Traveling around the world with small children may sound impossible, but many families are taking advantage of remote work to do just that. As a matter of fact, I’ve been doing this for the past 10 years with Madison, who is now ten. She’s now the perfect travel companion and knows all about travel etiquette, something usually lacking in children who have very little travel experience. Taking this grand adventure with a family doesn’t require additional planning; however, it does require planning things through a different lens.
Here are some helpful tips and tricks for traveling the world with small children to make it enjoyable.
Take Advantage of World Schooling
The most important thing to do when traveling with small children is to get buy-in from their educational institutions. If your child is already in school, having a discussion with their teachers, principal, and school board (if necessary) is a must.
Talk about the best options for continuing their education and meeting the curriculum needs to ensure they’re on track when you return home. You can also discuss how your child can incorporate their learning and exploration into schoolwork. For example, a presentation about their experience with the leopard gecko in Asia could meet the requirements for their science class. Alternatively, sharing insights they’ve learned from museums and art exhibits could meet their social studies requirements.
It’s also important to embrace this journey through the lens of world schooling and the lessons learned outside of school. Your child will see how other people live, learn about budgeting, and even learn about staying safe in different situations.
Build the Hype
After getting buy-in from the schools, you need to get buy-in from your kids. Share information and photos about your destinations to get them excited. Try to choose a few child-oriented attractions or accommodations that appeal to them.
If you’re going to be gone for an extended period of time, let them know well in advance so they can start getting used to the idea and preparing themselves. For example, you might say something like, “In two months, we’re going to take a trip around the world. We’ll be gone for six months and will visit 12 different countries.” Here are some pictures of the places we’ll go to.
This way, they have time to get used to the idea and look forward to the trip. The more enthusiastic your kids are about going to these places, the easier it will be to get through the tough days (and there will be plenty of them) while you’re on the road.
Take a Minimalist Packing Approach
One of the barriers to traveling with children is how much stuff they need. However, there’s a difference between how much stuff we really need versus what we think we need.
Learn the art of minimalist packing. Choose multi-purpose outfits for your kids and plan to do laundry. You can book accommodations with a laundry service or pack a small container of laundry soap and some twine for a make-shift clothesline. It’s also beneficial to book accommodations with cribs or any other gear you might need.
Only take what you need and plan to replenish your supply throughout the journey. You can purchase things like diapers and wipes almost anywhere.
Create a Packing List Together
Involving your kids in the packing process is a great way to get them excited about the trip while also ensuring that they have everything they need. Start by making a list of all the places you’ll be going and the activities you’ll be doing. Then, help your kids choose which items they need to bring to enjoy those activities.
For example, if you’re going to the beach, they might need swimsuits, sunscreen, sunglasses, hats, and sandals. If you’re going hiking, they might need comfortable clothes, sturdy shoes, a hat, and a water bottle.
Let them pack their own backpack or suitcase with their favorite items within the guidelines you set. This way, they feel empowered and will be more likely to take care of their belongings. Plus, it’s one less thing for you to worry about packing.
Create Special Distraction Kits
Long plane rides are challenging for everyone, especially for active kids who aren’t used to sitting still for extended periods. Again, getting buy-in is a must, as is planning and preparation.
Put together special distraction kits with toys, snacks, and activities that your children are only allowed on the plane. You can create and replenish these at any dollar store or department store along the way. The idea is to let them know these kits exist without granting them access at any other time. It creates a sense of occasion and specialness while preventing boredom.
Be Flexible with Your Itinerary
Nothing ever goes exactly as planned when traveling, especially with kids. Try to be flexible and adapt to situations as they arise. Choose your battles and prioritize healthy communication within your family, so everyone is on the same page.
Kids are unpredictable, which means your itinerary will need to be flexible too. Don’t try to cram too much into each day or you’ll end up being frustrated and exhausted Instead, focus on enjoying the moments and making memories as a family.
If your kids are having a great time at the beach, stay an extra day or two. If they’re not enjoying the city you’re in, move on to the next destination. There’s no rule that says you have to stick to your original plan.
The most important thing is that you’re all happy and enjoying yourselves. The best memories are often made when things don’t go as planned, so embrace the chaos and roll with it.
Plan for Downtime
Kids need a bit more downtime than adults while traveling. While you might be ready to fill each day with adventure, your children will tire out quickly and need some time to rest and recharge.
Make sure to plan for at least one down day for every three or four days of travel. This can be spent exploring your accommodation, relaxing by the pool, or just taking it easy.
Downtime is important for everyone’s mental and physical health, so make sure to schedule it into your trip.
Take Advantage of Technology
There’s no denying that technology has made parenting easier in many ways, and traveling is no exception. There are now apps and gadgets specifically designed to make traveling with kids easier.
For example, the app Citymapper can help you navigate public transportation systems in unfamiliar cities. Google Translate can help you communicate with locals who don’t speak your language. And a kids’ tablet loaded with games and movies can keep them entertained for hours on end.
Of course, you don’t want your kids to be glued to screens the entire trip. But using technology judiciously can make traveling with small children much easier.
Traveling with small children can be daunting, but it’s also incredibly rewarding. You’ll have many good days and some bad days, but everyone will go home with incredible experiences and memories. By following these tips, you can make the experience enjoyable for everyone involved.