The Best Age to Travel With Kids (& The Worst!)

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Craig and I were once contemplating a possible year long adventure through Southeast Asia, the only problem was, our girls were 5 and 18 months old at the time.

After our two week trip to Thailand, we completely scrapped the idea.

For the amount of effort required and the pressures of travelling with small children through South East Asia proved too much.

two young girls holding balloons sitting on bench in thai garden
Klong Lat Mayom Floating Markets, Bangkok

Kalyra (aged 5 at the time) was a pretty good age to travel with, although she can get tired easily and likes to complain.

Savannah, on the other hand, was a toddler, hell-bent on exploring the world with the energy of an ever ready bunny.

Having traveled with our kids from babies up until their teens (our oldest is now 15), we have discovered the best ages to travel with kids, as well as the worst.

So if you’re curious, here’s what you can expect traveling at each age…

The Best Age to Travel with Kids

We’ll talk about the worst age to travel a bit later. Spoiler alert, it’s toddler age!

But for now, let’s talk about the best ages to travel with kids…

The Best Age To Travel With Kids

The best age to travel with kids largely depends on your destination and travel style.

For example, I wouldn’t go backpacking with a baby, but a cruise around the Caribbean, sign me up!

Here’s what you can expect from each age…

Babies (0-6 Months)

young baby sleeping in travel cot

The idea of flying with babies once scared the life out of me, but after our first plane trip with a baby, we realized it’s not so bad.

Typically, it’s not recommended you travel with a newborn and you should wait until their immune system is strong before you embark on a holiday, but you should consult with your doctor about making this decision.

Kalyra was 6 months old before her first international flight, from Australia to Fiji, and Savannah was 8 weeks when she flew Australia to New Zealand.

They weren’t a long flight and made for a great training exercise.

Since then, flying with our kids has been easy.

Traveling with a baby is possibly the best age to travel with kids, once you get to the destination since they eat and sleep most of the time.

However, plane travel can be difficult because of all the things you need to pack.

Breastfeeding is much easier than formula, since you’ll want to bring your baby’s favorite formula with you.

You also need to carry diapers, wipes, blankets, baby carrier, and possibly a car seat.

And you need to consider mobility, since strollers and prams usually are too big for carry-on with most airlines.

New parents might want to be conscious on hygiene, depending on where you are going.

Germs and bacteria can make your child sick, so as long as you keep up good hygiene wherever you go, you should be fine.

Primary (5-10 year olds)

girls drinking through straws
Fun in Boracay, Philippines

You’ll notice we left out toddlers and jumped straight to primary age. You’ll understand why later.

Primary age is that sweet spot in life when your child still has a childlike curiosity, enjoys cuddles, but also wants to gain a bit more independence.

You will find less tantrums compared to toddler age, but you may find they get bored easily.

We recommend packing plenty of toys and snacks, and allow your children to carry their own backpacks with what they want to take with them.

Give them their own seat on the plane rather than sitting on your lap, and start allowing them some independence, and you’ll find travel is much easier.

Tweens (10 – 13 year olds)

people kayaking on river

Once your child reaches the tween age, especially if they have already traveled before, you’ll find it’s the easiest age group to travel with.

Older kids know what they are doing at this point, and you don’t have to worry about them getting into unsafe situations since they will have some self awareness and can take care of themselves.

Of course, you always need to watch your kids, but you can relax a little knowing they aren’t going to put some random stick in their mouths.

Tweens will still be quite attached to the wonder and adventure of travel.

Teenagers (13-17)

Two girls walking through a park.
Teens in Paris

Teens have left the potty training and nap times long in the past and can start to travel as young adults with their own interests and plans for the vacation.

Teenagers are arguably the perfect age to travel with, since they can appreciate the life lessons that travel gives and have an interest in culture, history and art.

However, it is an age that can be difficult in that teens basically want to retreat to a world of their own, where they don’t need to communicate or do anything other than listen to music all day long or text with their friends. Actually, they really don’t even want to be on a vacation with you, they just want to be with their friends back home.

And suddenly all the things you used to love doing together, they’ll now find boring but can’t articulate what it is they love to do now.

It’s the age where you might start to organize more expensive activities such as a safari or hot air balloon ride, which are safer for older kids and will also be appreciated much more.

