We love to travel and we love being with our children but traveling with children definitely has its challenges. Since becoming parents 10 years ago, we have traveled with at least one kid (and now up to 3) to 25 countries! So, believe me when I say, “we know how difficult it can be”. Despite the rough days, traveling with children is still our first choice. In the past 10 years, we’ve experienced enough brutal days to learn a few things. Here are our tried and true tips for successful travel with young children. These tips will help you avoid hard times, so you can focus on the fun!
No. 1Calm Down. Probably the most important and most forgotten about travel skill. I am a natural stressist and catastrophizer (are those even words?) so this lesson took me a long time to learn. But I know for certain that a calm parent is a happy parent. Everything is easier and more manageable when you are calm. Make yourself and your mental health a priority. Work on you. Learn strategies to relax and manage your reactions to triggers. The more of a handle you have on yourself, the more fun you can have.
No. 2 One way to stay calm, is to give yourself more time for everything. Need to get from Buckingham Palace to The Tower of London? Google maps says it will take you 30 mins. Plan an hour. Even better, plan an hour 15. When traveling with littles, time is your best friend. When your kid wants to push every button on the elevator, go on the moving walkway 16 times or throw leaves into a fountain… if you have time, you can say, “yes”. Riding an escalator in a foreign country is just more fun than it is at home. Don’t ask me why. It just is. So tack on extra time for all the things like running up and down steps, jumping in puddles, touching cool textured walls, hopping over the cracks… you get the gist.
No. 3Plan just a few activities for each day. Instead of seeing The Eiffel Tower in the morning, having lunch at Café du Flore, touring the Musee d’Orsay, and finishing the day with a dinner cruise on the River Seine, pick two. Think of what you would have accomplished in one day as a single person and cut it in half. Maybe even into a quarter. We’ve been stressed, snappy, bickering, and tired when we squeeze WAY too much in a day. Peter and I are ambitious tourists. We like to see as much as we can. But sightseeing stops being fun when your kids are pissed (see pic). Happy families make happy holidays and memories.
No.3Have low expectations. Think of your trip as “family time in Paris” as opposed to “I am in Paris so I have to do EVERYTHING!” I would rather see Paris (a little bit) with my young children than wait until some future time when “fill in the blank” happens to see the entire city. Life is unpredictable. We don’t know if “fill in the blank” is ever going to happen. If you want to travel but doing it with your kids is holding you back, maybe you need to reframe your trip. Including kids could be wonderful! A great part of traveling with children is doing what the locals do. Go to the playground, find a bakery, take a walk by the river, and get ice cream!. Some of our best memories were made at playgrounds or while enjoying dessert in other countries.
A few practical tips to increase your chances of having a great time.
Always. Always. Always have baby wipes (even for older kids)
Always have one or two small trash bags. Why trash bags? Well, sometimes toilets aren’t easy to find or a diaper needs changing and all you have available is a patch of grass. Worst case scenario, your child can use the bag as a toilet (yes, we’ve done this), the bag also serves as a trash bin or is a great place to store soiled clothes.
Always throw an extra pair of leggings or cute boxer briefs in your bag. This way if anyone pees on themselves. Or God forbid worse, you have a quick/light/easy change to buy you some time until you get back to the suitcases.
Snacks. Snacks. Snacks. And did I mention snacks? Hungry kids suck. Always have food
Invest in a daypack that you love. Juggling too much stuff is a pet peeve of mine. And having too many things leads to stufff getting lost. A backpack that can hold snacks, a water bottle, and extra layers is all you need. I just got this backpack and I am really excited about it. I’ve also had my eye on these backpacks from Cotopaxi which have loads of different compartments and are great for organization.
Find a baby/child carrier that you love. We go back and forth between the stroller and the Ergo depending on where we are in the world. Some very old cities, rugged places, and off the beaten path sites don’t work well with strollers so the Ergo (or something similar) is critical. We have been using the same Ergo for 10 years and it’s still in amazing shape. For older children that may need a quick lift you can throw in a cloth sling that doubles as a blanket or towel. The one I linked to is a friend’s company. We have this exact sling and it has come in handy when older kids need a pick up!
Strollers can be great in places with large sidewalks. You can pile all your stuff on them and depending on the stroller, you can even pile a few kids on a single stroller to give tired legs a rest. We switch between using our 7 year old Maclaren Volo Stroller (I can’t find the exact model online, but here is one that is similar) We also love the Bob which can totally fit two kids if needed.
Have any questions or suggestions? I would love to hear from you!
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