Let’s face it—the best family travel tips are the ones that are easy to remember and to put into practice no matter where you are at in your life as a parent. Infants to toddlers, grade schoolers to teens, we all could use a little more help. Some tips are obvious (pack all medications in your carry on), while others can be a bit more obscure (don’t lug your expensive stroller overseas; opt for a cheap umbrella stroller that is easy to collapse and carry).
I’ve covered hundreds of travel tips in my freelance writing and on Walking On Travels. Some are for specific situations (what to do with a baby at the beach anyone?), but I have five tips that I have continuously gone back to as a parent for over six years and I see my friends with older kids doing too. All are easy to put into practice; you just have to make the effort to do them.
Get out the door
Getting out the door, and I do mean the physical door of your home, is the hardest part of traveling with kids. It’s a physical block that makes us think traveling with our kids is impossible.
Just thinking about taking my kids to the grocery store makes me cringe. I’d rather just stay at home and deal with the crowds on the weekends. However, if you want me to check out a museum, garden, local restaurant or get on a plane to explore a new place, I can’t get out the door fast enough with them.
We all have fun when we go on adventures, whether they are near or far from home. No one has fun at the grocery store. So pack up your purse, throw a few snacks in the car and go to the local museum. See if you like that better than a shopping trip with the little ones. Test the waters and push the limits of your adventures each time you go out. Before you know it, you may just be looking forward to a 10-hour flight with your kids more than a trip to the grocer.
Travel takes patience, whether you have kids or not. Flights get delayed, train drivers go on strike, and rainy days take out your perfectly planned hike. If you thought disaster couldn’t strike or your plans couldn’t be pushed into extinction even more, try throwing kids into the mix.
Nap schedules cut into your wanderings. Tantrums do occur in front of the Eiffel Tower. Patience is your best friend. Roll with what happens. Allow for your plans to change. Understand that your kid is going to be a kid no matter where you take them; you just have to pick your backdrop for parenthood.
Stay flexible so you don’t lose your mind when your carefully planned vacation goes down the toilet. It’s going to be OK. Your trip may take a few twists and turns, but it will be better than you could have ever planned on any spreadsheet.
Packing- less is more
Traveling with kids doesn’t mean you have to pack up everything in the nursery, toy box and those critters in the bunk beds (no, the stuffed animals do not need to come). Pack items that pull double duty, book apartment rentals with a washing machine so you can do laundry as you go, and buy diapers, wipes and baby food locally whenever possible. The less you can pack on the way to your next destination, the more hands you will have to hold on to your kids, play with them, and not be tied down by a pile of baggage in transit.
Ditch the car
Let your feet do some walking. Rent a bike. Ride the local subway or train. There are so many ways to explore a new city. You don’t need a car unless you want to venture out, and even then trains can get you to some pretty awesome spots outside of town (think daytrip by train from Bern to the Swiss Alps).
Look at your options, compare prices and enjoy traveling like the locals. Take your eyes off the road so you can look at the wonder in your child’s eyes as they ride the train for the first time, watch whales pass on a ferry ride and meet other kids on your wanderings. This doesn’t happen from the back seat of a car; it happens out on the streets, country lanes and mountain paths of the world.
Traveling with your kids can feel daunting, especially if you are a new parent, or a parent venturing out into the world for the first time to give your children a taste of a new place. Relax. Enjoy the ride. Parenthood is a journey. You will mess up along the way, but have so many joyful moments to make up for any mistakes.
Now for the fun part. Remember those other friends I was telling you about with travel tips? I’ve teamed up with six incredible family travel bloggers who are sharing their favorite travel tips as well. We all know how hard it is to get out the door and we want to make it easier for you to take that first step, no matter your child’s age.