Tips for Successful Family Travel with Kids

FAMILY TRAVEL – THE BACKGROUND

Long gone are the days where we could whisk away on impromptu trips, bringing only carry on bags with us. We have always been into family travel and enjoy spending our free time exploring new sights at locations across the globe. One of the perks of my husband’s work travel is airline miles and hotel points. It is a ‘game’ I knew little about before I met him, and one that I have now mastered.

When we had our son, we agreed that he would mold into our lifestyle instead of the other way around. We purchased all the right gear to keep us as mobile as possible so that we could continue our travels. To date, our little one has been on many flights, the longest of which was 5 hours (Costa Rica). Now that he is two, we decided it was time to try him overseas on a more extended flight time. Because he has a great love of trains, we determined that London would be a great place to ‘test the waters’ and see how he managed the time change and travel. There is a great model train village outside of London in Beaconsfield that helped solidify our location decision.

WHERE WE PLAYED AND STAYED

Determining location was easy, the lodging was what stumped us. Hotels are great, but for such an extended stay, the cost of eating out for every meal without the ability to store any food can add up fast. We decided to rent an apartment for a week while visiting London. To keep us from spending unnecessary money, it made much more sense. While we paid out of pocket by going this route, it is much easier for us to maintain our lifestyle and have some of the comforts of home. The location was pretty central, complete with grocery stores within walking distance, and minutes from some of the larger parks of London.

For the second week of our trip we planned to move around more so hotels made the most sense. We traveled by train to Edinburgh for a few days before returning to London for our final weekend abroad. While my husband and I have been to London many times, we have never been to Scotland, so this part of the trip is really for us.

DID WE SURVIVE?

YES!!! We had a few lessons learned but overall, it was a wonderful experience. England and Scotland were extremely family friendly locations and everyone we met was willing to help. The biggest lesson was that our son has the travel bug just like his parents and we are already planning next year’s trip.

Below I have listed my top ten tips for travelling with a little one. The recurring theme throughout the list is FLEXIBILITY. What are your travel experiences? I look forward to hearing your stories in the comment section below. 

TEN TIPS FOR TRAVELING WITH A LITTLE ONE

  1. Time zone changes are hard on little ones. This is especially true after long flights or car rides. We took it easy our first day there and I kept him home an extra day once we returned to the states. This allowed us to all get adjusted so we weren’t dragging the rest of the trip.
  2. A quality stroller will keep you mobile. One of the things we focused on when choosing a stroller before our son was born was flexibility. It was important to find one that had enough space for storage, was comfortable to push, wouldn’t fall apart, and folded up easily. The Orbit Baby has been a lifesaver more than once. We pushed it to the limits on this trip and it held up great.
  3. Technology is your friend. Especially on long flights or in unfamiliar situations, having a tablet, laptop, or even phone stocked with movies and favorite shows is totally acceptable and even necessary. It doesn’t make you a bad parent.
  4. Bring some familiar items – our little is pretty flexible when it comes to new locations. We packed a few of his current favorite toys as well as his blankets so he was comfortable and secure.
  5. Keep a light schedule and minimize expectations. When we booked the trip, we had a very small list of things we had to do. This allowed us to be flexible and feel less stress if our son wasn’t up for it. The most important thing for us was to be together as a family.
  6. Family friendly activities make it fun for the little ones and don’t make them feel like you are dragging them around the city. We tried to do at least one activity that was exciting for our son each day. This included simple things like riding on trains or running around in a park.
  7. Scope out family friendly restaurants before you go. I like to have a starred list of researched spots in Google maps around the cities that we visit.  
  8. Provide ample time for free play. We spent most of our evenings in the hotel room or apartment where our son played freely while we ate food that we picked up on the way home.
  9. Don’t stress out at mealtime! When eating out and travelling, don’t feel like you have to be a perfect parent. Let your child have some cheats with you. There are local foods that were must try’s. Obviously we don’t let him have a meringue the size of his face at home. It’s okay to live a little, especially on vacation.
  10. Pack snacks that are easy to transport and come in individual servings. For this trip, I packed the following:
    • Fuel for Fire squeeze pouches – these are a great travel item. They have protein and carbs to provide fuel. The flavors taste like treats without any sugar.
    • Granilla Bars – these Paleo approved granola bars are chock full of good fats and carbs. The variety of flavors are an added benefit. Our current favorites are dark chocolate honey and cherry maple.
    • Barnana Chewy Banana Bites – while these little treats don’t come in individual servings, the bag itself is pretty compact. I love these because they provide good fats and
      carbs without any sugar. I recently found a new flavor with cinnamon apple which is also excellent.
    • Paleonola Grain Free Granola – This is another one that doesn’t come in individual servings but there is no chance of breaking the product in its packaging. There are a few different flavor offerings, but we like the original version best.
    • Simple Mills Farmhouse crackers – these crackers are the best. They are made with ingredients I feel comfortable feeding my child. The cheese flavor tastes just like the traditional cheese cracker, and if you don’t have a dairy allergy, I highly recommend it. Again, they don’t come in individual servings, but I packed a few boxes with our clothes to have on hand at our apartment in London.
    • Bare Natural Banana Chips – these dried banana chips contain only ‘banana’. They have a great crunch without the feeling that you are going to break your teeth (maybe that’s just me, but I always feel like I will chip a tooth when I eat regular banana chips).
    • Wild Friends Honey Sunflower Butter Individual pouches – this is the sunflower butter we regularly use at home. I was so excited to find the individual servings at our Sprouts recently. They will be great alone, or on fruit, crackers, eggs, etc.

Now, if only I could stop waking up at 2:00 in the morning, I would be able to function with society again.