12 Tips For Traveling With School Age Children (Age 5-11)

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The school age range is the age group that I adore. When Kalyra was 8, almost 9, she still has a little sweet innocence, and I’m still important to her, yet there’s a growing maturity and independence that I love to see and be around.

The growing independence, but the need to still be close to parents, makes the school age the best age to travel with.

father hugging daughter

And when I talk about school age, I mean primary ages from 5 until 11, before they start high school and life becomes a bit more serious.

In this guide, we’re sharing our top tips for traveling with children age 5-11, as well as the pros and cons of traveling with primary school aged kids.

Is It Worth Traveling With School Age Kids?

A little girl posing for a picture
Out the front of Christ Church College, Oxford

Traveling with kids who have started school is definitely worth it! At this age, children are more independent and curious, making them great travel companions.

They have a better understanding of the world around them thanks to what they learn in school, and it also makes them interested in learning about new cultures and countries.

Traveling with kids in this age group provides educational opportunities for them as they learn about history, geography, and cultures.

They also learn to get out of their comfort zone, learn to adapt to changes and deal with challenges.

Plus, witnessing their excitement and wonder as you discover new places together is truly priceless.

Travel Tips for School-Aged Children

1. Record Their Memories

young girl taking selfie with camera

Kalyra has started producing content for our site – it’s a fabulous way for her to record her memories, but also to learn very important communication and creativity skills AND to learn to be comfortable expressing herself.

She’s contributed to this post on our site and published a post on our trip to Singapore, one on our visit to Universal Orlando Resort and a guide to Disneyland, LA.

She 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 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. (Here are other travel books kids love AND some great ideas for gifts for kids who love travel.)

3. Do Audio Tours

Audio tour Sixth Floor museum 2
Audio tour in JFK Museum

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

Young girl looking at a map of an island
Using a map to get around

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 family trip to Sydney in this video.

5. Involve Them in the Planning and Research

With Hedwig at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Orlando

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 dying to go to Harry Potter World 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 in Burleigh Heads, Queensland (and she’s pretty good), so on our America Unplugged trip, we’ll be finding space for a surfboard and a skateboard.

UPDATE: We’ve since been to Harry Potter World in Orlando three times and Warner Bros Harry Potter Studios in London!

Want help with planning a travel experience the whole family will love? Click here for immediate and free access to the toolkit.

6. Allow Them To Buy Souvenirs

They’ll be at that age where they might want to buy 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

family friendly bike ride on the Stowe Recreation Path in Vermont New England (2)
Biking in New England

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.

Be sure to check with the airlines and airport regulations before taking a scooter or bike on an airplane.

8. Give Them a Little More Time

young girl Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia
Snorkeling Great Barrier Reef

School aged kids can become engrossed in an activity quite easily, so allow room in your schedule to give them extra time to enjoy the moment.

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. Prepare For 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

  1. Bored – pack an entertainment pack, especially to plan ahead for delays. Let your school aged child pack it and carry it.
  2. Hungry – plenty of snacks and water. Your school-aged child can even help you make the snacks
  3. Tired – plenty of rest planned through the day. travel slow.
  4. Hot – plan your activities around the heat of the day. Find ways to cool down.

10. Have Special Date Moments

girl looking at reflection at Prismatica Art installation Polk Park Chicago (3)
Chicago trip with Kalyra

The older your child gets the more having one-on-one time is important for them.

Kalyra loves to go on special mummy daughter dates alone with myself or Craig. She and I did a Mother Daughter weekend getaway to Chicago.

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.

11. Allow Them To Pack Their Own Suitcase

family posing at airport with luggage

Although the toddler and preschool stage has long gone and you no longer need a travel stroller or booster seat (and bye bye diapers!), you still need to pack wisely.

You can teach your child responsibility and give them independence by allowing them to have their own suitcase.

Be sure to check they have packed enough clothes, socks, underwear, and any electronic devices and toys they want to bring.

Young kids will still need some guidance from you, so you could create a checklist for them to follow if they need help.

Use packing cubes to keep things organized, and ensure they know what needs to go in their carry-on backpack and what needs to go in hold luggage. They should learn the difference between essentials and comfort items, as well as learn about TSA restrictions (such as liquid restrictions).

Have a plastic bag for dirty laundry and get them a wash bag for their toothbrushes, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, wipes and other toiletries.

It’s best you keep chargers and other important electronics that are expensive, such as headphones and tablets, because kids are known to forget these in the hotel!

12. Get Away From Disneyland

woman and child with mouse ears on at disneyland

Kids love Disney and we’re not saying you should avoid Disneyland. It’s many kids dream to go and we wouldn’t deprive them of that.

But be sure to also include some sightseeing outside the theme parks. Kids will love exploring the cultural side of a destination as well, and it does make for a more memorable adventure.

The Pros and Cons of Traveling with School Age Kids

child taking selfie in front Customs House during Vivid Sydney
Kalyra in front of Customs House during Vivid Sydney

The Pros of Traveling with School Age Kids

  • It won’t matter too much if they miss some school (depending on the child though)
  • They can entertain themselves much easier and are loads of fun to be around
  • They don’t need you as much, so it’s not as exhausting
  • They’re much more independent, curious, eager to learn and participate in the travel experience
  • 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

The Cons of Traveling with School Age Kids

young girl holding joey
  • 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
  • Their growing independence often means growing stubbornness

Final Thoughts

The 5-11 age range is a wonderful age to travel with and is one of the age groups when we have had the most fun as a family.

We hope these tips give you inspiration for your next family vacation and help you prepare your school age kids for their next adventure.

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What are your tips for traveling with school aged children? Let us know in the comments!

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