S2, E23: Four AFAR Editors Share Their Hard-Won Tips for Traveling With Kids

In this week’s episode of Unpacked by AFAR, four AFAR editors—all parents—share their tips on traveling with kids, from how to deal with jet lag to one brilliant packing hack.

Which countries are the most family friendly? How do you help kids deal with jet lag? What about routines, bedtimes, and kids in business class? In this week’s episode of Unpacked, four AFAR editors, all parents, share their answers to all those questions, plus real-world advice about traveling with small children—including one editor’s genius hack for making sure her kids eat.


Episode 23: Family Travel

Aislyn Greene, host: I’m Aislyn Greene and this is Unpacked, the podcast that unpacks one tricky topic in travel this week. And today we’re wading back into the weeds of family travel. We’re going to be hearing from several members of the AFAR staff, all parents, in a conversation helmed by Laura Dannen Redman, our New York–based digital content director, who we’re going to hear from now. See, she and I talked a little bit after their conversation and we’re going to hear that for a couple of minutes before we go into the larger group conversation.

Aislyn: OK. Well, hi Laura.

Laura Dannen Redman: Hi, Ace. Can I call you Ace?

Aislyn: Yeah, of course, of course. I’ll explain for listeners. Uh, that’s my, my California nickname. I don’t know what happened when, when I moved to California I became Ace. So we’re gonna be hearing your thoughts and tips on traveling with kids in a couple minutes, and it’s such a big topic, like how did you decide how to focus this, this conversation?

Laura: It is, it’s massive. We actually had a much, much longer list of topics we wanted to dig into, and I think I might have bothered my colleagues because we ended up focusing just on a few. We probably could have stayed for a few hours. And what I wanted to, I wanted people to get out of this, is I wanted it to feel personal and relatable and accessible, right?

Because parenting is different around the world for different families, no one size fits all. So especially when it comes to travel, I just wanted people to feel like they could get a couple tips, a couple concrete tips based on the conversations we had and the lessons we learned along the way, for better or for worse.

Aislyn: Yes. And there are many lessons, it sounds like.

Laura: Yes.

Aislyn: Um, without giving kinda everything away, what were your main takeaways?

Laura: We all have kids that are younger that are kind of under the age of seven, I’d say. And I think there is a lot of, um, fear sometimes about, you know, bothering other people when you’re on the road with little kids. And we want to empower people to, uh, feel like they can go anywhere with little kids at no matter the age—that little kids are just tiny humans who also want to see the world and learn a lot.

And there are ways that you can bring a bit of home with you to make it a little easier on yourself and the kids. Hold out for Michelle Baran’s packing tip. It’s my favorite lesson in the whole conversation. I’m not gonna reveal it here, but it’s about halfway to halfway into the conversation.

Aislyn: It is quite brilliant. So yes, stay for that if nothing else. You have a big family trip coming up this summer. Were there any tips that you feel like you were gonna put into practice?

Laura: So we have this month-long trip that Ace’s alluding to, to Australia and New Zealand, and I am pumped for it. And I am also a little nervous because we are bringing the kids on to the other side of the world, what will jet lag be like? How long will it take hold? And I think my takeaway from our conversations was that, like, you have to go with the flow. You have to be willing to change your plans, even if it’s a carefully scripted trip with internal flights and destinations you intend to get to, doesn’t matter.

You kind of just have to wing it every now and then, which is hard for families who are used to routine; kids thrive in routine. So I am trying to convince my husband to be OK with just canceling some things and maybe sticking around in a place where we’re loving the hotel, we’re loving the town, and we just wanna see more of it, to dig in a little more.

Aislyn: Yeah. That’s a great, that’s—and it’s so great to talk about that in advance, right? That your plan is to essentially, like, disrupt the plan so everyone’s on the same page. If you’re like, “Hey, we’re really loving this place, let’s, let’s stay here for a little longer.” That’s really wise. All right, well, on the next family travel episode, we will circle back to you and you can tell us about how it went.

Laura: Perfect. If we’re still alive, I’ll check back with you in a month.

Aislyn: Wonderful. All right, we’ll talk to you then. Thanks so much, Laura. All right. Let’s hear the conversation, including that fantastic tip that Laura alluded to.

