Travelling with kids? To some parents, that sounds too daunting to even try. While many content creators out there make it look easy to jet off to Italy and eat spaghetti carbonara with their 5-year-olds or swim in a Caribbean resort pool with their toddler, we all know that those adorable videos and images are the highlight reel – and behind the scenes is an uncountable number of meltdowns. After all, travelling with small children is very different than travelling by yourself or with your significant other. There’s a lot to think about, a lot to keep in mind, and a lot to pack. However, it is possible, and these tips and tricks will help better prepare you for travelling with small children.
Choose a destination wisely
When planning your vacation, think about where you’re going and how difficult it will be with small children in tow. Does your little one require a stroller? If yes, then a big European city where you will want to use the metro or bus to get around might be not the best pick, especially since many metro stations don’t always have elevators. Instead, choose a walkable city that you can easily explore without having to consistently rely on public transit to get around.
You may also want to consider what there is to see and do at the destination. While you might love art and history museums, will your children? Or will they be bored in the first five minutes of you buying your tickets? Choosing a child-friendly destination does require a bit more planning and research, but it’s worth spending the time to think of these things to make everything easier for you on arrival.
Have a ‘home base' rather than hopping around
Oftentimes when we travel, we like to spend a couple of days somewhere before moving on to explore somewhere new. While this is easy enough as an adult, it becomes a whole lot harder to keep packing up and unpacking when you are travelling with small children. To help minimize this stress, stick to one or maybe two places to use as a base. Choose a central area with easy day trip options, so you can still explore but also relax in a home base for a few days before moving on.
Consider a rental apartment rather than a hotel room
When it comes to accommodations, choosing an apartment with separate rooms might make your life a lot easier than a hotel room. That way you don’t have to tiptoe around your children’s sleep schedule as much, and you can stick them down at a table or in a living area to do some activities and stay entertained while you do your thing. Apartments also have the added benefit of kitchens, which is perfect for stocking up on snacks and drinks. Another perk: many places have laundry facilities, which can also be a huge advantage when travelling with small children.
While you might be able to explore for an entire day, chances are your kids can’t keep up and will be absolutely exhausted. So, plan for slower days and balance your schedule. If you have a big day exploring a theme park, then arrange something more low-key for the following day like a pool or beach day. As you create your travel schedule, give yourself plenty of travel time and factor in time for breaks, snacks, naps, and possibly some tantrums.
Pack snacks and entertainment
Speaking of snacks, it’s always a good idea to have some with you at all times. If you are out exploring and being active your kids might get hungrier sooner or at different times than normal. Entertainment is also key, especially for travel days spent on planes, trains, or cars. If your child has an iPad, load it up with apps, movies, and games. Other handy things to bring include colouring books and crayons, activity books, and workbooks.
Ask for help when you need it
Travelling with children can be a lot, and while you might be a super-parent, everyone needs a little bit of help sometimes. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or assistance, especially in places like airports or hotels where you might be juggling extra baggage or struggling to fold up a stroller. Someone nearby will likely be happy to assist you.
Stick within your comfort zone to start
Trying new things is great, but if you are new to travelling with young children, do yourself a favour and stick to something comfortable and familiar to start. That doesn’t mean you need to have a boring vacation or go somewhere you’ve been before; it just means make it easy on yourself. Choose something that doesn’t take too much planning or a travel style that you have experience with. That way you can learn how to adapt your travel style to include your children. Once you feel more confident in travelling with your children and understanding their needs and limits, you can branch out and try new things for everyone.
Hannah Logan is a Canadian travel writer who dreams of being just like Indiana Jones. You can follow her travels on her personal travel blog
Eat Sleep Breathe Travelwhere she shares her travel tales and (mis)adventures around the world.