It is easy to travel if you have the right philosophy. All you need is to follow these simple tips. If you do your family will be on your way to a great trip. We have learned the hard way that deviating from this philosophy is a recipe for disaster. This becomes especially true as your family grows.
Traveling with kids is much different than traveling as a couple. If you just had kids, are about to take your first trip with them, or are thinking about kids just know that your travels will never be the same. I will repeat it just for effect. Travel will never be the same…but that is OK. In fact, it is amazing!
Seeing my kids experience something for the first time is the most rewarding part of the trip now. As their eyes light up, my heart swells because I know this will be something they talk about for years. Just knowing they will have this trip to talk about a decade from now is what motivates us to push through the temper tantrums, the long flights, the missed naps, etc. Trust us it is worth it.
But you need to maintain the right travel philosophy. That’s why Gretchen and I have adopted a mantra of traveling S.I.M.P.L.Y.
“To change the world
It starts with one step
However small (the)
First step is hardest of all
Once you get to your gate
You will walk in tall.
You said you never did,
‘Cause you might die trying”— Dave Matthews Band
We believe that traveling with kids can be done simply. As we talked more about it we developed a travel philosophy around it. As we thought about the name for this blog and wrote out our travel philosophy a mnemonic appeared and Simply Travelers was born.
Our travel philosophy is to make sure you travel “S.I.M.P.L.Y.”. However, you have to be willing to take that first step. It will be so rewarding and we guarantee that travel will change your children’s perception of the world. Studies have shown that travel leads to improved empathy, improved intelligence, and long-term improved success from a financial and emotional wellbeing standpoint. Thus, as parents can we really afford to not do take our kids vacations and increase their potential?
So without further ado here is our travel philosophy – Travel S.I.M.P.L.Y.
You wouldn’t jump out of bed after years of being sedentary and decide to go run a marathon the next day. Running 26.2 miles after years of being a couch potato clearly wouldn’t be a wise decision and would set you up for failure. Thus, while you may have aspirations of seeing the world with your kids, or taking that amazing trip you’ve dreamed about for all your life…you should take a step back and ask yourself if you are truly ready for it. Have you trained for what are the inevitable struggles?
Before the pandemic I used to travel weekly for work. I was more comfortable with O’Hare Airport than I was with most of the rooms in my house. Gretchen, before she decided to make a career change, traveled a lot for her job as well so we were both experienced travels and had no issues with the stressors that came with air travel – parking/cabs, luggage checks, security, carry-on allowance, flight delays, etc. Therefore, for us it was never a question of whether Emery would get on a plane but when.
As such, she was enjoying her first Bloody Mary plane-side before she was two months old
Our recommendation for new parents who are not familiar with the frustrations of airports is to ‘walk before you run’. Take a few road trips with your new baby before you head for the friendly skies. If you are not used to the flow of the airport the whole experience is stressful for a single traveler. Add a young child to that mix and you are going to need a lot of patience.
This isn’t to say it isn’t possible. You could run a marathon without training if you were determined to do so. But would you enjoy it? Ask yourself that before deciding to take your first epic trip with your children. Are you going to be frustrated with them or the situation you put yourself in?
This one is crucial because if you want your kids to have some buy-in on the trip. One simple way to do that is to involve them in the inspiration as it relates to the destination. We learned this tip while waiting in line for tickets to Alcatraz while my wife was 7-months pregnant with Emery.
We did not know you needed tickets to Alcatraz in advance. It was only the night before when I was looking for tickets that I realized we were screwed. However, I convinced my wife to get up early and get over to the wharf to hop in line. Doing so gave us the chance that same-day tickets would go on sale at sunrise (~6 AM on that particular day).
We were fortunate that morning and were able to make it to Alcatraz. However, the most important thing we learned was from another family standing in line directly behind us. They were from the UK and were taking a grand tour of the US – something like 90 days and experiencing 30 or so cities/destinations. They had two relatively young kids – ages 7 and 10 – so taking a 90-day vacation is quite the endeavor and not for the faint of heart. We asked them what their secret was? And it was so simple that it was obvious. They got the inspiration for their trip from the kids and planned to visit destinations that they had an interest in.
Prior to the trip they sat down with their son and daughter and talked to them about where they were thinking of going. They asked their kids about where they would like to visit while in the US. If there was a destination the kids were unsure about – like Alcatraz – they asked their kids to spend some time researching it and asked them to write a one-page summary about the destination. This generated buzz for the kids. It got their buy-in to go to places they may be less familiar with. And ultimately it allowed their parents to enjoy their sabbatical abroad in the US.
If your kids are younger – like ours are – look for inspiration in other places. How many people bought Disney+ in March/April when the pandemic started (It is apparently a lot since there are reports that Disney+ is going to unseat Netflix as the king of streaming)?
