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10 years ago today Brent and I went out to dinner for- what we knew would be- the last meal without a child. Or, at least a babysitter! Never mind that I felt like a whale and could hardly enjoy the food because my heartburn was so bad at that stage in the pregnancy- I was determined to enjoy this last night of dining freedom! Our daughter was scheduled to be born a couple of days later. And the reality of life as parents weighed heavy on the conversation.

Our last dinner date before Mary Grace!

Don’t get me wrong, we were ridiculously excited about the upcoming birth. But we (correctly) assumed- life was about to change. At one point during the dinner conversation we started talking about travel. Was it even possible with kids? I mean, really, how would it work? And even if we could make it work, would it even be enjoyable? After much theoretical debate, we decided that kids would never hold us back from travel. Keep in mind- we also planned to have our child sleeping through the night by 6 weeks! To put it nicely, we were optimistic as we planned what our life with kids would look like. (In more realistic terms: we were crazy, delusional, and out of our minds! But, shhh, don’t tell us that!)

In hindsight, this one particular conversation changed our lives. And it’s pretty amazing to take a step back and think about that statement. Honestly, how often can you pinpoint an exact moment that changes your life?

We left dinner that evening determined to forge ahead into a life of traveling with kids. I remember Brent calling his parents on the way home and shocking them with the news that we’d decided to join them at the beach after all. Surely bringing a 2 week old infant to the beach couldn’t be that hard, right? Umm, yeah. That was probably one of the biggest parenting mistakes I’ve made to date. Worst idea ever! Honestly, the fact that we EVER traveled again is nothing short of a miracle. But, when I get my mind set on something I rarely stop.

And thankfully, I didn’t. The last 10 years of traveling with our girl have produced the most incredible memories. If I’m being honest I can admit that not all of the memories are positive. Sometimes (like our trip to the beach with a 2-week old!) the memories are more like horror stories. But I can laugh about most of them now. If nothing else, we learned a lot and did our best not to make the same mistake twice!

10 years of travel also turned my daughter into a confident, responsible, adaptable, adventurer. She’s outgoing (sometimes to a fault!) in new situations, and loves learning in new environments. I never would have imagined- but in our quest to show her the world, we’ve shaped her personality. Travel is life for her and she’s always ready for the next trip.

Over the years we’ve lost track of the number of flights she’s taken, and the miles she’s traveled by car. I can’t even begin to imagine the number of suitcases I’ve helped her pack. Or even guess the number of nights she’s slept somewhere other than her own bed. I do know  she’s visited 33 states and 3 countries. I tried asking her the other day if she had any favorite travel memories. She looked at me, confused, and said “How can you expect me to pick a favorite?”

There’s nothing I love more than hearing that genuine response from her. Especially because I feel the same way. From the beautiful sandy beaches of Hawaii to the- equally beautiful- rocky coast of Maine, my girl feels at home.

Even from a young age, she’s always loved to travel!

In case it isn’t obvious, I’ve been a little nostalgic lately. It’s hard to believe 10 years have passed by in the blink of an eye. Although I don’t know where the next 10 years will take us, I can say- with certainty- travel will be involved! We’re looking forward to finishing off her remaining 17 states and adding more countries (and continents!) to her travel resume.

If I could go back to that dinner conversation 10 years ago, here are some things I’d tell myself:

  • You’re right, you’re life is about to change. But only for the better.
  • You will NEVER regret traveling with your kids. Maybe in the moment you’ll have struggles, but it’s totally worth it.
  • Almost everything travel related is cheaper (free!) before they turn 2- so do as much as you can!
  • Giving your baby a bottle in the carseat while you’re on a road trip so you don’t have to stop isn’t the best idea. You’ll probably forget your baby needs a diaper change and by the time you figure out why your baby won’t stop crying- the car seat will be soaked. And, you don’t have an extra.
  • Crying babies on planes bother the parents way more than the other passengers. Stop sweating it.
  • Trips don’t have to be over the top outrageous for kids to love it. The will remember the free zoo in St. Louis and the awesome free city park in Boston just as much as they remember the fortune you spent at other destinations.
  • When you travel without your kids you’ll almost always wish they were with you.
  • Spend your money on travel. Toys break and will eventually be outgrown. The investment you make in travel will stay with your kids forever.
  • Get some good sleep tonight and tomorrow night. Your daughter is going to laugh in the face of your “sleep through the night foolproof training plan.” It’s going to be about 16 months so just brace yourself!

Besides being a sappy look back at the last 10 years, I hope to convey with genuine sincerity how much value I place on traveling with kids. You certainly don’t have to start when your kid is two weeks old. Actually, I recommend that you don’t! But plan to start soon. I really credit my children’s adaptability to travel with the fact that they’ve both done it since birth. They don’t know any differently and I love it. I truly believe it’s never too early or too late to start traveling with your kids!

Visit this post for more ideas on traveling with young kids.

When did you start traveling with your children?

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