We took our first major trip when Koji was only 7 months old, 5 weeks in Costa Rica. We traveled almost the entire country mostly by car and some buses with the help of Michael's family. Since that trip we've been to England, Ireland, Japan, Mexico and smaller roadtrips as a family which hasn't always been easy but certainly rewarding.
I've always been a lover of traveling and share that wanderlust with Michael, so when Koji was born we promised each other that having a child would not halt our plans of seeing the world. Our plan is and always will be to share with him our passion for traveling and know he will find the same joy in it.
I wanted to write this post because Koji and I just got back from a trip to Arizona by ourselves which reminded me of how traveling has changed for us since he was born. I think a lot of families limit their world travel when they begin to have kids because it may seem like a terrifying experience (which at times it can be), but I've found that with a couple adjustments and a little patience traveling can be amazing and beautiful for all of us. I'm definitely not saying it's easy and we have been fortunate to have family to support us but I truly believe that traveling is an essential part of living and it should be done at every stage in life!
So here are some little tips and some photos (which really just make me want to travel again) that I've gathered in the past three years...
#1: Travel before the age of 2
Children under the age of 2 fly free and get free admission everywhere which saves you TONS of money. Some challenges I faced around this age were breast feeding, diaper changing, finding hot water for formula but I found that people are really willing to help you when traveling with an infant, especially when you're looking like a frazzled maniac. I cannot tell you how many times we were given free warm milk in Europe straight into Koji's bottle...
#2: Travel Light
I know this is an oxymoron when it comes to traveling with children but you really just have to learn to travel with just the essentials. We cut Koji off the bottle pretty early on but when he did have a bottle we would carry only one or two bottles and even recycle the plastic inserts by washing them thoroughly. We also purchased a very light (and cheap) umbrella stroller that we still have today at Target. It's no Bugaboo, but these are great for airports and walking long distances with sleeping babies but can also be folded up and easily carried. Besides formula, I wouldn't travel from the U.S. with too many diapers and wipes as that is something you will find everywhere. Over the shoulder bags, comfortable shoes, baby carriers and bicep curls help too...
Tokyo, Japan // 2yrs
#3 Bring MOM! (or any other family member)
Grandmas rule but really so does any body that can help you and entertain your child when you can't. If you can do it, travel with a family member.
#4 Hire a Nanny for a Night Out
I've only done this once in Dublin, Ireland and it went well for us. I researched nanny/babysitter agencies in the area, chose Nanny.ie and they set me up with a great lady who came to our hotel and stayed with Koji while he slept and we enjoyed a night on the town. I would definitely do it again. Some of the more expensive resorts also offer child care if you set up a reservation.
Cliffs of Moher, Ireland // 1yr, 4mo.
#5 Keep Calm and Carry On
Seriously... I remember on of my first domestic flights with Koji when he was only 3 or 4 months old, he became very irritated and started crying hysterically. I tried to breastfeed him but didn't have the proper shirt on or a cover so all I could do was not freak out and try to quiet him which eventually he did. 2 and 3 year olds WILL have fits and people WILL stare but then you will most likely never see them again. I found that traveling by train was the most kid friendly mode of transportation because Koji wasn't confined to a car seat and he loves trains!
Sedona, Arizona // 1yr, 6mo
Ready for an 11 hour flight to Japan the day before his 2nd birthday
A few DONT'S from my experience:
DON'T do museums unless you have very little sleeping infants. Outdoor places, weather permitted, are much more enjoyable for everyone involved.
DON'T pack too many toys and gadgets. Little ones get tired of their own toys so it's better to pick up things along the way even if it's a free cup or paper airplane.
DON'T wait too long to book a trip, just do it and figure out the details later
We're hoping to take another far away family trip soon and I want to say that it has gotten easier as he's getting older but we are still in the "terrible" stage and it really does take a lot of energy to keep Koji entertained for long hours. But at the same time he is experiencing more which means he enjoys more of what we enjoy, plus now he can chew gum and use an i-phone so that works...happy travels!
Jigokundani Monkey Park, Nagano Japan // 2yrs