Family Travel: How to Travel with Kids - My Golden Rules

How to Travel with Kids

I shared these tongue-in-cheek golden rules for travel with kids in an Instagram post back in September last year, but had such a fun response that I want to give them a more permanent home here. Consider these rules for family travel as anything but real rules. They are more guidelines on a good day, or depressingly accurate annoyances on a bad day, and let's be real - we all have bad days when we travel with kids!

But all this being said, travelling with my kids has always reaped more rewards than regrets, and travelling as a family is still one of the best things we choose to do (as and when we can safely!) together. However, I also know that this is not always the case for others, and if you do find travelling with kids more hard work than it's worth - you are not alone. If you are still unsure about whether you should travel with kids or if it's worth it, then I encourage you to read this post I wrote all about why and when you should travel with children.

For now, however, have a little read of this short but sweet post which shares everything I've learned about travelling with kids over the last five years with more than a touch of humour, because believe me, humour is NECESSARY when thinking about how to travel with kids. While it may not be the How To Travel with Kids guide you were looking for, but I have included links to lots of useful resources on family travel so I do hope you will find something helpful among the jokes I am making at only my own expense.

How To Travel With Kids - Nine Golden Rules

Again I want to reiterate that this post was written with sarcasm and humour in mind! If you are really looking for more useful family travel advice, or you want my tips for travelling with a baby or flying with a toddler, then I have lots of posts that may prove more useful. But that being said, the one thing I say you must always pack when travelling with kids is your sense of humour so why not have a little giggle at these "golden rules" of travel with kids here.

  • Travel with kids will never, ever be the same as travel before kids 

Leave the stack of books at home, forget wearing the three outfit changes a day (unless you're one of your children) and leave your hopes and dreams for daily relaxed sun-downer (aka witching hour) cocktails at security. 

As a mate once messaged me after her first trip with her daughter "It's the same shit, different place", and I couldn't agree more. Children don't stop having tantrums, wetting their pants, throwing hard objects at their siblings, or moaning/whining/complaining even if you are in a 5-star resort in the Maldives. (Believe me, I know because I took my kiddo to the Maldives when he was a toddler.) I would even go so far as to say that on some trips, it's a case of "more shit, different place" especially if you're flying with a young baby, travelling long-haul with a toddler, or need to help your kids face the eternal (okay, 5-day long) hell that is jet-lag.

  • Most military forces are given packing lessons by mothers.

And they will still forget the plasters, zip-loc bags, clothing pegs and mosquito spray because that list wasn't laminated, was it?

I have never loved packing for trips, but when I became a mother I felt any joy I felt for packing disappear like my love for J.K. Rowling after *those* tweets. But love it or hate it, when you're a parent getting ready for a two-week holiday, or even an overnight trip locally, you have to get over it and pack the shit out of any suitcases you are allowed to fill.

In the last few years we have done more domestic travel here in the Netherlands, and we also bought our first family care, and I'm going to say something that shouldn't make any sense, but I actually find those trips where you can fill A WHOLE CAR with stuff, the hardest ones to pack for. Give me a budget airline and a stingy baggage allowance any day of the week, ideally in summer because then my kids can just run around in the same T-shirt and shorts all week, washing them only when they go in the sea or a swimming pool. #JokingNotJoking.

But all joking aside, I have become better at packing for family travel, mainly thanks to keeping the same lists for holidays and adapting them accordingly. This saves you a ton of time! If you want some packing advice for lazy travellers, read this, and if you want my packing list and tips for travelling with a baby, my toddler travel essentials, and even a packing list for going on a ski holiday with young kids, click on all those links. You're welcome!

  • Never pack more than you can carry while holding a baby in one hand and pushing a buggy with the other.

Because you never know when your partner is going to put his back out windsurfing in Thailand the day before you travel home. 

True story. This literally happened (on an otherwise lovely holiday in Thailand). I have just about forgiven my partner, although my back has not.

