Oh welcome to psychotic travel.
I thought toddler travel was the hardest and most draining. It possibly is because you are doing all that chasing and on hyper-vigilant alert.
But travelling with preschool kids will drain you mentally and leave you feeling like you’ve just come off the graviton straight after the upside down pirate ship ride.
“What do you mean you don’t like noodles, you just ate them last night.”
“I don’t understand what’s wrong. Can you please calm down and tell me?” “I just stepped in a puddle and the soles of my shoes are dirty.” “I don’t want you to look at me!”
This is the age when you mumble a lot of, “fuck me’s” under your breath. Or “Holy hell, who can figure them out?” It’s possibly a prelude to the teenage years for sure.
But, hell, it’s going to be hell, no matter where you are so you might as well up the adventure level and travel with your preschoolers.
Travelling with preschool kids is actually a lot of fun. Their personality is starting to burst out of their craziness and in between are moments of sweet and innocent conversations that fill up your heart. They also still love to snuggle with their Mama!
We’ve been sharing posts on the pros and cons of traveling with kids at various ages.
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.
Essential Travel tips for parents with preschool kids
Talk to your child
Preschoolers are old enough to understand what’s happening. Have conversations with them about the travel you are about to embark on.
Where you’re going, staying, what you’re going to see etc. Encourage your preschooler to ask questions and express how they feel about the travel experience, as well as what they’d like to experience and why.
Encourage kids to help you plan
We browse books, magazines and websites with our girls to get their input into the travel planning. We’ve been looking at RV’s together and they let us know which ones they like best and why they’d feel most comfortable in them.
Preschoolers don’t like surprises so prepare them in this way. Savannah now keeps asking us when were we going to get in the RV. For her, it’s way more exciting and comfortable than a house!
Give them travel responsibilities
Preschoolers love showing how grown up they are and asserting their independence. Give yourself a break as well by allowing them to take on small travel roles.
Start with letting them pack their own bags. Savannah takes care of hers (and will have meltdowns if you try to interfere) but I always do a sneaky check or throw some just in cases in my suitcase.
She takes charge of rolling her suitcase, loading it onto the plane and getting it back off the conveyor belts upon arrival. She even races forward to grab my heavy one offf. She hands over all her tickets, finds her seats, and now will even order and purchase her own things. And she loves to take the map and direct us where to go!
Those are the most interesting journeys!
Don’t forget to pack the creature comforts
Security blankets and objects are still important for a preschooler. They use their teddies or special blankets to clutch when they feel frightened or unsure, plus they are still a real part of their world.
They love for them to experience the adventures with them. Savannah was delighted the other week when Archie was selected to visit the pilot on the plane and wear his hat!
Mix it up
Preschoolers have more energy, but they can still tire easily.
Mix up the activities with periods of rest and quiet and play. Sometimes they’ll be so tired (yet unwilling to sleep) that you may have to go for a drive to help them nod off and save you the pain of the tired monsters.
Pack fun activities
Preschoolers love to do things. Give them a bag full of colouring books, pencils, stickers, reading books, games, puzzles and activities. It will keep them entertained during transit and meal times if eating out.
You can buy ready made activity packs like this one, or just put them together yourself by grabbing bits and bobs from the $2 store.
Let them take the camera
Both my girls love taking the camera to record their interpretation of the world and it started once they became preschoolers.
They love to help us shoot videos now as well and often input great suggestions. At this age, they’re so spontaneous and don’t understand limitation or fear. Let them go for it and allow for their silliness. We have to make room for many boobies and bum words randomly thrown out in our videos!
The Pros and Cons of travelling with Preschool Kids
- They’re more interested in trying new things and will embrace lots of different activities
- Their personalities are quite spunky as they push boundaries and get to know themselves more.
- Their insights on the world are entertaining and pure.
- They ask a lot of questions – I love to soak up that curiosity
- They remember a lot of your travel experiences and love to share the memories of them later.
- They’re more social and so connect with strangers and new friends easily.
- They’re more independent and can take on more roles.
- You have far less things to pack for them – no more nappies, strollers, and possibly car seats.