Laura: Hi, everyone. I’m Laura Dannen Redman, based here in Brooklyn, in my basement-slash-playroom studio, which feels very appropriate for today’s conversation.

I’m talking with a few of my colleagues about family travel in ’23. And I get to talk about this because I have two very sweet, very active little girls, Hailey and Livvy, who are six and four. So what I’m gonna do is just go around the horn and, uh, ask everyone to introduce themselves and tell us a little bit about yourself. Ooh, let’s add a, a fun fact too. Uh, we’ll start a debate, um, in addition to telling us where you’re from and your kids and how old they are, please tell me if you prefer to drive or fly with them, and why.

So I prefer to fly with the kids because they have become little urban children who aren’t used to being in cars for more than 20 minutes at a time. And they are much better behaved on an airplane because they get to, like, watch an iPad and move around and check out the snacks and things. So that gets my vote. All right. Next up, Michelle.

Michelle Baran, senior travel news editor: Hey there, I am Michelle Baran. I’m the senior travel news editor at AFAR, and I also have two kids, a daughter, age four, and a son, uh, Niko’s, almost seven. And uh, yeah, we live in the Bay Area. And as far as whether or not we prefer to drive or fly, um, it’s a little bit of a cop-out answer, but honestly, I love them both for—they’re both for very different reasons.

You know, it’s with driving, I feel like I can pile all the things into the car, and so I don’t have to think too strategically about, like, what we bring or what we don’t bring. We just bring everything. And there’s so many great places to go in driving distance in California, uh, which we did a lot during the pandemic.

But then with flying, we can go more places. So, but then we have to be more strategic about how we pack. So I like them both, and the kids love them both most of the time, definitely more now than when they were toddlers.

Laura: Good. Awesome. All right, next up, Sarika.

Sarika Bansal, editorial director: Uh, hi. Thanks so much for having me here. I am Sarika Bansal. I’m our editorial director. I live in Nairobi, Kenya, and I have one daughter who is three years old. Her name is Ayla.

In terms of flying or driving, I will also say both. Actually, Ayla loves airplanes. She just loves the whole thrill of it. Like, you know, saying hi to all the flight attendants and looking out the window at the clouds and, um, all the snacks and walking around. We love to camp as a family also, so I think for that it’s just so, I just really love, you know, going in, in a car-camping sort of little a, a weekend adventure away.

Laura: So nobody said yet “I hate flying because my kids throw tantrums.” Tim, is it gonna be you?

Tim Chester, deputy editor: Uh, it is, yeah. I, I, I, I hate both. Um, but I managed to survive them. I am Tim Chester, deputy editor at AFAR based in Southern California. I used to have a, well, I do have a son who’s now seven, and then we accidentally tripled that. So we have two more sons who are both three and a half. Um, used to do a lot of flying with just one, and then when the other two came along, we’ve done one flight in their lifetimes, but we have another one coming up very soon.

Um, but yeah, if I had to choose, I much prefer driving, obviously. Lots of places within reach in Southern California. We can, like you say, stack up the car with everything they love and we’re not annoying anyone else. And if we have to stop, we can stop and take it at our own pace. And I don’t feel as trapped as I do in an airplane.

Laura: That’s a really good point about, like, not wanting to annoy anyone and being able to, like, kind of own your space. I feel like that came up a lot during the pandemic, right. That was our, our out for getting around. And I think we’ll talk about this a little bit later, just road trips in general, and thinking about the role that they play in family travel nowadays.

But to kick it off, I wanted to get our readers some really good intel on where they should go with their kids. So I wanted to hear from you, where are you going this year with your little ones? Just to note, I think we all have kids under the age of seven. It sounds like Ollie is the oldest, Tim?

So I’m sorry for all y’all out there who have teenagers. We are not there yet, but please, you know, leave us comments, and tell us what you do and what kind of trips you’ve taken with them. I’m happy to start and then I’ll pass it off. I’m in the midst of finishing up plans for a fairly crazy month spent in Australia and New Zealand with my whole family, my husband and the girls.

So we are going under the auspices of going to see some World Cup FIFA Women’s World Cup matches. So we are getting to two matches, but we’re using it as an excuse to kind of work remote a little bit and take the girls all over Australia, which is a place that I love. I studied abroad there and have been back five or six times.