They may have more refined interests which you can explore with them, We’ve pursued Broadway shows in New York City, Taylor Swift concerts in Philadelphia, and Harry Potter Studio tours in London. So the fun is still there, you just have to dig deep to find it on the teen level.

Once your teen hits the age range of 18-20, they might be considering a gap year before university, and those vacations you take with them in their early teens may inspire them.

Who knows, you may create a lifelong passion for travel!

Check out our posts on Paris with teens, London with teens, New York City with teens, and European river cruising for teens and tweens. Where should we go next?

The Worst Age To Travel With Kids

man with toddler on back and young child beside him
Hiking White Sands

The toddler age, in my opinion, is the worst age to travel with kids

On our Thailand trip there was absolutely zero time to relax or to absorb anything around me.

I felt stressed, overburdened, and highly anxious. We should be travelling to experience lightness and joy, not heaviness and stress.

Until they reach the age near 3, when it gets so much easier, we will be looking more to road trip travel as a means for taking a vacation.

At times I feel like a bit of a cop out—you know when the going gets tough, the fake and softies fall apart.

We like to share with you the truth about travel on our blog. It can be very tough and full of challenges.

Never be afraid to change direction or style to whatever brings you the most comfort and joy.

The Challenges of Toddler Travel

So now you know why we think infants aged 9 months – 3 are the worst age to travel, here’s why we feel Toddlerville is the WORST age to travel and how we found it extra burdensome in South East Asia.

1. Toddlers Can’t Sit Still

mum holding toddler on boat
I was not letting go

They’ve just learned to walk; they’ve got to practice this new skill.

The legs won’t stop moving and if you hold them in your arms for a moments rest, the battle of the wriggles will begin.

Try having a conversation or listening to a tour guide when that happens.

Plus the roads in South East Asia are chaos, it’s a lot more challenging to let them walk on the sidewalk, or even in a wider spaced area, the trouble they can get themselves into are more prevalent.

On our balcony at the Hilton in Phuket was a large gap Savannah could possibly have stuck her body through (not 100% sure as we didn’t test it) and crashed to the pavement below. We couldn’t sit and relax on the balcony.

When we took a boat trip to Phang Ngha Bay (probably a stupid decision on our behalf) I almost had an anxiety attack and felt like I was going to vomit. There were far too many places she could climb and fall overboard.

The life jacket was on her and I battled with the wriggles for the journey, not able to enjoy the scenery much at all.

2. Plane Journeys are Taxing with Toddlers

toddler on plane with coloring book
Trying to keep her entertained on the plane

Long Flights are Not Good with a Toddler; they will hate the restricted space.

They have trouble sleeping and if they get upset and start crying you worry so much about disturbing the peace of the other passengers that your chest and stomach becomes tightly wound and your blood pressure shoots up.

You are all so exhausted by the end of it.

If it is a long flight to another time zone, you might be dealing with your energetic toddler from 4am when they spring out of bed ready to go.

3. Toddlers Need Car Seats

toddler in mini van with no seat belt
Challenging travel

This was probably one of the most stressful experiences in Thailand.

Usually, when we are driving at home, the girls are strapped in and you can have down time. It’s one of the only places you can as a parent.

Not in South East Asia, they don’t have car seats, half the time they don’t have seat belts.

We were driven around a lot, for hours at a time. Trying to keep Savannah still and wrapped in our arms was simply awful. Once they get to the age of around 2 they start to learn how to sit still.

4. Toddlers Need Nappies / Diapers

Whitehaven Beach, Queensland, Australia
Nappy life at Whitehaven Beach

A headache to carry around, to change and a lot of the time to find rubbish bins to put them in.

5. Toddlers May Still Need Bottles

Holy moly, this is a logistical nightmare! You may think that once your baby starts eating solid foods, it gets easier – think again!

First, you have to carry the bottles and the formula and then you have to figure out a way to wash the bottles each day.

You can’t use tap water as it is not safe for drinking. Depending on where you stay you may not even have facilities to wash them.

We had a kettle in our Bangkok Hotel and the Phuket Hilton, so we filled up the sink with boiling water and detergent and washed them that way.

Our accommodation in Bangtao Bay, thankfully, had lovely workers in the kitchen who would wash them for us. Apartment stays are way better with small children.

6. Toddlers Need a Pram

 toddler in pram
Keeping her entertained near the pool

Prams are helpful for getting around and naps when you are out. It’s also a gigantic pain in the arse to haul this extra luggage and to navigate crooked Thai streets and busy Sky trains.

