I have always loved holidays. As I got older I discovered the joys of traveling and exploring new places. I remember listening to an interview on radio 4 with a mum traveling round India with her young daughter. I thought to myself “I’d like to do that, travel with my child if I have one, one day.” I am lucky enough to now indeed do that. Here are some of the why’s and how’s…
Why is it so good to travel with kids?
- You get to spend quality time away from the stresses of day to day life. It’s great not having things like housework and other things you must do on your mind.
- It broadens their horizons- show them new places, people, customs and expose them to other languages.
- You get to see places from a new perspective and educate your little one through exposure to new things. Children learn through experiencing and asking questions about things they see:
”Why is the elephant throwing mud on its back?”
”How does the lizard climb the wall?”
”How do you make that?”
”What’s that bit of the boat for?”
“Why can’t we throw the paper in the toilet?” (!)
- As you experience new things together you grow together. You could be pleasantly surprised at how easy your child finds it to adapt.
- What’s more, it’s great to have those special times to look back on together. If you’re worried your child will forget, remind them with anecdotes and photos when you’re back. I love that my daughter reminisces fondly about things we’ve done together and funny moments.
- Here are a few of our photographic memories:
Before you go:
Check visas (including transit) and that your passports are up to date.
Book a hotel for at least for the night of arrival (ideally two nights) if not going on a package trip.
Check about vaccinations well in advance.
Check my suggestions for packing for travel with a little one.
Get a phrase book or download a dictionary (eg from Google translate) and if they use a different alphabet, add keyboard, just in case.
Download Apps such as TripAdvisor and maybe some maps.
Arrival at the airport:
If you can, get a local sim so you’ve got WiFi etc. If there isn’t one, airports normally have WiFi for free anyway.
For peace of mind, you can of course get the hotel to pick you up. Otherwise, go to one of the taxi stands inside the airport and book a car, get your ticket and look for the driver. I do rate Grab Car though for good value. Download Grab and Uber apps and check if they’re used where you’re going.
When you arrive, enter your destination on the map, check what gate you’re at for location and bingo. (I find when I’m away the gps on Grab doesn’t always pick it up right). Don’t worry about drivers not understanding as they can use translate on their phone and if in doubt get a friendly person to speak to them in the local language.
Planning the day:
Ask what they want to do and listen. I don’t mean let yourself get bossed around, but if they fancy a boat trip, going to town or just chilling by the pool, try and factor it in.
Don’t try to cram too much into a day. If you have a busy day, great; just don’t set off thinking we must go to a then b then c then head over to x.
“the best laid plans…”
To help make things enjoyable, go with the flow. We took a boat the other day with a view to playing on the beach. In the end, after about 10 minutes, the heavens opened. My daughter was then wet and sandy, but rather than trying to locate the shower, I got her to stick her limbs under the rain as it poured off the roof to wash off most of the sand. Relatively sand free, I got her dry and we down and had something to eat while the rain slowed down before going for a wander. There were plenty of things to look at from chickens roaming around to colourful cafes, flowers and boats. We had a nice afternoon out.
If your kids are getting tired after walking round sites in the heat, do grab the odd trishaw, tuk tuk or taxi sometimes. That way you may avoid a meltdown too!
Prepare for your kids to amaze you with what food they may try. I was pleasantly surprised when my four year old first chose fresh crabs/ prawns/ fish/ cockles (you can see she’s a big seafood fan).
If doubtful yours will be adventurous, go to a place that’s popular or a city. You’re then sure to have Italian, burgers and other foods your children may be used to. It’s an idea to check in advance on google and ‘TripAdvisor’ to be sure.
stop to eat when you think they should be hungry, Don’t try and stick to usual times if there’s a time difference. Instead, use usual usual gaps between meals as a guideline.
Take snacks from home but eek out. Try to find stuff like dried fruit nuts and other things from the local mini mart/ market.
What about toys? For on the plane, it’s a good idea to have things to do. After that you probably won’t want toys unless for the pool/ beach. Even then you can always improvise: a cup and a stick for sandcastles for example. I do pack a bedtime story book, a favourite cuddly toy and get my daughter to choose a few things, though.
If touring/ travelling around, try to mix luxury with basic accommodation. That way you can save money (and so potentially stay away for longer) ; it also means your children won’t associate holidays with luxury getaways. For me that’s important as it gives you greater scope for travel. I do appreciate hotels with all the trimmings, especially if there’s a ‘kid’s club’ and so does my daughter, but she knows not to expect luxury all the time we’re away. Homestays for example can have their own charm- they are often friendly and well-located.
Tip: read reviews on a variety of sites before booking and search for the words kids/ family as it gives you a better idea as to suitability.
Anywhere that interests you; ideally as a family. Maybe you’ve seen something on a nature programme and really want to go to the rainforest in Costa Rica. Well, why not? That said, it’s probably best to start nearish first, to test the waters. (This also avoids the need for vaccinations.)
We did several trips from Spain to England before flying all the way to Malaysia. I knew that my daughter was ok with airplanes then (she was 2).
When doing a long haul flight I personally prefer overnight: whilst I can’t sleep on planes, my daughter can. Otherwise it’s a long time to entertain. I’m going to have to do that this trip- on the way back to London from Vietnam; I’ll let you know how it goes…
Customised or not?
There are plus points to both. You could book down to the detail- flights, transfers, hotels tours; just flights and transfers with some or all hotels pre-booked, or organise flights and hotel for arrival, then use online booking sites, such as booking.com The latter two options give you more flexibility, so I prefer to do that. This time we’re doing a combination- we booked the first 8 nights with flights and transfers through ‘the holiday place’ and are now traveling independently in Vietnam.
Do you travel with your kids? How do you find it? Any of you single parents like me? Or have you yet to do and wonder what it would be like? I’d love to hear from you 🙂