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Traveling With or Without Kids? A Dad's Experience

I've been fortunate enough to be able to have a holiday without kids for the first time in 18 years?

view of airplane wing from window

Well, here’s something a bit a different from my usual articles and whilst this isn’t a travel blog, I thought I’d share my thoughts on the difference between traveling with kids vs traveling without as I’ve taken a month off to travel alone over to the UK.?

Now I’ve traveled a lot in my life, I used to live for it. I still love seeing new and interesting places. I love the excitement that comes from the second I step into an airport, having my passport checked and jumping on a plane.

But once the kids were born travel became tricky from both a financial and practical aspect. Having grown up in the UK, before moving around and finally settling down in Australia, I still have family and friends in the UK and so traveling usually revolves around visiting them. It’s fair to say I haven’t been away without children until this trip I’m on now.

Traveling with kids

Since our first was born, going anywhere outside the house was stressful. You couldn’t just pick up the car keys and head out. There’s nappies and changes of clothes, water bottles, snacks, entertainment and everything else to consider. And that’s just heading out to do groceries!

So imagine the stress and planning that goes into an overseas trip. When my daughter was 7 months old we took her over to the UK so we could introduce her to everyone. Given the length of the journey we decided to break it up with a couple of nights in Malaysia. A couple of nights stopover somewhere on the way to the UK has always been a mini holiday for me since going back to the UK is kind of going home and not technically a holiday.

Not Quite the Same

I remember how tricky and stressful it was. Wonderful? Yes of course, but still stressful. It wasn’t so much the planning and execution of the trip that was the main issue but some of those other considerations that plague the mind. You see, I know from experience just how annoying a crying baby can be on a flight. Until I had one of my own, I used to swear under my breath at people for bringing babies on planes. Why did they have to go on a plane knowing the baby would cry and scream and hate it? Why don’t airlines offer child free flights? And other ridiculous, selfish thoughts.

Now I'm The Bad Guy

And now that was going to be me. The parent who has a baby on a plane. Knowing that no matter what we did, there was going to be 24 hours on this sealed fart tube where there’s a high possibility of screaming and crying going to occur. People would now be looking at me and swearing under their breath just as I did, shooting daggers and quietly seething. Funny how your whole outlook then changes when the tables are turned and I start viewing other people as the ones with the problem, not me for having the baby.

In the end, the benefits of the trip far outweighed the hassle of having Jemima along for the ride. She got to meet all my family (my ex-wife’s family are from Brisbane), I was proud showing off what we had created. The trip was greatly dictated by the needs of the baby (as expected) and I would say the overall trip was successful but not something I could have done on my own at that point. Jemima’s mum was the baby master, I just felt like a spectator in those early days.

The journey home did have some difficult moments, the memory that sticks the most is when at the stopover in Kuala Lumpur we both found ourselves sitting in the corridor outside the hotel room backs against the door crying from jet lag, exhaustion and a baby that wouldn’t stop screaming for the same reasons. I’m sure every parent has had these types of moments.

Glutton For Punishment

Two years later we went back again, this time with 3 children (all under 4 years old) and we knew what to expect and had a wonderful time. In the years that followed, we returned to the UK every couple of years with the kids. As they grew older we did more and more exciting things, road trips, visiting castles, traveling over to Europe and exposing them to as much culture as possible they couldn’t experience in Australia. You can check out other articles I've written about traveling with kids here.

Covid then hit the planet hard and traveling was a no go.

And...We're Back

In 2022 when travel was kind of back to normal I decided to take the kids over to the UK (this time as a single dad) for a month with a few days stopover in Dubai. By now my kids were nearly all teenagers and so the whole process was much easier. They knew what to expect, I knew what to expect but the stress level was still with me. You see whenever you’re out the house with kids you’re worrying about where they are, what happens if they get lost, what if they get injured, where the nearest hospital is etc. When you’re overseas, that stress is multiplied by 5 and double that again when you’re somewhere that doesn’t speak your native language. I have to say though, kids being old enough and independent enough made the whole thing so much easier than the same trip with toddlers and young children.

Flying Solo

So 2023 rolls around and I decide as my parents aren’t getting any younger I need to head back over and see them, as well as catch up with other family and friends. This time traveling without kids after 20 years. And Woooooooah, what a difference. I’d forgotten just how easy it is to travel on my own. No-one else to look out for or worry about. No kids laying all over me asleep on an already uncomfortable 24 hour trip or asking me 'Are we there yet?' Arriving the other end at passport control with only myself to worry about and only one set of luggage to grab off the conveyer belt, I could just 'sail' through the airport not worrying about keeping track of others.

So I finally arrived at my parents place after the long journey, still getting my head around the time difference and still having to deal with jet lag. Apparently jet lag isn’t caused by traveling with children (who knew right?).

I made plans to visit family and friends from Uni, some of whom I hadn’t seen in 20 years. These are the friends who I never visited when I had kids with me because when I have the kids, it's a holiday for them, where we need to do things and have adventures. There never seems to be enough time to catch up with everyone I’d like to catch up with. Sitting around listening to me catching up with old friends isn’t too appealing for them.


But then something happened I hadn’t counted on. I felt kind of lost without them. The friends and family I want to catch up with have got their daily lives to be getting on with. They’re at work dealing with their own families, while I on the other hand am on holiday. They can't just drop everything and spend time lazing around and having fun with me as much as I would like, just because I’ve decided to turn up for a beer with them.

So I found myself at a loose end, a little bored, almost lonely. I don’t want to visit castles on my own. I don’t want to go to Legoland or theme parks by myself. I was lost, fumbling for things to do to pass the time.

Yes, catching up with friends and family is wonderful. I had many special moments I couldn’t have had traveling with kids, and I needed more, but without that I found myself missing home a little. The holiday it seemed, wasn’t quite as fabulous as I had dreamed up in my head. Maybe a month is too long for a solo holiday in the days of Dad-dom. It was necessary though, it needed to happen. But I think next time, I’ll take the kids along with me again!

A lonely traveler

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