Traveling with kids a daunting thought? Afraid it will be hard and tiring?
You are absolutely right. It is. Raising kids is difficult and exhausting any day, every day. Travel days aren’t that much different, except that they can definitely be a whole lot better. Let me show you how to travel with kids without losing your mind and chances are you might even enjoy the experience. And perhaps become a little addicted like we did.
A Dutch/British expat family living in the Middle East, we have trotted 12 countries across 3 continents with our little ones, now 3 and 5. We’ve experienced first hand what being on the road can do to a family, how it deepens our relationships and broadens our horizons. It’s humbling, mind-blowing and exhilarating all at the same time. And incredibly addictive.
I wish every parent could experience that level and depth of quality time & mutual understanding. So here are my top 2 lessons learned from years of global family travel.
1.DIAL IT BACK
The most important and most effective trick. Also the hardest, nail this one and your desired Zen state is on the horizon!
Dial back your expectations – or maybe simpler: have none and keep an open mind.
Remember everybody was talking about that amazing new movie, that won all the awards and was booked solid for weeks after opening night? By the time you managed to go and see it, you were extremely disappointed. All those talks blew up your expectations into unrealistic proportions.
Now imagine you’d gone to see the same film spontaneously without seeing a trailer or ever reading a review. I’m pretty sure your experience would have been 100% better, you might even have been pleasantly surprised and willing to recommend it to a friend.
Travel is no different. Step in with the right mindset and your trip will be amazing.
2. DO THE GROUND WORK
There is something incredibly romantic about booking trips last minute and hitting the road without notice.
Don’t do it.
Even the most seasoned traveller would benefit from preparation once kids come into play. Trust me, doing a little research pays off, and I’ve learned the hard way.
That said, with a wealth of info instantly available at our fingertips, it’s easy to get lost in the realm of possibilities and become overwhelmed, discouraged even. Not exactly that Zen-state we’re trying to achieve, so here are some notes on how to make your research quick and efficient.
Ask yourself: Why are you travelling? Do you need to relax after a crazy hectic period at work or are you looking for inspiration for a new project? Bustling cities or deserted beaches, craving to feel the sun on your face or itching for a play in the snow? Your why limits your options and gives you focus instantly.
Consider the travel time to reach your destination. I currently cap flights at 7/8hrs, that’s my max. This means we can reach Asian, African and European countries, but the Americas and Australia will have to wait till kids are older (i.e. when their attention span increases so they can quietly sit through a movie).
Jet lag is a true monster with little ones. Consider travelling North and South to limit crossing time zones, 3hrs time difference can already change the dynamics and throw you completely. I vividly remember celebrating family Christmas in the UK, catching up with family till late and then having to entertain our infant son at 4am since he was certain a new day had began.
Some places, cities, countries are more expensive than others, so think where you’d get the most value for your money. Make sure you pay accommodation per room and not per person.
Timing hugely affects your finances. While the kids are still young, be sure to travel outside peak season, saving on flights, accommodation, entry tickets and avoiding the crowds.
Also consider the perfect weather conditions for your purpose (your why). Kids usually don’t mind the weather, but we definitely do! Check up on rainy season, and don’t forget to check humidity.
We once made the mistake to travel to Goa, India based on its proximity, laid-back atmosphere, lush scenery and seemingly perfect temperature. We didn’t plan for the 90% humidity, turning the holiday into one sticky sweaty affair.
ON HOW TO GET THERE
Road trips by car or campervan, using public transport or flying to your destination; Your options are endless and all are do-able with toddlers. When looking at flights, check extras like luggage allowance, meals and entertainment. When driving, consider travel time, petrol and toll gates.
For us the choice is simple. We fly everywhere. My daughter suffers from severe travel sickness, especially in the car. Every day to nursery (which is a 10min drive) I’m on the hard shoulder with some zip locks and a change of clothes, no matter what precautions we take (believe me, I’ve tried it all). So airplanes it is.
Those are my 2 top tips for every parent thinking of dragging their kids across the globe (and yes, you should do it, believe me, it will be so unbelievably worth while).
And if you’d like more tips to prepare yourself for the journey, just download my free guide The Zen Of Toddler Travel and learn how to simplify family travel.