Simple, Adventurous, Fulfilling World Travel. With Kids.

It's totally possible.

Even with YOUR kids.
And on your budget.

Simple travel with kids really is possible.
It just takes a little work ahead of time and it will be smooth sailing…

Just kidding.
But it CAN actually be a mostly relaxing, joyful experience.
Try this:

Change your Expectations

If I had to give you just one piece of advice, this is it.

You will definitely not see as much in a day/week.
You will get less sleep on the flight than you do already.
You will have to find a bathroom a million times a day (I counted once).
And you will spend a lot of your time either yelling at whining, hot, tired kids, or making sure you don’t have whining, hot, tired, kids.
(This is why families just go to all inclusives I think).

It sounds terrible.
But it’s really not.
Just different.

Travel with kids is not the same as travel without kids.
(I’m so profound sometimes.  Hahahahaha)
And thats okay.
The key is not to expect it to be.

You just have to be okay with what it is for this season of your life.
Make peace with a slower schedule, more stopping to play on/with ‘x’, less attractions, and more downtime.
The result will be magical.
And much more valuable than seeing another super important historical thing.

(By the way, I think this changes as your kids get older (or so I’ve heard)).

Edge of pool, simple travel with kids
Get used to this view. To be used to cure hot, whiny, bored kids.

Involve your kids with Planning

So, we don’t let our kids unilaterally pick our travel destinations.
But we do ask for their input.
It’s important to us that all this travel is fun, and adventurous, and interesting for them too.

Typically, the process of deciding where to go next comes about semi-organically.
We see something cool on TV, or read something in a book, or hear about someone else’s neat experience.
We start talking about it as a family, wondering what it would be like.
(By wondering I mean, my husband and I posing questions to get my kids to start thinking about it).

Before long, they are somewhat sold.
And ready to not complain when we talk about doing things that they may not love.

There is often a lot of apprehension and anxiety about the unknown (for everyone really) which creates resistance.
But most of their questions are easy to answer, and fears easy to quell.
eg. what is the food going to be like, are there toilets, where will we sleep,  is there a pool…
The thing is though, you often need to talk many, many times before these fears will come out.
Once they do, and you do your best to answer all the rational and irrational questions about all the things, they can come around, and sometimes even be excited.

And yeah, don’t forget to give them some choice about the day to day.
I get that you maybe don’t want your kids (depending on their age) involved in ALL the decision making, but give them options where you can:
pool vs. beach, city walk vs. nature hike, this food vs. that food, etc.

Honestly, they are a lot more easy to get along with when they feel in control and not just dragged from place to place.

Girl posing with hoodoos, Writing on Stone National Park
Playing in the hoodoos, Writing on Stone National Park, Alberta, Canada

Schedule in down time

So, I know.
You’ve sacrificed and saved money and planned, and planned and planned and now you’re there.
And you want to do ALL the things.
Because, who knows when you’ll be back right?
And it was expensive to get there right?

I get that.
But here’s the reality:

Your kids don’t want to do all the things.

Your kids likely want to do some of the things, and swim in the pool for the rest of the time.
(probably. I obviously don’t know YOUR kids).

Kids have shorter attention spans to start.
And, they just aren’t always engaged by the same stuff you are.
And that’s okay.

They also don’t have the physical endurance you do.
And they don’t manage different foods, and routines as well as adults and, and, and…

All this to say, give your kids a break.
For them, you are not doing them a favour taking them, they won’t realize that for like 20 more years.
Now, they are just hot, and tired, and bored.
And probably thinking they are doing YOU a favour by going in the first place.

We ere on the side of our kids’ memories to be of having fun with their family AND and seeing all the amazing culture.
Not the other way around.

So, schedule in some down time.
Go to the historical marvel in the morning and let them chose the afternoon activity.
Swimming at a pool, or beach often works.
Even just a picnic in a park where they can run is good too.
Biking around a city maybe…

Or, if it works better for you guys, have a leisurely breakfast and get touristy in the afternoons.
Whatever it is, make sure your kids want to do it, and it is at their pace.

You can also just schedule nothing!
I know, a little crazy.
Think of it as an experiment (you can risk it for one half day right?)
Go to your little breakfast bakery and see where the day takes you (or rather, where your kids take you).

Boy playing on the beach, simple travel with kids
Spending a lazy day at the beach amidst travel chaos.

Limit Your Destinations

Moving home bases is expensive.
Maybe not financially , but it is super expensive in terms of time, effort, and your kids’ non-whiny behaviour.
Like, an entire day at the [insert best day you can think of here] vs. packing up, finding transportation, travelling, finding accommodation, settling in.

Hot, boring, tiring travel days suck for everyone.
Especially kids.

I get that sometimes it is unavoidable or undesirable.
But do what you can to make your actual travel, simpler.
Honestly, limiting the moves will make a big difference.

Also, staying in one place often allows time to really get to know somewhere.
And learn things about a place that are not found in the usual tourist sites or attractions.
Don’t feel like it is a waste of time or money to linger a bit longer than you normally would.
It might end up being the best part of your trip.

