Family travel, while fun and memorable, isn’t always a walk in the park. As all too many of you will know holidaying with the kids in tow comes with a number of challenges, such as disrupting routines, increased spending and in some cases a change in time zone and culture. We spoke to four well-travelled bloggers with children to find out how to combat some of these difficulties and learn how to make travelling with children not only cheaper, but a little bit easier.
Five ways to make travelling with kids easier
One of the best sources for travel advice and tips is from experienced travellers themselves. We have collated advice and top tips from Michelle from Powered by Mom, Kim from Tales of a Ranting Ginger, Sarah from Solo Mom Takes Flight and Karen from Mini Travellers for your reading and travel planning pleasure. Michelle, Kim, Sarah and Karen all are well-versed in family travel, and there is much they have learnt about what to do (and what not to do) when adventuring with the kids!
1. Always bring entertainment for transit and travel periods
Michelle and Karen swear by this. To avoid boredom and cranky children, pack travel-friendly entertainment options for long haul flights, stopovers and lengthy periods in the car. If you’re bringing an electronic device such as a laptop computer or iPad you may like to download some movies, TV shows, music or even games to play. If you’d prefer to take a break from the screens, or don’t think you’ll have easy access to charge your devices, you might like to pick up some colouring books, reading material, card games and similar to help pass the travel time.
2. Wherever possible, don’t upset regular routines
Long periods of time on the road can take a toll on little bodies, and we all know what happens when the daily nap is skipped or bedtime is moved around! When you can, try to factor in time for rest, a good nap or a close to the norm ‘lights out’ time. Karen says “Book flights, ferries and trains at times your kids aren’t tired, it will make them easier to deal with, or alternatively when they are actually asleep!”
Kim also recommends you “Break up the days to accommodate younger travellers. Their attention often drifts and they get tired easily. Changing things up will keep them interested.”
3. Pack plenty of snacks!
Particularly if you’re faced with a fussy eater. By bringing your own pre-packaged nibbles, you can avoid tantrums and upsets, or upset stomachs for those with special requirements. Plus, it’s much easier to control nutritional content and budgets when you stick to the norm.
4. Bring antihistamines
The unfortunate thing about travelling to distant and exotic destinations is that sometimes, little ones don’t deal too well with the change in environment and exposure to external factors. Whether this be the type of foods served, flora and fauna in the region, or even something as simple as the laundry detergent used to wash hotel bedding, it’s hard to predict what might prompt an allergic reaction or rash.
Sarah strongly recommends packing a child-friendly antihistamine so that you’re always prepared for the unexpected. While most destinations will have medical centres or pharmacies, the last thing you need is to be stuck between cities, in a remote location or up in the middle of the night without a solution.
5. Remember to relax
One of the most important things to remember is to, “Take a deep breath and relax,” says Sarah. When travelling with children “Everything won’t be perfect but the more relaxed you are the more relaxed your kids will be.”
Five ways to save money when travelling with children
Costs can add up really quickly when you’re on holiday with your children, so we highlight five top tips to help you pocket a few extra dollars and cents.
1. Bring your own snacks
We already touched on this, but there was an overwhelming response from all four travel bloggers on this point. All four women listed this in their top tips for making travel with kids cheaper.
Michelle recommends packing meals and bottled water when you’re leaving your accommodation for the day. “Use a locker if it gets too heavy,” she says.
The benefits of BYO snacks are plentiful, from keeping meal options healthy right through to satisfying fussy eaters and even providing a great alternative for locations where food and water contamination can be an issue. Keep it simple by picking up a loaf of bread and your favourite spreads and sandwich meats, as Sarah and Kim do when they’re away with their families. Doing this (even only on occasion) will save you a bundle of cash.
2. Look for coupons, family admission tickets, and discounts
Kim and Sarah both had this on their list of ways to save money when travelling with kids. Make full advantage of family admission passes, group discounts or free dining and entry for children to various attractions.
Additionally, “Try to book with discount airlines. Your kids won’t mind not having as much legroom,” Sarah advised. So, if you don’t mind losing a little space when flying you might also like to look into some cheaper flight options whilst doing your research.
3. Avoid purchasing souvenirs
At their core, family trips are about making memories, not bringing home keychains, t-shirts and postcards. Find alternative ways to capture the moment and create your own holiday mementos.
- Take lots of photos and frame them or create a scrapbook when your return.
- Film videos when you’re out exploring for the day or visiting a landmark.
- Get the kids to write in a journal or draw pictures to remember your time together.
The subject of souvenirs came up a few times when speaking with our travel blogging experts, each of which had different tactics to share:
Kim recommends you shop “where locals shop and save money,” as souvenir shops have inflated prices and items can be of poor quality. One method that worked well for Michelle was: “If going to well-known attractions like Disneyland and Disneyworld, buy souvenirs in advance. Look on Amazon for t-shirts; Disney related stuff, even Disney stores and their discounted items.”
“When we got there [Disneyland] we gave them to her and she was able to wear a Disney shirt on the first day and wasn’t asking for one when we got to the park,” she said.
4. Research free things to do at your destination
You don’t need to spend money to have a good time. Have a beach outing, go for a hike, or spend the day exploring national parks. The skies the limit and spending a little extra time researching before you arrive at your final destination will be incredibly useful.
5. Try places out of season
By avoiding peak holiday periods you will find you can do so much more than save money – you can also have a completely new and exciting experience. Karen from Mini Travellers recommends “The Alps in summer and beaches in Cornwall in the winter months for much cheaper, and totally different experiences.”
Four great family vacation destinations, as recommended by our bloggers
We asked our travel blogging friends to share their recommendation for a great family vacation destination. Here’s what they came up with:
- Michelle – Universal Studios, Florida. “There were superheroes everywhere, Betty Boop and more. My daughter had her autograph book filled with superhero signatures and pictures with them,” she said. “She had a blast with the rides.” See Michelle’s blog post on Universal Studios Travel Tips & Fun Times.
- Kim – Disneyland, California. “As a child myself and as a parent with my children, Disney always holds a special place in our hearts.” Kim gives some great tips on planning a Disney vacation
- Sarah – Camping in Kenya. “Although many question whether or not to take their kids on safari, we found Kenya to be a welcoming land full of kind people. We camped out in Kenya, saw elephants and lions and played with many young children. Some of our favourite travel memories were made in Kenya and I would recommend it to anyone looking to take an adventure with young kids.” If you’re thinking of taking the family on Safari, Sarah’s article on planning a trip to Kenya is a good place to start.
- Karen – Mousses, Greece. “So many (locations) to choose from, but so far our favourite child-friendly destination has been Mousses in Greece,” says Karen. You can read about their trip here.
Final words from Kim
“Keep a positive attitude when travelling with kids. They do not care about the destination as much as wanting to spend time with you,” says Kim. Make the most of every minute travelling with your children. It may not always be easy and certainly in most cases won’t be perfect but stay positive and enjoy the journey for both the peaks and pitfalls that may come with it.