Once upon a time, you used to travel together. Romantic weekend getaways, relaxing summer vacations. Then you started a family, and ran out of time to do absolutely nothing. “One day, when the kids are older,” you say, thinking about when you can travel again. To that, we say, “Go now!”
We loved to travel, too, and when Aarav was born, we made the decision to keep on traveling while he was young. He’s traveled as an infant on long-haul flights. He’s seen 41 countries before he turned 4. While we learned a lot about traveling with a young child (read: What We Learned on Our Sabbatical (And What it Means for Your Vacation)), we also discovered there are perks adults get to enjoy when traveling with young children.
1. Young kids eat free. Many restaurants and hotels provide free meals for kids under the age of 2, with many providing free or heavily discounted meals for kids under the age of 12. Take advantage before you have hungry teens paying full price.
2. Young kids fly free. Children ages 2 and younger can fly as a “lap seat,” meaning as long as your child sits on your lap, they fly free. As they get a little older and need a seat, some airlines, especially international carriers, offer discounts for children. You’ll never enjoy this luxury when they are school-aged.
3. Young kids get free admission. Another freebie for kids under 2, and often under 5, is free admission to museums and attractions around the world. If they aren’t free between 2 and 6, fees are often considerably slashed, making it easier to see more when traveling.
4. You can skip the lines. A perk for parents at international airport (unfortunately not in the United States – c’mon, catch up America!) is family lines and the opportunity to move ahead of everyone in security and through immigration. They understand families need more time, and help you move through security and immigration faster. We have found that attractions and restaurants will often move us more quickly, as well, knowing kids do not have the patience to wait. In China, a hot pot restaurant had an hour and a half wait but sat us within minutes.
5. Younger kids are more flexible. Little kids are used to following and trusting in their parents each day. It doesn’t matter if you are at home or on vacation, they’ll typically go with the flow and won’t have any opinions on where you are staying, where you are eating and what you are doing.
6. They find entertainment in simple pleasures. Entertaining a young child is simple: give a child a park and a playground, and they are happy for hours. Traveling with an older child is when it becomes more difficult. They’ll have different interests and be bored by some of the things you want to do. But your baby? As long as you find a way to play and give him or her attention, they’ll go anywhere you want to go!
7. Young kids don’t need much space. When it comes to accommodations, kids can share a bed, sleep in a travel crib, or utilize a sofa bed, allowing you to choose smaller – and cheaper – rooms. Once everyone needs their own bed, it becomes more expensive. (Ever see a standard hotel room with enough beds for a family of five?)
8. They want to be with you. Any parent suffering the pains of leaving a young child with a sitter knows how much their little one clings to you. Traveling while your kids are young means they want to be with you versus traveling with a teen who would rather be his friends and may even find it a little “uncool” to be with you too many hours in one day.
9. You can do what you want. Because your younger child just enjoys being with you and learning and seeing new things, you can see the attractions you want to see. Try convincing a teenager to go to another “boring” museums — you won’t have to do that with a 3-year old.
10. They aren’t missing school. Once a child is enters first grade, to miss school means missing their schoolwork, activities and friends. It gets harder to miss school the older they get. Traveling while your child is young means you aren’t restricted to summers and holidays and can travel during non-peak dates, which equals less crowds and more deals.
There you have it: 10 perks of traveling with a young child, which really translates into 10 more reasons to travel with your child, now! If you’re traveling with young children, share with us in the comments additional perks you’ve discovered. Let’s all help spread the word that young kids and travel go hand in hand!