A few months ago, I published a post  called ‘I made a mess: what not to do when travelling with children‘,  sharing some of the undoubtedly many mistakes we have made travelling as a family.

It is, to date, one of my most read articles and one that seems to resonate with many of you. After that post, I received many comments and emails from parents who had either made the same mistakes as us or come up with their own sometimes funny, sometimes worrying travel ‘fails’: from overpacking to losing your kids on holiday (and then finding them again, thankfully!) it seems like even seasoned travellers have followed a steep learning curve, when they transitioned to travelling with kids and had to learn travelling basics all over again. 

Their experiences gave me an idea:  Wouldn’t it be great to put together some experienced travelled turned family travellers to share with us the biggest lessons they have learnt travelling with kids?

I reached out to some family travel bloggers I love and trust and asked them to share the one thing they wish they had known before travelling with children. The list below is the result of their long experience: I hope you find it helpful to plan your next trip in the smoothest way possible!

5 Lessons learnt from travelling with kids


Lesson 1: flying with children – the booking process

I wish I had known that…..

Booking and infant or child’s ticket guarantees you nothing (by Keri, Baby Globetrotters)

The first dozen or so times we flew with a baby went remarkably smoothly, by blind luck.  We booked an infant ticket, we were allocated front row bassinet seats every time and on the scale of things our daughter was pretty darn angelic. Who said flying with kids was hard?

It all went horribly wrong when we started flying with an infant and a toddler.  We checked into our Malaysian Airways flight to be told we didn’t have a bassinet seat – they had all been sold to passengers who bought the extra leg room – was this even allowed?

Then there was no kids pack for my 2-year-old daughter and not even a back of seat entertainment system for a 7-hour flight! They only served one light snack until nearly 5 hours into the flight then they didn’t serve her a special kids meal either, had we ordered her one? No….

And then our next flight, what do you mean we’re not all seated together, how will I take care of two on my own? My husband had a different return flight so they hadn’t joined our booking together and it was a full flight.

Assume nothing when it comes to flying wth kids! After you’ve booked an infant or child’s ticket online, you MUST contact the airline to confirm everything – bassinet, meal preferences, preferred seating, allowances. Always bring your own snacks and entertainment as there’s no guarantee on what’s on board, or timings.  And join the airlines frequent flyer program as soon as your child is 2 to benefit from all those hard earned miles!

Get more tips from Keri about flying with a toddler or young kids here 

Lessons learnt from travelling with kids: always plan your flight time and seating arrangement carefully

Lesson 2: flying with kids – sleeping time

I wish I had known that…
Long haul flights are better by night (by Shobha, Just go places
Everyone told me to give the kids cold medicine and they would sleep.  It doesn’t work for all kids, and it didn’t work for mine. Instead, it just made them cranky and teary.  I learned the hard way to always schedule an overnight flight with the children so that they can sleep on the flight. I also made sure their day was extra busy so that they are good and tired (soft play when they were younger or parks when they were older).   I also packed their favourite sleep toy and blanket in my carry-on so that they can have that comfort.  We always booked economy seats because the seat rests go up (they don’t in premium economy and business on British Airways).  My husband sat at one end of the four-person seats and I sat on the other end.  We laid the kids down with one child in each parent’s lap.  The seat belts were on the kids in case of turbulence.  We had to monitor sleep kicking in case one woke the other up.  Thankfully, now that they are 10 years old flying is easier with the children. They can sit still for extended periods of time and either play quietly or nap.

Lesson 3: Accommodation

I wish I had known that…..

Your accommodation requirements change more than you may think (by Nicole, The Passport Kids)

Well, this could be a long list but one thing as we transitioned from being adult travellers to family travellers was the change in accommodation. Generally, I am in the mindset not to spend a fortune on accommodation and spend our budget on activities:  since for the most part when we travelled with just the two of us we didn’t spend too much time inside our hotel room. But, once we had kids we did spend more time in our rooms, just due to the fact our kids go to bed earlier and when they were smaller they needed their naps. So it took us only a couple of times to change how and where we slept while travelling.

We now look for hotels that have an extra seating area, a balcony or separate space that after we put the kids down to bed then we can have some time to plan for the next day, relax with a few drinks and talk. I don’t like having to be quiet and sit in a dark room after our kids are in bed! We also now look for condos or apartments to rent if staying longer than a couple days. Having kids just changes how we book our accommodations now. If it costs us a little bit more for accommodations we are okay with that adjustment because of the way we want to travel as a family. We look for other ways to stay within our budget.

Lesson 4: planning

I wish I had known that….

Carefully crafted but flexible plans are the best to prevent meltdowns (Cathy, Mummy Travels)

Cathy, from www.mummytravels.com: The biggest difference about travelling with my daughter isn’t what we do, it’s how much… We’ve been on long-haul trips, on city breaks, on boats, on hikes, to museums and art galleries, around temples. But my top tip is not to plan too much into one day or one trip as that’s a shortcut to meltdown with toddlers and preschoolers: instead, for every city museum I’ve found a park to chill out in, for every morning exploring ancient temples we’ve had an afternoon relaxing by the pool.

My biggest tip for travelling with kids is to plan, plan, plan – and then play it by ear. With a baby, toddler and now three-year-old, I’ve found it makes life much easier if I’ve thought through where we’ll go, where we’ll eat, ways to get her to nap, whether I’ve got spare clothes, snacks, drinks, colouring, wet wipes (and more wet wipes) rather than trying to panic find a family-friendly place to eat with a cross, hungry child for example. But travel – and young kids – never go exactly to plan, so don’t be afraid to be spontaneous and have fun as you travel, knowing you’ve got a back-up in place.

Lessons from travelling with kids: always plan down time. Stopping sightseeing for ice cream in the park can go a long way to avoid meltdowns

Even just a short break in the park can go a long way to make kids unwind: here we are in Montreal, making the most of the summer day with a massive icecream

Lesson 5: transport

I wish I had known that…..

When planning a road trip with kids, beware of google maps! (Virginie, Travel with my kids)

Traveling with kids brought me to more detailed schedule and route planning, not that I am a scheduling person, just to get the more out of our limited traveling time. When I planned our road trip to Cuba, I obviously used Google Maps to check the distances: Vinales to Havana, 180 kilometers by the coast road, journey time: 2 hours 35 minutes. Reality check: huge potholes on the road, and an average speed of 25 km/h instead of the unrealistic 69 km/h according to Google Maps. Besides being totally out of schedule, we had to drive at night, exactly what I wanted to avoid. And of course, to rethink the entire trip planning. The moral of this story? These indications, calculated on average basis sometimes far from reality, are unreliable. I bet it would be the same for India, Morocco, and many more places… My tip? Better check-out the travellers’ forum and blog posts, because nothing beats direct experience!
You can read Virginie’s tips for the perfect family vacation in Cuba with kids here


havana city centre

Do you have lessons learnt from travelling with children? Share your experience in the comment and let’s keep the conversation going!


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