Traveling without kids

This post is brought to you by the Social Butterfly Mom‘s weekly series “Validate Thy Neighbor” in which two bloggers choose a topic and write in support of the OPPOSITE of what they practice. Today, Raising World Citizens, a mom who often travels with her two kids, and No Bags to Check, an independent traveler, explore the potential roles of our counter-parts. Please contact the Social Butterfly Mom if you are a blogger and would like to participate:

I have kids. Two kids ages 8 and 5 to be exact. Before they came along, my husband and I traveled as much as our jobs and our wallets allowed us to do.

Travel was our passion, our indulgence and our pastime. When we weren’t traveling, we were busy plotting and planning our next adventure, our noses buried in travel guides and travel literature books.

It all started soon after we met.

Eight months into our relationship we moved to San Francisco and used our new west coast home base as the perfect excuse to visit Los Angeles, Seattle, Vancouver, Portland, Las Vegas, Phoenix and even Mexico City.

Life then took us back to Chicago and down the aisle.

For our honeymoon, we spent three weeks in Italy. The next year, we spent three weeks in France and, after that, our joint travels took us to Spain and London, and back to Paris and Italy. In between our trips abroad, we visited family in New York, Florida, California and beyond, and we escaped a few Chicago winters with trips to the beaches of Mexico and Jamaica.

Then we had kids and our travel screeched to an abrupt halt.

All of a sudden the very idea of travel changed for us. It meant lugging around more baggage, trying to fit in naps and feedings, adjusting schedules to new time zones, and catering to the needs and whims of some of the most challenging, temperamental people we’d ever dealt with in our entire lives – our kids.

The very idea of traveling with kids completely knocked us off kilter and we didn’t do any serious travel, outside of a few trips to visit family, until a few years ago.

The air swings in Paris… That's something we'd never do without kids.

The air swings in Paris… That’s something we’d never do without kids.

In the summer of 2012, we jumped back into the travel game big time with a family trip to Paris.

We spent an amazing three weeks back in the City of Lights – as a family of four. We visited playgrounds and parks. We took very quick trips to museums (Mona Lisa. Check! Van Gogh. Check!). We made well-timed snack stops – all day long. We bought tickets for every single carousel we saw (and there are tons of carousels in Paris!). We discovered hidden amusement parks.

Our favorite way to eat with our kids in Paris - picnics!

Our favorite way to eat with our kids in Paris – picnics!

We didn’t eat many dinners out. We rarely stayed out after night fall. We only drank French wine poured from bottles – at our rented apartment. But, it all somehow worked for us.

That one trip helped us reset our travel equilibrium. It set us off on a new course for travel with kids. And, it prepared us to explore, understand and appreciate the world together as a family.

But, as any parent will tell you, it’s so nice to be able to get away and travel without your kids, too.

Last December, my husband and I packed our bags and headed off to Berlin for three whole days, three nights and two plane rides – sans kids. Once we got over the guilt of jetting off to Europe on our own, we settled into our roomy Air Berlin seats and let it sink in that we were traveling alone. Just the two of us. Just like we used to do. And, wow, did it feel good.

Having traveled as a family and just with my husband, I’ve come to better understand the advantages of traveling without kids:

1. Sleep? Who needs sleep? When it’s just you on the road, you can choose to forgo a few hours of beauty sleep to help make sure you pack in as much sightseeing into your day as humanly possible. Tired? No worries. It’s the perfect excuse to grab a spot at the counter of a local coffee shop. Or, grab gelato, a crepe, a macaron, a slice of cake – or anything that will give you the necessary energy boost to keep you going all day long. Of course, on the flipside, if you want to sleep in one day, there won’t be any jet-lagged little ones to come in and jump on your bed before sunrise.

French macarons in Germany… .That should keep us going!

French macarons in Germany… .That should keep us going!

