We arrived in Santiago city just over a week ago. My husband is visiting car dealers and private sellers in search of our perfect and cheap home on wheels (casa rodanates) so we can begin our journey through Chile. We have given ourselves 2 weeks to find a vehicle but that may have been ambitious! In the meantime however, I’ve been entertaining the kids – a one and a three year old. Not easy in a foreign city, but do-able. We have tried and tested every park we can find within walking distance! However, today I decide to go and visit a museum of which there are plenty.
Most museums are closed on Monday. It’s a Thursday so we are off to a good start. We begin the 40 min walk. First stop, a protest.
Not uncommon here, and it is more like walking through a national day celebration. Chanting, drumming, whistle blowing: think ticket tape parade. Its day 6 of hospital staff protests and it’s still going strong.
We continue on, its hot. Clear blue skies and 30 degree weather, almost everyday. We should be at the beach, but the closest seaside town is 2 hours away and the magnificent open air pool in the city doesn’t open til 25 November, 3 weeks away.
My 3 year old son is getting tired, so he has a turn in the pram and I carry my one year old in the handy ergo carrier. I can sense we are getting close – yes, there it is, the Museo de Pre Columbino, but its shut down for re-construction. I had even checked first on the internet and it said some exhibits were still open.
not a good sign….
I’m worn out, so I go to Plan B – head to the park!!! On the way, I see a “I love smoothie” sign – perfect. I love smoothies too. So we stop. Passer bys look at me – I have two blonde kids, it’s normale! Then I notice, the Bhang lassi sign…. oh dear.. I check with the waitress – please no drugs in our smoothies.
We finally arrive at the park – my sons are pleased. I’m pleased too – the museum will have to wait for another time…..
fascinated with the water fountains
So, what to do in a city then? Do as the kids do….. chase pigeons in the park, throw stones in the water fountains, or jump in if you can (kids not you!), run through sprinklers, play hide and seek, stop for a delicious gelati, head somewhere cool…… Most of all, RELAX….
So why come to Santiago to visit parks and playgrounds?? Well, for older kids walking around a city may be interesting, but for littlies, its hot, tedious, boring and could be a precursor for potential meltdowns!!
running through park sprinklers on a hot day
Definitely, sightsee but chose your places well (especially in hot cities) and especially when on foot – the journey can be as interesting (and tiring) as the destination, try not to squeeze too much in and do your research as best as you can beforehand.
While your kids are playing in the park, they will soak up the atmosphere of being in a different city. Meeting kids and other families, who will stop and say ‘hola’, notice the street vendors, the yellow fire hydrants, the street dogs who wander and flop in the shade, the noise, smells and the general feel of the city they are in.
During our stay, we have done some sightseeing as a family, peppered amongst the administrative boring jobs – of going to dealers, government offices, accessing money (an afternoon filler in itself) as well as the everyday stuff (supermarket shopping, park plays, library visits, even attending an English speaking mum’s group).
The city has a good transport system but the metro underground stations are mostly accessed via stairs (some do exist with lift access – good luck finding which ones!).
Otherwise, walk (enjoy the freedom of not having a car), catch a taxi (reasonably cheap) or catch a bus (if you can work out where you need to go).
See recommendation of things to do in Santiago which are free and fun in my next blog
Travelling with kids is a lot of things…. it can be challenging, intense at times, tiring, and trying…but its not impossible and nor will it kill you (can’t promise your sanity will remain intact though). It will broaden your understanding of what is possible and you will look back and be amazed at the places you’ve been to, and the experiences/emotions you’ve shared as a family – nothing like 24/7 living to really get to know one another. Sometimes our imagined fear is much worse than the reality itself.
If you enjoy or like to travel for an extended period than you can either chose to keep on travelling and do it with your kids or you can wait til your kids have grown up and left home. Current statistics put kids flying the coop at early 20s or later and so your faced with the other potentially disastrous situation with leaving the kids at home to look after the house (parties alert) while you travel….
I remember as a 20 year old, making grand travel plans with my boyfriend at the time, who simply turned around and said – these are your dreams not mine…. which is true for your kids as well – it’s important to remember whose dreams they are. However, sharing your loves and interests with your kids is a wonderful thing and giving your kids the opportunity to see you; mess up, get lost, work things out, try a new language, communicate beyond language, make friends, discover new places etc is all part of life’s learning curve…. We want to travel as a family so we can share these experiences together… BUT we also know that are kids are on this ride with us… and it may not always suit them. It ‘s not a one size fits all approach, but about finding how to travel that suits your family at the time.
