10 tips for travelling with children (ie. travelling with kids not just holidaying with them!)
Plan ahead much more than if you didn’t have kids! Kids’ patience (well, at least mine) for this kind of thing can be rather limited. At first, I had romantic ideas of us all sitting down with a map and making a plan together but my two seemed to suffer from an attention deficit in this regard so all romantic notions were swiftly abandoned. My kids preferred an approach where parents suggested something, they said they’d rather stay in the accommodation, we went out anyway and 9.5 times out of ten they had a really nice time so we went with that system.
Think about your overall schedule – does it have enough in it to keep your kids happy? Do you need to space out the two days of urban gallery-ing and museum-ing and do something completely different in the middle. We often talk about everyone in the day having a ‘turn’ to do something they would like to do and this can work quite well.
Be flexible with your schedule. If you come across something unexpected that they enjoy (a fountain they can play in or a mound of snow) put the schedule on hold for a bit even if it’s a bit boring for you and puts your day out a bit.
Be realistic (especially if you have younger kids) with what you can do in a day and in your trip as a whole. As parents, we probably should have learned this modify-your-productivity lesson already but it’s definitely good to consider when travelling. Kids (again if they are like mine) may want more ‘back-at-base’ time than you and are not always happy to cover the same miles by foot.
If you are travelling to a country that speaks a different language, think about loading a few language apps on your phone a few weeks before you go. Let your children work out which ones they like best. We use Duolingo a lot. It’s amazing how a screen can induce kids to learn anything! In just a few weeks they can accumulate quite a few words and phrases. It can be nice on the way out to make a list of all the words you collectively know and then do the same on the way back and see how much longer the list is. Watching a film in another language can be fun too if you have access to a TV on your travels. You can pick out a few words that you know or just play guess what is going on!
Pack even more wisely than normal – take lots of small super light-weight travel games as well as a couple of good books, some paper and small pencils -this can help level out the amount of screen time on long journeys and in waiting rooms. We actually have a flat-pack football courtesy of a design museum shop and that works a treat for our two as they are football-obsessed! Pack lots of healthy-ish and liked snacks, especially for long journeys. Food on the road may not always present itself at the right time and deferred gratification on this front might not be your kids’ strong point.
Try to make sure you keep a rough track of how much sleep your kids are getting, how much exercise they have done and how well they’ve eaten (especially if they are a bit younger). It’s easy to have earlier starts and later finishes than they might be used to if you don’t have your own transport, for example, and the impact of this can accumulate. You might not always be able to get your hands on fresh fruit and vegetables easily when you are on the road so try to make up for the deficit when you can. Build in some chill out/rest days. Be creative in thinking of how you can exercise even if you are on the go. Can you stop off at a local park for 20 minutes before you start a long journey?
An occasional video-call back home can help your kids stay in touch with their friends while they are away. It’s also really interesting to hear what they pick out as their highlights and low-points of the trip so far!
As always with parenting don’t take too much advice from anyone (no not even me!). You know your kids best so you will know what works best for them. Don’t be duped into going to a famous kids’ attraction just because it always tops the what-to-do-with-kids-in-this-place lists if you don’t think it will be their kind of thing!
Finally, be realistic with your expectations. You and your kids will most likely travel with the same foibles you all have at home so while I am sure you will have an amazing adventure and exciting times just don’t bank on total 24/7 bliss any more than you would at home!
PS. The above is of course based on personal experience only and I’m sure I’ve missed loads of things so hope to get some comments from others to see what their experience has been.