On July 7th 2017, my wife and I welcomed our baby daughter to the world. I’ll spare you the details, but we were fortunate to become parents, so it seemed appropriate that her birthday was 7/7/2017 – Lucky 7s!
Immediately after she was born, people would comment about how things would change. They claimed that we would no longer have time for ourselves and we would have to give up the one thing we loved most – travel.
We would laugh out loud whenever someone suggested this. Sure, travelling would be different now that we had a child, but the thought of giving up travel completely was absurd.
The truth is, we’ve been preparing for travelling with a baby for quite some time.
Picking our destinations wisely
When it came to children, fortunately, Carla and I were on the same page. We both decided that before any little ones arrived, we would try to mark as many destinations off our bucket list.
The idea was to travel to destinations that were adventurous, meaningful, and slightly more difficult to appreciate with a child.
We went to Italy for our honeymoon since that’s where Carla had dreamt of visiting. The following year we headed to South America where we enjoyed the delights of Rio de Janeiro before heading to Argentina where we hiked a glacier.
When it came to our next destination, we decided on the Middle East. We were a little worried about political unrest in the region, so we booked the 9-day Jordan & Egypt Express trip with Intrepid Travel since it was a small group tour with a local guide.
Our group and the leaders were excellent. We all came from different parts of the world, had different religious beliefs, but we all got along great. I suppose that’s easy when you’re experiencing awesome things together such as sleeping under the stars in Wadi Rum and exploring ruins in Egypt.
Other adventures we took before the baby arrived included a road-trip down the Pacific Coast Highway, bouncing around various cities in Europe, and an epic trip across Japan.
Taking small steps
As much as we love to travel, it wasn’t realistic for us to assume that a newborn would enjoy it as much as us.
An opportunity came up to visit Philadelphia with the family which seemed like the perfect first destination to visit with our baby since it was only a two-hour flight and there would be no time change. To be honest, I was mildly terrified about the idea of flying with a four-month-old, but it ended up not being a big deal since she wasn’t fussy on the plane.
We arrived at the city and did what we always did. We took public transportation from the airport to our hotel. In hindsight, we probably should have took a cab since lugging a baby on the train with luggage is no fun.
Once we checked in, we were ready to explore. It was just like any other trip, we checked out the major attractions and picked a few nice restaurants to try. Sure, we had to take more breaks and spent more time at the hotel than we ever did before, but it confirmed that travelling with a baby was not nearly as difficult as people made it sound.
Our next trip was to Disney World when our baby was six months old. People thought we were crazy to go to Disney when our daughter wouldn’t remember anything. Umm, we were going for us, not her. She may not remember the details, but I have pictures of her grinning like crazy when she met the toy soldier from Toy Story. That’s a memory my wife and I will never forget, and it wouldn’t have been possible if we didn’t take this trip.
Living the dream
Since Carla was on maternity leave and I was self-employed, we knew we had the flexibility to take an extended vacation. We decided to head to Europe for three weeks, but struggled when deciding the cities and countries we would visit.
We initially flirted with the idea of bouncing around Scandinavia since the train ride between major cities was only four hours. That sounded great as experienced travellers, but since we would be travelling with the baby, we realized all that train travel would likely be a nightmare for her.
After trying to make various routes work, we settled on a week in Rome and two weeks in Amsterdam. Those choices may not seem very adventurous, but this was a different type of trip for us. The idea of spending an extended amount of time in cities appealed to us since it would allow us to live like locals. It helped that we had been to both destinations before so there would be no pressure on us to see all the typical tourist attractions.
Truth be told, it didn’t matter where we ended up. We were just excited about the idea of travelling with our baby and exposing her to new things.
Rome is known as an open-air museum, so it was a thrilling experience just wandering the streets with her. Everywhere we went, locals would stop and smile and call our baby “Piccola” which translates to little girl. Our baby may not have appreciated the history around us, but she definitely loved all the extra attention.
Our time in Amsterdam couldn’t have been better. For two weeks, we explored various neighbourhoods, embraced the Dutch life, and hung out with family.
Friends we met in Jordan on our Intrepid trip even came to visit us from Antwerp. They also had a newborn girl who was just a few months younger than our baby.
We talked about how it was even more exciting to travel now with a baby since we got to experience things through their eyes. We also talked about how the girls already had a friend in each other living across the ocean. Maybe they’d pick up after their parents and fall in love with travel; perhaps they’d even travel together.
Travelling with a child is random. You never know what will happen next or where things will take you, but isn’t that what makes travel so great?
Ready to have the adventure of a lifetime with your family? We take children as young as 5 on our family trips; check them out.
(All images c/o Barry Choi.)