Travel with kids can be a fantastic experience; what’s better than making memories and exploring new sights with your kids? It can also be a little stressful- the change in routine and new smells and sounds can be overwhelming for adults, let alone children. Our family travels full-time with our three kids; here are 5 tips that we’ve found contribute towards calm and happy travel with little ones!
1. Take it slow
When we go away on shorter trips we prioritise peace and relaxation over ‘seeing everything’. If we try and cram too much in then it ends up with everyone stressed and that’s just pointless. It’s not worth getting that photo next to the ancient statue or temple if it’s a forced smile on the kids’ faces! In the future you will treasure memories of a happy two weeks at the beach much more than memories of fourteen stressful cultural trips.
2. Keep the family dynamics as normal as possible
Just going somewhere new with all the different sensory experiences is enough to stress kids out. Often travel means a change in family dynamic, as there may be two parents present when there is usually one and this take some getting used to. If you are going on a long term trip, don’t take on new work or commitments right before you go; your kids will need you to help them process the experience.
3. Take and seek out familiar items
No sane parent would go on a family holiday without their kid’s favourite teddy/bunny/moth-eaten rag. iPads or Kindles are also a great shout for familiarity, as apps are available worldwide so are able to be taken wherever you are! Just watching a favourite Youtube channel or playing a loved game are good ways to help kids feel at home wherever they are.
One thing that we find with our kids is the need for food familiarity; this can be really tricky in some countries but we always try to pack some snacks that travel well so that for the first few days we can ease into the new cuisine with some of their usual food.
4. Create a routine
I don’t mean impose a routine; children’s autonomy is important and forcing them to eat or go to bed at a particular time is not very helpful to them long-term. A few late evenings to enjoy the new surroundings are part of the fun of travel, after all! What we like to do is find an activity that we can do each day, whether it is a trip to a nearby park, beach or pool, and create a gentle routine around that.
5. Let the kids plan activities
I have a friend who blanches at the idea of going on a motorhome holiday because he was dragged around France in one every summer. If your kids love animals, look up all of the ethical animal-related attractions and activities in the area before you go and let them choose what they’d like to do.
Heck, why not let them choose or have a say in the entire holiday (within budget, of course!) We all know that kids have a natural sense of fun (and after all, how bad can a paintballing week in Sussex really be? ;))
I hope these tips are helpful to wander-lusting families!