5 Surprising lessons I learned from travelling with 4 kids under 5 (1)

Do you like to travel?

Do you love planning your next adventure?

Are all your daydreams about exploring new faraway countries and experiencing different cultures?

Yes, that’s me.


Me again.

I’ve always been that way. I feel alive when I have a dream. I really thought my wanderlust would just calm down once I had babies. My husband hoped my wanderlust would just calm down once we had babies. We were wrong.

Like every other area of my life creating baby humans ignited a huge thirst, desire and passion to expand, to discover and to grow. For me, that included showing my kids more of this beautiful world.

The Dream

In 2016 when my 4th baby was 6 months old my husband and I, our 5-year-old, 3-year-old, 2-year-old and the baby plus a suitcase full of nappies took 4 flights from the North of Sweden to the tropical island of Penang in Malaysia.

We rented a house and the 3 older kids went to a nursery. Our days there were slow. Beach life, delicious food and a fascinating education about the hotpot of cultures on that beautiful island.

From there we did a few trips to Langkawi, Krabi, Phuket, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok, always using Penang as a base. It was romantic, relaxed and we all appreciated the 6 months of summer.

The Reality

It wasn’t all sun, sea and instaperfect palm tree photos.

My 2-year-old decided he had a phobia of sand.

My 3-year-old refused to use any public toilet.

My 5-year-old developed an addiction to Thai food.

The baby had terrible eczema and had to always wear pyjamas in 30-degree heat.

My beautiful dreams of sunbathing and drinking cocktails while the baby slept for 6 months stayed in dreamland. I started to feel resentful and disappointed. I had huge FOMO.

I had to adjust my expectations. I had already moved the dial on my expectations as a mother, but I had forgotten to apply that to my travel expectations too.

I decided instead to feel so insanely grateful that I was sweating on the beach or swimming in the ocean in February. (My usual experience of the month of February is minus 20 and 1 metre of snow in Sweden).

I saw how welcome and accepted my children felt everywhere we went. I loved how confident they became talking to new people. They had so many interesting questions about the cultural differences, the temples, the monkeys, the palm trees, the ocean and the weather. My husband and I had to google a lot.

I adopted many local customs and one of them included booking a 30-minute massage on most days!

I changed my perspective and my whole travel experience changed.

It was such a privilege to have that precious time with my husband and children.

Even though daily life was very similar to our Swedish routine. Piles of laundry, poo nappies and kids refusing delicious food, just in a tropical paradise with lots of sun, sea and sand sprinkled between the laundry and nappies. Most importantly there was plenty of smiles and laughter.


5 Surprising lessons I learned from travelling with 4 kids under 5

5 surprising lessons I learned from travelling with 4 kids ages 5 and under

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1. Travel light. They actually do have nappies in Asia.

2. Ignore the naysayers and judgemental Jacks and Jills. They’re probably jealous because they’re too scared to go on their dream adventure with their kids. I was scared too, but like most things, it was much scarier in my head than in real life!

3. People are kinder than you think and love to feel helpful, just ask!

4. Kids are resilient and so are their parents.

5. Long haul plane travel and especially airport security is challenging when you’re outnumbered by your kids, but it’s all mindset. There wasn’t a huge difference in my experience between flying with my husband and 4 kids to Asia and flying alone with 2 kids to Scotland. I fake smiled a lot at the sleeping singletons and childfree couples accepted that I was going to be exhausted, and drank all the free drinks offered to me by the very kind air stewards. Ipads always help. I also recommend getting an FFA approved child airplane travel harness to keep your toddler from running around the airplane.

I would do it all again. I’m planning and dreaming up our next trip right now. This time with a 5th baby.

Thanks for reading!

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