Many parents ask themselves the question: “At what age can we travel with a baby?” »
The boldest parents will tell you that you can travel with children of all ages…
Hmm, what will be my next destination…?
However, with experience, I have concluded that some ages are easier than others. In my opinion, the best travelers are young babies between six and twelve months, as well as school-aged children.
Traveling with a young baby!? As surprising as it may seem, a baby who sleeps through the night and is developing well is an excellent traveler. However, it is important to choose the destination carefully, especially with regard to access to health care, in case medical treatment is necessary.
For those who wish to leave for a long period, I recommend waiting until the youngest child is at least six years old. From this age, children are more independent and no longer need constant supervision. The period between six and twelve years is probably ideal. This is a period when children do not (constantly) challenge the words of mum and dad, which is likely to change in adolescence… It is also easier to teach children of this age than when they are older, since the school subjects become more complex and diversified.
All this does not mean that you cannot travel with younger children or teenagers. Each age group has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Here’s a roundup of the pros and cons for each age, along with suggestions for overcoming the different difficulties.
0 to 1 year
Given the risks associated with hygiene and health abroad as well as the possible difficulties concerning the feeding and sleeping of the newborn, many parents are reluctant to embark on the adventure with a baby. However, from the age of about three months, if the baby develops well, he can be a good traveling companion. With an infant, you dictate the route and the baby just has to follow in a stroller, backpack or baby carrier. A baby aged between six and twelve months is certainly in the ideal age group. If he sleeps through the night and has an easy temperament, this is a perfect time to take him in your luggage.
Literally: A baby in a suitcase.
I write “take it in your luggage” with a half-smile because in reality, with a baby this age, the trip is for you and not for him. Before the end of its first year, the baby moves little. It is therefore easy to carry and sleeps on mum or dad during visits. You change your diaper everywhere and you can even go out in the evening with a baby of this age. In the bedrooms, he stays on the bed (under supervision), plays with a few trinkets and can sleep with his parents. Many Western countries offer parental leave which allows most workers to go away for a long time while having a guaranteed salary and job. What more can one ask for? The most important decision to make when you want to leave with a baby of this age concerns the choice of destination. Baby hygiene standards must be taken into account in terms of access to drinking water, fresh food and sanitation, among others. Access to quality health care is also an important criterion. Finally, it is important to find out about the availability of baby products such as diapers, milk, cereals and purees. As a precautionary measure, it is best to bring bottles and milk, at least for the first few days. If you decide to fly, the good news is that the little one’s seat won’t cost you anything and you may be offered a berth to rest your arms.
If you google “baby on plane”, this is one of the results.
In my experience, the cabin crew are understanding and attentive to the needs of families. Babies do not tolerate the pressure caused by the change in altitude during take-off and especially during landing. Luckily, those periods when you and your baby are confined to your seat are rather brief. If the baby is still in crisis even though the seat belt sign is off, I recommend that you walk him from one end of the plane to the other. Your seat neighbors will thank you very much. For outings, you should bring diapers, wet towels and a change of clothes, because you never know when these so-called ultra-absorbent diapers will be lacking. With the exception of North America, there are rarely public restrooms with changing tables. Whether you are in a restaurant, on a bus or at a museum, when a baby is wet, you still have to change it. We look for an isolated corner, we install our baby as safely as possible on a flat surface and we proceed to clean his hindquarters. It’s all about the parent’s attitude and respect for social norms; the important thing is to look determined and ignore the sometimes staring eyes of people who find this behavior inappropriate. Outside of large shopping malls, women who are breastfeeding rarely find private breastfeeding rooms with changing tables, rocking chairs, sinks and a cozy atmosphere (the big luxury, you know). And when the baby is thirsty, he lets us know! Before breastfeeding in public, find out about people’s tolerance for this practice. This will dictate how much isolation you want to take when feeding the baby. A light blanket placed over your shoulders will usually suffice.
1 to 2 years
From the moment the baby begins to crawl to discover his environment, it’s a whole different story. This is perhaps the most difficult time to venture off the beaten path. At this age, the baby begins to need time to himself and we must take this into account when choosing and duration of outings. He needs time to play, have fun on the floor, walk, crawl and climb on furniture. As he needs his daily nap and calm to fall asleep, it will be necessary either to plan to return to the hotel, or to transport him in the dorsal or ventral baby carrier, which makes it possible to extend the visits. One of the biggest difficulties comes from the fact that the baby constantly gets dirty and that, put within his reach, he puts in his mouth everything that is within his reach. When a baby doesn’t want to stay in his arms, crawling on the floor and putting everything in his mouth, the fears related to hygiene, health and safety are completely justified. You have to wash his hands regularly, watch him constantly and take away what he wants to taste under the table in the restaurant. You have to be constantly vigilant, because the baby is running around and has no awareness of potential dangers. It’s demanding at home and it’s even more so when the environment is full of strangers and changes regularly. As a result, you no longer have a baby who lets himself be transported from one place to another, but a third traveler who also asks for his time. And this travel buddy wears diapers, can scream louder than 130 decibels, and requires constant supervision. It is preferable, with a child of this age, to choose easier destinations and to adapt the trip according to the child. For example, traveling by motorhome can be a very good option for a family with young children.
