Traveling with kids can be a nightmare or stress free experience. With these 12 tips on how to travel with kids, based on my own experience, we hope that your outings with your family will always be fun and memorable!
I remember summer of 2004. Emma was just a few months old and hubby was on temporary duty (TDY) in southern California. I wasn’t a newbie traveler but that trip to California from Missouri was my first solo trip with a child. On our way back to Missouri, I had to switch planes in Vegas. I can’t remember which gate exactly but somehow, I read the board wrong. Good thing I have a habit of checking the board every so often and halfway through I checked the board again. To my dismay, I was heading the wrong direction! With less than 30 minutes before the gate closed, I had to make a dash to the opposite end of where I was at. With a four or five months baby and a carry-on! Luckily I was wearing Jovie and with carry-on on one hand, we made it to the gate! It’s been 11 years, the details are vague, but I somewhat remember riding one of those airport carts halfway through our journey.
I’ve traveled many more times since. Solo or with hubby and after almost 12 years, I am offering you
12 Tips on Traveling with Kids
Travel as light as possible.
When it’s just us girls traveling, we’d have two carry-ons and a backpack. Emma and I would each pull a carry-on and I would wear the backpack. Emma pulls her Potter Barn Kids small suitecase and I have the American brand or Ogio (depending on which European budget flight we take, Ryanair has a smaller dimension than the rest of the airlines).
When Emma and Jovie were babies, I used a baby carrier, my choice being the Beco Butterfly. There are so many of them nowadays and you just use whichever you love using on a daily basis. When they were stroller dependent, I used an umbrella stroller, a Maclaren Volo. The Maclaren stroller are not the cheapest but they are tough and our Volo has lived through two kids and almost around the world. We also have the Maclaren Triumph. It is slightly bigger and I only take it when we’re car traveling or my hubby’s with us.
If possible, rent an apartment or house than staying in a hotel.
Try to find one with a kitchen and washer (don’t push for a dryer if in Europe). The later will help with the first tip above. It was just us girls when we went to Italy and we had our standard gears for our one week trip. Two carry-ons and a backpack. We could have gone without the backpack but having it was better than me carrying my camera bag and purse. We washed clothes once and that was sufficient.
Give yourself plenty of time.
And do give yourself some delay time. Kids always want to go to the toilet, have a snack and if it’s not your kid, it’s traffic to the airport, long queues at check-in, or the wrong gate.
Be ok with using technology as a baby sitter.
It’s small and full of activities and/or movies.We don’t have TV service at home. So on our flight between the UK and US, I let the girls watch the movies and TV shows the airline had to offer during their waking hours. After the flight, only on technology when we have a complete down time. Think of games they can play while they wait or paper and crayons. Jovie can draw for a good hour. So for our trips we always pack a small drawing pad and crayons. If they insist bringing a toy, allow them to bring one special small toy.
After Getting to Your Destination
Give your older child(ren) and opportunity to lead.
Give them a map and just go for it. It’s a fun activity for the kids and it’ll also teach them how to read a map and see what’s around them (street names, landmarks, etc). Yes you may get lost, or hit a dead end, but as long as you know where not to go, you should be just fine.
Let them go wherever they want during your sight seeing time.
To explore something they’re interested in or to just simply mess about. I rarely take them to amusement parks or a place geared specifically for children. So if they want to spend five minutes playing with a water fountain that we stumbled upon or a 15 minutes stop at a park that we passed by, then why not. This is not just your travel time. It is theirs also.
Let them stop whenever they’re tired.
You don’t want to travel with grumpy over exhausted children. We’ve say on many steps and benches and plenty snack/drink stops in between big meals. When we were in Italy, Jovie was such a better walker with a gelato on hand. Emma, despite being older and a gymnast, moans after walking awhile. Eating and walking works well for her also.
Bookmark cafes and/or restaurants before you arrive.
Use apps like TripAdvisor or Google Maps to help you with this. I use both to help me find good places to eat but when I won’t have Internet access where we’ll be at, I always make an effort to save an offline map. We enjoy really good food and doing this extra steps also helps us when it comes to feeding Jovie, the picky one.
I have here the food map I created for Venice. Feel free to use and share!
Don’t forget to get yourself something refreshing or yummy also.
The girls are fantastic kids. They listen and even though Jovie is a bit more spirited than Emma, she does what’s asked of her (although sometimes more than once). It is not stressful at all traveling with these two but being the only responsible adult in a foreign place, I always feel the need to treat myself with something good at every stop. A delicious coffee, a glass of wine or a specialty of that area.
Don’t always be where most of the tourist are.
I know that you have to see that famous sight but those places are often crowded, especially during high season, and can be a bit stressful for children. Do visit the sight but also plan on turning into a quieter road just a block or two from the main drag. It’s amazing that even in Venice, one can turn right from this area pictured below and have the whole street (or more like an alley) to yourself.
We love to people watch and always find better restaurant and ambience further away from where most of the tourist sights are. The photo below was taken from Trattoria Bar Pontini. A very delicious restaurant, perfect portions and with good prices.
Enjoy being there with your family.
Hike up that hill to see the sight below, walk as far as your feet can take your around the city, find a restaurant that has a non-English menu and all or mostly locals. Jovie is a very picky eater but most restaurant have either rice, bread or a salad. We do ask her to try everything new and now and then she surprises us by loving something new.
Give yourselves some down time.
A day at the zoo, a half day lounging around and watching cartoons in Italian, a movie night, swimming or a shopping day. Back in the days, before kids, or if it’s just me, I can go from one hot spot to another without much of a break. With kids, it’s a slower pace for sure. Is it less enjoyable or less bang for the buck/time? Not really. I travel with the family for a different reason now and while I do want to hit a few big sights, I can hit those sights within a week’s time than two days. Traveling has become more relaxing because of the girls and for my husband and I, it’s a perk.
There are many more tips but for now, that’s it from me. I absolutely love going places with the family and we can’t wait to see where our next adventure will be!
And oh, if your child falls asleep at the restaurant because you had to catch an early flight and she insisted that she wasn’t going to nap throughout the two hour flight, then let her be. You are guaranteed a quiet meal 😀
I hope you find the 12 tips on traveling with kids beneficial!