Why People Don’t Travel, Part 3: Kids

Don’t let excuses hold back your travel dreams. Though many Kaleidoscopic Wandering readers are familiar with the travel industry, many others are not. As part of the Why People Don’t Travel series, I’m taking a hard look at five different things that keep people from traveling. In this series, I hope to provide solutions and additional resources for people who would like to travel more.

Today’s travel concern: “I have kids.”

Some people pack a bag and pick up for a weekend getaway. Others plan grandiose around-the-world travels that keep them on the road for weeks or months at a time. Still others take extended boating, biking, hiking or road trips that require dedication, skill, patience and flexibility.

This all sounds great for those who can pick up and go, devote hours on the road or are able to embark on a more adventurous trip. For some reason, though, people with children often find the idea of taking even a “normal” week-long summer vacation quite daunting.

Traveling with kids doesn’t have to be a major ordeal, and, in fact, those who travel frequently with children often say that it is among the most rewarding things they do as a family. The bottom line? Having children doesn’t have to stop you from traveling. In fact, I’ve encountered several families who do so and can’t imagine not traveling with their children.

This is not to say that traveling with children—as a single parent, with a spouse or in a larger group—is going to mirror that backpacking trip you took through Asia as a college student or will be as elegant and luxurious as the honeymoon you took in the Caribbean. Traveling with kids requires a different kind of mindset, one that encompasses flexibility, patience, a slower pace, adaptability, trust, creativity and an open mind, but parents who have taken their kids on the road will be quick to say that it’s completely worth it.

So … why travel with kids?

The easy answer is because YOU CAN. More specifically:

  • Children adapt easily. They don’t see language differences or skin color as a barrier. Kids of all walks of life will inevitably find something in common, regardless of where in the world they are.
  • They learn responsibility. By putting children in charge of tracking mileage on a road trip or their own small carry-on bag on an airplane ride, they feel important and learn to rely on their ability to make decisions.
  • Learning languages at a young age is easier. Children are better able to pick up a foreign language without laboring over the subject agreement and verb conjugation. In our ever-growing global world, immersing kids in a foreign language at a young age is not only easier for them, it’s the smart thing to do.
  • Travel builds self-confidence, open mindedness and understanding. It is easy for children to become isolated in a comfortable world that revolves around their friends and school. Introducing kids to different living conditions, lifestyles and traditions helps expand their worldview to include something beyond their backyard.
  • It provides context and is educational. Perusing children’s versions of Homer or The Iliad while wondering among Greek ruins and checking out the English countryside while reading Harry Potter means a lot more than reading them in a closed-up bedroom. Learning about volcanoes or traditional Native American practices will leave a lasting impression if combined with a hike on a volcano or visit to a Native American village.
  • Action is better than sedentary living. Too many children grow up with the television and their video games. When they travel, they live in a three-dimensional world and they stay active.

Here is the secret to traveling with kids: Traveling with kids requires a different travel style. Again, flexibility, patience and a go-with-the-flow attitude will greatly enhance any travel experiences you have with kids. To get you in that mindset, here are a handful of tips for traveling with children:

  • Don’t jam your schedule with activities. Kids need down time, nap time and playtime, so make sure you carve out some schedule-free hours to accommodate those needs. Find a balance for both your travel desires and their desires by visiting a museum or a site in the morning, then spending the afternoon at a pool, playground or park.
  • Pack new toys, books or movies. In addition to some classic favorites, it doesn’t hurt to buy a few new dollar store toys that can be pulled out at a moment’s notice for those last few hours of a long flight or as rewards to good behavior.
  • Take breaks. On long road trips, take time to stop for lunch, bathroom breaks and to stretch and run around. A couple minutes of fresh air can go a long way for a couple hours of peaceful driving.
  • Maintain a familiar routine. Even though you’re in an unfamiliar environment, maintain some routine practices such as reading a book before bed and turning off the lights at a normal time.
  • Eat breakfast in. Kids are hungry in the morning, so even if you’d like to go out for breakfast, make sure you have some bagels or dry cereal and juice boxes on hand to tide over any morning whining.
  • Maintain health. Germs are bound to be abundant wherever you travel, so make sure everyone in the family washes their hands frequently. In your travel medical kit, carry ample supplies of children’s Tylenol, a thermometer and any other medications your child may need, and address illnesses as they arise.
  • Involve them in decision making. Your kids can take part in planning the trip, especially if they’re aware of what you’re doing and where you’re going. Read books and watch movies about your intended destination before you leave, and ask them what they’d like to see once you arrive. If you’re traveling as a large family, make sure everyone gets to do at least one thing they’d like to do on the trip.

