People often tell me they cannot travel until their kids are older. Or that travelling with kids is too difficult and stressful and would rather stay home. Or packing for travelling with kids is a nightmare even to think about, let alone to undertake the task.
The truth, travelling with kids can be so much fun and it does not have to hinder your love of travel. For us the family adventure did not stop once the children arrived, instead it started!
Travel with Kids – Top 10 Tips
1. Travel Light
Instead of packing every toy incase your children may want to play with it, give them one back-pack to fill, one they can carry on the plane or in and out of the vehicle. With them picking out the must haves, you don’t end up with a suitcase full of Lego or 20 Barbies that end up not being touching. Less is always more on the road, and the lighter you travel the better for everyone. Especially for mom!
2. Bring Technology
I have heard from homeschooling and road-schooling families that they use travel time in the car for reading, or board games or even their homework. Excellent if that works for your kids, but it doesn’t for mine. At least not yet! Mine reach for their DSi games, iPhone for music and DVD player for the long rides as their source of entertainment. At the end of the day, you don’t get a reward for going technology free! Peace at all costs, I say!
In the back of the bus are usually two self-entertained children zoned out watching a movie, listening to music or playing one of their many educational video games. Occasionally we sing, or play eye-spy or talk, but usually it is short lived and they go back to their own activities. Giving mom and dad time to figure out where the heck we are going. I love technology!
3. Travel Slow
It is not the marathon trip it once was. With kids, travelling at a slower pace, we get to enjoy the places longer, and really absorb the culture. Once arrived at a location, we try not to jam pack too many tourist sites or activities into one day. The kids seem to like the first day to set up camp, they settle in and the next day we start exploring the outside perimeters. It works for us!
One-day travel 2 days rest is the ratio that works for us! This is another tip under the ‘Travel Slow’ rule of thumb. With road trips, some families want to go and see as much as possible, pressing the gas pedal the whole way as if on a mission. When travelling with little ones, it may be better to plan your days of rest too. When we stop in places for longer than one night we usually find other kids for Daniel and Angelina to play with, we get to know the locals better and even have a few well rounded meals over the camp stove. This gives us energy to venture out and explore in the area a bit more thoroughly. And makes, for us anyways, a more enjoyable journey.
No More than 5 hours in the van! Our family tolerance for long road travel may be different from yours. The Hamori family needs lots of short stretches, with stops on the side of the highways to exercise, with no more than 5 hours in the car in one day. Breaking up the day this way, they seem to burn off enough energy during a travel day and their normal routine is not terribly affected.
One of the best purchases we made on our journey were scooters for each child. Angelina picked a bright pink one and Daniel a bright orange one fromt he local Decathlon sporting goods store in Torokbalint. When we stop at a gas station or a park for a quick stretch, the kids grab their scooters and bomb around. They can keep up to us on our evening walks and don’t tire as easily when we have long days of exploration. Price $100, worth priceless!
4. Health Insurance
BCAA health insurance came in very handy when Angelina ran a high fever as a baby in Budapest and needed antibiotics or last week when my son Daniel broke his glasses in half! On some occasions I wouldn’t even bother with travel insurance, especially within your country of origins or close to home. But where international travel is involved and little kids or infants in the mix, it is a must. An over night hospital stay in a strange country can be very costly. Add in hotel bills for the spouse it can get astronomical very quickly. You will be thankful for your insurance policy the time you need it!
5. Little Snacks
I know it sounds hilarious, but keeping the kids (and ourselves) fed in between meals is an easy way to stop break downs before they happen. We all suffer from low blood sugar and once dropped we are like bears. Irritable family members in a small confined space are not fun for anyone to be around. Granola bars in mom’s purse, or bags of dried fruits and nuts in the glove box are easy solutions.
It is tempting to grab junk food on your gas station stops at the side of the highway. Avoid at all costs!! My kids, pumped up on sugar, stuck in a Van for 5 hours is hell on wheels! Nutritional meals on travel days are a must, and consistency makes happy travelers!
6. Plan For Laundry
This also follows under the travel light rule, where instead of packing duplicates of everything, my kids at least, wear the same things over and again as soon as they are washed. I have a giant IKEA bag I use for laundry and as soon as it is full, we plan a laundry day. The rule is to wear everything twice except underwear and socks! Most campsites have laundry facilities, and we hang the clothes around camp to dry. It is usually a stay close to home day, nicely pared with a movie night.
7. Prep for Next Destination
We like to tell the kids where we are going next. For instance, we leave for Italy after this weekend. I use the computer to show them on Google maps the route we are planning to travel. I show them the interesting sites along the way. It helps them to know where we are going and to know what to expect. For my kids, like many, they need structure to feel safe. Informing them of the country they never feel scared and love putting in their two cents towards the plans. It is a great road-schooling technique, one that my kids enjoy far more than learning from their textbooks.
8. Stop at Fun Places for Kids
The best thing about travelling with kids would be reliving your childhood! With stops at the zoo, the circus, playgrounds and Aqua Parks, even the beach makes for a fun family vacation that ticks all the boxes of interest. Where once we would go to each museum, art gallery, and festival, our plans now include a variety of fun places and even food choices specifically around the kid’s tastes. At the end of a long day it is far easier to accommodate a family of four, with two happy kids in the mix.
9. Listen to the Kids
What I think will interest the kids is not always the case. We have planned awesome excursions with them in mind, and at times their interest fizzles. Sometimes tired from travel during a growth spurt, or even on the edge of an illness, they are simply not up to the adventure. Know and read your kids, but also ask them if they are up to a day at an expensive play land like destination. Listening to them may save yourself a day of disappointment at a place that may not be your top priority to visit. Our kids do have down times when all they want is a warm hotel room and a special evening of popcorn and a movie, cuddled up with mom and dad.
I have to remember they are still little and it can be exhausting for us travelling for weeks on end, imagine how it affects them!
10. Make Time to call Grandma
On our adventures we round out our activities with weekly calls to the grandmas. They get to relay their adventure on Skype, and recap them in their own words. It was funny Daniel told them about a frog he and Angelina met in a marsh, and didn’t even mention the expensive Aqua World we took them to!
You never know what really catches their interest, and this is a good way to listen to what they liked best. I love to hear these conversations between the two generations. It is a great way for the children to share what they have learned, and learn to summarize their week into a short conversation.
I hope these tips help along your travels!
Happy Travels with kids!