Anyone who has known me for very long, knows that my best memories come from traveling with my family. It’s the reason I became a travel advisor and travel blogger. Whether it is just my hubby and me or a group of 27 extended family members, the joy that comes from being with my family is pretty awesome.
But let me take a moment to tell you that I have suffered in the past (and still occasionally do) from anxiety. And the idea of traveling with family can sometimes bring on a panic attack or bout of fear that things won’t be perfect. But I have learned a few secrets over the years to removing the anxiety mindset and replacing that with a happy anticipation mindset when it comes to traveling with family.
Does the idea of traveling with kids feel like getting a root canal without getting numb? It feels like it’s way too complicated to even consider planning? While I can’t promise you things will go perfectly and stress-free, I can say that traveling with your family can bring huge benefits. It is knowing and recognizing these benefits that make it all worthwhile.
Here are some of the secrets that I’ve learned to keep in mind over the years that have helped me during both the planning and travel:
Recognize That Travel Enriches Kids…and Adults
Travel has many benefits for family…especially children. It can broaden the minds of everyone. As you travel to new places and learn the unfamiliar customs and ways of life, your kids (and even you) can learn to experience a new empathy and understanding for people of other cultures.
Kids learn new social skills. They learn how to say please and thank you in another language. Learning about and experiencing new cultures helps kids have a more global mindset and think about life outside their tiny bubble at home.
As an added bonus, travel is good for the development of the brain of a child. In an article for The Telegraph, Dr. Margot Sunderland said:
Think: family together in the pool, walking together through forest, touching long tall grasses waving in the wind, toasting marshmallows on campfire, hanging out together under warm sun, feeling sand between the toes…The brain fertilizers triggered in enriched environments are also associated with higher IQ in children. So spend some time exploring together in a new space, and you’re making your child smarter.– Dr. Margot Sunderland
Traveling With Kids Can Be A Lot of Fun
I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it a million more times in my lifetime. Traveling with kids can be fun!
The opportunity to see the world together can be amazing. Maybe you take your kids for a day trip to go whale watching. The look on their face when they see the actual size of a gray whale up close and personal is priceless. Your child has probably never seen something living that is so large and their view of the world changes ever so slightly.
Or maybe it’s a day at the beach and your hubby puts together an impromptu “beach Olympics.” Using items he finds at the beach, he creates small competitions. Thirty years later, the “kids” still talk about this. I know. Because our nieces and nephews still talk about this and digging hot tubs in the sand. They would dig a hole in the sand and as the tide slowly came in, it filled with water and created a hot tub to sit in for a few minutes.
As families remember all these shared experiences…good and bad…it creates a bond and memories that stay with them for a lifetime.
Appreciate the Fact That Traveling with Kids Slows You Down
There is no way around it. Traveling with kids will slow you down. That is NOT a bad thing. Kids have a way of asking questions you’ve never thought about…but maybe you should. Having kids around means you’re making a lot more pit stops. The more kids, the more pit stops are needed. But sometimes looking for that next pit stop takes you someplace you never would have stopped at, and you find a hidden gem.
Kids have a way of making friends wherever they go. Sometimes, they may not even notice that their new friend doesn’t even speak their own language. This particular lesson is one my hubby and I have learned and tried to emulate when we try to make new friends wherever we travel. We have met so many amazing people on our travels and enjoy staying in touch with them.
We can learn a lot from watching our kids and applying their way of thinking.
Anticipate the Challenges of Traveling with YOUR Family
You should never view your challenges as a disadvantage. Instead, it’s important for you to understand that your experience facing and overcoming adversity is actually one of your biggest advantages.Michelle Obama
Let me be honest here. Traveling with kids or a large family group is not always easy. There will be challenges in both planning and execution. But by understanding the possible challenges and preparing for them, you can turn those challenges around and make them an advantage.
