Family Travel

Tips for travelling with children

“Travellers never think that they are the foreigners.”
Mason Cooley

So, one of the hardest things for me to get my head around, at the moment, is how this travel thing is going to play out day to day. It is obviously going to be different than being at home – we have all our stuff here, but on the road we’ll have a mere fraction of clothes, toys, books, TV, etc. – and we can’t keep paying for trips and visits to parks, museums, etc. every day.

Reading around there are so many kind travellers who’ve written about how the travelling worked for them. So, here are a few things I’ve read and wanted to keep or pass on, some things that mattered and mean something to me, or will help me get my head around this thing we’ve started.

  • Before your trip, encourage your kids to learn about the countries, cities, sights, and people they’ll be visiting. Even simple Wikipedia articles can provide enough background to pique a child’s curiosity. Read books, fiction and non-fiction, set in the place you’re going, such as The Diary of Anne Frank for Amsterdam or The Thief Lord for Venice. Watch movies together, such as The Sound of Music for Salzburg, The Red Balloon for Paris, or The Secret of Roan Inish for Ireland. Your hometown library can be a great resource for age-appropriate books and movies. (source: Rick Steve)
  • Things will go wrong. You’ll not only get lost, you’ll lose things, miss trains, find the place you’re going to closed. You can make the best of plans, but the truth is, you don’t control things. Life has its own plans. The key is to smile, accept the way things are, and see it all as part of your great adventure. And this is the philosophy you should convey to the kids, even before you travel, to make their experience all the more enjoyable and enlightening. (source: Zen Habits)
  • If you do visit an art museum, try starting with the gift shop first. Have each person choose a few postcards of artworks that appeal to them, then set out to find each person’s “own” art.  Some museums have Treasure Hunt guides for kids, too. (source: My Little Nomads)
  • You don’t really learn a place until you get lost in it. I always get a map of where we are, and try to orient myself, but I also like to put the map away for a bit and get a bit lost, so I can find my way through exploring and wrong turns. You also discover the most unexpected things when you allow yourself to get lost. (source: Zen Habits)
  • Get a jump on foreign phrases. Type out the top 20 or so and put them on the fridge for everyone to learn. Get a copy of the “10 Minutes a Day” book for your country’s language — they come with preprinted sticky word labels that your kids will enjoy plastering onto your household items. (source: Rick Steve)
  • Because travelling is best done at a snail’s pace it is really nice to have a little hobby to turn to. Sketching or writing poetry or taking photographs – these can help you see a place through a different lens. And they can pass the hours while your children bury each other endlessly in the sand. (source: Lulastic)
  • It’s so much fun to walk through winding medieval streets, stop and drink from ancient fountains, grab a croissant or gelato whenever you like, see locals walking around, stop in a little shop if it catches your fancy, see nature up close. (source: Zen Habits)
  • Help your kids collect and process their observations. Buy a journal at your first stop, and it becomes a fun souvenir in itself. Kids like cool books — pay for a nice one. The journal is important, and it should feel that way. Encourage kids to record more than just a trip log: Collect feelings, smells, tastes, reactions to cultural differences, and so on. Grade-school kids enjoy pasting in ticket stubs or drawing pictures of things they’ve seen. (source: Rick Steve)
  • Allow each person in the family, in turn, to choose the day’s activities. On Tuesday, Dad picks the science museum, and everyone goes along, even though it sounds suspiciously educational. On Wednesday, 9-year-old Steve chooses to rent bicycles to the dismay of his parents, who haven’t biked in years. Mom opts for a cheese factory on Thursday, and the samples turn out to be delicious. On Friday, 13-year-old Beth calls for sleeping late, then visiting the flea market. (source: My Little Nomads)
  • Just a few phrases spoken by your kids will open many doors. Make a point of teaching them “thank you,” “hello,” and “good-bye” in the country’s language. You’ll find nearly everyone speaks English, but small phrases out of the mouths of babes will melt the cool of surly museum guards or harried shop clerks. source: Rick Steve)
  • Generally, I reckon if parents are happy, than kids are happy. We were all carried along in a spirit of nomadic freedom.  We prioritised their needs, planned travelling around sleeps and tried to park in places that they would thrive in. They LOVED having both parents around and the unstructured time. (source: Lulastic)
  • We tend to buy cereal and yogurt and fruit for breakfast, along with coffee and maybe some things for dinner or snacks. This allows us to save money, eat something a bit healthier than pastries and pizza at least one or two meals of the day, and relax at home in the mornings and during our afternoon break (source: Zen Habits)

Do you have anything to add, to help us or anyone else reading this? If so, please leave a comment and share.

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