We are not (yet!) experts on travelling with young kids, we’ve just done it a few times, rolled with the punches and adjusted our plans on the hop (See our previous post on the ups and downs of our trip to Myanmar). However, if you are wanting to travel overseas with young kids (we mean little people < 5 yrs old) and ideally would like to have an enjoyable time, then these are the 3 things we believe are non-negotiable.
As you read this, have a pen and paper ready – on one side write your dream locations, on the other write these criteria.
Non-negotiable One: A Kid Friendly Itinerary
“Plan your trip … now halve it…and halve it again.”
Our golden rule: No trip with kids should last less than 10 days.
You want your travel to be conducive to strengthening the relationships with your family. Anything less than 10 days panders to a packed itinerary and forgetting about the beauty of travel in the first place. (See Adam’s post on the Beauty of Travel here.)
When you plan your trip consider with your partner where you want to go, what you want see and what you like to do. Now halve it…and halve it again. You can never move too slowly when travelling with little tackers. They need it. You’ll love it. It’s important to remember why you’ve chosen to travel in the first place – most likely to have fun, experience new culture and unwind. As all of us know, tired and overwhelmed children are not conducive to a having a great time. 😐
Variables to discuss for a child-friendly itinerary include:
- Rest days: Benefit to them: they catch up on lost/interrupted naps and nights. Benefit to you: time to sit by the pool, or have a kip yourself.
- Quantity of sights: Them: not get temple/museum overwhelm. You: not get temple/museum overwhelm. Everyone wins.
- Timing for travel and sights: Them: getting out early when kids have energy and tolerance. You: beat the heat and crowds. 4 o’clock beer time when everyone else is still out looking at temples/museums!
- Modes of transport: consider internal flights and private cars (instead of 6 hours by bus) for longer trips. Mix it up- try tuk tuks, bicycles, taxis, boats and buses for shorter trips: the kids will love it and they are an activity in there own right.
- Ask the locals: they will often surprise you with wonderful alternatives to the “most popular “ allowing you and your kids to experience something unique without the crowds.
Non-negotiable Two: Child-Loving Accommodation
“If it’s not working … change.”
Our golden rule: You don’t remember where you’ve slept. You remember who you met and what you did.
We are budget travelers. We haven’t used travel agents. We have never done a “packaged holiday” and consider extravagant accommodation contra to the reason we travel (see Golden Rule above). Don’t get us wrong, we love luxury accommodation as much as the next couple. However if we were to choose between one night of luxury versus one week in a family run guest house, then yep, the latter.
Family Accommodation should keep in mind:
Choose small, family run guest houses: An opportunity to contribute to the local economy, create connections and experience fabulous hospitality. And if they don’t, well you’ll have a story. Generally, these places go above and beyond, because they care and also rely on good feedback for ongoing business. They understand the complexities of children (there are often little tackers of their own running around during breakfast or dinner time) and will often provide a cot if needed, wash a baby bottle and cook a meal to order (even if the “restaurant“ is closed).
The pool: If it is going to be HOT when you’re travelling then a guesthouse or boutique hotel with a pool cannot be passed up! You will spend more hours each day in that pool than any sight seeing activity you have planned. The kids will love it, and it gives a much needed reprieve from the sensory overload of travelling.
Room size: This is your escape. If it is going to be cold/raining then definitely consider the size of your room/rooms and or recreation area in your accommodation. Your children are still likely to want to withdraw into their own world and space at some stage to regroup and recharge.
Don’t feel locked in: It can be difficult to gauge the suitability of accommodation prior to arrival. Each family has its own context, personalities, ages. So too, the guesthouses. Use reviews from sites such as tripadvisor to help you. If you arrive and it’s not working however. CHANGE. Change. Honestly, don’t feel guilty. Just do it.
If it doesn’t quite work for the climate, location, family dynamics: change. We offered to pay our accommodation for the first night even though we relocated within 2 hours of arriving in Bagan, Myanmar. And we didn’t regret it. (FUTURE POST: What to do in Myanmar with kids)
Non-negotiable Three: A Destination Fit For a Family
Our golden rule: Know the climate before you buy.
If you are like us, you are going to want to travel somewhere interesting. Perhaps somewhere you haven’t been before. However take into account the impact of the destination on you and your kids:
The Climate: what is the weather going to be like? Will you be able to be outside sight seeing or be shackled to the poolside/air conditioning? Will it be comfortable to be wearing a carrier all day? Will it be wet/monsoon season? Are there “better” areas of the country for the time of year you are travelling. Will you need a pool as reprieve? Note from experience: Hoi An in July is too hot for little ones. 😉
Time zone: if possible minimising the time zone changes can help ensure your little ones adapt quicker or alternatively Ads’ suggest you just stay on home time which allows for sleep ins and later nights in Asia! *Beneficial for trips that are less than 2 weeks*
These are just our 3 non-negotiables when travelling as a family. What are you thoughts? Did we miss something?