I don’t know what the future holds. What I do know is that my partner and I have both lost our mums at a young age, and that this time, right now, is as good a time as any … At a time when our peers are making career choices, investing in business, renovating, re-locating to a second or bigger home, we are not… its sometimes a scary feeling that in some ways our “progress” in the ‘real’ world has stopped… we are not making money but we are spending it fast…. However this is our family’s story not anyone else’s…. and so we all chose our own stories to write.
Travelling with kids takes on a different meaning. I have travelled previously as a single person and as a couple with my husband. Travelling at that time was about going somewhere on a whim, changing countries as often as you change underpants – catching planes, overnight trains without a moment’s thought, walking everywhere, eating poorly/living cheaply, leaving the doldrums of routine and responsibilities behind, getting through your book wish list and writing journals while lazing on a beach, cafe, park, lake/mountain side/whatever (ALL DAY), getting lost and not caring, going to places with exotic sounding illnesses and hoping you didn’t come home with anything other than a funny tummy, experiencing the culture, and working/volunteering for travel. Essentially an exercise in real self indulgence and complete escapism.
Well let me tell you that there is no escaping from your responsibilities as a parent when travelling with kids. In some ways its a little easier (because there’s two of you, so its shared), but a lot harder in other ways because there is just the two of you the entire time… through sickness, jetlag, moments of insanity. You thought negotiating with a friend/partner traveller was hard in the past (remember the silly arguments of deciding where to eat, where to go, sleep, etc) well now you have 2 other little travellers whose needs often take priority and there is little room for negotiating!!
Yes travelling is different, but hey, my kids have adjusted pretty well to this whole travel thing, so now its our turn to re-adjust our travels from a single person to a family unit… its not so hard..
Travelling as a single person vs travelling as a family
I’ve had very different experiences of cities/countries I’ve been to as a single person and then re-visited as a family – some have been better experiences, others, well they’ve just been different.
As a single person, I travelled and saw mostly cities in South America. This time as a family, we have spent more time in the countryside (which is amazing by the way) than the cities.
My experience of London as a 20 something year old, was mainly about work, nightlife and living frugaly in an 8 person share house. I spent the last two weeks before flying home doing some last minute half hearted sightseeing. Sure, I enjoyed having a walk (as a means to getting somewhere) through some of the popular parks but its a completely different experience when your hanging out with kids in some of the most beautiful parks in London.. It becomes a lifestyle and a necessity when apartment living. I’ve never been a keen fan of taxodormy, but kids love being able to see wild animals at close range without fear. So this time around, I’ve loved visiting the museums, the parks, and have met lots of other international families along the way. Sure I’ve missed out on lots too – special tours, audio commentary’s, interesting exhibits like the crown jewels at the tower of London. But I’d like to think, my kids have saved me a lot of time. As I’ve walked past the enormous queue’s at a lot of these attractions, I just think… I’m glad its not me….
Travelling with kids can be really fun especially seeing things from a kids perspective.. You get to enjoy being a kid again too. Next time, you factor in legoland, a trip to disneyland, a puppet/kids show etc, just check whether this ones for the kids or secretly for you too…
Kids are more likely to be “out there” and this will get you all sorts of experiences you couldn’t get even if you paid for it….No matter how interesting you think you are, kids are just much more fascinating without having to try too hard… and people are more interested in you as a traveller because you are travelling as a family…
On a ferry crossing in Chile we had two local musicians hand their drum over to my son to join in their impromptu performance, we’ve had a busker improvise a song for our son just for him, a female quartet came over to serenade us when my son – the only one – got up to dance to their music… So you get to enjoy a myriad of unique experiences which will be part of your family’s travel stories and you don’t have to do a thing….your kids will do it for you…naturally…
My kids are littlies, yet they are still learning lots during our travels overseas… My son knows what country/city we are in (although he did shout out excitedly that he had the American flag, when he was handed a free British flag..opps!), what oceans we have crossed, what local animals look like (in real life not just from books), what Spanish/French/etc sounds like. My sons might not be able to articulate everything they see and learn but the interaction they have with the country and the people, have been absorbed by them and will make up the glomerate of experiences that is their world and form their behaviours…. In Chile my eldest son built volcanoes out of sand, in Argentina his favourite word was “vamos”, in London he played all sorts of games/stories that involve animals from the woods, knights/towers, in France he learnt about donkeys and built castles out of rocks and it goes on and on…
I can’t tell you whether its best travelling with little ones or older kids… each will have their own pros and cons…. From our perspective, all ages are great and it doesn’t matter when you go. Each time it will be a different experience and perspective based on your kids life stage/personality at the time.. My one year old, can still go to a museum and have a valuable experience, seeing the animals, being able to touch and feel specimens etc…The next time he goes, he will experience it differently again and something new will catch his eye or he will see the same through his 18 month old perception.
