Stages of Family Travel

There are many stages in the life of a parent. There’s the Diaper Stage and the Potty Training Stage and the Big Boy Underwear Stage. There’s the Baby, Toddler, Preschooler and School-Aged continuum. There’s the Pre-Xbox and the My Kid’s Eyeballs are Falling Out phases.

And then there are the stages of Traveling with Kids. Our family likes to travel a lot. We aren’t always able to travel due to my husband’s musical work constraints and financial-due-to-no-work constraints, but when we can get away, we are very happy to do so.

We will be gone for over a month to Canada this year. In previous visits, we usually stuck pretty close to my parents’ house, basing ourselves around a familiar place where we could make grumpy children take naps and where we could close ourselves into a safe room and hiss at them for embarrassing us in front of extended family members.

This time we are going to be doing a lot of traveling within Canada because we figure they can handle it. Because nothing says emotional control like the pre-teen years. Um. Hang on a sec, I may not have thought this through completely.

My children like to visit new places as well, as long as there is a souvenir shop. The only way we got through a whirlwind tour of practically every pyramid in the Yucatan is because a great number of the sacred sites sold mini-versions of themselves in air-conditioned comfort.

I present to you this set of stages for traveling parents, so you can refer to it before deciding whether you can take your child on a twenty-two hour cross country road trip. I kind of wish I made this before planning our own.

  1. No Concern For Public Shaming – In this phase, babies and toddlers don’t mind lying down on the floor and screaming while you are sweating and trying to drag them through the metal detector. With the Authorities watching. And all the other travelers who enjoy observing someone else lose their minds for once.
  2. The Tiny Window of Competency – Preschoolers can last way longer than toddlers when you want to see, say, the world’s smallest children’s museum or the toy section at a grocery store. Plus, they mostly walk (until they don’t). But beware the closure of the Window. Once it’s closed, it’s not opening again until you’ve ready twenty stories and fallen asleep beside them with your mouth agape. They will be ready for another outing at precisely that moment.
  3. Go All Day – The school agers can go, go, go and they will keep you walking long after you are no longer aware that you are still vertical. However, this only applies if they are doing stuff that they enjoy. Which is mostly stuff that you do not enjoy, like amusement park rides and lines of amusement park rides. If you want to do something interesting and educational, they will develop a rash and a stomach virus and a hoarse, unhappy voice that some people refer to as whining.
  4. Preteen Tedium – This is boring. Where’s my earphones? I can’t hear you, I have my earphones on. You told me this wouldn’t be boring.


That’s as far as I’ve gotten, but I’m really looking forward to the next two stages which I’ve tentatively named: Adolescent Airplane Angst, and Can’t I Stay Home as My Graduation Present?


All joking aside, I do enjoy traveling with my family. I think it’s most enjoyable if you come prepared. Insider’s tip: you can always stave off the worst characteristics of each stage by having a great sense of humor, lots of unhealthy snacks, and a decent set of ear plugs.


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