One year of travel: tips for traveling long-term with kids

We've been traveling with kids for over a year, and we are sharing a few tips to make traveling easier for families!

A Pin to make life easier!

I used to think that traveling with kids (just as I used to think about homeschooling) is a LOT of work, very little enjoyment, and super expensive. Turns out, I was right (it IS expensive), yet, I was also wrong. It’s not that much work, and it’s just so much fun! Trust me, we’ve been traveling non-stop for over a year! On this post, I’ll share a few tips for traveling with kids!

How it is

It’s a bit more difficult. Grown-ups or teens can totally understand and behave when they have an early/late flight, but kids won’t be able to. They get tired, hungry, sleepy, anxious. We need to avoid stressful situations in the first place. When we can’t, we need to find a short-term solution.
We need to carry stuff we wouldn’t otherwise, like toys. And there’s the need to meet more people’s need.

BUT, let me tell you, it’s ALL FREAKING AMAZING!

Kids surprise and amaze us every single day. They make dull moments full of life. They learn stuff in the strangest moments.
And when they’re asleep, it makes everything worth it!
Plus, they’re a lot cuter than us on the photos.

So, the promised tips

Take it easy

This is the most important thing ever! Kids get tired, more than adults, and they probably aren’t as excited to see new things (unless it’s something of their interest).
So, take it easy.
Go sightseeing 2 days in a row, but have one rest day – be that at the beach or pool, a movie day at home, or just let them read or talk to friends or play Minecraft. Give them downtime.
Plus, don’t try to cram too much into every outing. Give them time to explore. Be patient. They’re learning every moment, even when they’re chasing pigeons.
You may not get to see the whole country (or region, or city, even a neighborhood) in your week-long vacation, but it’s still fine and it’ll be more enjoyable if they’re rested, happy, and interested.

santiago chile san cristobal

The kids playing in Cerro San Cristóbal, in Santiago, Chile.

Trust them

I don’t mean let them wander around on their own (especially when they’re small) but to trust they know when they’re feeling tired, or when they want to see something, or when they don’t.
If they want to stay looking at the same artifact in the museum, let them. Try to see what’s it that they’re seeing. If they don’t get to see the whole museum, but they got enough out of that one single painting (or whatever), it’s really enough.
If they say they’re tired and want to stay home, negotiate! Maybe you can give them a few hours before heading out, or maybe you can come back earlier and watch something together later. If they’re old enough, maybe they can stay home alone for a few hours. Just be sure they’ll know how to deal with the phone or doorbell ringing, locking doors – basic safety knowledge.

Let them be responsible for their own stuff

Trust them again and let them choose what to carry, how to pack it. Give them a rough guide, depending on the freedom they’ve had so far you might want to give more or fewer details and let them be. Tell them where you’re going, how long you’re staying. Tell them what they absolutely need (hats, sweater, towel, etc) and give them the responsibility. They almost always do fine. Maybe make a list with the basic stuff (3 tops, 3 bottoms, 3 undies – and let them choose). This works even better with young kids.
Let them care for their stuff.
If they forget or lose something, well, it happens! Don’t hold it against them but still, let them feel the NATURAL consequences of their acts (‘You need to stay in the shade now because you don’t have a hat’).
My kids became pretty good about their stuff, even though they do lose one thing or the other every once in a while.
Plus, there’s no need to overpack. Most places sell almost everything.

ghibli museum tokyo japan

Even though it’s a bit blurry, it’s one of my favorite photos from the visit to Ghibli Museum, in Tokyo, Japan

Cram in something for everyone

If you have kids with very different interests or of a wide age range, it’ll be harder. Still, try to cram something for everyone. You can go to Peru, see Machu Picchu for a kid, hold baby llamas for other kid, go to the movies for the other, check out the Gold Museum for the other, and spend a day at the beach in Lima for the other. Every single country has many different activities, and I’m sure you’ll find something for every person. Maybe a day in the hotel playing travel board games will suffice to meet the needs of someone. Open up a conversation and figure out what they need!

Include them

Include them in the choice of destination, on your itinerary, on your food choices. Give them some choice. If you have very limited amount of time or budget, give them a few possible options and let them choose (Pizza, or hot dogs?, or Any country you’d like to visit in Central America?).
You’ll, most probably, be surprised! No need to pressure them into it. If they don’t want to take part in the choosing or they’re too little for it, easier for you.
You can see our packing tips, what to carry and all luggage tips here. All the places we’ve been on this trip are on the right: choose one to start!

hobbiton nz

José peeking into a hobbit hole in Hobbiton, NZ.

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5 replies
  1. fouronaworldtrip
    fouronaworldtrip says:

    you make it sound so easy 🙂 especially the “be patient part” 😀 So far we only know summer vacation, that so limited amount of time in a so busy year .. where you need already a week to disconnect and before you know it, you’re back at your desk at job^^ It’s hard to keep up with the good ideas and good plans. I usually need days in which I kinda terrorize my family until I got used to the new situation and am able to relax. I really wonder how it will be when we are gone for a year.. everything will be better then 😀 I will read your article again before leaving for summer vacation this year, as a mantra 😀

    Reply
  2. invincibleian
    invincibleian says:

    I agree, patience takes practice! We’ve been on the road for almost four months with a 5 and a 3 year old, and fortunately they don’t usually melt down at the same time. However, it’s rare that we have a day without a meltdown from one or the other.

    It’s incredible how well they adapt though! And I agree whole-heartedly about “Take it easy”! Go slow, spend days doing nothing! The biggest change from vacationing to travelling is you don’t have to feel like you have to see everything, everywhere you go.

    Still though, I can’t imagine being outnumbered by the kids!

    Reply
    • Thais Saito
      Thais Saito says:

      Hahaha, yes, BUT my kids are all older – they’re 5, 9, 12 and 13. The older, the easier. At least the older ones can hold it when we can’t find a toilet or when they’re hungry. And they don’t need to hold hands, plus they carry their own stuff.
      Your kids are growing up so used to traveling it’d be a breeze in a few months!
      Thank you for the comment!

      Reply

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  1. […] day and having popcorn? This is what counts most. Sure, include something for everyone is good and I’ve said that before, but you don’t HAVE to ALL THE TIME. […]

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