We are circling the country. We’re going to Byron Bay, Cairns, Perth on the other side, then back across to Tasmania and then Sydney, a stop in Melbourne and then over to New Zealand and the South Island around Queenstown before flying out of Auckland, in and out of Auckland, which I think probably just gave a whole lot of people panic attacks, as I said all that.

And recognizing that we’re, you know, gonna make our kids move a lot, they’re gonna be on the go. We’re gonna be changing routines. We may not have routines, but we’re also not trying to program too much. We just kind of assume there will be a lot of pool days and chill days walking around the base. So wherever we’re based in each of those places is really important.

Tim: Do you find the more you do that, the more they get used to rolling with it?

Laura: A little, yeah, we’ve been traveling with them since they were like—doing big trips since they were about seven months old each. And they are very adaptable, thankfully. But I think like things you’re used to, like, they’re used to that, but they can’t handle a two-hour road trip, you know? So it’s, it’s kind of like apples and oranges, a little.

So anyone else? I think Michelle, you’re taking a pretty epic trip with your kids in a few weeks.

Michelle: Yeah, next week, we are leaving to [go to] Poland and Romania, which is a trip I dreamt up last year when my father turned 80. My, my mother’s Polish and my father’s Romanian, and they immigrated into the United States in the late ’60s. So it’s been on my mind to go there with my family.

Yeah. And the pandemic and my kids’ ages, um, made it not very attractive the last few years. But then with my dad turning 80; more or less, the pandemic restrictions going away; and my daughter being four and a half now—so, hopefully, being a little more amenable to international travel—we’re, we’re gonna make it happen.

Uh, similarly, it will be a pretty busy trip. We’ll go to Warsaw. From Warsaw we’re going to Krakow for a couple days, then we’re gonna fly to Bucharest. From Bucharest, we’ll take a little mini road trip. And I’m honestly, I myself am curious to see what my own review of this trip will be when I get back, in terms of mostly my daughter’s performance, and see whether or not she, like, steps up to the challenge and leaves some of the toddler antics behind. Or, um, if we, we see some regressions and some fits and, you know, asking to go back home, which is common. I don’t know if you guys have seen that, but, like, sometimes I feel like when we push our kids a little bit, maybe a little too hard sometimes in terms of like the schedule, you know, the pace of travel being a bit much, or them getting too far out of their comfort zone, I noticed that, especially my daughter will start to say, you know, “I wanna go back home. I want,” you know, cause she’s just missing the comfort and the routine.

Anyways. It’s gonna be epic. It’s gonna be great. It’s gonna be crazy. It’s gonna be all the things, all the reasons why we do this, why we push through, and do these big trips cuz it’ll be great no matter what. There’ll be memories. Some good, some probably not so good, but there will definitely be memories.

Laura: I love that. I, my daughter, just this weekend, we were in New Jersey from New York. She said she wanted to go home and it was so weird because we were at, like, grandma’s house, right? And she just wasn’t feeling well. So it’s kind of like you can’t predict when that’s going to happen. I totally hear you on, like, you’re just changing their environment constantly and, and—

Michelle: Even like food, like the, you know, my mom likes to cook Polish, obviously she likes to cook Polish food, and my kids don’t—it’s like food that they’re not as familiar with. And so they just get like, you know, kind of whiny and you know, and it’s like, “Can you try and eat it cuz she made it for you?” And it’s like, “Oh, I just wanna go home,” or, you know—

Laura: “I eat mac and cheese three meals a day.”

Michelle: Yeah. So, um, yeah, and also that just like balancing the multi-gen stuff is interesting and challenging and it’s heartwarming and challenging and all of it.

Laura: Before we hear about Tim and Sarika’s trips, do you, do any of you have, like, things you must pack for the kids to create that sense of home? I mean, admittedly, it’s not gonna be home, right? That’s the point. You’re going on vacation and it’s gonna be fun and new, but, like, how do you get outta the house without 20 stuffies is my basic question.

Michelle: I mean, I have something embarrassing to admit about what, how I’m packing on this Europe trip. So Catalina, who’s clearly, like, the more challenging one, is a very picky eater. I am packing one whole suitcase basically of, like, foods I know she will eat. Literally—

Laura: What does that mean?