Simple photo of yellow flowers
I was getting so mad at my husband for spending so much time taking this photo. I’m an idiot.

Pack less

We travel with 2 40L carry ons and make out great.

Packing lighter is just such a weight off your back (hahahaha.  See what I did there?), and makes travelling with kids so much simpler.

But seriously, it is sooooo much easier to worry about less stuff.
And for most destinations, if you forget something, or need something that you didn’t pack, you can find it pretty easily.
Or make do with what you have.
You are resourceful.
And if not, I bet your kids are.

Also, laundry is usually pretty available easily.
If not, it’s okay to wear clothes that are a little dirty.
And definitely okay to wear the same thing multiple days in a row.

You’ll be great with less.
Trust me.

I’ve heard that this is not fun for some people?
Just kidding.
I get how this is a lot of work, and can be stressful.
Here is my advice to simplify the planning part of family travel:

Decide on what your family’s most important experiences are

So, obviously.
Once you have a general destination in mind, make a list of what you think are important things to do, or important cities to visit, or important places to see.
Depending on where you are going, this may take a lot of research, or not much.
I mean, there has to be at least A reason you picked this place right?
Start there.

Then try to find out what else you want to see while you’re in that part of the world.
(Or don’t.  But, why not?)

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before but I like the paper Lonely Planet Guides and Frommer’s ‘best experiences’.
If you want to go deeper, you can usually find a blogger that specializes in wherever your destination is, or whatever your specific interests are.

Deciding this WITH your family can be a nightmare.
I would suggest letting everyone pick one thing.
Or, (especially with younger kids), making a list before hand and have everyone pick their top 2?
(My kids typically pick the park, the pool and the beach, so this is easy to incorporate into our days).

Just a note that I think it is super, super important to give your kids influence (or even just the appearance of it), when planning family travel.
It is going to make them interested, engaged, and excited for your trip.
And those three things are the most important to YOUR enjoyment. 
(Even more important than what you actual do, imo)

Anyway, agree on, and make a list.
Then, without thinking about cost, distance, hassle, or anything else, rank the list by importance.
Like, the most important thing, to you, to do at your destination.
The only rule is, you can only have one thing on each line.
(I know, but it can’t ALL be the most important).

So, for example, a trip to Italy might look like this:

  1. Farmhouse Stay in Tuscany
  2. Food in Naples
  3. Art History in Florence
  4. History in Rome
  5. Food in Rome
  6. Gondola Ride in Venice

This list will likely become your list of ‘home bases’.
If your entire list is in one city, great, you have one base.
If it’s all over the place, great too.
Now is NOT the time to edit.
Just make sure the most important thing to experience is at the top.

One of our most favourite things to do, regardless of where we are travelling.

Determine what is most important at each base

Right, so now that you have your home bases, make a list of your most important things to see or do, from each base.

For example, Food in Naples might mean a farm and market tour.
Or it might mean a week long cooking class.
Or, it might just be staying in town for a week and eating at as many restaurants as you can.

If you have more than one thing, rank them like you did in the previous exercise.

This list or experience will likely end up informing your approximate length of stay at any one place.

You can either pack all the sights and attractions into a couple days, or add in time to relax and chill.
You know that I would advise the second option; especially when travelling with kids


Determine approximate costs

You don’t need to have this all mapped out, but figure out approximately how much accommodation, food, and the major activities you have planned are going to cost.

This is where a travel budget will come in handy.
You can’t really do one without the other.

Stack of coins for planning family travel
The budget. The worst part of travel.

Limit for cost and/or time

Now that you have an ideal itinerary,  you need to limit by either your travel budget, or amount of time you can be travelling, or both.
Gross, I know.
But because you’ve already ranked the list, with most important at the top, it makes this part a little easier.

In our example, if the Farmhouse is Tuscany will take a week, and you only have one week, obviously you are doing that (because it is your most important item)

If you have two weeks, you could choose the week in Tuscany + Food in Naples (which you determined will take another week).

What if Naples is too expensive during the time of year you want to go?
Then you choose only time in Naples, OR Tuscany + Florence + Rome maybe.

Maybe you drop some of the stuff off your Florence and Rome list so that you can spend a couple days in Venice.

See how it works?

So much to experience, so little time (or money….or both)

Stop, right now, with the comparing

Does this feel complicated?
It gets easier once you do it a couple of times.

And yeah, sometimes you need to drop stuff from your list.
But that’s okay, you are doing your most important things.
You do not have to do ALL the things to make your trip worthwhile.
You don’t even need to do ALL the things to call yourself a traveller (Gasp).

But for fuck’s sake, stop comparing your itinerary with everyone on Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, wherever else.
You’ve done your research, and picked your destinations.
Do not look at what other people are doing now.
Just be confident, and know that this will be the best itinerary for you and YOUR family.

Oh yeah, and exhale.

What are your steps for planning family travel?
Do you prefer someone else to plan for you?
Do you figure it out once you get there?