Our youngest loved Australia, thanks in large part to the motorhome.
Whatever the choice of trip, it will be necessary to adapt the schedule according to the needs of the child with regard to meals, naps or bedtimes. It’s not all downsides, that’s for sure. In most countries, when you are accompanied by a young toddler, you are welcomed with open arms. People seem to have a boundless admiration for parents traveling with young children and they will do anything to make it easy for you. Small children attract people and make it easy to get in touch with them. In addition, plane tickets cost nothing for children under two years old, which is a significant advantage.
2 to 5 years
It takes a lot of patience to travel with very young children. Just ask a teacher if she finds it easy to take care of kids in this age group. At two years old, it’s the terrible two, the first search for independence and autonomy. Children demand a lot of time and attention and can throw themselves into tantrums where it is impossible to reason with them. It’s a prelude to what parents will experience when their little one becomes a teenager. I don’t know any parents who want to experience these difficult times on a plane, in a restaurant or in a hotel room. This does not mean that all travel plans should be put on the back burner.
Our children were only 3, 5 and 7 when we visited India.
It all depends on the personality of the children, their interests, their lifestyle and their reactions as parents. One thing is certain, it is essential to adapt the rhythm of the trip to the speed of the slowest and to plan outings for the children. To amuse them, you can intersperse the route with stops in parks or in multi-purpose halls where they can let off steam at will. Again, it is possible to travel with young children from 2 to 5 years old, but for a long trip, it is not ideal. RV trips, getaways from fixed accommodation or renting a house abroad are more attractive options for this age group.
6 to 11 years old
It is not for nothing that children start school around the age of six in most cultures. It is considered that around this age, children are independent enough to leave the family nest and mature enough physically and intellectually to spend a few hours with their peers to learn to live in society. “Autonomous” and “mature”, these are words that ring sweet in the ears of parents! Little by little, the uncontrollable crises fade and we manage to reason with the children. They are comfortable with language and they can express their emotions and interests. They manage to move away without fear of losing their protectors, and we parents can gradually let them venture a little further every day knowing that they will come back. From the moment children know how to read (and take a liking to it), they can take care of themselves and no longer constantly require the presence of parents in their games and leisure activities. They are curious beings who reach out to others and seek to discover the world around them. Finally, at this age, the price of admission tickets for children is reduced, when the tickets are not outright free. Do these arguments convince you that this age group is a good time to take children with you?
Any place is good for teaching, even on a small table in an RV!
On the other hand, those who plan to make a long trip with school-age children must think about the whole dimension of education. It’s no small task to teach a six-year-old child to read and write, believe our experience. On the other hand, with a little help from parents, children who have already attended school will find it easier to learn on their own.
Ages 12 and up
Adolescence is also a good time to travel, although it is not without its downsides. This is a period during which young people need more stability, not to mention that the constant promiscuity sometimes exacerbates the conflicts between them and their parents. This is a period when it is important to involve young people in the preparation of all projects that could have an impact on their lifestyles. If until now the choices of destinations and itineraries were mainly the responsibility of parents, when you want to travel with teenagers, decisions will occasionally have to be made by consensus and will require everyone’s participation. Also, it is advisable to seek a balance between the tastes of each, because the visits which interest you and enchant you, for example the temples, the ruins and the museums, will perhaps not make the happiness of your teenagers. Apart from possible inconveniences, if the agreement is good within the family, traveling with teenagers has a host of positive points. A trip will be an opportunity for them to open up to the world, to come into close contact with new cultures and to emancipate themselves. What they will experience will sometimes challenge their values, a process that is beneficial in itself, and you will be there with them to help them in their reflections and lead them to a better understanding of the world. From a certain age, the question of their freedom and range of action will have to be considered. Each parent must find their comfort zone; can we leave a teenager alone in the hotel for a few hours? Can we let him out in the neighborhood? Is an evening out possible? These are all questions parents will have to grapple with. They will also have to find compromises with their teenager without putting his safety in danger. A healthy parent-child relationship and open and regular communication are necessary assets, which also apply in the everyday relationship at home.