Michelle: —like Cheerios, Hawaiian rolls, even some shelf-stable milk. So I have, like, milk, like a suitcase—like, it’s ridiculous. I never thought I would be this parent. I always thought I’d be like, “We go, we’re gonna find things to eat, [and you’ll] you know, like it.” And it’s just like, you know what? I just need some peace of mind to know I have some things that will keep her alive for two weeks and stave off you know, fits, and I was like, “This is perfect. I’ll go with this extra suitcase that has a bunch of snacks and we’ll eat through the snacks and then we’ll pack it with souvenirs and bring it back.”

Laura: That’s kind of brilliant.

Tim: Yeah.

Laura: Either of you guys?

Tim: Not, not nothing unusual. No. Really just books.

Sarika: Yeah, a lot of books.

Laura: Books are heavy though, right?

Tim: Yeah. I’m, I’m not wheeling the little kid suitcase behind [me].

Laura: Oh, so they have their own little kids’ suitcases. Now this is another debate whether we do the two giant adult suitcases that the kids can ride on, or we make everyone pack their own— can I curse on this?—shit. You know, like, all right, so you’re opting for the little suitcases. Where are you going next, Tim?

Tim: Yeah, my, um, travels aren’t quite as ambitious as either of your trips, partly because we’re a bit outnumbered, three to two, and even when we just go to a local—you know, we went to this local chili cook-off thing, and there, there’s always one missing. And so we’re trying to contain them a bit more, um, on our travels.

So, um, this weekend we’re doing, actually doing a multi-gen trip to Legoland. And we’re actually using an app called Turo, which is like a car-sharing app. Because, uh, we need seven seats. So I’m gonna interested to see how that works out. And then later in the summer we’re gonna finally get back on a plane and go to Cabo San Lucas.

There’s two Auberge hotels really close to each other and they both have great kids’ clubs packed full of activities. Cuz I mean, this is another family travel dilemma, like how much do you wanna spend time as a family on a trip, and how much do you wanna pack them off to someone else and relax? So, um, we’re gonna do a mixture of the two, but yeah, we, we, we’re on the lookout for places where we can, like I say, contain them and keep ’em stimulated and just, um, know where all three are at any one time.

Laura: I like the philosophy of one thing for the kids and one thing for the parents each day, or like the adults each day. So you don’t, like, especially if you’re doing Legoland all day, you should get like wine country day the next day or something. Like a little healthy balance.

Tim: Yeah.

Sarika: I like that. Also because—

Laura: Sarika, what about you?

Sarika: I was just thinking how, like, sometimes traveling with kids can just feel like parenting in, in another location that you’re not as familiar with. So I feel like having that kind of balance really helps. In terms of where we are going, we are going to, uh, actually be spending a bunch of the, the summer in the U.S., which is where our families are. And on the way, we’re gonna be spending a week in London, which I’m really excited about. My aunt is there and I spent a bunch of time there as a kid, and I am actually really excited to show my daughter, like, the side of London that I saw as a kid, like having like a softy ice cream with a flake in it.

And, um, going to see the changing of the guards and it kind of like the, like the cheesy tourist stuff that I think more experienced travelers would roll their eyes at a little bit, but in the eyes of a toddler, it’s all really fun and cool. I also really wanna take her to a museum for sure and just expose her to some very—you know, I feel like London has such amazing exhibits on right now, specifically, like there’s this really cool Ai Weiwei exhibit, so, you know, I don’t know what she’ll understand of it, but I’m just excited for it.

Laura: Where are you staying in London?

Sarika: With my aunt. And I feel like most of our travel, I think this is the thing with being an expat, is that most travel ends up revolving around seeing loved ones who live very far away. And, and yeah. So it’s that hard balance of like, OK, we, well, we wanna spend time together as a family, but we also wanna see all this family and friends who we, on a daily basis, live halfway across the world from.

Laura: I think that would resonate with a lot of people, probably, people listening too—is how do you balance wanting to just take a vacation just for your immediate family and spending time traveling to see people, um, especially postpandemic, right? There’s that rush. We had so many years to make up.

But Tim, do you go back to London much? If you couldn’t tell, Tim’s accent is very Southern Californian.

Tim: Um, yeah, well we did the famous trip back with the first child when he was two and a half. And, yeah, he was, uh, awake running up and down the aisle both ways. Finally fell asleep just as the plane was coming into land and got really cranky at passport control. He was doing that strange sort of walk-in circles on the floor thing where the, where the, you know, stewardesses and stewards were trying to work, um, and it was a nightmare.

