If you’d told me, 2 years ago, that I’d be writing a blog on family travel. That I would be writing posts about amazing holidays or how to handle picky eaters…. Well, I’d have laughed. A lot. And yet here I am, writing a post about my top tips for travelling with kids! Turns out a lot can change in 2 years. I’ve had a lot of lightbulb moments in the last 24 months and I’m giving you my best bits!
6 tips for travelling with your kids
We used to be more of the fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants sort of people when it came to travelling. We loved showing up in a place and deciding there and then where we were going to stay. Meal planning was done according to when we got hungry and what we wanted to eat at that exact moment in time.
I know some people still do this with kids in tow but it’s just not for us. Not right now, anyway. And about 4.5 years after I had my first child, I stopped fighting it and gave in. We now book accommodation and transportation in advance (for the most part). I research restaurants ahead of time (including opening hours) and we travel with snacks and about a year’s supply of card games. We know what we want to do in each location and we know how long it should take. With the exception of our last holiday, I packed for pretty much every eventuality and we usually travel with all our own over the counter medicine (just in case).
Stick to a routine
This is a hard one, I know. Long travel days and potentially large doses of jet-lag are NOT conducive to sticking to a routine. Action packed days or even just days in a resort aren’t exactly what we’re all used to at home! And yet, there are things that you can do to keep the familiarity and routine of what you have at home. We travel with milk bottles and water bottles and lovies to give comfort at bedtime or in the middle of the night. I carry healthy snacks that I know will be eaten in case of a disastrous meal. We follow bedtime routines as much as we can – the same order of bath, bottle (or cup now) and book can be comforting.
Does it make or break the holiday> Maybe not for my kids but I do think it helps. And for some kids it might make all the difference.
When we travelled pre-kids we were on the go almost all the time. Occasionally we would allow ourselves a morning or a day on the beach. But the truth was we were usually bored after an hour or 2 and would be looking for something else to do!
With kids, it was a big wake-up call for us to slow down. As you all know, everything takes soooo much longer with kids in tow so that automatically reduces the amount you can get done / places you can go to / things you can see in a day. Not just that, even if you could fit in back to back activities with your kids, they probably aren’t going to want to do that. They’re far more likely to want to hang out on a beach or play in the pool all day! Unless, of course, that’s what you want to do, in which case they probably won’t lol.
This may be a surprising suggestion given I’ve just told you to be prepared. But bear with me…
Knowing our must-see things in a given location has given us the opportunity to know what we really want to do and what would be nice to do. Having ideas in our heads about where there are good places to eat means we can go straight there when hunger sets in rather than frantically searching on a café’s free WiFi for options close to us. Building rest days into our schedule mean we can switch them around if the family is flagging and in need of a break. And the great thing about having routines like bedtimes is that it should mean the family is as well rested as it can be… so the odd late dinner here or there won’t ruin the entire trip.
And here’s the funny thing. The more prepared we’ve been, the easier we’ve found it to be flexible.
It’s so easy to play it safe. Taking risks feels, well, risky. There’s so much potential for things to go wrong!
But let’s be clear here. I’m not talking about going bungee jumping with your four year old.
I’m talking about taking the train instead of getting a driver. Go to that destination that you think is a bit less touristy. If you’ve only got a day in Rome or Bangkok or wherever, do all the touristy things in one day and figure out a fun way to do it!
I was worried our kids would hate skiing, surfing and snorkelling but they didn’t. Our jam-packed itinerary in Jordan was a huge risk, but it paid off. They’re more resilient than we give them credit for and they will remember the awesome experiences far more than you think!
Now hanging out by the pool all day might be your idea of heaven. Or not. It doesn’t really matter. What does matter is finding some balance.
In fact, this is my number 1 tip! What that means to you and your family might be completely different to what it means to me and mine. And that’s fine.
For us, it might be the day when we went wandering around a quaint village in Lake Como but had taken a fun boat ride to get there. Or, on the same trip when we were happy to play mini golf right by the water where we could admire the views. Or it could be that day that we took a golf cart around Rome just so we could see all the sights. Or the day when we walked miles around Bangkok, taking tuk tuks and boats when we could and on the promise of a visit to a water park the next day. (All negotiated in advance).
I can’t deny that the days when we have had no balance have not gone well and the ones where we’ve had good balance have not. And I bet when you think about it, the same applies to you.
Emma’s a pushing 40, travel-mad mum to 2 young kids (aged 6 and 4) and a crazy dog. Originally from the UK she’s lived in 10 cities across 5 continents all over the world. She currently lives in Doha, Qatar. Emma started blogging about her family travels in 2017 when she had an epiphany about how to have successful adventurous family holidays.
You can follow Emma at:
Wanderlust and Wet Wipes: https://www.wanderlustandwetwipes.com