A Google search of ‘travel with kids’ will pull up a host of sites offering tips on travelling with the mini humans. I get it. The notion of travelling with someone who is completely dependent on you can be daunting. I have met a number of people who delay having children because they want to travel, or will leave their offspring at home when going abroad.
Having visited around 10 different countries since the birth of my first child 2 years ago, my experiences have convinced me that kids are no barrier to travel. In fact, they can often enrich the experience, and here’s why!
Breaking the ice
As a very chubby 6 month old in Seoul, the youngest honorary member of The Halal Travel Guide team was somewhat of a celebrity. On the way to our local tube station in Hoegi we would be routinely stopped by passers-by who wanted to take a closer look at our foreign-looking baby. One young man once exclaimed in pleasure that he had ‘never seen a Muslim baby before!’ before bowing heavily and showering us with good wishes. On a day trip to Busan baby Selma was hijacked by a group of ahjummas who cooed over her with a musical refrain of ‘Aigoo, yipuddhaa’ (‘aahh, how beautiful’).
Children and babies have a universal language that, despite the immense language barrier we adults experience, allows them to transcend verbal communication barriers. They can not only break the ice but encourage friendly interactions with complete strangers, as well as serve as a conversation starter. Strangers who you would otherwise not speak to will suddenly be giving you wide smiles in the street!
The world is your classroom
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…and there is nothing quite like it. When you travel with kids you are giving them lifelong experiences.Your child will probably know 1,2,3 in various languages by the age of 3. They will come to appreciate and enjoy food from different cultures; from ramen and katsu curry to chorba and cevapi. They will think it is the norm to interact with people from a variety of ethnicities and backgrounds. They will grow up enjoying the vast beauty and variety that is to be found in the world. Finally, it will pave the way for shaping their character and development in the long-term, aiding them to grow into wise young adults.
Skipping the queues
On most, if not all airlines – including the no-frills ones like EasyJet – you get to skip the boarding queue when you travel with kids under 5. If the destination you are headed to is well-geared for tourists you may also get to skip queues for attractions, particularly if you have a pushchair. Whilst waiting for the funicular to go up Penang Hill in Malaysia, we were offered an empty cool room to sit in whilst other travellers had to wait out in the heat.
If you have followed my checklist on how to fly with a baby or travel with kids you will already be well on the way to having a hassle-free trip. Often the locals will pitch in with their own contributions. Whilst visiting Pocitelj fortress in Bosnia Selma (aged 2 at this point) had her fill of organic strawberries offered by the local vendors. Of course, there will be times when locals will offer your child a sugary treat that you aren’t too keen on them having. In this case, smile and thank them and then halve whatever it is that was given (I can’t tell you how many milky ways, Turkish delights and ice creams I’ve had to eat so as to avoid throwing them away!).
Strengthening your bond
There will be tough times on your trip – that is almost guaranteed. But getting through them will help you get to know your child better, which can only help in the long run. In Singapore Selma (aged 4 months) cried all night (or what felt like) for 2 nights in a row before we realised she was coming down with her first eczema flare-up. It was such a relief to find the source of her pain, and it made us more aware of how the climate can affect her skin (and therefore temperament) on future trips.