If you’re beginning to think that traveling with your small ones may actually be an option then now is the time to start planning your next trip because it’s never too early to expose your children to the world beyond their front door. There are a lot of details to be considered when getting ready to hit the road with your kids, but the good news is that someone else has already done all the things you want to do.

Check out the extensive list of resources noted below, all of which are written and maintained by traveling parents. Among these sites you will find product and place reviews, how-to tips, best-of suggestions, packing lists, information on where to find family travel deals and much more.

Resources for traveling with kids:

  • Have Baby Will Travel – Corinne McDermott provides an online guide for traveling with children, including tips and information, trip reviews, packing lists and family travel deals.
  • Travel Mamas – A community of men and women who not only want to survive travel with their kids but also want to love exploring the world with their families.
  • Delicious Baby – A frequent traveler with three young children, Debbie shares news and information that impacts traveling families.
  • Ciao Bambino! – This site provides trusted and reliable accommodation recommendations written by and for parents.
  • trekaroo – Reviews of kid-friendly hotels, activities, and travel tips for family fun.
  • Traveling Mamas – Created by several mothers, this site provides tips on great and not-so-hot places to visit and information on how to plan the best family vacation.

If you’ve traveled with children in the past, what suggestions do you have for other parents who would like to do so? What other resources do you use when planning family trips? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Photos courtesy of woodleywonderworks, clappstar and paulhami.

20 Responses to “Why People Don’t Travel, Part 3: Kids”

  1. Spencer Spellman

    Very good. Some great resources above. This is one of the things I hope my wife continue to do as we decide to have children. I would suggest not cannonballing and taking a two-week trip to Paris for your first vacation with kids, but rather to work up to it so you don’t get burnt out and so your kids are able to enjoy it too.

  2. Barry McConnell

    One reason I love cruising is how kid friendly it is. I took my daughter on her first cruise when she was 5. She got her first lesson in haggling in Mexico getting a little dress she wanted. It helped instill in her a sense of confidence that makes me proud today. In fact, she loved it so much she was married on a cruise ship and they cruise for their anniversaries.

    • JoAnna

      Thanks for stopping by Barry. Is there a particular cruise line you would recommend for traveling families? I’ve traveled with Holland America and the demographic seemed to be a lot older than I think would be fun for most kids.

  3. jessiev

    i don’t get why people with kids say they need to wait until the kids are grown to travel. traveling with your kids opens your eyes to new things, and further cements your bond as a family. we LOVE it.

  4. soultravelers3

    Great post! Thanks so much for including us!

    I’ve done single travel, couple travel & even 3 generation travel,and the very best way to travel by far, is as a family! 😉 Kids are the best way to meet locals & seeing the world through your child’s eyes is astounding & heartwarming.

    As you mentioned, we have been traveling as a family non-stop since 2006 & love it so much that we see no end in sight. 4 continents, 32 countries & over 175,000 miles so far ( most overland) while traveling & living large on just 23 dollars a day per person.( Even in “expensive” Europe). It’s heaven on earth for us!

    Families worry about the money it costs, but traveling is not expensive, especially slow world travel, which is best for kids. The educational & bonding benefits are mind blowing. Kid’s are natural explorers & adventurers who thrive on travel.

    70& of families dream of extended travel & 60% of all schools will be virtual by the end of this decade. Today one can work & school ANY where & by doing that, get the best possible education for global citizens of the 21st century. Families deserve MUCH more than just one week a year.

    We’re monolingual parents raising a fluent trilingual ( Spanish, Chinese, English) who also learns the basics in every country we visit.Europe is ideal in seeing so many cultures & languages in a compressed area. She is a kid who never even took a bus before we left when she was 5 and now at 9 is perfectly comfortable finding her way on cargo ships, trains, buses, planes, sailboats, horses, ferries, camels, and subways/mass transit in major cities around the world. That alone is an education!

    The keys to traveling as a family is to go slow and travel light. Even when we go for months at a time in 3 seasons of weather using all kinds of transportation, we just carry a daypack each and that includes up to 3 laptops & homeschool supplies. Less is more. Small RV is also a fantastic way to travel with kids as are monthly furnished rental homes.

    Also use kids books before, during & after travel ( I’ve got great lists on my website for kids of all ages) as it enriches the travel & makes it more their own. We often make up itineraries based on kids lit! Paris is much more exciting for a 5 year old if you are looking for Madeline’s house or having hot chocolate where Linnea did.

    If you homeschool, you do not have to be dependent on school schedules and can get much better deals to take a “world field trip” when it suits YOU. I just did a detailed post on “roadschooling” while traveling & have many on that topic.