And then he woke up at 3:00 a.m. every day for a week, so we were a bit scarred from that. But we are actually going, planning to go back next summer, so we’re, like, gonna do a month there. And the youngest ones will be four and a half. So I’m just hoping that everything will be fine. And we would definitely be buying three iPads for that.

Laura: Yeah. Godspeed. No, so many of us are doing these longer trips now too. Did you guys ever take a month to do something before? Or like three weeks? We’re all U.S.-based. Well, traditionally U.S.-based and we have, like, what, a minute of vacation? Although AFAR has a very generous, flexible leave policy.

Tim: It’s a first for me.

Michelle: I do remem[ber]—my parents, being European, they were very into the, like, August, we take all of August off and we go. And we would, we did actually take these like epic trips in August. And I recently asked them about that. I was like, “How did you do that?” Like, did you have vacation time to do [it]? They were engineers, like very intense, um, nine to five, seven to five jobs.

And they said that they took some of it as unpaid vacation. So in order, you know, they would, they would arrange it all and make sure like they were covered for being out of the office. But they said, yeah, they just took like two of those weeks as unpaid and I was like, “Oh, OK, interesting.”

Tim: I found that, with kids, like there’s so many times when they’re sent home from preschool, there’s so many times when you’re juggling work and parenthood anyway, you may as well go do that somewhere else and, you know, combine a bit of remote working with a bit of vacation and find some holiday camps and kids’ clubs and enlist grandparents and yeah, you know, just change the scene.

Laura: Yeah, we’re bringing grandma and grandpa on part of our Australia hike, about a week of it. So I think my husband and I will have one night off maybe. Cuz that’s another thing when you’re on vacation, like yeah, if you don’t have kids’ clubs, it’s parenting around the clock. At least when you’re home there’s school or something.

But I also think we all deal with jet lag a lot. Jet-lagged toddlers. Do you guys have any hacks or places you refuse to go? Because the jet lag is just the worst.

Tim: Um, no, I mean, just it, jet lag is definitely like—time zones, time zones [are] definitely more of a consideration for me now. Just generally, I don’t really want to go more than a two- or three-hour radius in any direction with all of them, if possible. It definitely kind of refocused where I think about traveling and, yeah, certainly wouldn’t do any long-haul, super long-haul stuff.

Michelle: Yeah, if I’m honest, if I’m honest about it, I am stressed out about this trip to Europe because of the jet lag. But I also just felt such a need to do it now, that I’m kind, I like all the normal considerations, and I think this is a difference between, you know, what I’m doing is kind of returning to our [roots]—there’s like a real specific purpose to this trip versus a vacation that we would pick.

Because to Tim’s point, I would definitely, you know, in terms of vacation, we often just go north or south for‚ you know, like we’ll go to Canada or go down to Mexico. So we don’t, we can go somewhere beautiful and not necessarily work cuz it’s like, “I’m on [vacation], I wanna relax.”

In this case I feel like I’m just like, “We gotta do this, we gotta go, we’re gonna go, we’re gonna do it. And it’s gonna be, it can be painful.” But one thing—we haven’t experienced a ton of jet lag, like big, like, Europe jet lag with the kids, like 10-hour time difference. But we have done some, like, East Coast, like three hour. And one thing I do feel like people don’t give kids enough credit for is they bounce back pretty quick. Like we are like—I feel like we’re like the older one, like our bodies, like we’re all like, “I’m old. Yeah, we’re struggling.” My kids, like, one good night’s sleep, like maybe that first night or so where it’s like we’re a little all over the place, but, like, I get them to crash hard on like one night and they crash and they sleep and it’s like, we’re back. We’re back. We’re back in business.

Like, so I do feel like they, they definitely are crazy maniacs—they’re getting tired during the travel process. I feel like that part of it, the transition part is challenging, but I do, do feel like once they’re rested, they’re like fully a hundred percent back in business. So, and that part I’m sort of envious cuz I’m like, “Really? Cuz like I’m still creaking along.”

Sarika: So for, for us, like, it’s always, going east to west, there’s not nearly as much jet lag. So going west to east is actually the, the harder part. So for, for us, like, you know, most of our big trips that we’ve done have been back to the U.S. and then, so coming back, like, I just know that there’s gonna be five days where it’s just gonna not be the best.

