you get to spend actually traveling and sight-seeing. Dale and I often get up early to get a good start on the car ride so that we have the maximum amount of time to explore once we reach our destination. Each day of the trip, we get up early, go out and do things all day, and then go back to the hotel in the evening before doing it all over again the next day. And as long as we don’t have a rental car to return, we may not get back home until after dark if we wanted to do a little exploring on the way home.
When you are traveling with very young children, naptime is still one of the most important parts of the day, no matter how many cool things there are to see. And missing or delaying naptime will affect everything. For Adelaide and Jasper, afternoon nap starts at 2:30. Some days we weren’t able to make it back home or to the hotel by 2:30 and we were immediately reminded why it is so important. My conclusion is that young children have all the same emotions and feelings that adults do, they just haven’t learned how to process and express them all constructively, and that gets 5 times harder when they are tired. (I made that number up based on two weeks of experience. Please don’t quote me on it.)
Jasper was able to fall asleep when he was in the baby carrier, but Addy was walking most of the time so we often planned our days around making it home for naptime whenever possible. And the ride home was often a risky business because we DID NOT want Addy to fall asleep and end up with only a short nap. We would try to keep her talking and engaged so that she would have a full nap when we got home. I must have asked her at least seven different times throughout these two weeks what her favorite color is. (It was often different but the most consistent was red.) I also asked for her favorite food, animal, letter, number, etc. I even asked her favorite tree. I don’t think she’d been asked that before because she thought long and hard before giving me an answer. I think it was squirrel trees.
Because we had more time constraints than I was used to, we were able to prioritize what we most wanted to see and do and made sure we did those things first. Dale and I have the added luxury that if we missed something we wanted to do, we have time to go back and see more if we’d like. We let Veronica and Joe have the most say in what we did and where we went so that they could see all the things they wanted most.
Another difference is the amount of stuff we brought with us. It has been a long time since I packed for a trip and had to ask myself, “Do we have enough toys?” Besides the toys, which were all contained in Addy’s little backpack, there was also the diaper bag that went on every excursion with us, sometimes a stroller, sometimes a baby carrier, and a sled to pull the kids around in Switzerland. Dale and I usually make do with a bag for each of us, snacks, cameras, and a CamelBak. Four adults, two kids, and all of our stuff filled the rental van to capacity.
One of my favorite parts of traveling with children was that I got to see things with new eyes. Little kids aren’t looking at the same things we are. Or, if they are looking at the same things, they are seeing it very differently. And they don’t have a filter. This can result in them saying some of the funniest things, usually unintentionally, but it can also lead to them sharing their uninhibited enthusiasm. We were driving through Switzerland when Addy woke up from her nap. The car had been quiet for a while, everyone was either asleep, or looking out the windows, occasionally pointing out cool things to look at. Addy broke the silence exclaiming, “WHOA! Mountains! And SNOW!!” The breathtaking mountains I had been looking at for miles took on a new light as I imagined looking at them for the first time as a very small person. She couldn’t wait to get out of the car and just start playing. Once we had arrived in Zermatt, her desire for playing and exploration was satiated. We took her to one end of town where there were some good sledding areas. She looked at the hill and asked, “Can we climb that mountain?” Through her eyes, this hill made for sledding was just as wonderful as the Matterhorn that we could begin to see peeking through the clouds. And this one she could play on!
Another day, we visited Cinque Terre in Italy and while everyone was looking at the cliffs and the sea, Addy was having the time of her life chasing birds, yelling “Hi!!” until they flew away. She wasn’t so interested in the beauty around her, often she couldn’t see it over the walls of the pathway. But she knew she could make the birds fly and took it upon herself to do so. She loved the playsets we found along the sidewalk and was over the moon when we told her we were going to walk on the beach. (She sang, “Going to the beach! Going to the beach!” for several blocks.) She found joy, fun, and happiness all over the place. Even in the button I found on the sidewalk that could be added to her Treasure Pocket.
One of the days we stayed home and recuperated from all our adventures. Addy loved making forts and hiding from people and playing the “plano.” At one point I was in the kitchen and she came running in and said, “IFOUNDABEANBAGAGIANTBEANBAGITSSOBIGCANWEPLAYWITHIT?!?!?!” My brain was trying so hard to figure out what any of the words had been. She repeated it for me at about half the speed and I was able to pick out most of the words. So we went into the other room and sure enough, the bean bag was in the middle of the room. She sat down and invited me to sit on it too. Then she had the brilliant idea to make it a fort. So my head and feet (propped on the futon) supported a blanket over us. Then, another brilliant idea, we read a story inside the bean bag fort. She was loving every minute. And I was getting Addy snuggles and giggles and story time and was loving it too.
I had been worried that we didn’t have any toys for the kids but never fear, Addy had no trouble finding things to do or play with. She found joy in everything. Jasper didn’t have trouble finding things to play with either. He tried to play with the dog, but poor Basco wasn’t sure what to do with this small human that was following him all over the place. When Basco was outside, Jasper was content to play with the dog toys, or to dump out the dog’s water. He also quite enjoyed pushing the chairs around the kitchen.
We had a great two weeks. We got to spend so much time with the little children, which always makes my heart happy. We got to play board games with Joe and Veronica and try different Italian foods with them and stay up until midnight talking (not every night, we were often exhausted). I got to see what it’s like traveling with children, I got to see things through little eyes.
When you are out on your own adventures, think about what the world would look like if you were two years old. Where would you find joy in that moment. Embrace that joy. If you have a little kid in your life, take them on an adventure. See what they have to teach you.
Have you learned something from a child recently? Tell me about it in the comments!