Travelling with kids can be an interesting business.
Search #travelwithkids on that well-known research tool that is Instagram and you’ll be immersed in images of families travelling beautifully. Capable children on backpacker trails. Taking in sights, behaving impeccably in museums. Hanging out joyfully together in the family van.
These insta shots never show the children who have overfilled a bag with things they were asked not to pack and then struggle to carry it. Or who do carry their own bag, but leave it someplace.
These are not the children who have spilled a cup of hot chocolate down the only coat they have with them or the siblings scowling at the camera while the ever optimistic parents try to get a nice ‘making memories’ shot.
And then there are the parents . Never do they seem to be the parents who look exhausted, frustrated by sibling war fare and questioning why they bothered. Where is the image of the Mum with her patience almost exhausted, wondering the earliest acceptable time to crack a beer?
I’m aware that every family has the good times and the not so much. Hitting the road is exciting, but can’t all be fun. There’s nuts and bolts stuff between the highlights. Airports and train stations, hotel check ins, queueing. Children get tired, bored, uncomfortable, obnoxious.
They don’t realise yet, what a gift it is to be able to travel.
I don’t have a glossy Instagram feed of family travel perfection. I don’t even have many family shots, photography efforts generally involve me behind the camera while Mr THL shepherds children.
His job is stopping them wandering aimlessly through the shot pulling silly faces or waving an arm in front of the camera. Because that’s exactly what they do.
I am as guilty as anyone,though, of just posting the highlight reel.
It’s lovely to share the experience when it all goes swimmingly, but in the interest of balance and honesty, its good to talk about when it doesn’t. Because looking at images of beautiful families travelling in perfect harmony…well, it can leave me feeling a bit flat. Inadequate. Like I’m doing it all wrong.
Take this post. Looks lovely, doesn’t it? Our last Summer in Germany, exploring Hamburg and the Baltic coast. My son and I in front of the Holsten Gate, Lubeck. The sun is shining, backdrop is beautiful. A perfect day.
That day was hard work. One child didn’t fancy exploring Lubeck and made her feelings known. All. Day. Long.
It heated up, temps in the thirties, so we found a park thinking we’d get in the shade. We found shade, but also a very odd man who pinged my lets-go radar. Moved along a bit and found a knife, the handle of which was a goats foot. Random, and slightly unnerving.
Abort expedition Lubeck. A picture paints a thousand words, but it doesn’t give you the back story.
Here’s a nice picture of my three youngest children at the tri border area. One in Holland, one in Germany and one in Belgium. Look at their faces, aren’t they just thrilled? I was going for the ‘making memories’ shot but they look mutinous. I clearly made them do this. And that was second take, following a chat about attitude.
Fair to say this trip was a little fraught, a last-minute trip before a last minute deployment for the husband. We were preparing for six months apart on opposite sides of the world. Ten minutes later we were lost in a topiary labyrinth with everyone having a go at finding the route. That they loved, and that they remember. Time together fuelled us through time apart.
To travel with kids means making plans, investing time and money. Often it goes well but sometimes it goes off. You have to accept that kids get sick, bored, don’t always appreciate things their parents do ( and if they do, won’t admit it), loose things, get grubby. Is it always worth it?
Resoundingly, yes. My husband’s job has enabled my children to travel a lot. I see them grow and build confidence on every trip. We all learn something, every trip.
Making them responsible for something is always a winner. Let them figure out public transport , pick their own meal, read the map. Have them get lost, then figure it out.
Let them deal with currency unfamiliar and a language that isn’t their own. Travel sharpens problem solving skills, logical thinking, leadership, geography, self-awareness. Builds confidence and resilience. Interest rather than wariness of cultures not their own.
Even when kids throw up a little resistance, don’t buy into it
We visited Berlin several times. Explored the history, went East and West. Checked out former checkpoints. My daughter was relaxed but didn’t seem hugely interested. History more my thing than hers, she reckoned. On that, she might be right.
But fast forward six months or so, back at home and fifteen minutes before leaving for school she owns up to not having done homework issued weeks ago- a Berlin Wall project. Disappears into her brothers Lego box and comes up with an accurate model of a section of Berlin wall. Scores merit points for accuracy.
Something stays with them, even if they’d have you believe otherwise.
No glossy Insta-feed for me but lots of memories. The good, not so good and downright comical. And for the kids, an abundance of skills and memories that are theirs to keep.
I’d say that’s worth travelling for.
If you enjoyed this post, read this next: 10 Things to do With Kids in Germany.