Why you CAN travel with kids - no more excuses
  • Karen Buffier

You CAN travel with kids - no more excuses

You know what really, really drove me insane when I was pregnant with my first baby? Not the morning sickness, not the reflux, not that I could no longer see my toes, or the constant necessity to go to the bathroom way more than should be humanly necessary.

Nope the most annoying part of being pregnant was being told that I won’t be travelling anymore.

Or at least not very often. Even the hubby subtly attempted to suggest that our travelling days were to become a lot move restricted – he had no idea what I had planned!

Setting the scene, I was the sort of person who would be planning the very next trip as soon as I had stepped off the last plane, if not before leaving from the current trip. Being told that your most loved and cherished interest would be ripped away from you because you choose to have a family was a bitter pill to swallow.

I have always been focused on working hard, saving the dollars and being able to fly myself off to the next exciting destination. I am not the sort of person who can just go through the motions of a ground hog routine taking the chance that something outstandingly interesting will happen. Life is not meant to be lived inside a tiny little box.

So why is there such an incredibly overwhelming opinion that having a family means staying home and doing nothing? After all they are just little versions of ourselves so with a little care and planning isn’t anything still possible. I sure think so.

I was so adamant to prove people wrong that both my kids had their first passport photos taken laying on their backs in the Australia Post office cause they couldn’t yet sit up. And almost seven years on we are still travelling strong with our kids with no plans to stop.

Today I am aiming to dispel all those well-worn arguments over why travelling with kids is too difficult. Check out these excuses below…..think you may have used one of them before? Please let me attempt to persuade you to think differently.

Why bother – your kids won’t remember anything

Whilst young kids won’t remember finer details of a holiday when they are young there is no denying that they remember the overall experience and feelings. They remember the building excitement before you leave home, when packing the bags and talking about the trip, filling their little minds with excitement.

They remember the little things, like another kid they may meet and play with or the cool park they got to visit. They recall the points of difference such as the different food or different climate.

Perhaps the biggest things kids will remember is the dedicated time for them to be with their family without external distractions. They associate holidays with being able to spend more time with their brother or sister and to be indulged in some quality one on one time with parents.

Importantly with this excuse I think it is super important for parents to not fall into the trap of a holiday being only about the kids. You need to allow yourself to keep travelling once you have kids - and keep living a life full of fun and adventure. Kids are an addition to your life, not an anchor to never go anywhere again.

We are only capable of achieving what we believe in our own minds. The power of your thoughts can determine how successfully you live a full and interesting life.

There is no way I am taking a long-haul flight with a baby or toddler

I have touched on this issue in my “Make travelling with kids fun” article however the reality of flying with kids is that the vast majority of other passengers are helpful, considerate and friendly to kids on planes. Unfortunately, yes there are also highly opinionated and downright rude people who have the ability to make parents feel unworthy of being able to travel with their kids but fortunately they are outnumbered by the nicer ones.

I remember reading some extremely scathing comments on travel advisory boards when my kids were babies that filled me with terror at the thought of my kids playing up in front of such a contained audience.

Now, after years of travelling with my kids I have really reached the point of not caring what people think. You can only do your best and the experience itself is never as difficult as your own imagination would like you to believe. As long as you do your best not to impede and worsen the experience for other passengers, most people will accept you are doing your best in a challenging environment.

There are loads of advice and other blogs giving some fabulous ideas to make the flying with kids thing easier. Some of my best tips include:

  • Plenty of snacks – food fixes most things! And a range of age specific activities such as colouring in, sticker books – I find it best to take things that are disposable so that you can lighten your load when you reach your destination.

  • Just be okay with screen time and bring kids their own set of headphones as the plane ones rarely fit or stay on little ears

  • Bring a change of clothes on board the plane – you never know when spills and accidents require a full change for the whole family

  • Check your airline provides pillows and blankets – much easier to get little ones to sleep if they can curl up warm and cozy

  • I always try to select seats towards the back of the plane – generally flights fill up from the front so if there are vacant seats they are likely to be found at the back of the plane – more room to spread out especially when you have babies or infants on laps

  • Be prepared to walk and wander. Kids need to move and you may spend a considerable amount of time on a flight with toddlers needing to stretch their legs. The galley area near the exits are usually an okay spot to let them stretch out.

  • Board one parent first to set up the seats and pull out all the necessities from bags without juggling kids at the same time. The other parent can then board the flight at the last moment with the kids (nothing worse than restless kids before the plane even pulls away from the gate)

  • If travelling with two or more kids it can also help to split the kids between the parents and to sit separately. Gives a little more space from sibling squabbles and they can swap seats throughout the flight for a change of scenery and to do something different with the other parent

  • Stay calm, stay calm, stay calm – kids can sense when parents are getting stressed and uptight. Take your time and stay patient and relaxed and everything is more than likely going to be fine.

