Travel with big kids

img_1834We just got back from a long weekend vacation in Orlando. Most of the time was spent at various Disney places, with one stop at Universal Studios. We decided not to take the toddler for various reasons. He wouldn’t remember it, and his presence would have made the entire trip a lot more complicated. So it was just my husband and me and the three older kids, now 9, 7, and 5 — in other words, pretty close to perfect Disney ages.

It was not exactly relaxing, though that’s not really the point with amusement park vacations. It was, however, fun in a way that travel with a toddler is not. It gave me a glimpse of what life with big kids is going to be like, and it was pretty exciting.

For one thing: I slept through the night. I got up with my alarm. We stayed out way too late last night — back to the hotel at 12:30 and up at 7:30 to catch our flight — and we paid for it in terms of a cranky 5-year-old (she was actually throwing crayons on the plane). However, the fact that we could stay out until midnight and didn’t have to deal with nap schedules was incredibly liberating.

Also liberating? Packing! I put everything for the 3 kids in one carry-on. I put my stuff in a backpack. I put their in-flight entertainment in another backpack, and made my 9-year-old carry it. No need for bottles, diapers, or special food. On the plane flight there (when I was the lone adult) they played with their Kindles almost the entire time. I was able to read Real Simple in peace with only occasional pauses to referee fights (until the last 30 minutes when they were out of battery but…oh well).

There were fights in lines, but we could stand in lines without disaster. They did not run away from me in crowds. I could send the 9-year-old to the bathroom by himself, or leave him and the 7-year-old outside the ladies room while I went in. They had a lot of fun. My 9-year-old was the kid selected in the wand selecting show in Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal. My 7-year-old’s picture was flashed up on screen in the Star Wars ride at Hollywood Studios as the rebel who was a stowaway on the plane. My daughter sang at the top of her lungs in the Frozen sing along.

It felt doable in a way that travel hasn’t in a while. We have traveled as a family over the years, but it always feels like there are so many ups and downs. We have had someone under age 3 for the past 9.5 years. On this trip, we didn’t. It has made me start daydreaming about the trips we might take when they are all older. Or at least the Disney trip we will take in 4 years when the little guy might appreciate it!

Photo: Out the window at Animal Kingdom Lodge.




10 thoughts on “Travel with big kids

  1. I am experiencing those days now. My youngest is 8 and my oldest is about to be 14. It is amazing how much freedom you get when you no longer are at the mercy of naps, diapers, and tantrums. I can anywhere now with them and it’s not a battle. I can pop put and leave them home for a quick grocery store run. I understand what is meant by the “Days are long, but the years are short.”
    Not to be a party pooper though, but the preteen and teenage years bring a new set of challenges. I have more freedom, but so do they. The biggest issue we have right now is that there is a large variance in the mental age of some of my kids classmates. I would say that my children think and behave about on schedule (maybe a little younger). However, in my 8th graders class are girls that still think like young girls, but also girls that are already experimenting with dating, and far more grown up activities. They are being exposed to more and more that is beyond my control. And we’re not even near driving yet!

      1. I think every age and stage carries its own blessings and challenges. I think you just have to enjoy the blessings you have for now and keep reminding yourself that your challenges of the moment won’t last forever. I have only one child, 20 months old, and I’m limping today after pulling a muscle getting him into his car seat and am reminding myself that he will someday get in and out of the car by himself God bless moms with more than one like you, Laura, who deal with little kid issues for a decade!

  2. We just did Disney with our kids: two 4.5 yr olds and a 14-month-old. The baby is good, but you’re so right that naptimes, bedtimes, all of the “accessories” make traveling a constant challenge. My parents and siblings also came along, so they could help out, but I came away from the trip resolving not go to back to Disney for at least five years!

  3. We spent a week with friends with toddlers so negotiating naps was everyone’s normal but having gone from infant to toddlerdom, I’m anticipating the next phase be infinitely lighter. Literally 🙂

    I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves just yet but it is something to look forward to even while we’re enjoying the cuteness of the toddler discovering the world phase.

  4. I *love* traveling with my big kids. Mine are 7 and 9 now. There is a chance they’ll remember things (although, from my own fuzzy memories of childhood vacations… not a certainty). This summer we went to visit my in-laws in New Zealand and stopped in the Cook Islands on the way back, and although I’ve been there several times before (we got married there, and on this trip we were visiting friends), there was an extra magic in showing it to my kids. It made me want to travel with them more, despite the challenges of feeding my 9 year old, who really struggles with new food experiences. Is it perfectly relaxing? No. But neither was traveling without kids, really. They have now gotten to the age where the extra joy they add on vacations compensates for the extra hassle they add.

    1. @Cloud – I think the years when they can go to the bathroom by themselves, and carry their own stuff, and yet still want to travel with you, are magical. The one thing I’m worried about with 4 is that by the time the little guy enters that magical age, my oldest might be wishing to distance himself from me. Maybe I’ll just have to dream up really cool trips!

      1. My kids are now 19, 15 and 12 and holidays (as we Aussies call them) are now fantastic. The 19 yr old is old enough to appreciate the importance of spending time with family, and the 12 year old is able to cope with late nights, lots of walking and take part in everything the older two might. There is light at the end of the tunnel – even if that tunnel seems very long when they are little.

  5. I definitely agree that holidays are more fun and less hassle with older children. Mine are now 11 and 9, appreciate culture (to a certain extent) and are more able to carry their own stuff. We are travelling long haul to Canada for a multi-stop long holiday, which I wouldn’t have contemplated doing when they were younger.

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