Tips for Travelling with Kids – Guest Post
A-Z Challenge letter: K – Kids
Today’s post comes from my lovely cousin-in-law Gemma who lives in Calgary with her two young daughters.
By no means am I an expert on travelling with children as I’ve only been doing it for the last three years however I feel pretty blessed to have taken my two young daughters to 11 countries so far and have learned a thing or two to make things easier along the way. I’m honored to be asked to share my tips on travelling with kids on this blog.
My number one question I get is, “How do we afford our trips?” I’m a single mom who stays at home with her kids. I have a few jobs I do from home to pay the bills but am certainly on a budget like most of you. I just decided three years ago to make travelling a priority in that budget. It means there are a lot of things I don’t pay for.
- I try not to buy anything for my children new. Clothing, toys, books, bikes – all of it can easily be had second-hand. We’ve been blessed to receive lots of hand-me-downs in the past too. If you let people know you are eager and grateful for used kids’ clothes they will often be happy to find a home for them. For myself I have gotten lots of great free clothes by attending/hosting clothing swaps.
- Use libraries. Borrow things (and loan things too!)
- We don’t have a TV in our home at all so there is no cable bill. I don’t have a home phone (have a mobile with a great plan) and share a Wi-Fi bill with a neighbour.
- We do love to get out and do a lot of fun things so we have memberships to all kinds of places like zoos and science centres and swimming pools etc. It means we always have lots of options for entertainment without spending. As a bonus we often ask for these memberships for birthdays or Christmas presents when people ask what we would like most.
So after all that not-spending I have room in my budget to put away money every Friday into my travel account. I have a separate bank account that I currently transfer CAN$100 into every week. It adds up fast! The best part about this is I am used to not having that money. It’s all automated so I barely even feel it anymore. Having money sitting in an account means I can act on big sales I’m taking my kids on a big adventure this Monday thanks to this strategy.
KLM advertised a 48 hour sale to Lisbon from Canada with a free week in Amsterdam for under $700. This is less than half the typical price. Having the money sitting there meant I could snap up the deal. There are loads of sites on the internet where you can follow for travel deals. Also consider googling the art of travel hacking!
So for actual tips on how to make travelling easier with kids here is what I have learned so far (mostly the hard way!)
- Pay attention to flight times and connections. Cheapest isn’t always the absolute best. My first international flight alone with a 4 and 6 year old I didn’t notice I had a layover in another city from midnight until 5:30am. I will never make that mistake again
- Snacks, snacks, snacks – pack three times as much food for the travelling days as you think you might need. So many times we’ve been heldover, delayed, stuck on a plane on the tarmac etc and a granola bar goes a long way to keeping the peace
- Make sure everyone has a change of clothes easily accessible in their carry-on.
- Furthermore consider getting skilled at only travelling with carry-on. You save a lot of standing around time at the end of long trips, never have to worry about finding a small bathing suit or pair of sandals in size 2 when your bag doesn’t make it, and get to the front of customs lines
- keep a well-stocked pharmacy in your bag. At home I rarely give my children any kind of medicine. We are more the garlic, vitamins and good night sleep type. But I travel with children’s painkillers, antihistamines, eye drops, ear drops, rehydration packets etc. It sucks being in a different country and either not being able to read the language on the labels or even find a pharmacy at all when you find yourself with a sick child
- If you are going to be doing things like snorkelling consider getting your children their own gear and practicing at home first. We’ve learned that most places don’t actually have proper fitting children gear and we’ve had some pretty awful times just because of equipment that wasn’t right
- Be OKwith spending money on things that might not go as planned. Remember it’s all experience and wrap your head around the idea it might not go as you like. It wasn’t until our third trip to Belize and our 4th snorkelling day trip there that we all had an incredible time. The first trip my kids snorkelled less than 60 seconds each. The fourth trip they did hours and hours and swam with sharks and rays and turtles. I’ve paid for zip lining, cave tubing, and many other things that at some point included tears. We’ve gone on manatee watching trips 4 times and haven’t yet seen one close up. You just have to let go of the money the minute you spend it and take what you get from it. Even the hard days become great family stories.
- Let go of your standards a bit when it comes to what they eat. My children eat a disproportionate amount of chicken when we travel because it’s familiar and easy and I know at least if I let them order it every day (as they sometimes do) at least they are getting protein. I do bring along some nutritionally dense snacks to get us through the trip without me worrying.
- Provide your kids with cameras! For mine – they have them on their iPods and they end up taking some of the best pics
- Plan for getting energy out! Swimming pools and playgrounds are almost everywhere in the world. Make a point of going to them everyday
- For me, every third day is usually planned downtime. Go on the schedule and do the things they want
- Get them excited ahead of time, we watch documentaries, build models of famous building we visit, research food and language etc. Lonely Planet now makes children’s guides too which are great
- Make sure you have a babysitter and a full day at the spa booked for yourself the day after you get home!!! Travelling with young children is amazing, fun, exciting and so rewarding but it’s also incredibly hard work and you will be exhausted by the time it’s done
Those are the tips that come to mind this evening. Hopefully they can help some of you out or inspire you to plan a trip with your littlies! I’m sure three weeks from now when we get back from our Portuguese adventure I will have learned plenty more things the hard way.