I often hear, “We used to travel, but then we had kids.”
Having children does change your life forever, but it does not mean you have to stop traveling. Traveling is different once you have kids, but can still be fun and rewarding. Our daughter took her first trip on a plane when she was 6 weeks old. She was 9 months when she took her first international trip.
If you want to make traveling a priority for your family, here are a few simple tips for traveling with children.
1) Kids can travel at any age
Infants and young toddlers often have the advantage of traveling for FREE. You do not have to pay for their own seat until they are over 2 years old. Nap time can be an opportunity for a leisurely sightseeing car ride, or a chance to travel to the next town. They cannot talk much, so you won’t hear them complaining about what they don’t want to do or that they are bored. Bring some extra diapers, formula, baby food, your best stroller and child carrier, and you are ready to go.
For kids in the late toddler and early elementary ages, staying active is the key to a great vacation. Find a local park or playground; you can soak in the culture while they burn some energy and meet some local children. Play hide and seek in the museum, castle, among ruins or outside admiring a spectacular view. Explore the town or nature on a short walk or hike.
As kids reach late elementary and teen years, they are now able to manage most things on their own. They can handle most of their own luggage, walk further and partake in more activities that are of interest to you, including snorkeling, horseback riding, zip lining, river rafting, bike tours, Segway tours, rappelling and many more!
2) Look beyond hotels
Apartments or houses offer a little extra room for the family. Parents can put the kids to bed and stay up for some alone time. Having a kitchen gives you the option to make a few meals, creating a feeling of familiarity that sometimes kids need, while also saving money and not having to eat out every meal. Bed and breakfast options, farm stays or other accommodation types will even serve meals in a home-like setting. Bring a baby monitor and you can put the kids to bed, while you delight in a home cooked meal just one floor down. Often times you will find toys, play structures and animals that can occupy the kids.
3) Don’t over plan
Our rule of thumb is one attraction that the adults want to see and one good meal per day. Once you have that plan, it is time to go with the flow with the kids. Toddlers love a park, no matter where you are. A giant piazza in Italy or plaza in Spain is great for just running around. The kids love it and you can enjoy the sites and ambiance of the local area.
4) Beach vacations are great for any age
For some reason, water, sand, waves, and the sun just never get old. But the beach doesn’t have to be just Florida. Think outside the box, like Sicily, Portugal, Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua, Mexico, Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Belize, Caribbean islands, and more. As they get older, you’ll find boogie boards, surf lessons, snorkeling and other excursions to explore the area.
5) Involve the kids in your planning
Once the kids are older, start involving them in the planning the trip. Show them options of where to stay. Let them research places to visit on the trip or provide them a list to research so they can choose what sounds interesting to them.
6) Have snacks on hand
Nothing is worse than a hungry child. Be sure to have snacks on hand all the time, and especially for the plane. Many children do not like airplane food (many adults don’t either for that matter!). On overnight flights, kids may be asleep when breakfast is served. Having a snack available when you are waiting in immigration, transportation lines or car rides is critical.
7) Be patient
Being a parent takes patience to begin with, but when you are traveling, you need to have an extra dose (or two!) of patience. Know that it may take a little longer to get through lines, find your luggage and get situated. Although sometimes airport personnel will fast track families to shorter lines when traveling with small children.
8) Don’t be afraid to bend the rules
While on vacation, there is no harm in eating a Nutella crepe or ice cream every day. If your kids are picky eaters, feed them what they want first before taking them to the restaurant you want to try.