Travelling with kids is one of those things that no matter how hard you try to get it right, no matter how many thinking hours you have put into your plans, it can still send even the most patient of parents into a burned out frazzle. How do I know? Well, I’m a parent of two – a four year old and a two and a half year old and we’ve done a few holidays over the past few years. But, inspired by one of OneStep4Ward’s Motivational Monday posts and with primary school education looming in September for our daughter, at the end of last year we quite spontaneously booked a one month Asian/Indonesian adventure. Gone will be the one suitcase to contain all our stuff for a week or so’s trip in somewhere Western and usually quite luxurious. Instead, this will be a trip of self-discovery, memory creation all wrapped up in a more basic (and frugal) existence. But how on earth do we plan travelling with kids on an extended trip? Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned so far:
1) Keep it simple – there are so many places that are on our bucket list and we were desperate to cram as much in as possible. Draft one of our plan contained eight legs. This would have been achievable if it was just the two of us but with travelling with young kids is a different ball game. What happens if they don’t get any sleep the night before? What happens if they catch a tummy bug? Back home in London, these are things that would warrant a day at home with a duvet, the sofa and a film. When we are on the road, we will need to factor in a few ‘downtime days’ per leg which of course eats into travelling time. As such, we have cut the number of legs of our trip from eight to four.
2) Set a budget and plan legs and accommodation in advance. Travelling with kids is eye wateringly more expensive than travelling solo or as a couple. It sounds like an obvious one but travelling as a four on multiple legs is a pricey business (if both kids are aged over two and you have to pay for their seats). Even taking just one hotel room is more expensive as more often that not, there is an extra charge for a pull out bed or two. We have realised this early on and have adjusted our expectations. On a positive note, there are lots of amazing hostels that can cater for families so I’m not feeling too downheartened!
3) Factor in ‘nothing much’ days – grown ups can deal with jet lag and long journeys. Whether you decide to sleep it off when the fatigue comes or wait it out till bedtime at local time, you can rationalise and come to a decision. Kids can’t. And jet lag can be a total nightmare for families travelling beyond their own time zones. I say this not from personal experience but from the vast swathes of research I have done on the topic. It makes me nervous, I’m not going to lie. Which is why we will factor in a lazy day every few days where we can relax and the kids can catch up on some sleep.
4) Packing lightly is not really an option when travelling with kids (especially when one is still in nappies). We are therefore planning to take two big backpacks (I got my husband the Osprey Farpoint 80 for Christmas and will invest in something similar of my own nearer the time) to carry clothes and essentials for the four of us. The kids will have their own carry on luggage. Jasper will have a Trunki or backpack and for Romilly we’re excited to try out a JetKids bag which we are hoping will make the plane journeys much easier to cope with as it transforms from a bag to a bed. Here’s hoping…! Another tip from a travelling bud that I will be investing in is packing cubes – apparently totally revolutionary space savers and not at all expensive.
5) Leave the booking of attractions and excursions until you are in situ. I’m a planner by nature and love to know exactly where I need to be, what I’m doing and at precisely what time. I’ve quickly learned that I’m going to have to throw quite a bit of caution to the wind on our trip but I’m embracing that! After a trip to Trailfinders a few weeks ago to get some ideas for must dos, I was surprised to discover that a lot of their ‘family friendly’ trips were not an option for kids under six for insurance purposes. I’m sure not all Western companies have the same policy but the guy advised us to wait until we got there to book stuff and so that is what we will do. We have in our mind an itinerary for each leg but will remain open-minded about what’s appropriate or not for young kids (we were advised against the boat from Bali to the Gilis by the Trailfinders guys due to the age of our youngest for example).
This is it for now – check back in regularly for monthly updates on our itinerary, accommodation and more learnings about travelling with kids! To follow my blog about family travel, motherhood and running marathons, please click here.