At a couple of months shy of 9, I adore the age Kalyra’s at now. She still has a little sweet innocence, and I’m still important to her, yet there’s a growing maturity and independence I love to see and be around.
I do feel I’ll be a mum well suited to the older years.
This is the last age group I can offer you family travel tips for at the moment. I’ll definitely be able to share more about the tweens in the coming years though as Kalyra ticks over into them in two months time!
The good news is Savannah will be slipping into school aged travel next year! Yay – goodbye emotional preschooler stage.
We’ve been sharing posts on the pros and cons of traveling with kids at various ages.
I’ve called on some family travel experts to offer some extra insights and tips to fill in the gaps. (check out the posts on traveling with a baby, travelling with a toddler, and traveling with preschoolers)
We believe parenting is hard no matter the age, nor where you are, so you might as well unplug from the chaos, travel more, and fill up the moments in between with meaningful memories.
Tips for traveling with school-aged kids
1. Record their memories
Kalyra has started producing content for our site – it’s a fabulous way for them to record their memories, but also to learn very important communication and creativity skills. AND to learn to be comfortable expressing themselves.
She’s contributed to this post on our site and is publishing one soon on Singapore, created her own vlog (she does these all the time, yet rarely publishes) and sometimes takes over our Snapchat to snap her view on life (Savannah does too), she takes photos and videos and often directs the video production, and has appeared in various commercials.
I love that she can be more involved with what we do.
She also loves to journal her day when we travel.
2. Pack the puzzles and books
School-aged children love doing puzzles.
Sudoku’s are great for car travel and passing time in restaurants and long queues. Kalyra and I love to play Boxes in the car. Kalyra also loves the Lonely Planet for Kids series and the Usborne Travel Activity books
3. Do audio tours
Your school aged child will love walking around a tourist site with the audio tour guiding them. They’ll be fascinated by the stories and will learn a lot. Many of these tours have kid’s versions. Savannah even likes to listen to them. They’re also much better at listening to tour guides as well.
4. Put them in charge of the maps and tours
Kalyra loves to take that map and tell us where to go. She also loves to take control of the self-guided tours, telling us where to go and what to see and why. You can see her taking charge of some of that at the Chinese Gardens on our trip to Sydney in this video.
5. Involve them in the planning and research
I say involve the kids in the planning much earlier than when they hit school age, but at school age, they’re much more independent and able to make logical decisions.
Give them time (and help) researching where they are going so they can immerse themselves in the experience. They can read books, watch movies, search websites and play games.
Both Kalyra and I are now dying to go to Harry Potter land together. She just finished reading the first book and we watched the movie together. How great to have a shared passion with your children.
Don’t forget to involve their interests as well. Kalyra took up surfing living here in Burleigh (and she’s pretty good), so on our America Unplugged trip, we’ll be finding space for a surfboard and a skateboard.
6. Buying souvenirs
They’ll be at that age where they might want to be a souvenir for themselves or others. It’s a great learning opportunity for them about the laws of exchange.
Give them a set amount and encourage purchasing from local markets and artisans. Avoid the kitschy plastic souvenirs made in China.
Talk to them about how this supports the local economy as well. My favourite souvenir ever is a $1 bright blue beaded bracelet and $5 red warrior blanket I brought from a Masai village in Kenya. I’ve still got it and it has a precious memory and story attached.
7. Bring the scooters or bikes
They’re still at an age where protesting about walking can happen after a few steps. Bring a scooter or bike (depending on how you are traveling)
You will appreciate the freedom this will give you to explore and little deeper and the fun they’ll have doing it. You can always rent one if necessary.
8. Give them a little more time
School aged kids can become engrossed in an activity quite easily. Give them extra time to enjoy the moment. Kalyra will never get tired of going for one more zip line turn,
Kalyra will never get tired of going for one more zip line turn, snorkel the Great Barrier Reef one more time, listening to one more campfire story, or doing just one more line of cartwheels through the park.
Give them as much time as you can. They’re living in and loving the moment.
9. Cover the meltdown moments
As with every age, we recommend a bag of tricks to cover you for the four things that will always cause a meltdown – no matter your child’s age Psst – they’ll also cause a meltdown for you
- Bored – pack an entertainment pack. Let your school aged child pack it and carry it.
- Hungry – plenty of snacks and water. Your school-aged child can even help you make the snacks
- Tired – plenty of rest planned through the day. travel slow.
