Years ago when Chad and I were working in Denali, Alaska we met a couple traveling with their ten-year-old son. I’ve met so many amazing people through all my adventures but this family left a lasting impression. We were eating dinner at our favorite restaurant ten miles down the road from the lodge where we worked. I recognized the family as guests at the lodge (we rarely had families staying there) and overheard them saying they were looking for a ride back to their room. We weren’t quite finished with dinner but offered them a ride when we were done. They took us up on the offer and we started talking.
This couple had traveled everywhere with their son since he was a tiny baby. They had so many amazing stories! Their son was like no other ten-year-old I had ever met. He was extremely outgoing and personable.
When we returned to the lodge we wished them luck on their travels and went our separate ways. Chad and I were fascinated with the family’s lifestyle. We’d never met anyone who was so adventurous after having kids. Chad chaulked it up to the fact that they only had one child and I had to agree.
Fast forward eighteen years and here we are, traveling extensively with an only child.
The ten-year-old we met is now older than we were when we met him.
I had no idea at the time, but meeting that family in Alaska was a foreshadowing of how our life would be. I’m sure that’s the reason they left such a lasting impression.
Is meeting that family in Alaska all those years ago the reason we only have one child? Nope. I had always imagined we would have at least two kids. It turns out that there are some things you have no control over. We are extremely fortunate to have Eli but having more children wasn’t a possibility for us. Regardless, we are taking full advantage of the benefits of traveling with an only child.
Advantages of traveling with an only child
The advantages of traveling with an only child far outweigh the challenges. I’ve found myself looking at families with multiple young kids at the airport and thinking “how do they do that?”.
The biggest benefit of traveling with only one child is the money you save. Buying one extra flight, dinner out, or ticket to an amusement park doesn’t break the bank. Buying flights, dinners, and tickets for two or more kids would add up fast.
Another huge advantage of traveling with an only child is you only have one child’s schedule to plan around when traveling. You can schedule your travel around nap time, bedtime, and mealtimes. I imagine it gets tricky trying to juggle two or more different aged kid’s schedules. It’s also easier when your child is in school to plan travel around only one child’s school schedule.
With only one child we can book three seats together on a flight and have the whole area to ourselves. Before Eli turned two we would always book the aisle and window seat in hopes that no one would take the middle seat. That way Eli would have a seat to himself even though we didn’t buy him a ticket. This strategy actually worked in our favor most of the time.
When traveling with an only child, we are never outnumbered as parents. It’s easy to keep an eye on one child even if I’m traveling without Chad.
Finally, Eli has more input on where we go and what we see when we travel. Because we only have one child to take into consideration when planning travel, it’s easy to incorporate some of Eli’s ideas throughout the trip.
Believe it or not – There are a Few Challenges When Traveling With An Only Child
Travel with only one child does has many advantages. But, there are challenges unique to traveling with an only child. The challenges all center around an only child’s lack of interaction with other kids when traveling.
Chad and I both grew up in big families. We each have three siblings. I always had my siblings to play with when my family traveled. When I told my older sister (who has four kids) that Eli would be our only child, her reply was “that’s not fair for Eli, who is he going to play with? Didn’t you like always having siblings around to hang out with? He’s going to be so lonely”. She voiced my concerns about having an only child exactly.
When it’s just the three of us traveling together, Eli usually has no one to play with but us. We are Eli’s only source of entertainment unless we allow him to use his tablet to play games, something that we’ve decided to use only as a last resort. Although we both love to play with Eli, playing with adults just isn’t the same as playing with other kids.
This can be tough on the whole family. There are definitely times when I wish I could tell Eli to “go play with your brother or sister” when we’re making dinner, or figuring out issues that come up when traveling. We are the only ones Eli has to play with and when we’re busy he gets bored. When he gets bored he acts up. It can be frustrating.
We want Eli to enjoy traveling and not feel like he’s missing out on playing with other kids.
Over the years we’ve come up with a few ways to solve the no-siblings-to-play-with challenge.
When we travel we make sure to visit some places where Eli can make friends and play with other kids. Whether it be a park, the beach, or a swimming pool. It’s worked out great so far. Eli has his dad’s outgoing personality and has no problem making new friends.
As Eli gets older I imagine it will get harder but we’ll look into other alternatives for Eli to meet kids his age. I’m sure there will also be instances where Eli will want to bring a friend along on a family trip. Depending on the destination, that is a definite possibility.
Another solution we’ve come up with is planning trips with other families who have kids. Traveling with other families takes a lot more planning but it is well worth it. Eli has friends or cousins to play with and we have our friends or siblings to hang out with. It’s a win-win situation.
Every family is different and I have to keep in mind that Eli’s situation as an only child is completely normal to him.
Although there are occasions when it would be nice for Eli to have a sibling to play with, overall we absolutely love traveling as a family of three.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on family travel with whatever size family you have.