Traveling with kids is a great conversation piece. Parents are either horrified about it and refuse to travel with kids, or yearn for a similar adventure.
We want you to forget the horror reel you’ve created in your mind about traveling with children and embrace it despite the challenges.
More and more families are taking the plunge as they realise memories are more important than a hurried life trying to keep up with the Joneses.
We spoke about family travel and our road trip around Australia recently at the Brisbane Caravan & Camping Show. Here are the pros and cons of traveling with kids that we shared.
This is everything you need to know before you travel with kids to be prepared for the good and the bad. Be sure to grab our family travel planning toolkit.
Travel with kids – The Pros!
There are so many benefits to travel with kids.
Family holidays are the perfect way to spend quality time with your kids, help them to develop a better understanding of themselves and the world.
1. Spend quality time with your kids
Life is chaotic, especially when you’re a parent. You’re trying to manage work with running the kids to school and their extracurricular activities. Somewhere in between you want to connect with your kids, but exhaustion usually gets in the way of a good conversation and quality time.
I notice it now just a couple of months back into normal life. I already feel a disconnect growing between my kids and me. I feel as if I don’t see them much anymore and I miss those quality moments we had every day on the road.
Travelling with kids gives you a reason to push everything else aside and make family time and connecting a priority.
You don’t have to go on an epic trip around Australia to do that. The odd weekend away or even just a two-week annual family holiday will give you those quality moments you long for.
2. Making memorable moments as a family
There is not a person I’ve spoken to who does not hold their memories as their most treasured possession. They’re what transport us back to a moment of extreme joy and happiness to brighten our current reality.
As Avicii says,
As my father said, one day you’ll leave this life behind, so live a life that you’ll remember.
I don’t think there is anything that can give you better family memories than travel experiences. Even though our road trip is over, we share our stories and memories almost every day. It brings us giggles and cuddles and reconnecting again.
One of my favourite memories of our road trip was holding Kalyra’s hand while snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef together. Nothing can ever take that away from me and it fills me with such love and joy to know we had that experience together.
The memories and experience your children will get from travel will help them navigate the rest of their lives with confidence and optimism.
3. Forming an amazing bond with your children
I feel like I know my children so well because of the time we spent together on our road trip. I know their personalities, I understand their needs, what they’re striving for and what they love.
We have a warm and loving bond, which isn’t always perfect. We still have our arguments, clashes, and trying times, like all families, but the good times feel so much tighter.
One of the greatest gift I think our travels gave the girls was their close bond of sistership. It was beautiful to watch them become such great friends and to know they can always rely on each other.
This hit home to me when Craig and Kalyra recently went on a daddy-daughter weekend to Bathurst. When they’d phone home, both the girls just wanted to speak to each other. Savannah would lay on her back with the phone to her ear asking Kalyra all about her trip and sharing with her all that we’d been doing at home together.
I could envision them doing that for their rest of their lives and it was so heartwarming.
4. Traveling with kids helps you make new friends
The caravan and camping lifestyle is so great for families as there is usually plenty of other kids in the campgrounds.
Kalyra and Savannah were always off playing with other kids and their social skills developed immensely over the trip.
What’s so great about them making friends, is that helps you to make friends too. You meet and chat with their parents and before you know it you’re sitting around the campfire together with a bottle of wine and exciting conversation.
For the last 6-8 months of our road trip abound Australia we traveled on and off with two families. It made our travel experiences so much richer to have friends to share it with, for us and the kids.
5. Family Travel gives you incredible learning experiences
I will confidently shout it from the rooftops that travel will offer a child more enriching and valuable learning experience than a classroom ever could. It’s about learning for life skills.
I say that as a parent who has taken their child out of school to travel and as a former teacher who has taught around the world for 15 years. Kalyra has returned to school and is flying. The family road trip has not held her back in any way.
Our girls know so much about the history, culture and flora and fauna of our country. They understand about climate and landscape and how that shapes a region and they’ve learned how to interact with a wide variety of people.
Travel helps children to expand their horizons. Some of the life skills they’ve learned which are invaluable for their ability to live a good life are adaptability, problem-solving and decision-making skills, tolerance, empathy, independence, curiosity and passionate thirst for adventure and new discoveries.
6. Traveling with kids helps you see things with new eyes
Adults can get bored pretty quickly. For you it’s “just another beach” but for kids it’s a new playground. They force you to see it with new eyes, splashing in the water, climbing over boulders and exploring new tracks to see what lies beyond.
Watching your children as they see their first wild sea lion or have their first swimming with manta rays experience helps it seem like the first time for you too. It helps you tap into a long lost worked of innocence, curiosity and wonder.
Travel with kids – the Cons
Yep. Traveling with children is not easy!
Here’s how I take it. The negatives will depend upon what you choose to focus on and dwell upon.
Parenting is a challenge, no matter what lifestyle you choose. Deciding to travel with your kids is not going to make those challenges go away. They’ll just come in different forms.
I think you might as well then travel and choose to make the good times extraordinary.
