If the idea of taking the kids with you to the grocery store sounds intimidating…the idea of taking them on a trip can be downright exhausting. But don’t let the worries you feel about traveling with your kids stop you. Being aware of those worries and planning for them ahead of time can make your trip go smoother. Together, we are going to confront those worries head-on.
Even though my boy is a grown adult, it doesn’t mean I don’t have worries when taking him traveling. After all, his file at the walk-in clinic right outside of Disney World has got to be five times thicker than his one back home. We’ve learned a lot over the years about renting wheelchairs and crutches in Orlando.
Worry #1: Can We Afford to Travel with the Kids?
Our financial position when our son was little was definitely much tighter than it is now. We have always valued travel and life experiences over acquiring “things” in our family. Our house is not a mansion, but the memories we have of our family adventures bring us lots of joy.
There are little tidbits of how to budget for a trip sprinkled throughout my website. And there are thousands of websites on budget travel…and many of them focused on family travel. One of my favorites is Points With a Crew. The reality is that traveling will always cost you some amount of money (although there are ways to reduce the costs…sometimes dramatically).
Anticipate the following costs of travel:
- Food: Everyone needs to eat. It’s what sustains life at the most basic level. When you get to your destination, will you pick up food at the local grocery store? drop in at the local McDonald’s? or enjoy an sunset dinner cruise?
- Lodging: We all need somewhere to place our head down at night and snore. Camping, getting a hotel, or getting your own RV still costs money.
- Admission costs: Unless you are spending the week enjoying the free outdoors, you need to anticipate costs of admission to theme parks, zoos, museums, etc.
All of these family travel costs can add up and create worries if you haven’t planned ahead.
Over the past few years, family travel has definitely been becoming more expensive. It’s the basic economics of supply and demand. Gen X-ers and beyond have been placing more emphasis on experiences over things…causing demand for experiences to increase. Cruise ships have been pumping out ships like crazy to keep up with demand. Yet, prices continue to climb as availability can still be difficult to come by.
Everyone wants to travel during school breaks. The result has been a steady increase in pricing during these peak travel times for families. This has created something called “date-based” pricing for food, hotels, and entrance into places like Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World…and even the local zoo.
If there is any way for your family to travel during the off season, that can save you lots of money. Do some research and look for more economical or budget-friendly destinations. And look into joining mileage programs and credit card reward programs to help with the costs. Points with a Crew has so many great tips in this area. I highly recommend checking them out on how to save money.
Worry #2: How Do I Keep My Kids Healthy and Safe?
New parents spend tons and tons of time trying to figure out how they can keep their little ones safe from just about every accident, disaster and sniffle out there. It’s in our DNA. And when it comes to traveling with our kids, our worries can compound at an exponential rate.
Prepare for Any Eventuality
Every day of our lives, we spend time trying to lessen the risks of getting sick or injured. But part of life is accepting that at times things will go wrong. It’s all part of this adventure we call the human experience.
The truth is, when we travel there are a lot more unknowns than there are at home. We recognize that things are often out of our control. Now add that to the things we already get nervous about when it comes to our kids. It is shocking that we ever take our kids with us when we leave the house. Take them to a new beach, state, region, country? Now that’s downright scary!
But I’m here to tell you it’s not as scary as you might think. It’s definitely worth jumping the hurdle. There are some basic and fundamental things you can do to lay the groundwork for some fun and healthy family vacations.
Remember: Kids (and parents) can get sick and have accidents at anywhere…even at home.
Vaccinations and Medications
Many countries and regions of the world require specific vaccines. And some areas it is highly recommended to look into anti-malarial medicines. Don’t leave looking into this until the last minute!
Take a first aid course. This can come in handy both at home and while traveling. Seriously, this helps you not to panic in case of emergency. Always carry a first aid kit with you! If you’re bringing a backpack to haul around snacks and essentials, the first aid kit should be one of the first items in the backpack.
Before the trip remember to:
- Bring emergency numbers for the area you’ll be visiting…including doctors who may be in-network for your insurance.
- Go over basic hygiene with the family…especially washing hands often.
- Teach the kids to listen to safety instructions…whether it’s a muster drill or airline pre-flight instruction, there is a reason for these directions; tell them to make a mental note and ask questions if needed.
- Be aware of pedestrian safety…be aware of which side of the road drivers are on, know what the different signs mean, and don’t assume cars stop for pedestrians.
Some people say you need to hear something seven times before it sticks. I’d say with teenagers, kids, and even adults, it never hurts to hear that safety spiel one more time.
If someone in your family has special medical needs, some countries with less than ideal medical infrastructure might not be a great destination for you. The good news is that there are gobs of destinations where good medical care is available should you need it. Not that I am speaking from experience or anything.