  • For more fantastic tips to make flying easier with kids you can check out this link from Lisa at FlipFlopGlobetrotters

It costs too much

There is absolutely no doubt that travelling with kids is way more expensive than solo travel. It requires careful budgeting and planning but is still very achievable. For us the lure and passion for travel is enough to make us work hard and save to get there. It comes down to how badly you want it. What are you willing to give up in order to save more money, or committed to do to earn more money to pay for it?

Having said that, there are definitely some big cost savers when it comes to booking family travel. If you are interested in some awesome tips for finding cheaper travel for families check out my article on 11 Tips for Affordable Family Travel.

Want more? Make sure you sign up to my newsletters for your FREE COMPREHENSIVE guide to making family travel cheaper.

It’s not a holiday – it’s just hard work

I like to argue this point quite vehemently. Firstly, being at home now that you have kids is just harder!

Yep. No secrets here. Life since having kids is way more complicated! It’s demanding, your patience is constantly worn thread bare and of course every day of the week is a juggle to balance the fifteen plates that you manage to keep spinning in sync. This doesn’t mean that you would choose not to have a family. You grow resilient to the pressure and in some ways thrive under the pressure cooker conditions.

Holidaying with kids is no different. It can be extremely challenging, but the benefits and highlights far outweigh any negatives.

The key to a successful family holiday really just comes down to a can-do attitude and some seriously good planning and forethought.

I spend a lot longer planning and booking my trips with kids to ensure the balance is right and to blend enough highlights for both adults and kids.

You need to consider the times of day you are travelling. You need to factor in rest times and plenty of unstructured play or relaxation time for the kids. I always mix hustle and bustle with open spaces and fresh air. Kids just need more time to recover and get ready for the next big activity or sightseeing.

You won’t get far trying to pack too much into one particular day so I now always look to at least 2-3 nights in any one place so we can travel more slowly. This is actually a really wonderful way to travel and I appreciate it so much more now and I can look back at past travel experiences where we whirl-winded through some places without really taking anything in.

It’s not safe

The media does a really sensational job at making us feel like the World is a big dangerous place. Without sounding too blasé’ you really just need to get on with life. Take heed of any travel advisories through DFAT but keep the momentum when it comes to exploring all corners without fear or trepidation. Use your common sense and trust your gut feelings to keep your family safe and check out my guide to child safety when travelling.

You just never know what lies around the corner and you will kick yourself if you haven’t lived your life to the fullest. Work will always be there, day to day demands will never disappear, your kids however will grow up and you might just miss out on spending some absolutely amazing moments with them.

If you need some destination ideas that will suit your level of safety consciousness make sure you have a read of "Choose your next Holiday"

You just have to take too much gear (travelling with a baby)

Whilst travelling with babies and infants can involve micro-planning with military precision there are some handy hints to get you travelling lighter and easier.

Whilst a huge sceptic in the beginning, I am now an absolute true believer in using packing cells to get organised for family travel. I was so tired of packing and unpacking suitcases with my own and two children’s gear in one giant, jumbled mess. Not anymore. I now have a large packing cell for each family member which gets loaded into the suitcase or pack and can be lifted in and out. It makes life so much easier and searching for specific items takes a quarter of the time.

Kathmandu has a really handy range of packing cells and they come in all different cool colours and designs – you can shop online here for all the best travel accessories and packing cells.

If you intend to travel a bit with young kids then it is essential to stock up on some handy baby travel items. Here are some of my all-time favourites…

  • Travel friendly pram – what type will depend on your destination and the type of things you like to do. For us we always travelled with our Mountain Buggy swift pram which was a lightweight running style pram. We love to hike and head out into outdoorsy places so we wanted a pram that wouldn’t restrict where we could go and could handle the bumps along the way.

If you are off for a city break then you might find a simple light pop-up stroller to be the perfect solution. What is extra handy with these type of strollers is that most airlines allow you to take these all the way to the boarding gate which can be a huge help getting kids and gear through the airport terminal.

  • Travel cot – a foldable, portable travel cot is another super investment for travelling with kids. We had a Phil and Teds traveller which assembled into a small tent sized ground cot. We absolutely loved this cot and the best part? It fit inside a small suitcase and weighed less than 2kgs.

  • Disposable bibs – never take bibs that need washing. You have way better things to be doing on your holidays.

  • Travel high chair – buy the type that folds up into a small bag and can be attached to any type of chair – very handy for all the eating out at restaurants when on holidays as well as to use in your accommodation

Remember you can (and should) always check what items can be provided at your destination. Many hotels and resorts will provide cots, high chairs, toys and even prams. The less you have to logistically move obviously the easier the experience will be for you.

I hope I have encouraged and inspired you to take the plunge. Live bravely and start travelling with your family. Taking a holiday with your kids is truly addictive - trust me!

If you want some great ideas and options for travelling with your kids, make sure you order a copy of Lonely Planet's Travelling with Kids.

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