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
Lesson 2: flying with kids – sleeping time
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.
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.
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)
Do you have lessons learnt from travelling with children? Share your experience in the comment and let’s keep the conversation going!