10 Ways to make travel with kids less stressful
By Adrienne Miller July 10, 2023
Traveling with little ones can be both thrilling and daunting. There’s a lot that goes into it and many people might feel it’s way too much effort for the reward. I’m here to say, it’s absolutely worth every once of effort, especially if you can adopt the right mindset and strategies to keep stresses at bay. Here are ten ways to make the most out of traveling with kids:
Know your stuff
Research and get comfortable with your destination before you go. It’s so much more efficient to know exactly what you are looking to do there, recommended places to eat, the geography, the expected weather and as much as you can know beforehand. The unknown can be so overwhelming and trying to figure things out on the go with kids can ramp the stress levels way up. Knowing the public transportation system, common phrases in foreign languages, distances between places, and more logistical details can really give you a comfortable sense right when you arrive instead of trying to figure it all out on the go.
Get your kids involved
Letting your kids help with the planning process is not only great training grounds for raising future travelers, but it makes the experience much more meaningful for them as well. Pull out the map, show them where you’re going or let them help with choosing the destination. Let them help decide which parks to visit or hikes to do, show them the accommodations and landmarks ahead of time and watch their faces light up when you see them in person. Familiarity does wonders for kids. Having them be involved makes it feel much more like a family experience than just being dragged around.
Pack the right way
This looks different for everyone, but the principles are the same. You want to pack what you need. Excessive, disorganized luggage causes so much more stress than comfort. You actually truly need far less than you think, especially with kids. Lugging around bundles and bundles of stuff while traveling makes things way harder. Think minimal and efficient, packing cubes, checklists, the right organizers, layers, and whatever you find works for your family. And practice packing and unpacking to see what actually fits beforehand.
Look for family friendly
Again, this looks different for everyone. Do you have a stroller and a toddler? Then maybe the cobblestone streets of hilly Porto or Lisbon doesn’t make sense for you. Do your kids enjoy hiking or beaches? Then head to destinations where those are accessible. It’s all about knowing your kids best and accommodating your family. Would you prefer a kitchenette so you can prepare meals and snacks at your convenience? Maybe crowds, long lines and overwhelming stimulation (I.e. a huge popular theme park) doesn’t actually mean family friendly for you. Family friendly only works if it’s friendly for your family. How you define it and looking for travels that make sense for your individual needs will make all the difference.
When at all possible, lengthen your stays. If this means staying at cheaper accommodations, traveling off season, going to less touristy destinations, it can really change the whole vibe of your travel experience. It means there’s less pressure to cram so much into the trip. It means there is time to get sick, be cranky and have meltdowns, and really just enjoy at a much slower pace. This means fewer intense outings, less frequent logistical changes, and prioritizing really getting to know an area, its people and culture, and taking everything down ten notches.
Embrace slow travel
Speaking of a slower pace, kids need this. They need scheduled down time. They need us to travel at their comfort level. They don’t have endless stamina, as we all know, and giving them plenty of space and time to just be kids will revolutionize your travel experience with them. Rushing them from place to place, squeezing in all the events and activities takes its toll. Everyone will be far more at ease if you take it slow. You might be surprised how much more enjoyable and fulfilling you find slow travel.
Snacks before toys
I think it’s common to want to pack all the entertainment and games and toys, but the right food can solve a lot more problems. Don’t get me wrong, we still bring entertainment, but it’s minimal. Making sure kids (and adults!) are getting frequent breaks to stay hydrated and fed nourishing meals is key to keeping everyone happier and more enjoyable. Never underestimate the power of good food.
Keep yourself grounded
Kids 100% mirror their parents emotions and energy. Be proactive in making sure you are fed, hydrated, well rested and that you’re doing what you can for your own self care. If this means more downtime so you can take care of yourself, then do it. Travel isn’t enjoyable for anyone if you’re stressed and exasperated. So be mindful of your stamina and prioritize filling your bucket so you can help keep your family calm. If this means time alone, reading a book, getting exercise and whatever else keeps you regulated, prioritize it. You and your kids will be able to handle everything about travel much easier.
Plans will change. Weather can change. Delays and cancellations can happen. People can get sick. These will most likely happen, so accept it and roll with it. If you have more of an open schedule, there’s more time and flexibility for things to change. This can lead to spontaneous and delightfully unexpected experiences. Preparing to be flexible and adopting the idea that everything will work out will undoubtedly bring stresses down.
Traveling with kids is priceless. It’s more than just a journey. It’s an extraordinary gift that sparks their curiosity, shapes their worldview and fosters unbreakable family bonds. It obviously presents a myriad of challenges, but they are absolutely surmountable and worth the efforts. Creating global citizens, building unforgettable memories and fostering resilience through travel is something you’d family will cherish forever.