    As the world get’s smaller, family travel, ( especially extended travel) now, more than ever is a great investment in your child’s future that will give them insight, greater compassion and advantages in our coming world.

    International family travel is no longer just for the rich as we prove on a budget that almost anyone can afford! My passion is to let people know that it is easier, cheaper & more enriching than most people realize!!

    • JoAnna

      Thanks for the comment! I think it’s important for people to realize that it’s not only possible but also affordable to travel with children. And while homeschooling during extended travel is definitely a possibility, it is okay and very realistic to take shorter trips as a family as well.

  5. Nancy D. Brown

    I love to travel, but I don’t love purchasing round trip airfare for four adults, (two teenagers and two adults.)

    In my experience, it does become more difficult to travel with teenagers due to conflicting club sport schedules (if they play high school sports.) I took my teenager on a cruise to Alaska and she moaned about missing high school registration day, summer parties and her friends. Speaking for my teenagers only, they prefer to spend time with their peers than good old mom and dad.

    I agree; travel with kids when they are young!

  6. Have Baby Will Travel

    Thanks for the nod! Pre-kids, I never traveled as much as I wanted to… If we had the time we didn’t have the money and vice versa. Now with the two kiddos we make a point of budgeting for at least 2 getaways per year.

    At almost 4 1/2, my daughter doesn’t whine “Are we there, yet?” – it’s “When are we going?”

    • JoAnna

      I love that your daughter asks “when are we going?” That’s a great attitude for her to grow up with.

  7. Chris Jackson

    Nice post. As an expat living away from my home country, my family travels quite a bit internationally–both for pleasure and out of necessity. I have always felt that it has been worth the challenges. We have been pleased to discover that many of the destinations in our region of East/Southeast Asia are fairly kid-friendly, Thailand and Bali, Indonesia in particular.

    • JoAnna

      I’ve heard that Asia is particularly kid-friendly. Thanks for making note of which countries are particularly good for traveling families.

  8. Chris

    We traveled to Bali with our son when he was six months old (a belated honeymoon). Everywhere we went, the Balinese were anxious to help with the baby–shop owners wanted to hold him while my wife browsed, restaurant staff wanted to play with him while we ate. At first it’s a little surprising when a waitress suddenly whisks your child off to the kitchen when they get the least bit fussy, especially if like us you are used to not relying on others. It’s a bit like having a whole island of nannies and/or overbearing grandparents just waiting to spoil your child. It might be a bit much for some understandably protective parents, but you get used to it as you realize its just a manifestation of how much the culture cherishes children.

  9. Tawanna

    Great article. Just wrote an e-book (www.momandkidstravel.com) on traveling with kids, giving parents (moms in particular) a system to de-stress the whole travel and travel-planning experience.

    • JoAnna

      Thanks for providing the link to your eBook! That’s a fantastic additional resource people can use to make traveling with kids so much easier.

  10. Kimala McConnell

    There are several cruise lines that are specifically catering to families now. Disney is probably the first one that most folks think of but you’ll find that Carnival is also right there when it comes to kids programs and qualified staff. The other consideration is what kind of staterooms are available when traveling with families and groups. Many of the cruise lines are now providing larger cabins and more with balconies and outside windows at cheaper prices. This is a great time for people to take advantage of some of the discounts available. When looking to book the family staterooms, I would recommend booking early.

    Here’s a link to some detailed info on kids and cruising: http://www.cruisedork.com/need-to-know/how-do-i/kids-cruising/

    • JoAnna

      Good to know, Kimala. I remember going on a Disney cruise when I was a teenager, which is actually sort of an awkward age to be on a cruise with your parents. 🙂

      I’m sure that the programs for kids have gotten much better over the years, and, considering how affordable cruises really are, it’s probably not way to plan a family vacation. I appreciate you suggesting it to our readers.

  11. Zorianna Kit

    This was great! A reminder of the things I’m doing right (and should continue doing) but also a reminder that that there are few things I could be doing better/differently. A great refresher course!
    Hope all is well. It’s been one year since our trip to Honduras. Too bad we can’t all have a one-year reunion.
    Hope your pets are doing great!

    • JoAnna

      Thanks for stopping by Zorianna! My pets are fantastic … thanks for asking! Happy travels!

  12. Tyler Muse

    I like how you point out the advantages of traveling with kids, one of the major ones being that they don’t see differences. As someone who’s worked with children and witnessed this myself, I think embracing and seeking out benefits through this can really contribute to a life-changing moment at a young age. Especially the language thing. Learning a new language at a young age is one of those things that will stick with and continue to benefit you for life!

    • JoAnna

      I’m a huge believer that traveling with kids is incredibly important. Not only do they learn languages easily but they adapt well to changes.


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