Insure Some Peace of Mind
If your worries from traveling with kids includes the following…
- Cost of emergency medical care
- Cost of replacing items in lost luggage
- Missing your flight because you overslept
…consider purchasing travel insurance.
I always mention the benefits AND drawbacks of purchasing travel insurance to the families I work with. But I always leave the decision to them because it’s a very personal decision. I purchase travel insurance for myself about 30 percent of the time. The risk-reward ratio has to make sense for me.
In many circumstances it is well worth the risk to purchase insurance. And sometimes you may feel like it was a wasted expense when you get home and didn’t need it. As the saying goes: Better safe than sorry.
If for some reason there is an emergency, your entire family may need to fly home early. Do you know what the change fees are? How does that stack up against the cost of insurance?
Before you purchase travel insurance, read the fine print. Know what is covered and what isn’t covered. Not all travel insurance is the same.
Worry #3: What Happens if Your Family is Involved in an Emergency?
Statistically speaking, it is highly unlikely that your family will encounter any of these emergencies, but you need to be aware if they do happen and how to handle them:
- Car accident
- Natural disaster
- Random local crisis
- Terrorist attack
Experts agree that it is much more probable that you will be involved in a car accident close to home. We get in and out of vehicles on a regular basis at home.
Research Your Destination
You should do your research before leaving to ensure that you are aware of any current problems or current events to be concerned about at the destination you will be headed to. Follow any official guidance on areas to avoid. If there are issues, and you’ve got little ones, maybe postpone that destination for the time being and go someplace else.
It is important to know what your tolerance for risk is…and if you have worries about traveling with kids to a destination. And I always say to research, research, research! Weigh the risks before deciding to book your vacation.
There are so many places in the world for families to explore. Is it really worth it to take a trip if you are going to be distracted or frightened about the safety of your family the entire time? You want to be sure you can breath easy and have a good time together.
Where to Find Travel Information
The most up-to-date information for travel can be found on official resources provided by governments. Below are links to some of the most commonly used ones:
- US Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs
- Global Affairs Canada
- UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office
- Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
- New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade
It is well worth your time to read any advisories and pay attention to situations like “no-go” areas. This can often impact whether or not your travel insurance is effective. Again, read the fine print of travel insurance before you purchase. Not all policies are created equal.
If you have friends or family who have traveled recently to your destination, ask for their feedback and what their experiences were. Sometimes we something on the news like “Seattle is burning” when the reality is that there are occasional protests on Saturday nights and they are miles from any tourist areas. A little pre-planning and you are safe to go.
In the end, it is your comfort level that should determine whether or not to travel to any destination.
Worry #4: Is it Worth the Worries of Traveling with Kids?
Let’s face it. Traveling is a lot of work…and tons of extra work when you’re hauling the little ones along. So is it worth all the effort and worries to be traveling with your kids?
The truth is that the younger the kids, the less likely they are to remember everything that happened on a vacation. Our son certainly doesn’t remember his first trip to Disneyland. But he does still have the souvenirs we picked up. And he enjoys looking at pictures, video, and hearing the stories of that first trip. As a bonus, he still goes to Disney with us whenever his schedule allows. Something this mama loves!
Once you arrive at a destination, and you are all together as a family, something pretty wonderful happens. Even the youngest of kids can feel their parents relax as they settle in to being away from a hectic life at home. Parents have more time to focus on their kids with all of the regular household chores out of the way. Their little brains begin to learn to adapt to new experiences…and that’s a good thing!
As kiddos get older, they can learn a whole new set of life skills if you let them. Let them help plan what excursions you will be going on. We let our son get us around the airport by learning to read signs…find a place to eat, what gate are we departing from, has there been a change to our flight time, where is baggage claim. By the time he was no longer an unaccompanied minor, he was getting around the airport like a pro.
Kids should learn early how to create a packing list for themselves and pack their own suitcase. They can also learn about how to be flexible when things don’t go as planned…and maybe even learn a little patience.
There are also nice educational benefits for kids who travel such as:
- Foreign language: Kids should learn at least some of the most commonly needed phrases when traveling such as “please,” “thank you,” and “where is the bathroom?”).
- Math skills: Kids can learn to budget for things like snacks and souvenirs. Older kids can learn about currency exchange and exchange rates.
- Humanities: What is the history of the area you are visiting? How have things changed? What kind of geological features do you see? What about art and architecture?
Leave those worries about traveling with your kids behind! A vacation with the little ones is the perfect way to spend quality time with them! Traveling will help them pick up and master new skills and knowledge. They will get a better appreciation for different people and cultures around the world.
No matter what emergency has popped up for our family while traveling, we always come back happier and more bonded as a family.
The bonus for you as a parent (or grandparent or aunt or uncle)? Getting to scratch that travel itch. Go ahead and give it a try!
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Feel free to share this post with anyone who may be feeling a little nervous about the thought of traveling with kids.