There is something really exciting about showing up in a new city, without any agenda, flying by the seat of your pants and getting recommendations as you go. But not having a plan when you are traveling with kids can be disastrous. In order to ensure a great trip for both you and your little ones, you are going to have to get organized and do some planning.
Here are a few things to keep in mind while planning your next trip with kids:
Spend More on Accommodations
A lot of experienced travelers will tell you to save on your hotel, as it is just a place to sleep. These people most likely do not have kids. Especially if you have little ones who still nap during the day, you will be spending a lot more time in your hotel or apartment. So it is worth it to spend a little more money to get something nice.
An extra bedroom is great. A view definitely helps if you find yourself stuck inside on beautiful days. Even better is a balcony or terrace where you can sit outside while the kids nap, or after they go to bed at night. And a kitchenette and washing machine are really helpful if you will be somewhere for more than a few days.
Make Dinner Reservations for the First Night
While you are booking your hotel or apartment, go ahead and get dinner reservations for the first night. Spend a few minutes reading reviews on TripAdvisor (or whatever site you like to use) and pick a place that looks good. If plans drastically change, you can always cancel these reservations, but you will be happy you have them.
After traveling with kids, whether it is a long flight or just a few hour drive, you are going to be exhausted. And you don’t want to have to worry about looking for somewhere to eat after everyone is already hungry, and possibly having to wait. Hungry and tired kids (and parents!) are not fun to be around.
Only Plan to do One Thing a Day
While you are planning your trip, reading through travel books and blogs, you are going to find so many amazing things to do in your destination that you will be tempted to try to pack it all in. And you will be setting yourself up for disappointment.
When traveling with kids, accept the fact that you will not be able to do as much as if you were traveling alone. You will need to stop more frequently for snacks. You may have to return to the hotel or apartment for naps. Kids dawdle. They fall down. They have epic break downs in the very worst places.
If you plan just one thing a day, then anything else you do is a bonus. You won’t be frustrated, and your kids will feel less like they are being dragged here, there and everywhere. Plan to do that one thing early in the day, and the rest of the day can be free for exploring, stopping at every playground you see or finding some good gelato.
Kid-Friendly Doesn’t Have to be All Aquariums and Amusement Parks
Sure, zoos, aquariums and amusement parks are always a hit with kids. But there is so much more to see when you are traveling, it would be a shame to waste all of your time in a zoo. (Unless it is a really spectacular zoo, of course!) Some other activities that are usually a hit with kids are castles, gardens, boat rides, train rides, and easy hikes. Really anywhere with wide open areas for them to run and play is perfect.
One of my daughters’ favorite activities is always running around the main square of whatever city we are in. Especially in Europe, the main square is sure to be filled with people of all ages. Kids riding bikes and scooters, kicking soccer balls, chasing birds. Your kids will fit right in, and you can enjoy the square while the kids burn off some energy. You can probably even sit in a nice cafe and have a beverage while they play, which makes it enjoyable for everyone.
If you really want to do something that you know won’t be much fun for them, try to find something nearby that they will like, like a play ground or an ice cream stand. Then they will have motivation to tolerate the rest of the outing.
I used to be able to pack and be ready to go on a trip, no matter what the length, in under an hour. That was before I had kids. Now I give myself at least a few days. I start by making a packing list on my phone, and add to the list as things pop into my head. Then the day before we leave, I use my list to pack everything that I think we will need, and put it all by the door. In the morning, I throw in the last minute necessities like toothbrushes and my baby’s lovey, and double check every bag.
Packing with kids is an art form. Bring too much and you will be frustrated by juggling a million bags and your kids. Bring too little and I guarantee the one thing you forget is the thing you can’t live without. So pack thoughtfully and carefully. And know that packing gets easier with practice!
Is there anything else you would add to this list?