Have you ever made a mistake, when travelling? Something you wish you hadn’t done, or done differently or something a bit silly that just made your holiday not quite as perfect as you were expecting it to be?
I sure have and, while it’s never pleasant to make a mistake and even less to admit it publicly (we are all perfect and live happy, judgement proof lives, no? Facebook says so!), there is no doubt that mistakes have a great upside: we can learn from them.
I surely have learned from the mistakes I made when travelling with kids and they are actually one of the main reasons why I write this blog: what is expertise if not experience of what worked and what didn’t?
A good few travel bloggers have written about mistakes lately and so, encouraged by them, I feel like revisiting some of the ones I made too. I am taking this as an end of the year exercise: I am sure I will make many more mistakes travelling, but hopefully not the same ones: if any, I’ll try make them creative!
So here we go. From my very personal experience:
What not to do when travelling with children
Assume hotels and transport have a ‘kids go free policy’
When we first started travelling with our kids, we made some assumptions: surely a baby on my lap flys for free, surely we can all pile up in a double bed and save on the cost of an extra bed in the hotel etc. Turns out, it doesn’t exactly work like this.
Children under two have to pay sometimes steep airport tax (at least), the air fares for children over 2 is, more often than not, the same as the one for an adult and hotels might have policies requiring you to take an extra bed when travelling with more than once child (usually it has to do with fire regulations). There is no rule about this and the only way is to do your research each time.
I sure wish we had done that when we got our train ticket from Toronto to Montreal: used to train travel in Italy (kids go free there), we were feeling pretty smug about choosing train over plane when heading to Quebec: we were sure we would save tons of money this way, at least enough to make the additional 6 hours of travelling acceptable. Let’s put it this way: while looking at our 4 full-fare train tickets, at least we were on a greener means of transport….
Last minute document checks
A rookie mistake, but one of epic proportions that we have made not once but twice: the first time we forgot to check the expiry date for the Bear’s passport and showed up at the airport with an invalid one. Not our finest hour! The second time we moved in time, but a backlog in the system meant we would not have the Rabbit’s passport back before travelling.The Irish authorities put us a priority list and got us sorted in 48 hours, but still, we should have never left it to the last minute. Just remember: don’t assume children documents last as long as adult ones!
I have always been a light packer or actually a very light packer (I am known to have moved to Brussels for 6 months with what others would consider a weekend bag) but when we first started travelling with children we believed well-meaning friends who told us we would ‘absolutely need’ stuff and ended up lugging around kilos and kilos of bags. Take it from me: on a trip, you don’t need half the stuff you think and, especially with kids, you can really do without pushing oversized bags trough airport corridors: was that fold up bath tub that got stuck in the x ray machine at security THAT crucial?
We made our worst over packing mistake last summer, when we went to Florence: overloaded with a stroller, a full size car seat, a big wheelie bag, 2 kids trolley bags and a rucksack each, we crawled out of the station and into the smoldering hot streets of Florence exhausted, before we even started the trip, and looking like a perfect target for pickpockets!
Not pre-booking seats on planes
Never ever assume that because you are travelling with children you will be assigned seats beside each other. When we travelled long haul, we arrived at check in early, but because of the option to pre-select seats, that we had ignored, we could not find seats together: not even 2! We were really lucky with this one because Aer Lingus shuffled other passengers around to accommodate us and they were all decent enough not to mind. This, I discovered, it’s not something they were obliged to do and I know of many other airlines who will not accommodate this kind of last minute request. We are pretty chilled out travellers, but even for us not be sure we could sit together was a stressful experience and one I’ll accept paying to avoid
Not foresee downtime
I am a great believer in planning cultural activities with young children but as much as adults can’t do child things all the time children can’t do adult things all the time, so factor in some free play: playground, pool, play centre even just park. My favourite day in Ontario was the day trip to the Niagara falls, but the kids adored the hotel playroom! We agreed to one day there and the following day we were rewarded by great mood from both kids
Confuse family friendly with ethical
This one is really close to my heart. The mark ‘family friendly’ is very often used to mark activities that are fun for children but possibly unethical or detrimental for the environment. Dolphin shows are the perfect example of an activity that is cruel and unsustainable, many restaurants use the words ‘family friendly menu’ to indicate international, rather than locally sourced, sustainable food. When you go for family friendly, don’t take it at face value: question it like you would question anything else and make sure it’s not only friendly to our family but to families of the animals and of the people who live in the community we are visiting. This is the story of when we got this point very wrong.
Now that I confessed all of our mistakes, tell me: what are the mistakes YOU made when travelling with children? Confess in the comments below!
Thank you pixabay for the picture at the top of this post! Hope you enjoy your coffee!