7 jet-setting moms share how travel has shaped their little ones. Plus, their #1 tip for traveling with kids.
We are thrilled to be traveling again! There’s nothing I treasure more than the memories made during our vacations with our children. And there’s nothing that causes me more anxiety than packing for those trips. Let’s be honest — a vacation with kids is sometimes more stressful than just staying home.
During our last big vacation before Covid, we traveled for 29 days with four-year-old Levon, folding in the older boys at various points along the way — from Tucson to New York City to the English Countryside to London, back to New York, and finally home to L.A. Exploring the customs, foods, and traditions of other cities has shaped my personality more than anything else in my life, and it’s a priority for me to provide that experience for my children, as long as we have the means to do so.
An unexpected side effect of our frequent travel is that our youngest, Levon, has become extraordinarily adaptable. He adjusts to unfamiliar environments and time zones with more ease than any adult I know. Watching him explore new cities is one of my greatest joys, and every time we come home from a trip, I immediately start booking our next adventure.
And every time it’s time to pack, I swear I’ll never leave the house again.
I asked six other jet-setting moms for the inspiration behind their decision to travel frequently with their children, plus their #1 travel tip for moms on the go.
April, mom to Ruby (6) Eli (11 mos.)
Seeing the world together is something my husband and I have been passionate about since we studied abroad in Sydney, Australia, our junior year of college. When we got engaged, we promised to visit all seven continents before starting a family. It took 10 years, but we did it! And now that we have our daughter, Ruby, we are excited to show her the world as well.
Ruby took her first flight at 3 weeks old, and it ripped the band-aid off of any fear we had about traveling with kids. Her first international trip was to Mexico City, and while she doesn’t remember it, she loves seeing the pictures and pretending that she remembers. When she was 3, we traveled to Paris and the south of France with another family, and while she was a good sport, she mostly enjoyed playing in the pool at our Airbnb, riding the carousels, and eating all the granitas and macarons that we’d allow. The turning point for me was seeing her play at the local playgrounds. She didn’t speak any French, and it didn’t matter one bit. She was so happy to be playing with the other kids, and they were happy to include her. They found their own ways to communicate and have fun. That’s when travel went from bringing her along for the ride to something that is important and deliberate for us to do with her.
In 2019, we visited Barcelona and Seville, and she was genuinely excited to learn Spanish words, try new foods, and see the city and explore. Playgrounds were still her favorite, and she would come back to tell us, “This is my friend, Lucy. She’s five and she speaks Spanish, English and French, and we’re playing super heroes.” In just one year, she went from saying her favorite part of our trip was the pool at our Airbnb to saying that her favorite memory from Spain was watching the Flamenco performers.
My husband and I love that she’s realizing at an early age that the world is so colorful and diverse and inclusive. Granted, she really only remembers our trips to Europe. But even that has taught her that people look different and speak differently (she was so tickled to realize that when we travel, we are the ones with accents), and that people eat different foods. She’s learned to appreciate those differences and realize that they are what make life interesting. She’s now started making her own travel requests – to go to Africa for her 5th birthday. It’s not gonna happen this year . . . but it will. I promise her that.
#1 Travel Tip: I highly recommend Zarbee’s melatonin for kids. It really helps Ruby sleep on a long flights. Be sure to test it at home first, just in case.
Christie, mom to Layla (9) and Nora (4)
When I married my German born and raised husband, we made the commitment to visit his family (all of whom reside in Germany) at least once a year. Before kids, it was a dream. After kids, honestly, it’s still a dream. Both of our girls, now 9 and 4, have been traveling internationally since they were born. My oldest has made the transatlantic flight 10 times in her short life, traveling throughout Europe and the United States. Both girls love the adventure, from the airport to take off and landing, seeing our family, learning new languages, playing with other kids who don’t speak English, visiting new places, I could go on and on. It’s stressful, expensive, and exhausting, but my daughters are gaining so much: patience, resilience, open-mindedness, the experience of new cultures and new foods. Do I get overly sweaty and anxious when one of them starts to lose their mind six hours into a ten hour flight? Absolutely. But eventually, we arrive at our destination. There is always an end to the cabin fevered, claustrophobic insanity, and watching my girls seamlessly meld into their father’s heritage makes it all worthwhile.
#1 Travel Tip: Vacation begins on the airplane, and there are no rules except survival. Snacks and shows for nine hours? Go right ahead. Eventually they’ll fall asleep. Fighting a battle in a two by two seat isn’t worth anyone’s time.
Kelly, mom to Tessa (11), Asher (8), and Quinn (5)
All three of my children experienced their first flight by six weeks old, and the flights haven’t stopped. We’ve travelled as far west as Hawaii, and as far east as France. In the summer of 2019, we spent two weeks exploring Alaska and Canada, and the experience just keeps getting better. Traveling with kids isn’t always easy (hello transatlantic flight with a 9-month-old), but our family vacations are usually done at a slower pace, enjoying the local life.