And yeah, I agree with Michelle completely that kids bounce back so much faster and it’s annoying because you’re like, “I’m tired. Can’t we just all take like, just like sleep for another hour?” I feel like a lot of the tricks that work for adults also work for kids though.

Like, just try to make sure that they see sunlight during the daytime and, uh, and you know, try not to let them nap too much during the day and all of the same things that I try to do. I’m like, “OK, let me just try this on the little person and hopefully it works too.”

Tim: Does anyone use melatonin gummies?

Laura: Mm, not yet. Have you tried it? Does it work?

Tim: Yeah, which is, I find a bit worrying. It’s very, they’re, they’re effective.

Laura: For the kids and the adults or just, uh, who do you give it to?

Tim: Just kids.

Laura: No, the, the things I’ve started doing is if we’re taking a red-eye and we’re getting somewhere and we don’t have early check-in, I, I call it investing. I’ve been investing in a hotel room for the night before, like an Airbnb or a hotel room, cuz we have spent, like, an entire day hanging in the lobby of a hotel until they let us in.

And I, I never wanna do that again. Um, even if it’s in, you know, Seville or Lisbon, it, they’re beautiful, but you know, it’s still 6:00 a.m. and you have cranky kids. We also don’t really get on local time very well, which [to] me ends up working in our favor because it means the kids stay up later and we get to sleep in. And maybe we don’t get as much sunlight unfortunately, but we do get to go out to dinner, which is something that we don’t do that often at home. So, I’m kind of an, I’m an advocate for just, uh, sleep when you’re tired. But I might be in the minority there.

Sarika: Oh yeah, I have no, we have no schedule when we’re traveling. Like in terms of, like, bedtime, I’m like, “What, OK, it’s 10 o’clock. I guess a child should sleep. I don’t know.” In, in India, which is like where my family is from, um, there really is, like, no bedtime for children. So it’s like the whole concept of just keeping your kids like—you know, 7:00 p.m., put them down—is so foreign to me. So I’m like, OK, trying to do it because I know I should. But at the same time, if it doesn’t happen, I’m like, eh, “I turned up fine. It’s OK.”

Tim: Hmm.

Laura: You did. Um, I’m gonna switch gears for a minute and do, I don’t know, little debates. All right, let’s start with something that’s been in the news lately. Um, should kids be in first or business class? Should they be allowed there? Sarika, you had a good response to that at one point.

Sarika: Yeah. Well first of all, I don’t really get why it’s—OK, number one, I do get the [issue that], you know, kids don’t crave the legroom as much as adults do because they, you know, are smaller. But I, I remember so distinctly when I was eight and we got upgraded and I sat in business class and I got ice cream with a real spoon and I felt so fancy.

I just feel like why are we denying little people those luxuries? Like it’s, they’re so few and far between, and why not? I also feel like, I don’t know, maybe part of it’s that, you know, kids interrupt the elite beautiful nature of first and business class or something like that, to which I say that I’m just very thankful that I am living in Nairobi, where kids are just considered part of society as opposed to these, you know, little tiny creatures that you need to shove in a closet and put duct tape over their mouth because, you know, they’re not allowed to make any noises.

And I just, I don’t know, I just feel like parents are responsible for their kids. They can bring enough stuff to stimulate the kids, whatever that is, in order to get them to not bother other people too much. And also a lot of adults in business class are really annoying anyway, so I don’t see the kids as being any different. So that’s my, that’s my slightly rebellious answer.

Laura: Yeah. What do we do about toddler behavior in adults?

Sarika: Yeah, that’s true.

Laura: Michelle, have you covered this or did we talk about this, the idea of like an all adult cabin or an all adult airplane?

Michelle: I mean, it comes up every, you know, the issue of kids and flying comes up somewhat regularly. I actually just interviewed some Delta flight attendants about this very topic about flying with kids and a lot of the struggles. You know, my thing is, first of all, kids are people, like they’re people, you know, so even the idea that they wouldn’t be allowed in first or business class, like if they paid for a seat, they’re a person. And to—like Sarika made a point, like no behavior is never a guarantee, no matter your age.

