For those of us that love to travel, it is natural to want to share that passion with our children. Taking family trips creates lifelong memories, exposes children to differences in cultures and customs, and opens up the narrow view that we can become encompassed by in the day to day of our normal lives. However, traveling with children requires preparation, patience, and practice to avoid creating those memories of family bickering and the time when mom got out of the car and threatened to walk home!
Here are a few top tips for traveling with children:
1. Create an itinerary that can wiggle.
Mapping out the key points of your trip is essential to keeping a routine and schedule while you are away. Try not to pack each day too full of activities. Instead, create a realistic list that can “wiggle”. Is the weather going to be terrible tomorrow? Squeeze in one more outdoor activity and push bedtime back a little tonight. Having flexibility in your schedule will allow you to still enjoy all the highlights you are hoping to see while ebbing and flowing with your children’s needs (hunger, exhaustion, and the 1000 trips to the restroom you will make!).
2. Invest in a quality camera.
The trip itself takes up a small portion of your year. Put your phone away and trade it for a digital camera that will help you capture every moment of your trip. Make sure to get one with a self timer so you can all be in some of the pictures. No sitting it out, mom. Ask a stranger to take your picture and offer the same in return. Even in other countries, many people will willingly take your family’s picture!
3. Start small.
Kids need practice traveling. Start with an overnight at grandma and grandpa’s and gradually build your trips longer (and further if you please) to help them learn how to travel. Teach them pack their own bags - both clothing and entertainment. We also have our children carry their own luggage. Our daughter loves her scooter suitcase and so does everyone that she scoots by.
4. Pack a snack bag.
Mine is truly as much for me as it is for my children. Nonetheless, a snack bag is a must on trips of all sizes. Pack items that you don’t have to say “no” to. Try nuts and dried fruit, granola bars, suckers, gum, and goldfish. A well timed snack has saved many a day in our trips - my hangry self included!
5. Pick kid friendly activities.
This does not mean you need to go to Disney World! However each city we have been to has had a wide variety of options for entertainment. Picking activities that both adults and children will enjoy helps keep interest peaked and tempers calm. Our family loves outdoor vacations. Whether hiking trails or exploring different beaches, outdoor activities seem to please. When we do venture into museums, we try to find a balance between ones that are displays and ones that are interactive. There are so many amazing museums out there - you can surely find one that is right for your crowd.
6. Make dinner reservations.
Breakfast and lunch are easy to grab on the go or have at a hotel or Air BnB. However, I have found having dinner reservations allows us to find some calm at the end of the evening. I love picking local places and encouraging the kids to try something new. On our last trip, we started writing down all of the different fish and meat we tried and got to over 15 different types! Make your reservation later than you would make it at home, allowing yourself time for a shower and / or a happy hour beforehand. Dinner is typically the “last stop” each day on our trips with kids. Grabbing a local chocolate bar to share or snagging ice cream on the walk home is a special way to end the night.
7. Make a photo book.
Since you already invested in the high quality camera, put your pics to good use in a custom photo book. You will look back at it for years to come and remember something special about the most random photo in the book. A photo book also helps younger travelers remember trips for years to come. Try to jot down funny jokes, locations, and other details that may seem small at the time - they can end up becoming the best parts of the book!
Traveling with kids is an art form. At each age and stage, your family trips are going to look drastically different. Planning trips that are right sized can make all the difference. Look for direct flights whenever you can and find ways to minimize the time spent transporting so that you and your family can enjoy every minute possible of your trip!