Normal coping strategies apply and careful planning and preparation will help minimize the onset of insanity.
Here are a few of the family travel challenges.
1. Living a 24/7 lifestyle as a family
Okay so you can get pretty sick of each other when you spend every moment together. It can be exhausting and put a strain on your relationships. Once you notice the tension developing (actually it’s best to not even get that far along) take your time out and force some separation.
How to overcome living in each other’s pockets:
- Give each person in the family their space to do their own thing. It’s a bit harder with the little ones, but we found campsites were a great place for them to play outside on their own, or with their new friends they made quite easily.
- Craig and I would try and take our own time out either by exercising on our own at different times of the day or heading out to chill on our own in a cafe, by the beach or the odd massage or two.
- We would also stay in apartments often for a break and some space.
2. Homeschooling on the road
Homeschooling is the pits. I really did not like this experience with Kalyra. There were some moments that were great. I do love teaching my children, but not in the standard school style. I have had 15 years of teaching experience around the world, often teaching challenging students and Kalyra was up there.
She’s a brilliant student and loves learning, but not when Mrs Makepeace is wielding the chalk.
Trying to get her to sit down for an hour to do the work always turned into a three-hour battle. It’s so difficult to teach your own child. They know all the buttons to push and there’s not much you can do about it.
How to overcome this the pain of homeschooling your kids:
- Work to your child’s mood. There is no point banging heads against a brick wall if they’re not going to get the work done
- Have clear boundaries in place – including consequences that your child helps to create
- Learn as much as you can from the real life travel experiences
- Don’t kill yourself over it. There were many lessons and units I dropped because I thought they were pointless and I was tired of it impacting my relationship with my kids
3. Tired. Hungry. Bored.
It’s no different to normal parenting. In fact, it’s no different to humans.
What’s going to cause the majority of meltdowns are your kids being hungry, tired or bored. I’d even throw the heat into this. I had no idea the effect heat had on kids until we travelled the Top End. That can cause them to very quickly lose it.
How to overcome kids losing it on your travels
- Have a plan in place to prevent issues arising because of being tired, hungry or bored.
- Pack plenty of snacks on your hikes, exploration and long drives.
- Have plenty of rest stops
- Don’t over pack your daily activities and keep the nights low key.
- Always make sure you’re incorporating the kids interests into your travels and have plenty for them to do on your long road journeys.
- Have them pack their own interest bag and fill it with paper, pencils, books and games.
- The odd DVD or iPad game never hurts.
4. Restricted activities when you travel with kids
There’s no doubt that travel with kids is a much different experience to when you travel as a couple pre-kids. There will be many things you once loved to do that aren’t really an option.
Craig and I used to love going on long and fairly strenuous hikes. That doesn’t happen with the kids and some activities, like canoeing and long mountain bike rides, are ruled out with a toddler. We also didn’t mind partying at night or long leisurely lunches and dinners.
How to overcome the restrictions of travel with kids
- Just adapt. It’s the only way.
- We now enjoy BBQ’s and dinner parties with new friends.
- We tag team if Savannah is too young for an activity or if either of us really want to do something the kids can’t we tag with each other.
- We go on shorter hikes. You can still enjoy the spirit of most of your favourite activities, just in a new format.
- Discover new activities together. We developed a love for star gazing and camel riding.
- Travel with friends or family and tag team for child-minding so you can have time out.
- Learn how to slow your own pace down so it doesn’t stress you out when the kids dawdle and stop to look at every bug and leaf on the ground. You’re traveling, you don’t need to hurry.
Read more: How to enjoy hiking with kids
6. Too much luggage
We love road tripping with kids as it means you can carry more luggage and equipment. Kids need a lot of stuff, especially if you are traveling with younger children. There are bottles, nappies, food, clothes, toys, prams, hiking carriers, and gadgets.
It’s crazy how much you carry. Being on the road trip, we also carried with us bikes, scooters, boogie boards, roller skates and more. They really did enhance our experience, but it was a pain to manage.
How to overcome the excess luggage
- Be very diligent with your choices. A few toys and clothes each. Your children will be so busy having fun on their travel experiences interacting with the world around them they won’t need many plastic toys. A few things to give them a connection to home and different stimulation is fine, but they won’t need much.
- Definitely consider taking things like bikes and scooters which will enhance their travel experience and make it easier for you all to get around.
Check out this page for all our tips on travel gear and packing.
6. Travel with kids is expensive
So of course traveling with kids is going to be more expensive as there’s more of you to fit on the budget! It’s still manageable you just have to make smart choices and plan well.
How to overcome the expense of traveling with kids
- The caravan and camping lifestyle makes it more affordable, particularly if you take advantage of free camping.
- Other sensible tips include self-catering, enjoying the great outdoors, traveling slower and restricting the amount of big ticket items you do.
- Do your research to find great deals on flights, accommodation etc
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What do you feel are the pros and cons to travelling with kids? Don’t forget to leave us your best tip to manage the challenges!