This time last year, Hoff and I were lucky enough to take a trip to the US….child-free.
We had the best time. And critically, we did all the things we knew we couldn’t get away with if our kids were in tow. We ate well, we drank a lot, we listened to music, went to museums, finished conversations. You name it, we did it.
So here we are again and it’s hard not to compare our child-free adventure last year with our child-full adventure this year.
With that in mind, here are the very best things about travelling with kids.
1. There is no grey.
Have you ever travelled with a group of friends and had that thing were you’re all falling over each other to make sure you’re not too bossy or controlling?
As in, “I don’t mind, what do you want to do?”, “no really, I don’t mind, what do you want to do?”, “no I insist, it’s up to you…”
This does not happen when you travel with your children. All decision-making is expedited because if they don’t want it, they are not having it.
And if you don’t heed their warning and go back to the hotel for a rest instead of getting milkshakes, for example, they will make you pay by falling asleep in the middle of a restaurant in Chelsea Market.
2. They have no shame.
We went to the Museum of Natural History and like any good parent I had dutifully showed the kids Night at the Museum in preparation for their visit. The idea was to instill a sense of excitement in the little tackers, so they could experience the thrill of seeing it in real life, which kind of happened.
But also, their biggest takeaway of the film seemed to be that the Easter Island statue referred to itself as ‘Dum Dum’, when it became bewitched after dark (sorry, spoiler alert) and consequently when we made our way to the Hall of Pacific Peoples, the relative museum serenity was interrupted by my two chanting “Dum Dum, Dum Dum, Dum Dum” at the top of their lungs on approach. Even when I tried to tell them that it’s actually called a Moai and has fascinating origins and tried to convert the whole thing into a Holiday Learning Opportunity™, they weren’t having it and carried on with their chanting.
And this is the story of this holiday. Although at times it’s embarrassing, it’s also pretty bloody funny too.
Like when we saw a life-size model of the Statue of Liberty’s face, and the Boy Child stood with his head half in her nostril as though he was…well…you know…a booger…I had to have a little chuckle. I’m only human. Classic.
3. They say hilarious things.
Trips to tiny plane toilets are a bit of a nightmare usually, particularly when both your children are terrified of the flush and insist you come in with them. Worst kind of mile high club ever.
But on one such trip, the Girl Child was chatting away as she was dutifully going about her business, when she said, “I like our toilet at home better, mum. It’s much less wiggly.”
She was referring to the mild turbulence being experienced at the time. (The actual turbulence. Not a euphemism for things that happen in the toilet.)
Again – classic.
4. Quiet nights spent in the hotel room
On our child-free trip last year, I have to admit, there was an element of ‘mums and dads on the loose’ for Hoff and me. We went out most nights, got home too late most nights, and just generally made very little use of the hard-earned money spent on hotel rooms.
Fast-forward to this year and a quiet night after the kids’ 7pm bedtime is mostly the order of the day.
I’ve really been enjoying having more time to write and share our adventures, and Hoff’s really enjoyed having more time to fall asleep in front of the telly and claim to just be resting his eyes.
5. Reduced going out/booze budget.
6. Blurring fantasy and reality.
To be perfectly honest, when we travel, a big chunk of our itinerary activities are driven by reliving our favourite pop cultural exploits in the location they took place or were set. I’d love to say that we’re driven by educating ourselves, or experiencing culture, or pleasing aesthetics, but full disclosure, we’re quite basic that way.
Case in point, the second stop on next week’s road trip itinerary is Scranton, Pennsylvania. Because of The Office. And if you need any further information than that then I implore you to stop reading right now and go and watch all nine seasons and also what have you been doing with your life?
The best thing about doing this sort of thing with the kids, though, is that their tiny minds haven’t quite grasped the concepts of fact and fiction as yet, so when you take them to see the Ghostbusters Firehouse, for example, their delight is palpable, (as is their terror as they strain their necks checking for an appearance of Slimer).
7. The value of incidental wildlife sightings
Obviously, kids lose their minds over animals.
We’ve seen turtles in the lake Central Park, squirrels at the playground in Washington Square Park, and we’ve even had a few close brushes with that quintessential native inhabitant of the Upper West Side – the toy poodle.
All incidental, all free, and most importantly – all smiles from the rugrats every. darn. time.
8. Guilty pleasures.
Kids provide a great excuse/incessant nagging to indulge in what would normally be holiday guilty pleasures.
Need an afternoon nap? We’d better do that, you know. For the kids.
Want to buy that Statue of Liberty bobblehead? What a great idea.
Can we have donuts for breakfast? Yes. Yes we can.
What’s that kids? You’ve got a craving for hotel room Pringles? Sure, we can get some.
(Mum, we didn’t ask for those chips.)
(No, it’s fine kids. We’re on holidays, you can have them.)
(We’d really prefer a banana at this point mum, can we just get that?)
(There you go kids, Pringles for everyone.)
(….Mum, are these really for you?)
(You’re so welcome, kiddos.)
9. They’re easy pleased.
In case you haven’t got the sense already, Hoff and I tend to take somewhat of a holiday from parenting when we travel too. Nothing too drastic, just a general relaxing of what are usually some pretty hard and fast rules.
So the kids have been enjoying a little more sugar, a little more screentime, and a little less sleep than usual.
Which means that the phrases:
“Hey kids, who wants to go and have Froot Loops for breakfast then go to the Lego store and buy personalised mosaics in the design of your face then have a slice of pizza that’s bigger than your head today?”
“Hey kids, who wants to strip down to our undies and watch telly for more than an hour in the hotel room?”
are met with the same level of enthusiasm. Despite the epic chasms in planning, cost and general effort that goes into each.
10. They’re here.
I missed them when we went away last year. As much as we tried to plan a trip that they would’ve hated, there were things that crept in that we knew they would’ve loved. And every time we saw something, the pangs of separation felt a tiny little bit more acute.
Which is, hands down, the best things about our trip this year. We’re all here together.