I was living the nightmare – the one where you’re running down the terminal, desperate to make your flight. Your toddler is screaming, your bags weigh a thousand pounds and you can hear them call your name for the last time before they shut the gangway doors.
We had left the house late, and our daughter threw up all over her only pants for the trip on the drive to the airport, and security had taken a torturous hour and a half. If we missed this trip to Costa Rica after two years of being homebound during the pandemic I was going join in the temper tantrums.
We made it (barely) and as I collapsed into my seat near tears, it hit me that I now had to make a two-year old sit still for six hours.
I wondered why we were even doing this.
There were plenty of moments on that trip that helped answer that question for me: spending hours shell hunting in warm waves, seeing a baby sloth climb over our dinner table, hiking with a giant blue morpho butterfly perched on my shoulder. But the one that hit hardest was when we returned home.
My daughter looked out the window on the drive home from the airport and said, “Our roads have so many more lanes of traffic than the ones in Costa Rica. I liked that they didn’t cut down all the forest to make more room for a road, even if it meant it took longer to get to the beach.”
That is my “why” for traveling the world with children. Exposing them to different cultures is one of the most significant ways in which we can help them learn about the incredible diversity on this planet. This, in turn, shapes their personal values and perspective. It just takes infinite wells of patience and a significant amount of wet wipes.
Thankfully, our travel experts are here to help. Many of the parents at Enchanting Travels are dedicated to exploring the world with their children. These road warriors have been there (and lived to tell the tale) and are sharing their tips for making travel with kids as stress-free as possible. See their expert advice for planning, traveling and most of all, enjoying your family trip!
1Select the right destination
You can plan a trip to almost any destination in a “family friendly” manner, from beach getaways to multi-week safaris in Africa. For families with small children, our experts recommend destinations and itineraries that allow you to stay in one place for a couple days at a time, rather than packing up to a different hotel room every morning. We receive a lot of inquiries about family beach vacations, and we like to recommend beaches with a sense of place rather than generic resorts.
Portugal and Spain: Iberian Highlights
Discover the best of Portugal and Spain on this 14-day tour across the two countries. Start your vacation in Porto, a laidback coastal city in Portugal, before stopping to soak up the beauty of Lisbon, the capital.
Lavish Luxury Northern Tanzania
Discover the beauty of Northern Tanzania on this 10-day luxury tour. From the crowning glory of Tanzania, the snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro, to the diversity of wildlife in Northern Serengeti, the tour offers plenty of opportunities to quench your taste for adventure.
It helps to not cram your trip with too many stops when you are traveling with kids. “Less is more. I try for fewer stops, direct flights, train journeys, and destinations that offer a mix of experiencing and relaxing.” – Julia
Sometimes, the journey is the destination, and it’s a good idea to mix up days of activities with some relaxing breaks thrown in. “Our kids don’t mind traveling for days. However, every third or fourth day needs to be relaxing or filled with fun stuff for kids. The destination is secondary in planning. We’re more interested in the experience.” – Jonas
Hang in there, though. It certainly gets better and a lot easier, as kids grow up. “We chose the destination and then planned activities around the children’s interests to suit their schedule when they were younger. The more they traveled, the easier it became for them to adjust to any place, food and activity. Now they are of an age where they can give their input and we ask them for suggestions for our next travel destination!” – Vineeta
Bonus Tip: Make the journey work in your favor. Night trains are an adventure and you can cover large distances while you are sleeping.
2Plan engaging activities
Our experts agree: don’t overschedule a family vacation. Leave plenty of time for relaxing, napping and undefined exploring. A single morning activity in a day is usually the right amount of planned excursions. Also don’t feel obligated to make everything “fun for the whole family”. You can take turns doing more adult tours separately, or taking older kids on a more adventurous outing individually.
As with most things in life, simplicity is the key to a fulfilling trip. “Keep it simple, and be open to going with the flow. We did simple activities like going to a beach, walking in a forest and collecting seeds and flowers, that brought all of us much joy.” – Vidya
Doing the same activity can get monotonous for kids, so finding the right balance is important.“It is a mix of active time and down time unless we are on safari. Then the children are happy to do ten-hour days. In other destinations, a balance between guided activities, mostly outdoors, and self exploration and down time is what works for us.” –Vineeta
It’s always a good idea to keep the day open and only pick activities that align with your interests. “We usually do a half day activity after breakfast, which we plan in advance, and the rest of the day is for relaxing at the pool or beach. In cities, we often start with a hop on/hop off bus tour on the first day, as it gives you a good overview of what you want to spend more time doing.” – Julia
Bonus Tip: Be prepared. Check options for rainy days like museum visits, cinema visits or indoor pools.
