Traveling together is one of the most rewarding things you can do as a family. That being said, traveling with kids does have a bit of a learning curve. Here are a few tips to make your family adventures as fun as they can be.
- Practice what you preach
Kids learn by watching. If you want them to be flexible and roll with the punches, you need to as well.
2. Talk about it
When you inevitably fall short of the “practice what you preach” ideal, own up to it and talk it through. Feelings are allowed and it’s ok when things aren’t perfect. Melted down in tears after missing that last train? Apologize for yelling, explain that it never hurts to have a good cry, and then start brainstorming solutions.
Warning – do this often enough and your kids will start doing it too. This is the goal. They will also start encouraging you to talk it through more often, which can be difficult advice to swallow when you’re feeling pre-apocalyptical. Choke it down for the greater good.
3. Pack Light – very light!
People always overestimate what they need on a trip. While this may not seem like a big deal, overpacking restricts where you can feasibly go and causes frustration at having to haul everything.
You should never let your baggage limit what you can do. How’s that for a life lesson?!
Here’s what you really need:
- 2-3 outfits (including the one you’re wearing)
- small toiletries
- 3-4 pairs of underwear and socks
- passport/driver’s license
- phone and charger
- Maybe a coat and hat, if you’re going somewhere cold
- End of list
Unless you’re going into the deep jungle, you can get anything else you need on the trip. And you’ll have a new experience (and some good stories) finding it.
This allows you to keep everything with you at all times. No checking bags, baggage claim, lost bags or having to stop at the hotel before you can go have fun.
4. Have kids carry their own bag
They’ll love the responsibility and the easy access. I’d recommend you hold onto their passports though. Also, put contact info in each kid’s bag, just in case it gets lost.
5. Let them take pictures
Kids love to take pictures. Doing so will enhance their experience and document their memories. You’ll love the things they find photo-worthy; interesting pictures on the sides of garbage cans; a pigeon; their own hand. Don’t micromanage it. Let them explore.
6. Be early for departures
It’s much less stressful to enjoy a croissant while you wait for the train than to come screaming through the turnstiles en masse at the last minute
7. Bring a couple granola bars – just in case
I don’t recommend bringing many snacks, as it’s always better to eat at cool little places along the way, but it’s a good idea to have a backup, just in case (for the kids – and yourself).
8. Bring medicine
It’s a good idea to have the basics on hand (Ibuprofin, anti-diarrheal, Tylenol, allergy meds). You don’t need a lot, just enough to get you out of a bind. While I always recommend shopping locally, trying to find a foreign Immodium equivalent, while struggling to hold in explosive diarrhea, in a foreign language is not at the top of my list.
I’ve ingested medicines whose identity I’m still not sure of. Now, that’s never good.
9. Have everyone memorize a few basic phrases in the local language
- Thank you
- Where’s the bathroom?
- May I please have –
- How much is this?
10. Double check your document requirements
Click here to find out what you’ll need for each location.
11. Bring a carseat if you intend to travel by car – otherwise, leave it at home
12. Prep for the plane
That ear pressure feeling is rough, especially for kids. Give babies a bottle to suck on. Kids can pop their ears by sucking on a sucker or chewing gum. Teach them to yawn to alleviate pressure and pop their ears.
13. Stroller or sling
If your kid isn’t old enough to walk long distances on their own, bring something that makes it easy to carry them, like a sling for babies and a cheap-o stroller for toddlers. If it’s especially hot, go with the stroller. If your baby is especially clingy, go with the sling. Here are my favs.
14. If you have more than one little one, plan accordingly
When our kids were tiny, I carried the baby in a sling and put the toddlers in a stroller. We used velcro strips to combine the strollers when one person was pushing and took them apart when we were in tight spaces or when we could both push.
15. Be happy where you are
It’s easy to always be focused on the next sight or experience. But remember, simply sitting on the steps, eating something delicious and watching passersby is an experience in and of itself.
Look for the good in each experience, even the unexpected ones.