Vagabonding with kids? Are you serious?

“You can’t go vagabonding with kids! Just a two week vacation with the little ones is hard enough.”

If you’re a parent, you’ve probably heard these words. You may have even said them.

Playing with an Ethiopian child

Playing with children from other countries is a great way for children to learn to respect other cultures

Conventional wisdom seems to say that doing anything with kids is hard work. Going to the grocery store, sending a package from the post office. It’s a miracle if we survive driving fifty miles to Grandma’s house, let alone climbing on to an airplane to travel to the other side of the country.


A quick check around the internet will tell you that travel with kids is hard work. Maybe going somewhere that offers an all inclusive meal plan plus kids club so that you get a break from the 24/7 job of being a parent is a good idea.

But long term travel? Vagabonding with kids? No way. Uh uh. Not possible.

Or is it?

CNNGo published an article a while ago with some tips for traveling with children. Let’s examine their advice.

1.  The younger the child, the bigger the suitcase

According to CNNGo, parents will need to pack their child’s “favorite stuffed giraffe that takes up a third of the suitcase” as well as “an entire library of  Dr Seuss and Eric Carle books, not to mention the space-consuming nappies, wet wipes and milk bottles.”

OK, if your child is young, the nappies and wet wipes are essential, but the enormous stuffed giraffe and a whole bunch of books? What happened to common sense?

Contrary to popular belief, kids will survive without the stuffed giraffe. They’ll be just fine with cardboard boxes, pinecones, and sticks. Pack a tiny toy or two for good measure, but your children’s stuff doesn’t have to overwhelm the suitcase.

In fact, kids don’t need much at all. Pack a couple of pairs of clothes, a few toys, and you’re good to go.

2.  The younger the child, the harder it is to get over jet lag

They’re right on here. Our children had a very difficult time with jet lag and couldn’t understand why they weren’t sleeping in the middle of the night.

Of course, when you’re traveling long term, you won’t be taking all that many long-haul flights. Travel slowly and you won’t need to deal with jet lag very often.

3.  Travel to a destination that serves French fries

eating chinese food

Allowing children to eat a wide range of food helps them understand the world

CNNGo was downright wrong on this one.

They said, “Unless your kid has an abnormally educated palate, hold off on that culinary tour of India. Do not attempt to travel to a place where there isn’t kid-friendly food.

What?! That’s downright crazy.

“This seemingly small detail is essential for a successful holiday with young children. French fries, nuggets, pizza and the like will save your holiday.”

I say take that culinary tour of India specifically so your child can learn to develop that abnormally educated palate! Kids learn to like what they grow up with, so pampering them with Micky D’s when they’re in Paris and Tokyo and New York means depriving your child of a wonderful opportunity to learn about the cultures they are traveling in.

Remember there are kids living wherever you’ll travel, and those kids need to eat something. Your child won’t let himself starve.

4. You can’t have too much inflight entertainment for young children

babies in egypt

Children are capable of much more than we give them credit for

This is where I have to say, “What were you thinking CNNGo?”

“If you wonder why parents of young kids travel with five pieces of luggage, it’s because three of those five bulging bags are filled with toys, books, games and gadgets lest junior gets bored for more than a second and all hell breaks loose.”

If all hell breaks loose when junior gets bored for more than a second, then you’ve done a piss poor job of raising your child in the first place. Don’t blame it on the travel.

5. Strollers are as much a bane as a boon

They got it right here: “Your exotic destination is likely to be non-stroller friendly so your buggy sits folded up in your hotel room for most of the trip.”

But terribly wrong here: “So you end up only going as far as your young child can walk (to the nearest restaurant that serves French fries and back); or as far as you can carry them in your strap-on carrier (yes the Wat-of-500-steep-steps is too much); or you spend most of your holiday by the hotel’s baby pool.”

Kids are way more capable than many parents think. Just take the little ones and go. It’s not as hard as you think. Or as CNNGo says it is.

Posted by | Comments (9)  | January 31, 2012
Category: Family Travel

9 Responses to “Vagabonding with kids? Are you serious?”

  1. Rolf Potts Says:

    There’s some good, road-won wisdom in here, Nancy — thanks! I love this line: “Contrary to popular belief, kids will survive without the stuffed giraffe. They’ll be just fine with cardboard boxes, pinecones, and sticks.” Reminds me of my own childhood (where I didn’t stray far from Kansas). I grew up without fries and nuggets, too. Kids are more resilient and adaptable (and intrigued with the world) than we give them credit for…

  2. Ted Beatie Says:

    Thank you Nancy! As an expectant adventurer myself, both my wife and I hope to travel with our kids. I’m looking forward to sharing the world with them, even if it makes the travel itself a little more complicated. I look forward to reading more about your experiences!

  3. Powell Berger Says:

    Way to go, Nancy! Kids adapt, absorb and thrive when we take them on the road. The key is that, as their parents, we also be able to adapt, absorb and thrive. I find it’s our stress and our apprehension that impacts the kids, even at the youngest ages. Your adventures with your kids are those that the rest of us roadschooling families are in awe of. Thanks for the inspiration and the ongoing encouragement.

  4. Nancy Sathre-Vogel Says:

    Thank you so much to all of you! Powell – I totally agree that it all depends on the parents. If the parents expect their kids to be fine with pine cones and sticks, then they will. Kids pick up on parents’ attitudes more than we want to think.

  5. BudgetTravelKid Says:

    “If all hell breaks loose when junior gets bored for more than a second, then you’ve done a piss poor job of raising your child in the first place. Don’t blame it on the travel.” This needs to be made into a poster or t-shirt.

  6. DEK Says:

    The CNNGo advice does not seem intended for anyone who would go vagabonding or any sort of serious travel, but more for the modern parent who hovers over their children, catering and supervising their every micro-managed whim. Parents who cannot tolerate their child’s natural instinct to roam and explore. If a child is fearful of the unfamiliar or fussy at their food, it is likely because they have been encouraged to be by their parents. Children naturally want to eat mud and bugs and poke into things they haven’t seen before. Your problem isn’t going to be that he will be bored with India, but that he will want to play with the cobra. (“He followed me home. Can I keep him?”)

    When I was six or seven, my parents took me from our boring home in the Midwest into the Southwest and Mexico where I fell in love with hot Mexican food and could not get enough, even after I made the connection with getting sick afterward, and was very proud to return home with a taste for food more fearsomely exotic than any of my friends had ever heard of.

    There would seem to be a cultural divide between CNNGo’s intended readership and those who read Vagablogger.

    I realize I am speaking from the experience of a little boy and it might be different with girls, though the only one I have known well was more daring and curious than I ever was.

  7. Kirsty Says:

    This makes me laugh – your arguments are brilliant and I can’t even believe some of the total BS spouted by the CNNGo article!! Kids love adventure – what’s more adventurous than hopping in and out of tuk tuks and going jungle treking! Not sitting by a pool in their stroller that’s for sure!!!

  8. Michelle Says:

    I also chuckled at the thought “If all hell breaks loose when junior gets bored for more than a second, then you’ve done a piss poor job of raising your child in the first place. Don’t blame it on the travel.”

    My advice to parents traveling with kids? Put them down-let them play on the ground. Sure, it’s dirty and they’re going to try to eat cigarette butts. They’re also going to see their location with a perspective not even you will see. Kids make traveling even more adventuresome!