This is to all those people who told me I would have to stop traveling when the kids came. You can travel with kids, you can tick countries off your bucket list with kids, like everything you have to adjust. And once you consider these things when planning a family vacation, you’ll understand the benefits of family travel outweigh any additional required planning
Planning a family vacation, bookmark this list.
Five things to consider when planning a family vacation
1) Your Kid(s)
Of course when planning a family vacation, the first thing you should consider is your kid or kids. How old are they? Is it a baby who won’t have an opinion on the destination and activities? Is it a toddler who may have an opinion? If so, give your little one two activity options and let them choose. Or is it a teenager with a plethora of opinions and a knowledge of what they want? Open the vacation destination choice and planning to them and develop the itinerary as a family.
2) Your Kids’ Likes & Dislikes
Next, consider what they like and don’t like. For example, some kids have sensory sensitives; thus, it’ll be important to choose a destination and activities that accommodate that need. In fact, some destinations and experiences specialize in sensory sensitivities. Checkout Lily and Magnolia Travel for more tips on this subject. Whatever you decide to do, be sure to try something new that you can’t do at home.
Personally, my kids like trains, planes, and animals, so I try to find at least one activity that includes one of the before mentioned activities per trip. While planning for the family vacation and the days leading into the activity, I hype up the experience to them, “are you guys excited to do X? It’s going to be so much fun! Just you wait”. Lean into what they like. Kids can get lost in things they like for hours.
Your Travel Style & Experience
How experienced are you with traveling? What is your travel style? If you consider yourself an avid traveler, in other words, you’re comfortable in new cities whether you’re by yourself or with friends, then take the step in planning something a little more complicated. Somewhere like Bali, Thailand, or a long distance road trip.
But also if you’ve never traveled with your kids then perhaps scale back because although you’re skilled at traveling, traveling with kids is another ball game. Believe me!
I intentionally chose my hometown as the first destination to plan a family vacation. Since it was domestic and to a place I’m familiar with, it took the stresses of the unknown about the destination away. I could focus on the things I would need to make travel with kids easier. This trip went better than I could have expected. So much so, the next month, we took a family vacation to Puerto Rico.
My recommendation is to “test the waters” with a trip to a close or familiar destination. This way, you can learn what does and does not work in a “fairly easy” trip. If you’ve never traveled with kids before, make a list of things you will need to keep them comfortable and happy through the airport, on the plane ride, and during the trip in general. Check out this list for my must-haves.
Don’t Forget about YOUR Needs
Also, don’t forget that you’re going on the trip. It’s YOUR vacation as well. So don’t be afraid to add something that you want to do. We took the boys to a vineyard and winery on our Waco, Texas family vacation and they loved it. As long as there is space for them to run around, my boys are happy campers!
4) Consider the Destination
Where you’re going is just as important as everything else. A lot of people think you can’t travel with kids for many reasons but the biggest reason is they believe not everywhere is kid-friendly. To quote The Traveling Child, “If kids live there, then kids can go there.” There is so much truth to this statement. But don’t forget all destinations aren’t created equal when planning a family vacation. There are different things to consider.
If it’s a walkable city like New York or Bangkok, prepare for that. If possible, baby wear so you can easily maneuver through the crowd. If babywearing isn’t an option, get a compact stroller that you can easily navigate the crowd. My favorite is the GB Pockit Stroller.
Also, consider local customs and ways of doing things. For example, in the US, you can always find rental cars with car seats and that’s great. But most international destinations do not strap their kids in, so they do not have car seats for rent and you will have to bring your own if it’s important to you.
Similarly, if trains are the most common mode of transportation, think through how you will get your kid(s) and belongings on and off the train in a short timeframe.
I traveled to Paris when the boys were six months and had a double stroller and almost lost a kid and my mind. I had to disconnect each car seat, collapse the stroller, get all the luggage, the stroller, and the babies on the train, before it departed for the next stop. It was incredibly stressful! That’s when I vowed to never do that again and get smaller strollers, like the locals.
5) Invite Another Adult
I must have had an hand full of trips with kids under my belt before I had the courage to travel with them alone. If my husband was unable to join the trip, I asked another adult to accompany me. In fact, for family vacations that include long haul flights and/or more complexity, we invite my mom or his aunt- even to this day.
It’s not that we can’t do it on our own. But having more hands to help out with the kids, makes a family vacation so much easier on the parents. Plus, you now have built-in babysitting!
Traveling with kids is possible. I show you how to do it with minimum stress (if someone tells you anything with kids is stress free, I’d think twice about their advice). As with most things with kids, it takes a little mindset shift and planning. And honestly, the best way to know what works for you is to plan that family vacation and learn from the experience.