Pre-kids, my husband and I loved to travel, spending much of our disposable income on trips to exotic locations. While in university, I spent a semester studying abroad at an English castle and then backpacked through Europe for a few weeks. I travelled up the east coast of Australia with my sister, lounging on white sandy beaches, exploring Fraser Island and heading to the outback to climb Ayers Rock.
Together, my husband and I hiked the Inca trail to Machu Picchu and hung out with howler monkeys in the Amazon. We cruised to China, South Korea and Japan, climbing the Great Wall, eating delicious Korean food and shopping for electronics in Tokyo. For our honeymoon, we took a luxurious Mediterranean cruise, trawling the cobblestone streets in Nice, visiting art galleries in Florence, watching the most beautiful sunsets in Santorini.
And then, we had kids. And we were grounded for a while.
Just the thought of a long flight with a toddler and a baby seemed like more effort than it was worth. Factoring in two sets of diapers, spare clothes to cover any bodily fluid leakages and enough wipes for a small army, the packing alone could take days. So, aside from a couple of beach vacations, our kids haven't been to that many places. Yet.
This past weekend, we took a mini-vacation and brought the kids to Niagara Falls. Okay, it's not Paris or Monaco...but we went on the Maid of the Mist (now called the Hornblower, apparently) and watched my five-year-old squeal with joy as she got soaked by the spray. We let them explore kitschy attractions like the upside-down house, the mystery maze and the fun house. We rode the giant Ferris wheel at dusk, looking down on the roaring falls and twinkling lights below. At night, we watched fireworks from our hotel room. On the way back home the next day, we dragged the girls to three wineries for some grown-up time and then rewarded them by letting them pick out treats at the chocolate factory.
And you know what? They had a blast. And so did we.
Maybe travelling with kids isn't just about big trips to far-off places. Maybe what's really important is the time you spend with them, showing them things you enjoyed that they might enjoy, too.
We'll get back
to the more exotic travel some day, as the girls become less needy and
more self-sufficient—I can see that shift happening already. And the day will come when they won't want to travel with us
So I'll try not to feel antsy about missing out on trips to Thailand or New Zealand; I'll get there someday. Today, my time is better spent focusing on finding joy in the little things—because to my kids who love me, that's what matters.