Folks, gather ’round, because I’ve got a tale to tell. Y’see, I’m a bit of a wanderer, always have been. But lemme tell ya, the minute I got pregnant, the naysayers started pouring in like there’s no tomorrow. “Good luck traveling now,” they said. “Your globetrotting days are over,” they scoffed. “Travel with kids? It’s a trip, not a vacation,” they warned.
I heard it from every Tom, Dick, and Harry in my life, not to mention the chorus of popular culture and those oh-so-relatable parenting memes. They all seemed to agree that traveling with kids would be a treacherous path, a rocky road at best, and a full-blown catastrophe at worst. Relaxing? Ha, forget about it.
Fast forward eight years and two kids later, and here I am, lounging poolside with my 7-year-old, gazing at the crashing waves against the cliffs of Baja Sur. We’re sipping on our daily milk-and-margaritas happy hour (yes, you heard me right, we invented it!) at the serene Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal, after a day of gallivanting through the breathtaking coastal desert. And I can’t help but chuckle when I think about all those doom and gloom predictions. They couldn’t have been more wrong. Here I am, globetrotting with a little one in tow, and it’s the most relaxed I’ve felt in years.
Turns out, my kids have turned this whole travel thing into a better, and shockingly, often easier adventure than it was before they came along.
You see, I didn’t grow up jet-setting around the world. But the moment I became a legal adult (still a teenager, mind you), with three jobs and a stash of savings, I jumped headfirst into the travel game. My first decade of adventures was anything but moderate. Money was scarce, but I had boundless energy, zero need for sleep (ah, youth!), and all the free time I could squeeze between jobs and grad school. I hopped on a train from Budapest to Belgrade at the drop of a hat, hitchhiked through the Scottish wilderness, and strolled 15 miles between towns like it was a walk in the park. I even mastered the art of peeing through a hole in the floor of a racing train along India’s western coast. I rarely slept, and if I did, it was for mere moments.
Looking back, I now see that travel, for my younger self, was both a form of healing and a response to trauma. You see, my dad had passed away in his 40s, never leaving the United States. I was on a mission to see the world for him, but also for me. Deep down, I had this nagging feeling that my time on this Earth might be limited, just like his.
I traipsed through four continents, picking up a dozen languages and sampling termites, alligator, haggis, and even maggots. And let me tell you, I was often a nervous wreck. But I powered through it, just like I did with everything else in my life. After all, I was a native New Yorker and an eldest daughter – tough as nails, as they say. But here’s the thing – you can only power through so much before you burn out. And let’s face it, powering through is the antithesis of that magical concept we associate with travel: vacation.
When my eldest son, Silas, was still a tot and I was a single parent, those early “vacations” with a kid took some unexpected detours into chaos. I’ll never forget the adrenaline-fueled sprint through Marrakech, searching high and low for antibiotics from a local doctor who happened to carry them in his car (seriously!) when Silas fell ill with bronchitis and sinusitis just after our arrival in Morocco. But he bounced back quickly, fast enough for us to savor many more days of wandering through the bustling souks and indulging in an olive feast. And you know what? The stress of those initial days actually made the rest of the trip feel like pure luxury.
Here’s the kicker – traveling with my kid did something truly remarkable. It liberated me from the self-inflicted pressure to do and see it all. No more waking up at the crack of dawn to secure a prime spot in the never-ending line at the Louvre just to glimpse the underwhelming La Joconde before brunch, shopping, hitting the flea market, and rushing back to the hotel for the cheapest happy hour. Nope, those days were long gone. I was now sleeping in as late as my little one would allow, wandering aimlessly to find a croissant, parking myself in a park for hours, counting squirrels, and calling it a (highly successful) day.
Gone were the all-nighters, the nights spent sleeping in train stations to save time and money, and the epic 10-hour road trips to catch a glimpse of the Taj Mahal. Instead, there was nap time, leisurely strolls, and ice cream. No more pinching pennies and enduring the cacophony of roach-infested hostels just to afford nightly clubbing. I started saving up to stay in comfortable places where both Silas and I could get a good night’s sleep. Maybe even with a pool!
Fast forward to my wedding when Silas was four, and his baby brother Sunny arrived when he was six. A good chunk of my maternity leave was spent traveling as a family, and having two kids, one of them just a few weeks old, only deepened our commitment to slow travel. Gone were the days of racing from one sight to another. Our days were less hectic, often with no set plans at all. Sure, there were challenges – like hunting for formula in Central America during a shortage. But there was also an overwhelming sense of peace. We reveled in early nights, listening to monkeys rustling above our thatched roof in the Belizean jungle. We explored ancient, deserted Mayan temples, and nap time became a welcome part of our daily routine, either retreating to our hut midday or letting Sunny snooze on my chest in his carrier.
One of the highlights of our maternity leave adventure was the warmth and affection showered upon baby Sunny at the family-run jungle lodge we stayed at. Mothers and grandmothers competed for the chance to hold him, make him laugh, and let me and my partner savor a peaceful meal. Coming from the U.S. where postpartum support is virtually non-existent and where kids are often met with disdain, traveling internationally with a newborn was not only relaxing; it felt easier than staying home.
And this newfound tranquility stuck around for family travel with older kids too. Our most recent trip saw Silas and me enjoying our daily milk-and-margaritas ritual, but it also meant spending quality time together in ways we rarely do at home, where the daily grind of school, work, and household chores is ever-present. In Baja Sur, we moved at a deliberate pace, counting cacti as we cruised through the desert between Pedregal and Todos Santos. We watched a local weaver create his intricate patterns, and we embarked on a ghost hunt at the famous Hotel California. We savored a leisurely dinner perched on the cliffs