Parents, you’ve got questions, we’ve got answers.

Or just as likely, we’ve got questions and you’ve got answers.

Challenge: Traveling with Kids

Happy traveling with little kids: myth or reality? Here’s what I learned

Vote up!
Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Email this article


“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”― Mark Twain

Hitting the road with the little ones can be an amazing experience. But it's a whole different story than traveling alone, or with your friends.

Eating beans on toast when your money flow hits a dry spot, isn't an option with kids. Sleeping under a starry sky on the beach when every hostel has been taken, isn't an option neither. Or are they? Kids are more flexible than we realize. I've had situations on trips where I was so drained and felt like taking the first flight home because everything went wrong. And then it was one of my kids how got excited by the smallest thing. A butterfly, a funny rock, a friendly old lady. And it turned the whole atmosphere upside down. Kids are mindfulness ninjas.

The only real issue I can see, is that you never know how things turn out with kids. I've planned adventures where I thought I would get the Mommy of the Year award, and they wanted to leave within 5 minutes. But we've also played in the mud for two hours, in the rain, on a day where we were supposed to go to the beach. And they still talk about that. Weird little things, kids.

So, how even more unpredictable life can get while you're traveling with your offspring, there are some tips that I wanna put in your backpack:

Book a night flight

Most little kids get really riled up from going on a plane, and you think it might be easier to start your journey when they're rested and fully awake. But in my experience, it's way better to go when they're almost ready for bed. Yes, you might have some tired whining or tantrums before you board the plane. But once you're on, and everyone gets into sleep mode, your kid will nod off. Then when the plane lands, they will have the energy for the last leg before you reach your hotel.

Ask for the kid's meals in the plane

They get served first, so your little ones are all taken care of and you can eat in peace when yours arrive. How many times my food was cold before I got to eat it, I'm embarrassed to tell you. If you think airplane food is bad (and by the way, it might not be because of the food itself), wait till it's cooled down. Exponentially worse!

Get an apartment instead

Everything is different, and some kids might have a bit of issue with that. When you stay in an Airbnb or something similar, you can create a more homely atmosphere. For example, scented candles, toys, etc. You can cook their favorite meal, and have room for many rituals you practice at home. Also, you will usually have more room to move in. You can play, or let them play, you can take some alone time. Lastly, it can be an opportunity to experience genuine local life and meet other families in the neighborhood.

Puke bags, snot rags, butt wipes. Trust me.


Skip the stroller, go for a wrap

No, not a burrito. But a cross-woven baby carrier. You and your partner can carry the little one on the front, side or back. If you tie it well, you won't have any back pain or shoulder pain. You can use the wrap for many other purposes: as a blanket, a sack, a curtain. One time on a flight, for some reason my two-year-old started crying, very loudly. Eventually, I hung up my wrap as a curtain between us and the rest of the plane, and he fell asleep instantly. I think he was overstimulated and couldn't turn off. Seeing something familiar and not seeing all the other people, enabled him to calm down.

Beware of scammers

So this is something I have experienced myself in the Philippines. It is becoming more and more common for scammers to use natural disasters as a way to trick you out of money. Charity scams are especially targeted at the elderly, but will also be used with families with children. If there has been a recent disaster near the destination you're going to, make sure you check the credentials of anyone approaching you for donations, whether that's in the country itself or online. I'm all about helping other people, but lately, it has become rather difficult to discern where your money truly ends up. We got burned, and it wasn't much, but still.

Be in the moment

We all get bombarded on social media with happy crazy family travel pictures. Sometimes it seems everyone is bucket listing. And I'm sure there's a little voice in you telling you to show off as well. Which is fine, I'm the same. But you can't imagine how it feels to keep your phone tucked away for a bit. In kids speak: "It's like non-stop virtual reality!".

And in a way, they're right: when you stop thinking about your next selfie, you give yourself a chance to be really immersed in your experience. You're not a photographer stepping out of the frame to see which lighting angle is best. You're a hundred percent "there". So ditch that device for a bit, and enjoy the ride. Your kids will show you how.


Go with the Flow

Yeah, I know, a bit corny. But trust me, it's actually the best advice I can give. If everything fails, your flight gets canceled, your kids don't want to do anything you planned out, the gorgeous weather is nowhere to be found - just breathe. From what I've learned, 80% of things have a way of working out or can be solved by some creative thinking. But stressing out about it has never helped me in any situation. Or pushing an agenda that was just not gonna happen. In a lot of ways, traveling is about the road, which can be twisted in many ways you did not foresee. Practicing a bit of stoicism will not only help you find your way but will show your kids how to deal with unexpected circumstances. And that, in my opinion, is way more worth than 1000s of happy family selfies.

This post comes from the TODAY Parenting Team community, where all members are welcome to post and discuss parenting solutions. Learn more and join us! Because we're all in this together.