3Pick hotels prudently
Choose your home away from home wisely! You’ll likely spend more time in the hotel with children than you would when traveling on your own. In general, we recommend private villas for larger family groups and hotels with interconnecting rooms for families with older children. Properties with great pools are always a hit with smaller kids.
Apart from these, you could also look for rooms with a kitchenette, so you can rustle up a quick meal for your toddler. “I look for hotels that have good room service and flexible meal options. Rooms that have a small kitchenette are super useful so you don’t have to sit in a restaurant for every meal and snack.” – Vidya
Make sure to check the hotel’s child policy when you’re booking. It is possible there could be discounted rooms available for kids. “Child policies vary a lot and can make a big price difference, especially at some eco-lodges. Some hotels offer the second room at discounted rates if it’s booked for kids. I look for city hotels that offer family packages where dinner, local public transport and other services are included.” – Julia
Private villas are great options for families with kids as it gives you the luxury of space as well as privacy. “I have been looking for private villa options. That way there’s more community space, and we can still hang out after the kids go to bed. This is especially important around the equator, as the sun goes down at 6 pm!” – Jonas
4Transit time tips
Long travel times may be the most intimidating part of traveling the world with children. If you take no other advice, heed this: pack snacks.
Unfortunately, airlines aren’t as reliable as they used to be for providing full food and beverage services, so come prepared with plenty of your children’s favorites. We also recommend booking direct flights whenever possible. The additional cost is typically worth it to reduce the hassle of dragging sleepy kids on and off planes. We also have it on good authority that screen time doesn’t count when it’s over international waters!
If you’re flying with a baby, always have a bottle or pacifier on hand for takeoffs and landings to help their ears pop. Gum works well for older kids. Pack an extra outfit for a baby and an extra shirt for yourself in your carry-on in case of an in-flight incident. Bring your own child-sized headphones. The earbuds provided on most flights don’t stay in very well for wiggly kids.
5Make lasting memories
Family travel is all about making memories together. You may wonder if younger children will remember a trip, and you can help ensure that they do by encouraging them to observe and recall. Here are a few great ways to capture the moments once you’re home:
Documenting your vacation together is not just a great bonding exercise but it’ll also help you relive your beautiful family trip over and over again. “I typically write about a memorable trip after we get back and encourage the kids to do that as well. We do take lots of pictures and find ourselves going back to them every once in a while. It is a great family bonding experience.” –Vineeta
You don’t need to shop for mass-produced souvenirs while traveling, but the little things – such as collecting rocks from a beach – can bring much joy. “We have a collection of shells, sand and stones from different countries and I often buy kitchen utensils as a souvenir. Needless to say that I also take some pictures. I have the luxury of my mom making photo albums with all images we share and I provide her with entry tickets, flight and train tickets and other things we keep from a trip.” – Julia
There’s nothing quite like the power of a good story. Reminiscing about your family vacations with the kids could also give you insights into what they liked, and what did not work for them. You can then factor these in when planning your next trip. “I tell them stories about our trip and encourage them to tell me about what happened from their point of view. By putting the series of events together themselves, they remember it much more clearly. And they learn to tell a good travel tale!” – Jonas
Travel opens up children to a whole new world of possibilities. It can be equal parts daunting and exhilarating, but it’s mostly fun. Our experts can answer any questions you have about traveling with kids or curating family-friendly itineraries. So reach out to us and get one step closer to going on an exciting family adventure! If you need more inspiration, take a look at one of our testimonials from working parents of three children, who had the family vacation of their dreams, thanks to a thoughtful travel consultant.
Urban Hotspots of Asia
Asia’s hit-list destinations are yours to uncover! A melting pot of culture and heritage awaits you in Kuala Lumpur, while Hong Kong offers a fascinating fusion of the East and the West.
Maldives for Families: Paradise Island Getaways
This Maldives family vacation offers relaxation and adventure for the young and old. Look forward to lazy days spent on pristine white sand beaches and at spacious villas in a family-friendly island resort.
South Africa Safari and Mauritius Beach
Combine a family-friendly safari in southern Africa with a wonderfully relaxing Mauritius beach vacation! Begin your safari adventure in the remote and Madikwe region which sit well off the tourist trail and affords fantastic game viewing opportunities.