5 Secrets That Make Travelling with Children a Breeze
This is Secret No 1 of our new E-book about travelling with children called “The 5 Family Travel Secrets”. We’ve made the Ebook as comprehensive as possible and are giving you the first chapter here.
As a father of 5 kids, I have travelled to more than 63 countries most of them with my kids. My wife has travelled to 46 countries and at least 36 of them with our kids too. We believe the secrets we have picked up along the way and will share with you here will help you on your journey a lot. It makes no difference if you’re going for a week or a year.
After travelling almost continuously for the last 10 years as parents and providing our kids with all they need to be well rounded and healthy young adults. We want to share with you all the knowledge our years of experience has taught us. This 50 page book is our gift to you and we hope this and the other posts in our blog inspire you to come travel too.
I’m looking forward to your question and queries in relation to your travels. Full disclosure, we do offer some links below that earn us a commission, but it’s only to things and services we use, trust, and believe in ourselves. The commissions help us to keep travelling and cost you nothing.
Travelling with Kids
Travelling with children can be a wonderful, enlightening experience for you and an eye-opening experience for your kids, no matter their age.
There are a host of new experiences for them that will only broaden their horizons. New food, new things to see and to do, not to mention getting in some quality family time.
The only issue is that sometimes it can be and feel an overwhelming task. It will require you to be flexible, you will need to expect the unexpected. Unpredictable schedules, uncertainty around packing lists, kids that can be cranky and insecure about being out of their normal routines and more. These are just a few of the challenges you will encounter along the way.
We’ll do our best in this post to help you make travelling with your kids easier. After all, we want you and your children to enjoy every moment of seeing the world together and to create wonderful memories for the whole family as you travel. Isn’t that the point of travelling with your family in the first place?
The first secret to a great trip
Secret No 1 – Get your kids involved in the planning
Doing things that get your children engaged and doing things should be one of your highest priorities. Believe me, it’s not as difficult as you might think, it just takes a little planning.
“When the children are happy, it is much easier for you and your partner be happy too”
What engages them will depend a lot on their age. Your baby’s needs will be different from your toddler’s or your tween’s needs. Whatever your child’s age, pre-trip planning on kid-friendly activities will go a long way towards making your travel more fun.
We have gone places just for the benefit of the kids. Ironically, they have been some of the best travel experiences for us as well. When the children are happy, it is much easier for you and your partner be happy too. You’ll also find, speaking from firsthand experience, you can take a break while they do the things you set up for them. Sometimes this can simply be spending time with other kids while you have some time out. A little preparation goes a long way.
Here are some strategies you can use to help your kids have a good time on the road:
Newborns, up to the age of 2, are the easiest to travel with, most of the time. Rainer Jenss, (who is president of the Family Travel Association) says. “Kids this age are portable. You can take them anywhere and keep them happy as long as you create a comfortable environment for them and keep them on their routine.”
We agree with this. Schedules for the littlest ones are important, but sometimes breaking them is too. but generally, sticking to them makes everything easier. Try your best on vacation and plan your days accordingly.
Bring along your baby’s favourite toys, books and a bottle (if bottle fed) while away, and get your child out of the carrier or stroller regularly during the day — the secret with them is giving the baby the chance to do some assisted walking, some crawling, and to get some exercise. If they aren’t walking yet, bring a mat and let them stretch and roll around. It’s really not that hard to keep them entertained. Our littlest one was born in Bali and basically spent the first year of her life on the beach and in the water. She spent hours just touching, and eating, the sand!
Toddlers are a fun age to travel with because they are starting to engage in the things around them, places you visit start to be enjoyable for them to explore,
We have learned in our years of travel is that the secret is to remember not to be too busy. Your life and your travels will be that much easier when you leave plenty of down-time to let them release and refuel their energy. Hit the playgrounds or the sea or a hotel pool for some of that precious time out for you and playtime for them. It’s that much easier when you find places where other kids are playing too.
Local parks are great with toddlers. We were in St Petersburg just before Christmas last year and while it was only 4 pm in the afternoon and -10c, it was still night time so far north at that time of the year. I took our youngest one to the local park. Unsurprisingly, there were other children playing in the park and she still thoroughly enjoyed the swings, the slide despite the cold. For her, it was even fun to wipe the snow off it before using it.
The more open space your toddler has to run around, the happier they will be. As a bonus, you’re likely to meet some local parents and even garner some tips on other things to do with your toddler in town. You might even find out where the nearby kid-friendly restaurants are.
When you have kids that are 5 years and older the secret to a great trip is getting them involved in the planning, even if it is just in a small way. We have made it a point with our kids to ask them to do some research on activities they are interested in when we have decided on a destination.
Rainer Jenss agrees with us on this point and says. “The more you empower kids this age to pick what they’re interested in doing, whether it’s seeing a cool site or trying surfing, the more engaged they will be,” he said.
Tip: If they are struggling to find activities on their own, pick a bunch and then ask your children to choose between the activities you have listed. So, if you are going to the beach, the options might be a half-day of snorkelling trip, a fishing excursion or a surfing lesson. If you’re in a city, then share choices like going to the natural history museum, a bus ride around the city, maybe a wax museum or something like Kidzania, if there is one where you have landed. The latter is a real bonus as it will give you a whole day to yourselves! Remember to let them pick the one or two which appeal to them the most.
When it comes to tours and guided activities, Eric Stoen, the founder of the online family travel site Travel Babbo, says “Choosing the right guides goes a long way in keeping your kids excited about where they are.”
When you’re researching tours and activities, be sure to read the online reviews to learn about which ones engage other peoples kids. Eric Stoen also says “A kid-friendly guide can have a profound effect on your children.” His son, for example, has become an excellent sketcher because of an artist in London who led the family on an art tour around the city. “It was a tour that literally changed his life,” he said.
The secret to getting your teenagers engaged is for them to take ownership of planning a part of your travel to a destination. You can still have them choose some attractions which they are interested in seeing, but you can take it a step further and let them design a couple days of the itinerary at a particular place or a side trip for instance.
You might want to let older teens the option to spend a few hours exploring the destination or a particular place on their own they may want to roam a gallery and do some sketching without mum and dad dragging them faster or slower than they want to go.
Even with the younger teens, in a relatively controlled space, you can let them explore at their own pace. Agree to meet them in 1 hour in the cafeteria for instance. Or when you are at a museum or maybe an aquarium. You know there is only one way in and out. If your kids are well behaved and responsible, it is good to give them a chance to feel that they are trusted and respected enough to do it themselves. Our Vivi loves art shops and can spend hours in them. We have given her a budget and an hour to herself wondered across the road for a coffee. Everyone is happy!
With the older teens, maybe they want to check out a particular part of the city. Maybe they want to go to certain stores. As long as you and your teen both feel safe, they are going to be super excited about having some time alone, to do their thing.
Travel Money – Bank Accounts and Debit Card Providers
What’s this got to do with travel with children? When you find yourself with no card and no way to pay for things because someone has stolen your wallet, no matter where you are or who you are, you are in trouble. Especially if you have your kids with you.
We use and really recommend two card providers. Well three actually, but one is a special kind of card, and it’s an incredible backup card.
The first 2 (TransferWise and Revolut) give you bank accounts multiple currencies, exchange rates at the published interbank rate. This is way below most standard banks rates. Plus a host of additional services including ways to save. Add-on insurance for gadgets and health and even things like a concierge service.
The third card, Curve, is awesome. It allows you to load up your other credit and debit cards onto it and switch between them with an App. Meaning you have all your cards in one, and you only have one PIN to remember.