With each vacation, my kids have gained confidence, shown bravery, and adopted an overall thirst for new experiences. My older ones can navigate an airport independently, and all three are comfortable talking to new people. (I find that locals are a little more friendly when you have children in tow, an added bonus in a foreign country.) Some days can be trying, but knowing I am opening their eyes to a wider world view and encouraging global exploration makes it worth the effort.
#1 Travel Tip: Allow for plenty of time, lots of patience, and of course, iPads.
Kim, mom to Bailey (27), Brady (14), and Dagney (12)
Our family of five had the opportunity to travel throughout the EU for two years. We sold nearly all our possessions, packed our lives in one ruck sack and one carry-on suitcase each, and headed off to explore the unknown.
We found online programs to provide educational materials and backed up lessons in the most incredible museums, zoos and parks in the world. NEMO in Amsterdam, the British Museum, the Viking Museum in Stockholm, the ART… the Landmarks! I can’t stress enough how impactful it is to see things like the Rosetta Stone, Cleopatra’s sarcophagus, and actual paintings by Van Gogh and Monet up close and in person.
We spent the majority of our stay living in hotels, which created many opportunities for us to build crucial abilities, such as:
Patience. We were always in a queue, which gets harder when everyone is jet lagged or train weary.
Coping Skills. Things don’t always go right. Sometimes you take the wrong train or misplace a crucial piece of your travel kit.
Situational Awareness. Not just because of pickpockets or getting lost in the hustle of busy streets and dark alleys. We were traveling during the times of the terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels, and the machete attacks on the trains in London. We had to remain vigilant and set “rally points” to meet at should ANY situation cause us to separate. We never let any of these happenings stop us from going places. Sangria in a Barcelona ghetto tastes JUST as good, if not better, than at the Ritz Carlton. And there’s more to look at.
Etiquette. For navigating unfamiliar cultures and asking everyone how to say “Thank you” and “Enjoy your meal,” in their language. Remember, kindness works in any language.
Gratitude. Both for the care from the staff at the hotels we lived in, and for how fortunate we are to be living this life.
The only bad part was that after two years of hotel living, my little ones forgot that they can actually get things for themselves from the kitchen. No more placing orders for water or snacks! The kids constantly beg to go back. They feel at home anywhere we are now.
#1 Travel Tip: Stay fluid. (Yes, that could mean full of booze.) Don’t allow your expectations to control your experience.
Ronda, mom to Jack (13) and Emma (2)
As the mom of two kids, we are truly blessed to be able to travel the world with them. I’ve always felt that the world is our classroom, teaching us invaluable lessons. I highly recommend cooking classes as a fun way to learn about your destination. Many resorts offer them either complimentary or for a minimal charge. And a simple “Foodie Tour” is great fun for the whole family, especially when traveling around Europe. I book them for my clients often, and it gives them great dining options for future meals, extensive local history, and a feel for the neighborhood and how to navigate the city.
Our 13-year-old son Jack loves to attend cooking classes with me whenever we travel. I love seeing him absorbing the history, developing new tastes, learning to speak a few words in another language and simply embracing the overall culture of each locale. It’s not every day that your 13-year-old wants to hang out, so when the opportunity arises, go cook with your kid!
We all love to bring home souvenirs, especially local foods, spices, snacks, and even adult beverages from duty-free. Those flavors take you back to the wonderful memories you made with your family in each destination.
#1 Travel Tip: Don’t schedule too many activities. Traveling is not something most kids do on a regular basis and it can be stressful for both them and you. I often have parents wanting to schedule tours, activities, etc., every single day of their trip. Be sure to simply enjoy your destination with your kids. Just play in the sand, pool, or snow. We only have 18 summers with our children until they are off on their own adventures. Savor every sweet moment of your travels… and take lots of pictures!
Erin, mom to Beckham (5) and Reeves (3)
We always wanted to travel before having kids. We absorbed all sorts of warnings from other parents that “once you have kids, your jet-setter ways will die.” Our wanderlust felt like such a part of our identity that when we unexpectedly got pregnant 6 months into our first year of marriage, I saw the globetrotter life that I would never have flash before my eyes.
What we learned almost immediately after having Beckham was that we could still go on our adventures, and now we could raise another person to inherit the travel bug, too. My oldest son went on his first trip when he was 3 weeks old, which meant I took him on a trip three weeks after I had a life-on-the-line postpartum hemorrhage. No regrets.
Nay-sayers were quick to point out the cons to traveling with littles, but we’ve found the pros to be overwhelming. We just returned from 29 days of suitcase living with our boys and when we came home, they immediately asked where we are going next. We’ve raised adaptable, easy-going, flexible kids who have loads of memories of our family trying new things together. What’s more worth the effort than that?
We’ve made it a rule in our family to never stay home more than six weeks straight without going somewhere.
#1 Travel Tip: Set your expectations accordingly. Every single one of your family vacations will disappoint you if you’re expecting your trip to look like it did pre-kids. If you set your expectations in a realistic zone (I’m not going to be able to sleep in, but I might be able to catch sunrise on the beach!) then you’ll find that nothing quite beats making memories on-the-go with your crew.