A fairy-tale trip to Disney World, an extravagant overseas adventure, a lengthy road trip across the country; these ideas all have one thing in common—they are going to be anything but picture-perfect if you have kids in tow.
Travelling with your children always seems like a good idea when you begin the planning process. Maybe you’ve waited until they were the “right” age. You’ve probably been saving every spare dollar, maybe you’ve even been accumulating necessities for months before packing. All of these things can set you off on the right foot, but there is no telling where your trip will go from there. Here are the top 10 things you need to know before travelling with your kids.
The number one most important tip with regards to travelling with kids is to do your research. There are some great apps and websites out there that will help you narrow down the best family friendly vacation spots, including accommodations, where to eat, and things to do. You definitely don’t want to end up at a 5-star restaurant full of seniors with four kids in tow. Knowing that you have made all the right choices when planning your trip will help keep you at ease that things do have the potential to go smoothly, thanks to your research!
Okay, let’s be real, the last thing anyone wants to do in the hours before a vacation is clean, but your future self will thank you! Change the bed sheets, wash the towels, vacuum the floors, pick up the dog poop, and empty the dishwasher (maybe not in that order). Every small task you can check off before you walk out the door is one less thing you need to do when you crawl back through it a week from now. Arriving home to a perfectly clean house and clean beds to crawl into is the most beautiful blessing after travelling with small children. Get those PJs on and get under the covers, the suitcases can wait til tomorrow.
There is no sugar coating this fact, so let’s get right to it. This is a trip, maybe even an adventure, possibly a way to create beautiful family memories, but in no way is it a vacation for the adults involved. Travelling with kids (under 10 years old especially) is so much work that you will need a vacation after your trip.
Setting your expectations appropriately before leaving will be the best thing you can do to mitigate any potential disappointment, and planning your time wisely will help immensely too.
Part of planning your time wisely needs to include nap time for the littles, and quiet time for the bigs and adults. With all the added exercise, fresh air, sunshine (hopefully, for your sake), and excitement, even older children will find themselves worn out and cranky.
If you’re travelling to somewhere tropical, taking a post-lunch siesta is a great way to pass the hottest hours of the day in the cool air conditioning while napping, reading, or watching a movie. The rest and relaxation will allow everyone to feel refreshed for the evening when it starts cooling down and you can head back out for more exciting adventures!
Even if your kids are all great eaters normally, going somewhere new with different cuisine can throw them for a loop. Even if they still have their standard diet options like pizza and hamburgers, the way they may be seasoned or cooked may make them taste different, and tired, hangry little humans can find that to be a problem.
Beyond actually eating the food however, can be the struggle with the cost. If you are staying in a hotel or resort that isn’t all inclusive, it will take a lot of pre-planning to feed your entire family for less than a fortune. Take advantage of whatever appliances you have in your room - stock the fridge with breakfast and snack foods, and use the coffee maker, microwave, toaster, etc. to save yourself time and money!
Without a doubt you will experience at least one day on your trip where the weather completely surprises you. Whether that’s a cold snap, a thunderstorm, or unbearable heat, you will want to be prepared as best as possible. For a theme park trip that could mean bringing hoodies and rain ponchos, despite it being 100 degrees there.
For a camping trip that may mean bringing tarps and rain boots to stay dry. It’s one thing as an adult to be caught in an uncomfortable situation temperature or precipitation wise, but for a tired child it could mean the difference between having a meltdown and learning to dance in the rain. Always be prepared to make the most of all weathers!
Speaking of the weather, let’s talk about that big ball of fire in the sky. Everyone hopes for sunshine while they’re travelling, and while having beautiful weather is ideal, you also need to remember the downsides of a balmy sunny day. Sunscreen will be your best friend on your trip, even if you’re not going somewhere tropical. The last thing you need is a child with an uncomfortable sunburn while you’re on your adventures.
Look for an SPF that is higher than 30, along with being waterproof, and be sure to reapply as often as indicated. The sun can also cause children to overheat easily, so you’ll want to make sure you’re dressing appropriately, hydrating constantly, and being diligent about cooling off in the shade or air conditioning at regular intervals.
If you did your research while planning your trip, you no doubt have a list of exciting activities to do and maybe have even broken everything down into days. While having a plan in place is a great way to start a trip, it’s also an easy way to bring about disappointment if you don’t get to see and do all the fun things you planned.
Over-scheduling can also cause missed naps, too much excitement, and too much time in the heat (or cold), which can overstimulate and exhaust tiny travellers. Have a rough idea of the things you want to see or do, but try to take-on a laissez faire attitude when travelling with kids. Go with flow and enjoy the sights you do see, without focusing on what you’re missing out on.
It’s no surprise that despite the days feeling long with little ones in tow, your vacation will go by in the blink of an eye. A few weeks from now you will be struggling to remember what that restaurant was called that you loved so much, or where that beautiful hiking trail was that you found in the woods. Documenting your trip from beginning to end is the best way to ensure that you’ll be able to hold on to all of those amazing memories, and is especially important if you have toddlers, or preschoolers with you, because they won’t remember the trip at all in just a few months time.
Photos are great to jog the memory, but videos are even better - you can literally hear the excitement in their little voices and watch their eyes sparkle with joy. It’s these little details that you want to recall years down the road when they’re grown and gone from your home. No one ever complains about having too much footage of their children.
Sometimes when you envision this beautiful family vacation, you think about what the best parts will be. Maybe you’re imagining your child’s first airplane ride, and their amazement as you creep higher and higher in the sky, or perhaps there is really exciting attraction you’re taking them to and you think their heads will just explode with excitement. However, kids are so unpredictable.
Sometimes they barely acknowledge the $100 toy you got them but find pure joy sitting in its box. While travelling with your kids remember to look for magic in strange places. The look of bliss while they eat an ice cream cone in the scorching hot day, the way the snuggle their sibling in their shared bed at the hotel, the times when they’re nervous about a ride and wrap their little fingers in yours, or the joy they exude while just playing with rocks. Travelling with kids can come with a hefty price tag, and can be exhausting for the adults, but it’s those little slivers of magic that make it all worth it.