I get it. I like—the other thing that I think is really interesting is I think people assume, just because I’m a mom does not mean that I like the sound of a crying baby. Like it’s, it is not a pleasant sound, but in no way do I think that the baby shouldn’t be there, you know? So I think this idea that, you know, whether or not babies or small children—you know, what part of the plane they should be on, you know, how they should be flying—you know, it doesn’t change in fact that, like, they’re still a human being. They’re with their family.

And another thing that I recently thought of is that, you know, there’s another argument that kind of comes up with kids and, and flying [which] is, “Well, why are you even taking them? They don’t, they’re not gonna remember anything. Why are you taking the baby?” Like, you’re, you know, everybody, it’s—um, we’re also bringing our children to see their family, and a lot of the joy that that brings to elderly members of the family who maybe can’t fly. Even just in this discussion, think about how many of us are talking about trips in which we’re going to see family.

So this idea that yes, it’s absolutely privileged to be able to fly with, and I feel so grateful that I can fly with my kids, but this idea that I’m necessarily, you know, that I’m just taking, you know, a baby on a vacation that they won’t remember, that’s not always the case. So much of the time when people are traveling with kids, they’re bringing those children to see family members.

So I just think, in general, um, I wish there was greater acceptance and, you know, just get some, you know, noise-canceling headphones if you know that that’s something that’s gonna bother you. The toddler kicking on the back of the seat, I get it. That’s not cool. You know, when my kids do that, I’m, like, horrified and I do everything in my power to, like, physically block them from [doing it]; that’s not OK.

But something like a crying baby, I’m sorry, it’s just part of what—my mom has this great saying, “the art of living in society together,” and that’s part of it. We all live together in society with babies, with older people, with people with disabilities, with people with all kinds of issues.

You know, I wish, I wish there was just more acceptance and more of that kind of community like Sarika’s saying and other, like, embracing where you have other passengers help, you know, offering to help with the baby versus shunning, you know, babies and small kids on airplanes. So that’s my, you know, that’s my tirade. I’ll get off my soapbox. Clearly I have feelings on the issue, but.

Laura: Yeah. Plus one to everything you just said.

Tim: Mm-hmm.

Laura: It drives me nuts. Like I think kids can learn by osmosis too in a way, right? I mean, this idea that it’s, you’re just bringing a baby along for the ride. Like Tim, we were talking about just the beginning of this podcast. I do think my kids are more adaptable because they are and they like the pursuit of new things. They are curious. Would they have been curious just, like, through DNA? Perhaps. But we are giving them opportunities to explore, and I wouldn’t trade any of that, even if they can’t remember anything that happens before the age of four, you know?

Sarika: Also they, they also learn that what they think is normal in one place is not normal in another. Like even if they don’t remember exactly, like, they’ll remember they went to someplace where, I don’t know, toilet paper isn’t normal or they went to someplace where, you know, they always eat fruit in the morning.

And I think it’s just like a really nice thing for kids to be able to grow up with that idea that, that places are different but people are still living there and living life.

Laura: Amen. I mean, those are all such good points and I’d love to finish off with some of our favorite places we’ve been with our families, could be U.S., could be global, that you would absolutely recommend. Sarika, where do you love to go?

Sarika: I’ll put a plug in for Kenya. I think Kenya is such a great family-friendly destination. Um, you know, Ayla has been on, I counted, I think seven or eight safaris and uh, and you know, she’s three. So she is a faster animal spotter than most adults that you see, um, you get in the car. She, she knows all of their names and she’s just like such, so keenly observant as a result. So, it’s, I feel like going specifically on safari with a child is one of the best things that you can do.

Laura: Awesome. Michelle, what about you?

Michelle: Um, yeah, I. I’ll put a plug in for Vancouver, Canada. We did it back when Niko was two, or just about to turn two. We got in that one last trip before they’re not a lap child anymore, you know, every parent knows. And, uh, the, the advantage was no jet lag. We were going north. We got a little taste of international travel. You know, someone could say Canada’s a little international travel light, but still another country with different customs.

It’s cool. So it was a great summer destination, versus going somewhere too hot and, and really forested. So lots of hiking and outdoors and along those lines. I also have to put another plug and it’s so cliché, but the national parks. We got our kids, those national park passports where you can mark off all the national parks and we’re just so excited to go through and mark them off.