Our daughter is really into the movie Frozen right now. Frozen is based in Norway so we have been talking to her about going to Norway and seeing where “Elsa, Anna and Olaf live” and she is super excited about it. Once the pandemic ends and travel restrictions lift we will start planning the next year’s travels. Undoubtedly a trip to Norway will be coming soon for our family.
Make a Plan
We may write individual posts on each of these individual travel philosophies eventually. This one (planning) will be a key topic of the website though. From packing lists to gear we have tried it all.
Planning is also perhaps the most obvious of the six philosophies of S.I.M.P.L.Y. traveling. However, it must be said because it is where my wife and I spend the most time.
It is smart to always have a plan. You wouldn’t hop in a car to drive from Chicago to New Orleans without directions. So why hop on an airplane and fly half-way around the world and not spend a significant amount of time researching so you can maximize your time there. That being said you can take it too far and need to allow yourself the latitude to miss a time here or there. Most importantly be flexible. I guarantee you that there will be more to see than you can see during a single trip. Therefore, plan to see what you can see but also plan to come back.
My wife and I’s first international vacation was to Rome, Italy. We spent a week there and as this was only my second time abroad. As a result, I spent months planning the perfect trip. However, there was only one catch. Gretchen is more willing to go with the flow so our travel styles were completely misaligned.
My focus the entire trip was about staying on schedule. For example, if we were supposed to be at the Pantheon at 2 PM and we arrived at 3 PM my day would be ruined 🤷♂️). I also planned the perfect trip for me and never really consulted with Gretchen on what her interests were.
As such, the trip was packed with a lot of my must-see items and things were left off that she was interested in. I stressed out the entire time to stay on schedule as opposed to enjoying the city with coffee, gelato, and people watching in the afternoons (which is now our favorite way to spend a vacation).
After this trip, we did a much better job of communicating and discussing what was important to us in each city (see tip above “Inspire”) so that we were on the same page.
There is also so much information these days online (blogs – like ours 😃, packing lists, city guides, etc.) and the traditional ways via guidebooks (Rick Steves will always be our favorite – we are a couple of old souls) that you really don’t need to go into any trip completely blind. It used to be that in order to take an informed vacation you had to grab a guidebook that would give you in-depth info on Paris, London, or other main cities but then skimp on the information regarding other nearby jaunts. That isn’t the case now.
Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.– The “Champ” Mike Tyson
If you have ever traveled with kids you know that nothing and I mean nothing, goes according to plan. So if you type A like I am (was/are…okay I’m recovering but I’m trying). Kids will punch you in the mouth – figuratively and sometimes literally (accidentally I’m sure).
The champ said it best so be prepared to be flexible. Your kids are going to have a meltdown. You are going to forget a pacifier or a bottle. They will miss the scheduled nap time. At the end of the day, it won’t matter – you won’t remember the meltdowns. And if you do they will be so very epic that the laughs afterward will be worth the frustration.
What you will remember are the moments standing at the Cliffs of Moher, sitting on a hillside at sunset watching the sun disappear behind a 12th-century castle, or drinking pints of Guinness while your daughter brings in hordes of cash for buskers on the streets by standing next to them dancing while they play their violins and guitars. Don’t worry about the little things – focus on the big picture and just keep getting up. Mike Tyson would be proud of your resilience.
Okay, I’ll admit that the ‘P’ is still something that I struggle a bit with but I’m trying to get better. Maybe by the time my kids graduate high school, I will get there. However, this may be the most impactful of all the philosophies to whether you enjoy the trip or not. In order for your trip to go well you are going to have to exhibit an immense amount of patience & empathy. This applies to your immediate family but also other families and strangers you encounter throughout the journey. No one is perfect and you will encounter challenges along the way – so be patient, interact with empathy and focus only on your kids and their happiness.
Hopefully, by this point in our travel philosophy, you have realized that we are still learning. The important thing is to remember to be adaptable and be flexible to what your kids and significant other need along the way. If something isn’t working (the nap schedule, feeding bottles, eating foreign food, etc.) don’t stress out about it. After a week or so on the road, you will get back to your home and everything will go back to normal. Kids are malleable like Play-Doh so they’ll rebound just fine.
I’m 40 so probably shouldn’t be using anything that was trendy but probably isn’t now but at some point ‘the kids said’ “Yolo!” so take their advice and abide by that saying – You only live once!
“Get busy living or get busy dying”
Even in our darkest days we have a choice – to either live our lives or wait for the inevitable. I will never live another today so I owe it to my future self to make each day as great as it can. Live your life without regrets and when your time comes – you’ll look back with a plethora of wonderful and amazing travel memories instead of a bunch of what-ifs.
So there you have it – an easy travel philosophy to help you stress less and travel more. If you plan to travel S.I.M.P.L.Y. I can guarantee that you will be excited to plan that next family trip because you will have a great experience that your kids will remember and you will have lots of great stories and pictures to sha “YOLO!” 😎