Impact of Maternity Leave Policies on Traveling with Kids

International Maternity Leave Policies

Almost five years ago my husband and I honeymooned in Sardinia (Sardegna) Italy.  We picked the location because we wanted a place where we could sport climb and relax on the beach, plus I was excited to see a part of Italy I hadn’t seen before.  While we were there, we were excited to see a German couple with two young children – one still in an infant carrier and one was about three.  The couple was climbing a route while their children played in the sand.  It was such an inspiration to us that we decided that our love of adventure could certainly accomodate children and that there was no need to wait to start our family.  We were pregnant within the month.  Two kids later I can see that we had skipped some vital researching and had simplified things a bit. . .we saw what we wanted to see.

Cala Gonone (or was it Cala Luna?)…One of the Cala’s in Sardegna, IT

Fast forward 4 years to last May, when we took our young children on a two week trip out west.  While spending the week at Bishop, we ran into a number of families – all of them German – traveling on extended trips with their very young (less than one year old) child/children.  I wondered, are Americans just less likely to have kids if they are climbers?  Or are they less likely to travel with kids to outdoor/climbing destinations than their German counterparts?  Are Americans more likely to travel without kids rather than take them along?  I don’t know the answer to any of that but I do have one explanation for the difference.

I spoke with the couples we met and quickly realized that they were all on some extended family maternity/paternity vacations. . .traveling for months in the US because they had the paid time from government family leave.  See chart for a summary of maternity leave (and then click to see the same chart for paternity leave) around the world (international maternity leave policies).  I have not done this research myself so I hope you’ll forgive me any inaccuracies.  I think the charts are simplified, as I know that some countries allow the maternity leave to be taken by either the mother or the father, and/or split so that both parents take some of the time.  Either way, you can see that the United States is terribly far behind in offering paid parental leave.  This policy difference certainly has an impact on the ability of American parents to take extended vacations with children in comparison with their counterparts in other countries. Here’s the article and report from February 2011 by the Human Rights Watch.

While traveling to climbing areas around the country, I often hear people asking where are all of the American families? In fact, I’ve said it myself.  Well the answer is that traveling with kids for any extended time is a luxury that most can’t afford.  Those families that do travel with kids usually do so via weekend stints within driving distance or once-a-year trips that last a week or so.  Those trips usually entail camping and forgoing modern conveniences to make it a more acceptable expense.  As a family, my husband and I are willing to make that sacrifice – and we meet people here and there willing to do the same. Still, it seems like even those of us who “rough” it are able to do so because of the luxury of a steady job, a good income, good vacation benefits and reliable health insurance.  I wonder (and would love to hear from others) do other people (some of those non-parents living a more “adventurous” lifestyle) sacrifice having kids because their lifestyle doesn’t provide healthcare and/or paid leave?  People choose not to have kids for many reasons – I’m just wondering if this is one of them.

New River Gorge with Kids

New River Gorge Climbing Trip We finally made our way back to the New River Gorge in West Virginia for a weekend of climbing.  It has been years (pre kids) since we had been to this area as it seemed to be a bit less kid friendly than other areas that we had been to.  Our app was showing predictions of snow on Friday night - and it wasn't far off.  The drive took us eons, especially in the Appalachians with the travel trailer.  We … [Read More...]

Hiking in a Creek

Have you ever started out on a day hike with children only to have it turn into something completely different that what you planned?  Ha. Of course you have. Many of our adventures start out as one thing ("I want to climb X route" or "sleep at X campground". . . "I want to relax in a tube on the water", or "I want to sleep in the sand") and end up as something completely different ("The route had a group staked out on it for the day" or "I couldn't … [Read More...]

Climbing Gym Etiquette With Kids

Tips for taking kids to the climbing gym. There are few things more troublesome than going to a new place and not knowing the spoken and unspoken rules.  Add to the uncertainty the presence of children, and it can be quite intimidating to enter into unknown territory.   For those new to indoor climbing and/or new to indoor climbing with kids, here are a few tips for bringing your kids to the gym. Those that know me will laugh at the irony. . . My … [Read More...]

Stand Up Paddleboarding

The best rock climbing areas tend to be located in or near wilderness, national parks, mountains, and forests.  There are exceptions, of course!  Still, when we took a family trip to the jersey shore this summer, there was no rock to be found.  As usual, my husband and I sought out something both "active" and "family friendly" to try with the kids. Surfing, Kite Surfing, Kayaking Ryan has wanted to try surfing for years, but that's a solo endeavor, as … [Read More...]

The Mount Rushmore Dilemma

Visiting Mount Rushmore with Kids Our summer trip to Wyoming and South Dakota was amazing.  We combined climbing with family time, history, geography, science and more.  When we planned the trip, climbing was the main focus, but hitting some of the National Parks and National Monuments were also a must.  Mount Rushmore is one of those locations that combines both.  There are amazing climbing opportunities in the shadow of the National Monument.  There are … [Read More...]

About Laura Boniello Miller

Laura Miller is a internet marketing professional and a mother of two. Her interests include sport climbing, bouldering, reading, traveling, and spending time with her family. She believes that playing outdoors is integral to health and well being, and that if your kids aren't dirty, they haven't had enough fun.


  1. I think you bring up a great point. It's a shame that our maternity/paternity care system sucks. To be honest, its part of why we waited so many years to have kids – we wanted to "get the 'real' adventuring" out of our system first. Thankfully, we were pleasantly surprised to find out how easy and ful-filling it has been travelling and climbing with our little guy :)