And they have the little junior ranger programs at each national park. So I know it was, you know, huge during the pandemic and they’re never, I mean, the national parks are never gonna get old, right? It’s like, they are really, I feel like the great American commodity.

Tim: Yeah, I took Oliver to Yosemite when he was young, and all the big open spaces of central Southern California have been great. We had real fun in Big Sur wading through rivers among the trees, and there’s a place called Carmel Valley Ranch, which is a sprawling, uh, ranch-style hotel up there in Carmel. And, yeah, we just, we’ve made a lot of good memories in California. On those like less than two-hour road trip journeys.

Laura: Yosemite has that great Evergreen Lodge. I think maybe Michelle or Tim, you guys recommended it. I love that place.

Michelle: It’s great. It’s amazing. It’s so great for families.

Laura: And, a few last-minute favorites. I have loved Portugal with little kids. It’s such a welcoming place for families. Everything from, like, the automatic families get to go first in airport security lines to pregnant women get their own parking spots. Playgrounds are next level. I feel like half of our travel is around, like, what new playground are we going to discover? So we spent a lot of time in, like, Lisbon playgrounds.

Scotland, equally, equally welcoming. Everyone just like, like you were saying about Kenya, Sarika, it’s just like, they’re just tiny humans, you know? They’re not subordinates, so to speak. So, so much of Europe, I think, acts that way. We were just in Italy with them too, France. So highly recommend those trips.

All right. Well, I think that’s about it. That’s all the time we have. We could talk for, like, four more hours, I think, but we all have work to do and you, you all have busy lives because you are parents. So thank you everyone. Happy travels and take care of your tiny humans.

Tim: For sure.

Sarika: Thank you so much.

Laura: Thank you.

Michelle: Bye guys.

Aislyn: And that’s our episode for today. Thank you so much for listening. And I hope that you gleaned some tips, if you’re a parent, about how best to coordinate your travels going forward with your kids, or if you’re not, just appreciating how difficult it is to move around this world with kids.

A couple of updates from both Sarika and Michelle; they both have taken their trips. And Michelle said that their trip went very well. The jet lag was nowhere near as bad as she thought it would be. As she said, during the episode, you know, kids are pretty resilient and she found that her kids powered through most days. She did say that Catalina took a monster three-hour stroller nap that first morning after waking up at 3:30 a.m. But she said that even that was kind of convenient because they could still explore while she slept.

And the food suitcase was a huge hit. She said it worked out perfectly and allowed the kids, especially Catalina, to transition to local food and snacks, rather than forcing them to try new things when they were still tired and adjusting to a new place and time. And then Michelle said, as their supply slowly started to dwindle, they started to experiment with local finds and managed to find both Philadelphia cream cheese in Poland and Romania, which Catalina loved with pretzel stick dips, but Catalina also fell in love with Romanian hot dogs. So, hey, she tried something new. And then they did empty the suitcase and bring it back filled with some toys and other, you know, travel souvenirs. So total hit there.

Sarika is having a wonderful time in London with Ayla right now. She said that they haven’t even had to plan that many activities since Ayla’s been so excited to, like, take the double-decker bus and the tube. She sent a photo of Ayla eating an ice cream cone the size of her head, which I think we’ll share in our Instagram stories this week. They’ve met friends around the city. They did take her to the Ai Weiwei exhibit that included his giant version of Monet’s water lilies, but made out of LEGO bricks, which Ayla really loved, even if she didn’t kind of fully understand the subversive nature of his art.

So that’s it. The trips went well. And like I said, once Laura gets back from her big trip, we will let you know how it goes. If you want to follow along with our editors as they travel with their kids, you can do so on Instagram. Laura is at @laura_redman, Sarika is @sarika009, Michelle is @michellehallbaran, and Tim is @timchester.

And AFAR is now on Threads! So please join us there @afarmedia. Ready for more unpacking? Visit afar.com and be sure to follow us on Instagram and Twitter. If you enjoyed today’s exploration, I hope you’ll come back for more great stories. You can subscribe to Unpacked on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast platform. And be sure to rate and review the show. It helps other travelers find it.

This has been Unpacked, a production of AFAR Media. The podcast is produced by Aislyn Greene and Nikki Galteland. Music composition by Chris Colin. And remember: The world is complicated. We’re here to help you unpack it.