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.