5 Tips For Travelling With Kids
Travel has always been a huge part of our lives. As a multicultural, stepfamily with neurodiverse kids, travel can be interesting and sometimes challenging.
Our kids now range in age from 1 through to 16, plus we frequently go between Australia, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands as this is where the different sides of our family are based.
Despite challenges coming from natural disasters, age differences, racism, sexism, cultural clashes, education etc. overall, travel for us appears to have been easier than for many I know. Here are my tips.
1. Keep Them Entertained
As obvious as this sounds, it is necessary but it is not totally your responsibility. My older kids know they need to entertain themselves and have known this since they were little. With the 1 and 2 year old this is trickier but they are learning.
The teens have their own devices with a selection of educational and recreational apps. Each child has a mini LEGO kit we created out of their own LEGO and a plastic container they take with them.
Notebooks, pens, pencils and things they are interested in having with them all fit neatly in a mini backpack.
For the most part though, the older kids are content playing games, chatting and doing art together. They are also both quite self-motivated with their schoolwork and interests when we travel.
Our younger kids/toddlers have a couple of books, some colouring items, quiet/busy books and they tend to sleep in the car or on planes.
Some of our Favourite Resources for Entertainment
Duolingo, Prodigy, Khan Academy, Procreate, Minecraft, Audible, YouTube and Kindle are a few of their favourites.
2. Outline The Details
My kids tend not to ask “Are we there yet?” because they know what time we should arrive. I outline the trip, what we are doing, where and when we will stop and what time we will arrive.
For younger kids, depending on the travel you are doing you could do a visual reminder. For example, if you are driving have a piece of string across the car. Mark each hour on it and have a picture of your car you can move as time goes on. This way the kids can see how far away they are.
3. Be Prepared
A first aid kit, snacks, sick bag and wipes are all necessary. You do not want to have to clean up after someone gets sick. I’ve done it a few times, it is disgusting and ruins everything in its path.
What items do your family use a lot? If you are in a car for a long period, what will they need?
Which foods travel well that the family enjoys, do you all have water and what about travel pillows? Think about it all in relation to your family and plan accordingly.
Little things like this make a difference. You don’t need to take loads of things but a few bits and pieces can make all the difference.
As an example, I pack dissolvable vitamins for when we travel, crackers, jerky, nuts and protein bars for snacks. But if we are doing a road trip or a long day in the car, we will often pack a lunch.
Not everything goes to plan and you need to be prepared to roll with it. I’ve turned up to accommodation only to have them tell me yes, I have a reservation but no, they don’t actually have the room.
Cars have broken down, kids have gotten sick, we’ve had tech issues and we were stuck in that city waiting for those to be fixed. Life happens.
Relax, take a deep breath and deal with it. Your kids will sense when you are stressed out which will make them act up, feel unsure and stressed.
My teenagers commented that even though we were evacuated from the worst bushfires Australia has ever seen when we were house and pet sitting for a friend, locked down a few months later in the Solomon Islands and hit by a cyclone, they never worried. We were calm, so they trusted we knew what we were doing.
I had grown up with bushfires in Australia, so as soon as we arrived for that house and pet sit, I asked about the fire plan and made arrangements for the pets should anything happen. Within 2 weeks, we had to activate that plan.
As for cyclones, Justin has been in category 5 cyclones (hurricane) while on a boat and grown up with cyclones as part of normal life in Vanuatu. Along with tsunami’s, earthquakes and an active volcano.
Since we both experienced different elements of most of the things we were facing (aside from the world shutting down with a pandemic), we felt prepared.
Do what you can, let go of what you cannot control and try to focus on the family, the positives and solutions.
5. Plan Time Out
We all love our kids but at times, you want some time out. On trips I have done this either by having someone else travel with me, booking babysitting or having trips on my own.
It’s not a bad thing to take a trip without the kids. You all get time away from each other and come back refreshed. Plus each time I did that, my kids had incredible experiences with whoever they were with.
For example, I was diving in Fiji while they were on a ski trip with my parents. Or I was seeing the total solar eclipse in Indonesia which won’t happen again for 385 years and they were exploring rockpools, fishing and discovering wildlife they’d never seen at a friends beach house.
Kids need time out from each other too. My kids get along extremely well most of the time, which everyone comments on. That doesn’t mean they don’t get to a point where they need time away from each other.
Also, kids need freedom. Planning 100 activities and rushing from each thing isn’t generally their idea of fun. We have down days where we stay and do nothing.
They can ride bikes, swim, play, whatever but nothing is planned. On days we are active, we aim to only do a few things so they don’t feel overwhelmed.
What tips do you have for travelling with kids?