- Hot – plan your activities around the heat of the day. Find ways to cool down.
10. Have special date moments
The older your child gets the more having one-on-one time is important for them.
Kalyra loves to go on special dates alone with myself or Craig. It might be a little harder if you’re all traveling together and for a short time, but even if it’s just a quick five-minute walk you can steal together they’ll appreciate this time to connect just with you uninterrupted so they can share a little deeper travel experience with you.
PROS for traveling with school-aged kids
- It won’t matter too much if they miss some school (depending on the child though)
- They can entertain themselves much easier
- They’re much more independent
- They’re excited about many of the travel experiences
- They have their own travel interests to pursue.
- Making friends is easier. Not long after you arrive in the campsite they’ll be off playing spotlight with their new friends.
- They’re easier to reason with
Pros of traveling with school-aged children from our family travel experts
- Easy to take kids out of school – they’re not missing anything yet. They can easily entertain themselves on planes. They’re highly interested in learning about the world. My son loved Easter Island at 6 – Eric Stoen from www.travelbabbo.com
- You can really begin to involve them in the process of selecting places you are going to visit and things you are going to do. Plus they will remember past trips so will have suggestions on things they want to do on your trips. Once on your trip they provide amazing insight and perspective on the places that you visit and notice things that we as adults may miss. Plus seeing the awe in their faces and sharing these amazing travel moments with them is an unbelievable experience – Bryanna from www.crazyfamilyadventure.com
- My eeight-year-old is the most awesome travel companion I’ve ever had. He’s fascinated, open-minded, adventurous and seeing the world through his eyes is amazing. He’s also considerate, can look after his own stuff and helps with his little sister – Aleney from boyeatsworld.com.au
- I love the eagerness of this age. Eager to please and eager to explore – Tara Marlow from www.travelfarenough.com
- This is where our children are up to. At 6 & 7 they are a joy to travel with. They no longer nap, they have an intense interest in being part of the travel. They also follow instead of wandering off, they are open to trying new foods and they can sit through a whole movie making hours on a plane much easier – Erin from explorewitherin.com
- I love traveling with the kids now. They have interesting questions and insights. They have good stamina so we don’t need to stop for constant snack/bathroom breaks – www.justgoplacesblog.com
- The best years! They still think we parents are great, and they are like sponges soaking everything up. They can pack their own bags and are more adventurous with eating and drinking. they can stay up later without becoming hysterical the next day – Seana Smith from www.hellosydneykids.com.au
CONS of traveling with school-aged kids
- They’re still learning to manage their emotions so can often meltdown. This does start to settle down at the later end of the school aged kids bracket.
- They’re now at school so there is more to consider when traveling as a family
- They like to stay at home and spend time with their friends
- Extra-curricular activities become important to them – again the desire to travel less
- If you stick to travel in the school holidays, it’s busier and more expensive
Cons of traveling with school-aged kids from our family travel experts
- Kids this age can be intolerant of very hot days as well as long waits and activities like museum visits – Eric Stoen from www.travelbabbo.com
- Kids at this age have strong opinions and aren’t always as easily distracted as younger kids may be. Your expectations are also different once they hit this age since you assume they should be able to handle more so when situations come up where they can’t it can cause frustration. It is important at this age to still remember they are young kids and will need down time and time to reconnect with you – Bryanna from www.crazyfamilyadventure.com
- Negotiating School Holidays is tough. Everything is so much more expensive and schools really aren’t happy with kids being taken out mid term for family holidays – Aleney from www.boyeatsworld.com.au
- School schedules start restricting the travel times. We’ve had to start thinking about school, but it hasn’t been too much of a worry in this day and age with online education and the rise of homeschooling. They start having opinions about where they want to go so the kid days verses the mummy & daddy days start becoming more 50/50 – Erin: http://travelwithbender.com/travel-thoughts/reflections/9-challenges-family-travel/
- We are stuck going during school holidays and that really pushes the price of holidays up (as well as availability). Sometimes we take them out of school when we aren’t supposed to do so. However, we don’t want to teach them that education is something that is optional or they can do when it’s ‘convenient’.You have to think about their perceptions now as well – Shobha from www.justgoplacesblog.com
- They love school, and they love their weekend sports, so often they don’t want to come away as they will miss both a lot – Seana Smith from www.hellosydneykids.com.au