So yep, pack only what one single responsible adult can carry, while also keeping a hand free to shepherd a toddler or two through busy airports.

  • You can never have enough nappies on a baby's first flight.

The air pressure on planes is proven to make babies poop more. More violently, more in terms of amount, and more often. Fact.

I mean, I don't have scientific evidence but I bet some analyst is working on the data right now.

What I do have is personal experience, which I will not relay here because nobody likes to hear about scrambled egg poo leaking through three layers of clothes in the first ten minutes of a three-hour flight and yes, one of those layers were mine.

And if you are planning on flying lots with a baby or child of any age, here's my round-up of the best airlines for travelling with kids - all true tried and tested reviews of each airline.

  • The first 24-48 hours of any trip will suckity-suck suck.

If you're only going away for 24-48 hours, you'd better hit the mini bar as soon as you check in.

But seriously, once I figured this out - that the first 1-2 days of a family holiday would be simply awful - it actually made those days a little less awful, and also helped to move past the shitty start and into the holiday with a better, more positive perspective.

If you're waiting for me to offer an informed perspective about why the first 24-48 hours of travel are so hard for families (kids AND parents), then you're going to keep on waiting because I don't have one!

  • You loving travel doesn't mean your kids will.

Same goes for certain destinations, certain experiences and DEFINITELY for certain cuisines. Seriously, kids can be so uncultured and not at all well-travelled. Ugh. 

While this can be a little hard to wrap your head around, it's actually a very normal and fair thing for your kids to not enjoy the same things you do. This may mean some dream family holidays of a lifetime turn out to be disasters for your and/or kids, so I do strongly recommend waiting until you have some simpler and easier trips under your belt before you jump in at the deep end and spend a ton of cash on a holiday that it's possible your children are too young for or just not well suited to.

There's a reason my partner and I nearly always do the same kind of holiday with our kids - holiday parks in the Netherlands, ski trips staying in family-friendly hotels, beach resorts with lots of kid-friendly activities and entertainment, and occasionally city breaks to cities where there's lots to do no matter the weather (like Amsterdam or Rotterdam) - because we know these holidays work for our family. Maybe in the future we will be more adventurous but right now, we know what we like and what works and we're sticking to it.

  • Screens and snacks are gifts from the gods. Use them wisely.

And sometimes you can even give them to your kids!

I don't think this needs any further explanation other than EMBRACE DEVICE TIME, PARENTS, and train your kids to catch snacks early to save you a ton of energy... unless you are a sado-masochist who likes getting stress migraines, of course.

  • The firm nod of solidarity from one parent to another over a tantrum-ing child is the same in any language. 

But sadly so are the judgmental eyebrow raises, head shakes and tuts.

So can we all just pledge to do the former and not the latter. Yes, even you kid-free humans!

  • Your children don't really care where you are or what you do... as long as you're all together.

So this may only be true for kids aged 5 and under but based on my experience, it's completely true and it's completely worth remembering as often as you need to, especially when they're twenty minutes into a meltdown on foreign public transport with no air conditioning on a hot August day.

And I love that it's true. because it is 100% reason enough to keep on travelling with my kids.

It is also one of the main reasons we as a family are changing how we travel once this pandemic is properly over. In short, we will be travelling less, going slower, and not venturing as far. But that is a post for another day...
Now did I miss any other golden rules of travel? Feel free to leave them in the comments...

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Frances M. Thompson

Londoner turned wanderer, Frankie is an author, freelance writer and blogger. Currently based in Amsterdam, Frankie was nomadic for two years before starting a family with her Australian partner. Frankie is the author of three short story collections, and is a freelance writer for travel and creative brands. In 2017, she launched WriteNOW Cards, affirmation cards for writers that help build a productive and positive writing practice. When not writing contemporary fiction, Frankie shops for vintage clothes, dances to 70s disco music and chases her two young sons around Amsterdam.
Find Frankie on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+.

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