I’m a traveler at heart. I crave the excitement of discovering a new place and I am always anticipating the next adventure. Wanderlust is an essential part of my identity. I’m also a mom to two kids, ages 6 and 3, whose identities are made up mostly of unicorns, Legos, dinosaurs, and snacks. Blending these sometimes conflicting priorities into family travel is not always easy, but the challenge is definitely worthwhile.
Here are three of the most common myths about travel with young children and tips on how to make your family’s adventures a success!
Myth 1: Interesting destinations are off-limits with kids.
Sure, theme parks and kid-centered resorts fill a niche, but they’re not your only option for family travel. People raise children in every corner of the globe, and if you think like a local, you’ll find family-friendly options just about everywhere. Choose a destination that piques your interest and do a bit of research on where local families go (and let FOUND do the rest!). You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much fun there is to be had in any destination.
When planning your trip, look for activities that have something to offer everyone, kids and adults alike. For example, sightseeing on foot can be a drag for young kids, but riding on a double decker bus turns it into an adventure. Late night cocktails may not be on your family travel agenda, but happy hour on a patio with good snacks and room to roam can be fun for all ages. Finally, don’t underestimate the power of a playground! It’s a free, fun way for kids to burn off some energy, and you’ll probably even make some local friends while the kids play.
To help your kids get on board with traveling to unfamiliar places, get them involved in preparing for the trip. Before we travel, my kids love to look at photos and videos of our destination, local foods, different forms of transportation, and even tidbits of a new language. This not only helps them get invested in the trip, it also plants the seed that travel is about more than just sightseeing, it’s also about experiencing a different culture. You can find children’s books about any destination, so read them before you go and use them to reminisce together when you get back home.
World travelers off on their next adventure.
Myth 2: Travel with kids is too complicated.
LIFE with kids is complicated! For better or for worse, traveling with kids still involves parenting them, and tantrums don’t take vacations. I’ll be honest, my kids have had some very scenic meltdowns, but I have learned some tips that help make travel easier on everyone.
Any parent knows that kids who are hungry, tired, or cooped up for too long are headed for disaster. It’s tempting to try to squeeze in as much as possible when you’re in a new place, but slowing the pace of our travel keeps everyone more content. Shift your focus to quality, not quantity. Kids are natural explorers, and if you let them lead, you’ll be amazed at the things they’ll discover hiking through a park or wandering along the coast at their own pace. My kids can tolerate some pretty intense travel days as long as I also make sure they have some time to just PLAY.
Whenever possible, we stay in a vacation rental with a kitchen and separate sleeping space for the kids. It’s often cheaper than a hotel, everyone gets better rest, and we can eat about half of our meals at home. I don’t cook full meals on vacation, but being able to make a quick breakfast for the kids or pack a picnic lunch helps with money and planning. Having a bit of extra space for mom and dad to have a drink and unwind after bedtime is also key. We spend much more time in our lodging when we travel as a family, so it’s worth it to find a home that feels like part of the vacation.
Dining out is an essential part of travel too, and I’ve found that eating on the earlier end usually means less of a wait and a more welcoming environment for families. I generally have a restaurant in mind for each meal out, a backup plan, (both thanks to FOUND) and a backpack full of snacks just in case!
Myth 3: Kids are too young to remember the trip anyway.
Okay… but YOU will remember the trip, and that counts for something. Some of my most fulfilling experiences as a parent have taken place while traveling with my family. My son may not remember splashing in the Mediterranean as a toddler, but that memory will be etched in my mind forever. I’m a firm believer that becoming a parent doesn’t mean you don’t have to stop doing what you love. Travel was my first love, and seeing the world through the eyes of my kids makes it even more rewarding.
Of course, what your kids remember might just surprise you! My kids have vivid memories of the places we’ve traveled. We went to Maui when my daughter was only two years old, and just the other day she made the shaka sign with her hand and said “Aloha!” My son can still name every fish he saw while snorkeling on that trip. More importantly, he’ll never forget the sense of pride he felt when he overcame his fear and learned how to snorkel.
Even if they don’t remember every detail, I truly believe that giving kids the gift of travel from a young age can shape their worldview forever. Kids are naturally observant and inquisitive, and experiencing other cultures teaches flexibility, tolerance, and an appreciation for differences like nothing else. My own sense of wonder and openness to the world around me is renewed every time I travel with my children, and the hassles are miniscule compared to the rewards.
Globetrotting FOUND families, we’d love to hear your family travel success stories! What are some of your favorite tips for travel with kids?
A lifelong traveler, Erica Finazzo Katz has put her globetrotting skills to use as a study abroad coordinator, language teacher, and family travel planner extraordinaire. Between bouts of wanderlust, Erica lives in Austin, Texas with her husband, two kids, and one beagle.