Family life

Family travel: Easier as the kids get older

Susan Goldberg finds her sons are now at the ideal age for travelling.

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Photo: iStockphoto

Thunder Bay, Ont., writer Susan Goldberg is a transplanted Torontonian and one of two mothers to two boys. Follow along as she shares her family’s experiences.

I took the boys to Florida over March Break to visit my father and stepmother. We’ve made the trip as a family every year for the past six years, but this year, for the first time, Rachel had to work and so I took the boys on my own.

I admit, I was nervous about the prospect: two kids, six plane flights total, and just one of me. I had visions of children pulling me in opposite directions, of tantrums at airports, of one kid running off to the pool unsupervised while I dealt with the other, of being frazzled and overstimulated and exhausted.

Just to complicate the equation, we were travelling during a month-long household moratorium on iPods. That’s a whole different story, but what it meant was that I didn’t have the option of distracting Rowan and Isaac by thrusting electronic babysitters into their hands the moment they declared they were bored.

A recipe for disaster, all of it?

I suppose it could’ve been, but the truth is—drumroll please—that we had a great time.

OK, I admit that the kids watched TV and movies on several flights, but they also read, did math problems, waged Pokémon battles, played cards and Connect 4, made Rainbow Loom bracelets, and just stared out the window and marvelled at the clouds. At one point, Isaac climbed into my lap during a layover and just cuddled for an hour, while Rowan read the seventh book of the Harry Potter series, and I was happy that they were getting some real downtime. In addition to the games, I had packed a bunch of bulk-store treats, which I dispensed at regular intervals to keep things interesting.

In Florida itself, I discovered what it means to travel with a nine-year-old and a six-and-a-half-year-old, as opposed to, say, a four-year-old and a toddler. This is what they call the Golden Age of parenting, when your kids can run free and you know they won’t go too far. The boys had strict instructions not to go into the pool without me, and they stuck with the program. But every morning, immediately after breakfast, they ran off to the clubhouse to play pool and ping-pong (and to drink their pop), while I lingered over a cup of tea and tidied up and got ready to join them. And then I read my book poolside while they played together in the water. (And yes, I also got the pool and horsed around with them, to.)

And although I didn’t have Rachel around to pick up any slack, my father and stepmother pitched in, taking the boys to the driving range, on the occasional outing, or just hang out while I went for a walk or even for a workout.

In any case, it’s not hard for things to be easy when the sun is shining and you can go outside in shorts and bare feet after the most frigid winter imaginable.

The trip wasn’t all sunshine and roses—literally. We got stuck in Cleveland on our way home because of inclement weather. The hotel I managed to secure for the night was a bit on the grotty side, and by the time we got on the final plane of the journey Rowan and Isaac had absolutely descended into the wrestling-and-poking-each-other-constantly phase of travel. (If iPods were an option, I would have gladly thrust some into their hands right then). Mid-flight, after one too many brotherly altercations, I finally extracted myself from my conversation with the lovely woman seated next to me and separated the boys. Done. We got home tired and with a few more freckles and otherwise pretty much unscathed.

And we’ll do it again next year. I’m even looking forward to it.