2. Sightsee ‘til you drop. Without kids in the stroller or in your arms, you can stay out on your feet all day long. It’s suddenly no problem to run from site to site or place to place without fear of running your poor kids into the ground. And, yes, it’s even possible to leisurely make your way through a museum without anyone tugging on your arm, anxiously trying to drag you to the exit or threatening to have a meltdown in the middle of a crowded exhibit hall.

3. Wing it with the best of them. When it’s just us, we tend to throw the map to the wayside and wing it a bit more. Should we see where this train goes? Sure. Should we wander down this street? Sure. Life suddenly becomes an adventure where U-turns are allowed without worry of wearing out our kids or making them uneasy about the prospect of being lost. Life somehow becomes a bit more of a carefree adventure when we’re out and about on our own without kids.

Lucky for my husband, he never had to carry his sleeping wife out of a Metro station...

Lucky for my husband, he never had to carry his sleeping wife out of a Metro station…

4. Eating on the run. When you’re packing in the sights, street food (or really just any hand-held food) can let you squeeze in a meal while you’re on the go. In Berlin, my husband and I walked and talked with hot pretzels and other goodies in our hands – and saved our sit-down meal time for leisurely dinners at the end of a busy travel day. As adults, we’ve perfected the fine art of eating and walking – without dropping our sandwich on the ground or dribbling sorbet down our chins. I wish we could say the same for our kids…

5. The night is young – and so are we. When we travel without kids, there’s no fear of turning into pumpkins at the stroke of midnight. You can enjoy the nightlife – and let it take you back to days when late night dinners and drinks were de rigeur (and you could sleep in past 7 am!).

6. You can look and smile – and then walk away. Even when we travel without our kids, they’re still front and center in our minds. We stop to browse at market stands selling their favorite candies. We comment on the playgrounds our kids would beg to enter. And, we fondly smile at other families out enjoying their days. But, after we soak in our thoughts of our own children, we can continue on our merry way – just the two of us. On the flipside, when we see a parent struggling to get their stroller in through a door or trying to find out how to appease their upset child, we try to lend a hand and share a smile – and then walk away.

In Berlin - without kids!

I’m in Berlin – without kids!

7. Me time. As a parent, you often have to put the wants and needs of your kids above yours – for your own sanity. But, when you travel without kids, you can be downright selfish, only focusing on your own wants, needs, interests, tastes, and whims.

8. Plane rides are relaxing again. When you travel without kids, the very thought of seven hours on a transatlantic flight doesn’t seem so bad. In fact, it sounds downright relaxing. Instead of packing tons of snacks, games, markers and the like, you can cozy up with a book or a movie and just relax. And, you don’t have to worry about bothering the other people around you – unless your husband laughs too loudly at episodes of The Big Bang Theory (speaking hypothetically of course…).

On our own in Berlin, we took lots of parents-without-kids selfies.. to send to our kids!

On our own in Berlin, we took lots of parents-without-kids selfies.. to send to our kids!

It goes without saying that traveling without kids can be easier, less hectic, less stressful, and more spontaneous. The three days, three nights, and two plane rides that my husband and I spent together as a couple reminded us of what it’s like to travel without kids these days. What we previously took for granted now seem like luxuries. But, the reality is that we have kids, and while it can be easier to travel without kids, we now have a new appreciation for traveling with our kids, too.

I give one BIG thumbs up to any kind of travel!

I give one BIG thumbs up to any kind of travel!

We enjoy experiencing new places as a family – and trying to imagine what it would be to like to live there as a family, too. We’ve come to enjoy and cherish seeing new places through the eyes of our kids, slowing down and soaking things in a bit more, and seeking out child-friendly sites, parks and playgrounds – just like we do at home.

It’s a treat to be able to do both – to travel with and without our kids – and relish the differences between the two and advantages of doing both.

Please read No Bags to Check’s thoughts on traveling with kids.

What do you think are the biggest differences between traveling with and without kids? Do you tend to travel more with or without kids? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Filed under: Travel

Tags: Travel, Validate thy Neighbor

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