Every time you travel with family, the challenges will change. I remember the first time I flew on an airplane with my then 1-year-old. He did not have a seat of his own because of his age. He had a blowout in his diaper. It was pretty nasty and the woman in the seat next to us was not appreciative of the situation. But you know what? These things happen. We had plenty of diapers, wipes, and change of clothes…and if you have ever had to change a diaper in an airplane bathroom, you can imagine out fun this was. We’ve learned not to judge other parents on an airplane.
Then there was that time we took a road trip from Seattle to Salt Lake City. We had our nephew with us. Our family has a nice rhythm when on a long road trip. We try to stop every two to three hours. Our stops are usually a 5-minute opportunity to stretch the legs and hit the bathroom. Everyone uses the bathroom whether they think they need it or not.
When we would stop for a bathroom break on this particular trip, our family would use the bathroom and get back to the car only to find my nephew still sitting in the car playing a video game. He needed to get to a “stopping point” in the game before he could use the bathroom. We made the mistake of allowing him to take his video game with him into the bathroom…approximately 25 minutes later he emerged. But because we had to wait for him, I discovered I had dropped my sunglasses car when I got out. If we had taken the quick stop, I would have lost my sunglasses.
Each trip has its own unique set of challenges. The fact is, each family members has different needs, personalities and wants. As children get older, their needs, personalities and wants will change and evolve. Believe it or not, when you can recognize this and keep in mind where everyone is at when you are planning your trip, you might just have an incredible time.
That’s the ultimate goal, isn’t it? To have an fun time together and create happy travel memories.
At the end of your trip, everything may not have gone as planned. In fact, I’ve never had a trip where everything went as planned. But if everyone is feeling good about the trip and full of new stories to tell…and best of all asking when you’re going to do it again, consider it a success.
There are lots of reasons people travel. Some of us travel because of the nostalgia we feel from experiences of past trips. Some of us travel because we excited about the idea of exploring new places. The idea of sharing with these adventures with our kids can get us pretty pumped up.
There is No One “Right” Way to Plan a Family Vacation
No two kids are alike. As a parent, we often see their personality traits come to life even before they can walk and talk. Their personalities to continue to evolve over time.
The same can be said for planning a family vacation. No two vacations will be exactly the same, so don’t fall into the trap of believing there is a “right” way to plan a family vacation. Each vacation should be planned in a way that is best both for their family and for the intended destination. A trip to the beach with toddlers should be planned in a very different manner than a trip to Disney World with tweens.
If you are like me and like routine and lists, recognizing this may cause a little personal internal discomfort. Your packing lists will be different. Your activities will be different. You may mistakes in your planning along the way. It’s okay. Learn from the experience and keep on planning for that next vacation.
The “travel fails” that we experience are what family legends are made of. We have a Disney timeshare in Orlando. It seems that one of us almost always ends up at the walk-in clinic right outside of Disney property on every single trip. We have a running joke that our medical files there are larger than the ones at our doctor’s office back home. It’s okay. We don’t stress about a trip to the clinic any more. Whenever our friends see us at Disney on our Facebook posts, they now ask “whose turn is it to go to the hospital?”
Pick and Choose What You Learn From Other People’s Travel
When you tell your friends and family you are going someplace like Sea World, every friend and family member who has been there will come out of the woodwork to give you advice.
You can learn a lot of good things from other people’s experiences. But I add a word of caution. It goes back to what I said about no two vacations being alike. When you take in the advice people give you, decide for yourself if their advice makes sense for what you are planning. If they traveled five years ago…or maybe even one year ago…things may have changed. A hotel that may is recommended may have changed management and now may be run down. Always check online reviews and do some homework for yourself…keeping in mind that they very well may have some great suggestions.
The Agony and Ecstasy of Family Travel
The truth is, family travel can feel agonizing at times. But changing how you think about the challenges you will experience can help you prepare to create some pretty fantastic memories for your family and loved ones.
Never put off spending time with your kids…whether it’s a day trip to to the beach or two weeks in Italy. You’ll never get that time and opportunity back. Just be sure to keep your individual situation in mind when planning so that your family remembers all the awesome times you had and laughs at those not-so-awesome times.
I sincerely hope this site provides you with tips and insight to planning many happy family vacations and memories that will last for generations.