If you see travel as stressful, difficult or a nuisance, than odds are, you wont enjoy it with children… travelling with children wont make adjusting to a new language, culture, finding your way around and dealing with challenges any easier.
We came to the conclusion that even without trying too hard my kids are getting something wonderful from “just being” wherever it is they are. Learning about the big wide world can happen by bringing the world to our kids, allowing them to explore while still in the safety and comfort of a parents arms. To learn that the world is really on their front doorstep, to really care about the world by seeing all the wonderful things on offer, and to learn that it doesn’t have to be a scary, dangerous or fearful place, and in fact that there are children like them all over the world that aren’t so different after all..
So our kids have found new friends in playgrounds to play with even when they don’t speak the same language, experienced the diversity of an international city like London, visited some of the local or best museums in the world – imagine going to see the dinosaur bones that were dug up in that precise region (Argentina/saurus) and discovered that Chile doesn’t mean spicy or even cold – its an actual country!
If you really want to have an adventure, jump in the deep end and go for it.. and don’t forget the kids!
After enduring a 15 hour flight from Melbourne to Santiago with two young kids (a 3 and a 1 year old) no one at the end of the flight planted a “we survived the flight” sticker on me…. They give those stickers away for almost anything these days! Passengers clap the pilot when they land the plane, yet where’s the clap for the families and the “Yeah you made it!” in return?!
Preparing for a trip overseas with kids can be a bit like planning for labour and birth.. You spend a lot of time worrying about the flight (labour) and less time on what will happen once you get there (baby arrives). The if’s and what’s of the flight seem to preoccupy the mind. Questions such as, how will it go (I’ve never done this before!), and what to do if it all goes pear shaped run through the mind. Its unpredictable, uncertain and most likely painful…. Like birth, there can be things you can take to make it easier, or you can go au natural…. However, no matter what happens, you can’t go back or stop mid flight…. you just have to see it through!
After about 12 hours or sometimes two days, it’s all over …. Your ecstatic…. Suddenly your faced with the realisation that what you’ve been planning for months has actually happened and here you are in a new country about to embark on a life changing adventure….. You even consider doing it again once the jetlag and flight become a distant memory.
We chose the most direct flight route. Melbourne (Australia) to Santiago, Chile with a stopover in Sydney. We could have saved $1000 per ticket if we had gone via the Middle East but it would’ve meant 39 hours on a plane.
We flew during the day, not that we had much choice. It worked out well as the kids began the journey fresh and well rested after a night’s sleep. An early stopover meant that the changeover of planes happened early in the flight rather than interupt a potential sleep moment…
The flight to my surprise, went quite smoothly. I even got to watch a whole movie and this never happens at home…! There were some testy moments but this can happen at home without having the added stress of being in an overcrowded space for a prolonged period.
My 3 year old happily watched ABC for kids epsiodes, we read stories and books together (always worth taking some of your own entertainment and snacks!) He managed a little nap but no more…. By the time we reached 9pm our time, we were trying to help him wind down for some more sleep, but then the cabin lights went on and it was breakfast time…..
Our 1 year old, was the only one who really managed to rest, napping easily on me. Despite, thinking it would be a struggle to hold him the entire time, it was enjoyable and comfortable ( I sat there and watched a movie!). He required a bit more effort in the entertaining department when awakebut we let him have regular crawls and look out the window. Our fears regarding the flight was worse than the reality!!
After such a long flight, it was a relief to arrive in Santiago at 9am (midnight our time) and to be processed quickly and efficiently. We were ushered to the “preferential” aisle bypassing the horrendous immigration queue. This is common in Santiago – there is often a special aisle for pregnant women, families, elderly, people with a disability. It was fantastic. By this time, my eldest son was exhausted as were we….
See next blog – Tips for flights with kids
Living life on the move – by road, foot, sea and air