I am going to be honest here, my little Sentenn family is not very adventurous. In fact, we have a sign in our bedroom that reads, “Let’s stay home.” I gave it to Andy for an anniversary (or maybe Valentine’s gift?) because that’s our mentality that he has led in since day one. We like being together in our place of comfort- home. I wasn’t always this way though, I both blame and thank Andy for this fully. However, it’s also due to my anxiety within whenever the thought of flying with a toddler comes to mind. On the other hand, we do love to make family memories. We have found that in our bit of traveling together, all drive-able distances after Abigail’s birth, some of our greatest family moments have been conceived. In fact, I was discussing my desire for new furniture with my mom recently, and her financial advice was to cut out some of our family excursions. I quickly responded with, “No, memories over furniture!” These little seasonal jaunts to Chattanooga, visiting our best friends in Nashville, anniversary and birthday trips, or our nearly monthly visits to the beach are some of our greatest moments of fun as a family. So as much as we love home we recognize one of our greatest investments as a family is in making memories together, and that can be found in traveling. Though my family is not adventurous, my friend Ginger Lindsey and her family have long inspired me. So I went right to the source and spoke with her about this topic recently:
How would you describe your family?
I would say we are all of the words in the dictionary that are antonyms for quiet, gentle, and relaxed. I often wonder if we will ever add a “chill” human to our bunch in the future, but so far (and with the current ages of 3 and 1), everything is loud, dramatic, opinionated, strong-willed, fearless, curious, and high-energy. Both of my babies have wiggled away instead of snuggled, learned to walk at 9 months, and are (MOSTLY) their best selves when we are out and about or having free-range time.
What is unique about your motherhood journey?
Well, this is a tough one! My first instinct is “nothing!” Parenthood is the one thing that has instantly connected me to people who are completely different than me… as if we have everything in common. My second thought is still a bit of a cop-out, but it would be my kids. All of our children are unique humans, and no one else knows exactly what it is like to full-time parent your children except you. But to speak to my motherhood journey: I would have to say maybe realizing that I have an extreme need to focus on exploring. I feel like I’m being my best mom-self when we are learning through new books, creating something, or setting out on an adventure. I also fully reject the “mom-in-the-box” situation, and have learned that I cannot do everything and cannot be home alone very much for the sake of my mental health.
What is something that you’ve learned from your children that has made you stronger in Christ?
I’ve learned what I probably look like to God in my desperate emotional moments, and it’s probably exactly like my kids having tantrums. I think, “If they would just wait to listen to what is really happening, just breathe, just exist and trust me…” Then I realize those are the exact things I need to be doing in my life as well. God looks down at me and my attitude like I’m a toddler flailing on the floor many times I’m sure.
What is your favorite adventure that your family has ever been on?
My current favorite is still our trip from Oxford to the Isle of Skye, but we haven’t been able to do any big travels since having Joie and renovating our house ($$$). That trip had the combination of a lot of my favorite things: train travel, outdoor adventuring, historic sites, and flights right at bedtime that were very manageable.
What are some tips or tricks that you’ve learned about traveling with children through experience?
Oh gosh, well that’s a whole blog post in itself!
- I’d say, #1 is NAPS and snacks. Snacks and naps. Nap time is sacred. Always. Schedule the flight/drive/train at nap time, take a break in your day of exploring for nap time, or bring a stroller to allow for a walking nap time. Melting, hangry children have no discrimination for being in an amazing location, and that is such an easy structure to keep in place. It also is a fix for any jet-lag situation with odd hours and eating times on international trips.
- #2 is to stagger kid-friendly moments throughout every day, but also don’t feel restricted to only kid-friendly spots. The big reason many people give for not traveling with small children is that the kids don’t remember it. It’s true, but the PARENTS do! BUT since that does have some truth to it — remember that your tiny kids don’t know or care that you’re in NYC or London. Stop to feed ducks, run around a playground, find an ice cream shop, plan to go to the kids museum. Schedule those things in for each day and live life like the local kids for part of the day. It will be fun for everyone, and then maybe your kid will nap in your lap at the cute restaurant later, walk around a cathedral, or endure some shopping. What is funny is that most of those “kid” spots have ended up being some of my favorite places too when looking back on a trip!
- #3 and maybe the most important is PACK LIGHTLY. Oh my goodness, seriously do all you can to trim down the luggage. Traveling kids get tired, fall asleep on you, have to be pushed in a stroller, etc… the last thing you need are heavy bags as you navigate all the new places. A rolling backpack is my #1 travel-with-kids luggage choice (and really a backpack is just my favorite travel choice in general). The ability to roll through the airport but also sling it on later while chasing someone or climbing stairs while holding someone’s hand… game changer. Only one regular-sized piece of luggage per parent or older child is ideal. Then I do things like packing tote bags to bring souvenirs back (or buying souvenir tote bags) for the return flight + lots of other packing/planning tricks to make the one-bag rule work. I’m still trying to perfect my minimalist travel skills with each trip we take though.
Family travel is an endless, evolving learning journey!
Oh and bonus tip — never ever call family travel a “vacation.” It is not a vacation and it never will be. Family trips create learning experiences, family-bonding memories, adventures, and ridiculous stories to tell at parties.