7. Toddlers Need Naps

woman and children sitting on a couch
Not doing a nap!

This can be a good thing if you can get them to sleep because it will give you a break.

But, their routine will be different and they could be overstimulated. If you don’t get them to sleep during the day, once 5pm comes you’ll be reaching for something stronger than a glass of wine.

Also, for night time sleeping, they need a portable cot. In Thailand, this was hard to come by.

We had four nights in a hotel, where Savannah did not have a cot. It’s always fun to chase them around a room at 3am.

8. Meal Time is a Nightmare

dinner time with toddler
A rare seated meal moment

Usually, toddlers are pretty fussy eaters. Changing to new food and expecting the same behaviors is not going to go down well.

It can prove a headache as they refuse to try new things and you have to resort to fries and cheese sandwiches, which cost more.

Judging by the throwing up Savannah did the day after the sandwich, perhaps the more dodgy option too.

Because toddlers like to wriggle and move, give up the idea of sitting down to enjoy a meal. You’re up down up down, getting indigestion as a result and perfecting the parent 5 min food throw down.

As a parent, pay attention to how quickly you eat—it’s a very common happening. A lot of the restaurants in Thailand are on busy main roads. Panic attacks. Again apartment stays where you can cook your own food while the kids run around are best.

9. Toddlers Can’t Talk

mum with toddler smiling

They can’t tell you what they want or what they need. They can’t tell you when they are sick or where.

Savannah grunts and whines a lot. We soon discovered why it had escalated when she projectile vomited driving with a van full of people.

We were stressed for days as we did not know if it was food poisoning, car sickness, or something worse.

10. Toddlers Can’t Really Entertain Themselves

two young girls playing on Karon Beach Phuket Thailand
Yes! They’re playing by themselves.

This is not me saying I don’t want to play with my kids or give them attention, I just find it draining to do it every minute of every hour.

Even Kalyra is not great at entertaining herself. We couldn’t’ have a conversation with anyone without her pulling at our attention.

When you are dealing with the challenges of travel this extra on demand attention can nearly break you. Sometimes you just need five minutes of quiet.

11. Toddlers are Teething

A little girl walking on a city street
Savannah in Centre Place

This was the moment for the first time in my life I actually wanted to go home.

We had Savannah sick for a couple of days and then the teething hit. The eye teeth – notoriously known as the most painful. She screamed for a day and two nights.

Our plans to relax on the beach for our last three days ended with the fist vomit.

12. They’re Too Young for Kids Clubs

young girl wtih painted face at Kids club Thailand
Kalyra loves Kids Club

Not that we ever really have time to make use of Kid’s Clubs, they are a great way to get a break.

Kalyra also loves them and begs us to go. We managed to squeeze in a two-hour visit for her at the Hilton Phuket. The starting age for most Kids Clubs is from 2-4 years of age.

Is It Worth Traveling With Toddlers?

people on a beach
Travel with children is rewarding

Part of our inability to deal with this also came with the fact we are travel bloggers and were on a work trip and had certain things we needed to do.

And of course to add to this stress, I was sick for a week, Craig ended up sick for a day, and our website had major issues.

So when the kids were in bed and we were up late at night to catch up on work, we weren’t working we were dealing with the stress of trying to troubleshoot our website.

Young kids can be difficult no matter where you are in the world, but without the routine and regular habits they are used to from home, it can be much, much harder.

If you have a toddler and you want to travel, our recommendation would be to travel locally or take a road trip. Stay in your own country and explore somewhere new, but with some familiarities.

It’s not impossible to travel with toddlers, and depending on the experience and destination, it may be worth it.

Final Thoughts

little girl holding a starfish
Savannah with the STAR of the show

We learned a lot from our time traveling with kids from babies to teens, especially about how we really want to travel for the future.

With the nature of what we do, we have to simplify and make it a little easier for us and the girls.

But for you, you might have less going on and it’s “just a holiday” and not so much as a “business trip”, so more able to deal with the challenges.

We ALWAYS recommend travelling with your children no matter what their age. The rewards are worth overcoming the challenges.

More Family Travel Tips

Need more inspiration for traveling as a family? Here are some other guides…

Can you think of any other reasons why toddlerville is the worst age to travel?

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