- They can do a lot more activities and tours as they have less age and height restrictions
- They can sit still and concentrate for longer.
- There’s no school to worry about!
PROS from our family travel experts
Travelling with a preschooler can be lots of fun – they can entertain themselves on long journeys, they can help pick attractions and get involved in the planning. They are so curious and it’s fun to share the world with them. They no longer need a lot of gear so we could go back to carry on only, No naps makes things easier. There are no school holidays to work around or worry about homeschooling – Sharon from wheressharon.com
The best age for us yet. Precshoolers are finally old enough to enjoy more things than just climbing. You can begin to take them to places like museums and art galleries and they actually enjoy what they are looking at and want to learn more. Flights also are easier at this age, as is their ability to handle jetlag and disruptions to sleep patterns – Christine from adventurebaby.org
Preschoolers bring a whole other level of energy to your travels! Their excitement and joy in visiting new places and exploring every inch will be contagious and bring an element of awe to your trip. Plus you will become familiar with every park and bathroom at each location you visit – Bryanna from www.crazyfamilyadventure.com
At this age they’re more independent, ready for adventure and are heaps of fun. They’ll also talk to quite literally anyone so tend to make plenty of friends along the way. Best of all they’re still young enough that you don’t need to worry about them missing school – Aleney from www.boyeatsworld.com.au
They don’t need to go to school. This is a great age to travel, because the kids are loved by everyone and dotted on. It also means no worry about school days making travel cheaper – Erin from explorewitherin.com
They are not in school yet, so you can travel at any time throughout the year. They want to try new things and there are more opportunities for adventure for the family – Nicole from http://travelingcanucks.com
Going off-season is wonderful. You can still get great prices and uncrowded hotels. You can start doing city breaks with pre-schoolers. E.g, we took them to Venice. Shobha from http://www.justgoplacesblog.com/venice-with-children-the-olivia-way/
- Endless energy. Maybe it’s just Savannah, but she doesn’t stop moving or jumping. She was jumping and crawling all over me the other day and I had flashbacks to her being in my tummy – the same constant movement.
- They’re so freakin fussy. Virgos on acid. Hang on – both my girls are Virgos, no wonder preschool age kills me.
- They ask a lot of questions and are rarely satisfied with your answer.
- They don’t take naps, yet they get tired quite easily = many meltdowns.
- They’re getting too big for strollers and hiking backpacks, but often still too little to walk long distances (keep training them though)
- They’ll often nod off when in the car, which may disturb their night-time routine. Hello Midnight bouncing off walls games!
- They get bored easily. Australian road trips can be slightly hideous. It’s usually about 15 minutes into your standard 6-hour road trip that they start wailing, “Are we there yet? I’m bored.”
- Their desire to explore their creative side may lead them to draw all over the walls of your rented accommodation with black marker. Stay vigilant and pack sugar soap.
CONS from our family travel experts
They can be fussy about what we do attraction wise. We find it much harder than when they were younger to do more adult focused attractions – Sharon from wheressharon.com
They get bored if attractions aren’t geared to them, still too young to go out at night, and picky eaters can make it hard to eat out – Christine from adventurebaby.org
They won’t like to sit still, be quiet, or wait in line so this can limit the types of things you may want to do on your trip. You may also find that you are chasing them around so you miss out on being able to really take in the places you are visiting – Bryanna from www.crazyfamilyadventure.com
Pre-schoolers can be extremely fussy, stubborn and are prone to as many tantrums as toddlers… they’re just louder and more dramatic. They’re also just as likely to chuck one on holiday as they are at home – it will be just way more public and generally far more embarrassing, especially in cultures where other children seem so calm and sedate – Aleney from www.boyeatsworld.com.au
Preschoolers can be highly demanding. They may show behaviour in public that can be quite embarrassing or just plain exasperating. They also have a tendency to wander off, meaning hand holding is a must – Erin fromExplore with Erin
They are still a little too young to stay out late at night – Nicole from http://travelingcanucks.com
We found it hard to eat out with them. They can be fussy eaters, won’t sit still once they are done with their meal and can occasionally lapse to throwing food around – Shobha from www.justgoplacesblog.com