Zen and the art of traveling with four year olds 

Step 1: Never forget that you are not on vacation. 

It’s an endurance test, you need to keep everyone on an even keel and the prize is keeping everyone on an even keel (doh!). Think the Food Network show where they have to cook without proper kitchen equipment. You are parenting in the wild and dealing with unfamiliar everything but trying to puppet master everything to be normal. 

Step 2: You will do a fraction of what you want to do

Write a list of everyone you want to see and things you want to do. Half it, then half it again. Then strike everyone off your list that won’t come to you. Then panic that family and friends will get upset that you don’t have time to see everyone when it appears that you are “under scheduled”. Then remember that you can count on one hand the number of family and friends who have visited you in the ten plus years you lived abroad and half the list again. 

Step 3: You will spin plates and move mountains to keep mealtimes, TV time & bedtime consistent with home 

Small children like routine and consistency. Even if the majority of their regular day is unstructured play they like to know that food will appear at predictable intervals, and that if they get a chunk of screen time after lunch that they can still get that wherever they are. So you’ll spend your vacation menu planning and cooking. 

Step 4: Everyone needs to stay hydrated and you need lots of coffee 

When in doubt find a cafe. Works every time or at least delays everyone’s melt down. 

Step 5: Everyone needs a stipend  (especially four year olds) 

It doesn’t have to be much just a pound or two for each museum or place of interest you hit that has a gift shop. Enough so that the children can buy something small to help remember the trip and you know hold their shit together when they are somewhere that they didn’t choose to be (regardless of how cool the place is). 

And you need a reward for getting through the vacation because you won’t actually get to browse or shop at any of the gift shops to you go to. 

Step 6. You will all get sick

And then you’ll end up doing even less. 


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Antoinette Meredith
    Mar 22, 2016 @ 04:12:38

    I used to visit my parents in London every year from Canada with my three kids. Once I boarded a plane with one on my back, one in a stroller and one holding my jacket..I think you ‘re doing really well. As long as they have some good memories one day, you have done a good job! Mine remember the shops in every museum and things like the dinosaur at the Natural history Museum. They are all grown up but the memories stuck.



    • Leah Hung
      Mar 22, 2016 @ 07:11:29

      I always remember the hunt for really good chocolate cake as a kid. As long as we got to a cafe for tea and cake I could endure anything!

      And at least Z & N are the same age so require the same stuff 🙂



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