Being The Nomad Mom is not easy. Traveling and moving around with kids and family takes a lot of planning, patience, and a knack for goodbyes. One of the perks of being the nomad mom is that I’ve learned how to make family travel a fun and memorable experience.
So I’m sharing my top 10 easy tips for fun family travel. Whether it’s a road trip, 48 hours in a new city, or a 14-hour international plane ride, family travel can be fun. Here’s how you make fun out of potential chaos.
My 10 Easy Tips For Fun Family Travel
1. Schedule your travel time.
We used to think of travel as a set event, and we’d think we just needed to survive the 14-hour flight or the 4-hour car ride. After several chaotic energy zapping trips that left us and our kids miserable, we realized there must be a better way. And there is! We needed to schedule our travel time. This one little epiphany has saved our family’s sanity.
2. Plan your accommodations wisely
No matter how old your kids are, sharing a hotel room with them is no fun. Dare I say, it may ruin a vacation—for them and for you. So, to keep the fun in family travel, I suggest that you plan your accommodations very wisely. We tend to like to book AirBnB homes for our vacations. We have two little kids so we reserve at least a two-bedroom apartment or house. Interestingly, it usually cost us less to rent a private apartment/house than to reserve a hotel suite.
3. Keep Activities Time + Age Appropriate
So this is probably a no-brainer for some people, but it wasn’t for us. In the off chance, someone else didn’t get the memo, I’ll share our family travel moment. Take the duration of your activities and the ages of your kids into account. Keep naptimes and bedtimes in consideration. This is the deal. Little kids (even the big ones) don’t always understand vacation. The opportunity to see new things, eat different foods, and skip naps or have later bedtimes is initially exciting (but can be kinda hard) for kids.
So just remember to plan your family travel activities with your kids’ preferences and schedules in mind. This may put a bit of a damper on your travel fun, but it’ll keep your kids happy.
4. Take Breaks
Vacations are meant for exploring, learning, having family fun, and relaxing. Don’t forget the relaxation part. All of the exploring, learning, merrymaking will be lost and forgotten if you forget to take breaks and just relax. Every day, plan some downtime. Whether you have older kids and they want some time to explore a certain place on their own or you have little kids who need a nap, take breaks. You may not see everything on this vacation but when you return home, you won’t need a vacation to recover from the one you just took.
5. Let kids pack a small bag
It’s hard being a little kid. Think about life from your kid’s perspective. Parents plan everything, and they never really get an opportunity voice their little opinions. And I get it, giving kids too much of an opinion could have you vacationing in the clouds above the Magic Kingdom eating rainbow ice cream and only wearing matching Mickey Mouse t-shirts.
Still, giving kids (of all ages) an opportunity to make small choices will help them feel like they’ve had an opportunity to contribute their ideas to the trip. So, let them pack a small bag for themselves of their favorite parent-approved (airport + TSA authorized) things. You may even want to get their input on your family’s daily activities, but I’ll leave that to you. Our three-year-old enjoyed deciding where we ate for lunch (once we narrowed down the choice to 2 or 3 places of course).
6. Introduce new foods sparingly
Ok, some parents may not be into new foods. That’s a whole different blog post. I’m assuming
here that if you’re into traveling, you’re probably also into tasting (at least devouring at best) the local cuisine. Between me and you, I’m a devourer. I love food! Check out these chicken feet my husband and I tried with our dim sum in Hong Kong… see picture (right).
The thing is this. You never know what food(s) may not agree with your stomach. If you’re like me, hardly anything ever effects you. Other people I know, will get sick regardless fo how careful they are.
When you’re traveling as a family (and with kids), be cautious about what and how often you introduce new and unusual foods. Sure, most tummy bugs clear up within 24-48 hours but I can tell you from experience, it’s no fun when your family is sick with a tummy bug AND you’re away from home.
7. Ask kids (even young ones) for input into activities
This kind of ties into #5 Let Kids Pack A Small Bag. Giving your kids input into what you do as a family and where you go makes everyone feel good. The trick is to limit their choices. So if it’s a pick for where to go for lunch, you can limit the geographical area to one street or you can limit the choice to two different restaurants.
Parents do the heavy lifting. You pick the price point of the restaurants, the location, the timing for your meal. You let the kids pick between your already selected options. For example, in Hong Kong, our three-year-old picked between dim sum at the hotel and dim sum at one restaurant. In Hawaii, our then two-year-old chose between burgers and burritos.
This also works with activities. Beach or pool? Take a walk on the beach or take a stroll around a new shopping center? Go to this museum or that museum? You get the picture. If you have more than one kid, let them take turns picking. The point is, always choose before you let them choose. Everyone will be happier.
8. Research stroller accessibility in advance
This was a huge AHA for our family. Not all museums/buildings/amusement parks allow strollers. And even if they allow them, sometimes they restrict the number of strollers or the size of the stroller you’re permitted to use.
It’s not cool to find this out after you’ve already arrived with your kids and your stroller. Don’t be like my family. Do your research.
All of these locations have websites or Facebook Pages. Just do the research. If you can’t be a stroller, you can always throw a baby carrier on your back to haul your beautiful children when they inevitably get tired of walking.
9. Carry A Change of Clothes for Everyone
Yea, we learned this lesson during a short layover in Bejing as we waited for our delayed flight home. I went to take my son to change his diaper only to find out that had ….let’s call it….runny tummy, and not only had he ruined his outfit but he’d ruined my sweater and my coat. As a good mommy, I had a change of clothes for the baby. But I didn’t have a change of clothes for myself.
As it happened, right after I changed the diaper, our flight began to board. So my family and I ran to our gate as I reeked of our runny tummy poop. I was so embarrassed and couldn’t imagine flying home in these smelly clothes.
I travel with Clorox wipes. So, after we got seated on our flight, I took my coat and cleaned it with Clorox wipes. I then draped it over my shoulders and proceeded to ever so discreetly remove my sweater until I only had on a tank top. I closed my now non-smelly coat and put my stinky sweater in a plastic bag deep in my carry on bag.
My lesson is now to ALWAYS carry a change of clothes for everyone in my family. It’s a bit of pain, but it helps keeps our travel fun. I no longer worry about outfits being ruined or baggage being lost. Less mama stress means more fun.
10. Set a travel budget
This is a no-brainer to some people, but it took us a while to figure this one out. Now, remember, you also want to have fun and budgets are distinctly un-fun. Here’s the deal though, debt is also un-fun.
When you start planning your trip, make a budget for your accommodations, food, and travel expenses. Plan for experiences, gifts, and accidents.
Family travel can be fun and these 10 easy tips will help you handle your travel logistics, give everyone a voice, and try new things without sacrificing any of the fun.
What’s your best family travel tip?