A Different Type Of Travel – With Kids

lisa Shusterman from One World - One Trp
Valaparaiso on Horseback
Valaparaiso on Horseback

You and your partner are finally taking your dream vacation. The only thing is, by the time you got around to taking that dream vacation it’s no longer just you and your partner; it’s you, your partner and the kids. It’s not the end of the world. Traveling with kids doesn’t have to be drudgery, but it will require some attitude adjustments, some negotiating and a lot of planning and open communication.

You’ll be best off if, from the beginning, you accept the fact that this is not the same trip you would be having if it were just adults. Not better, not worse, just different. Expectations are premeditated disappointments; so adjust those expectations from the start and you’re more likely to enjoy the experience you’re having instead of longing for the one you’re not.

Remember when you were teaching your children about sharing? You had a bag of M&M’s, poured it out on the table and doled it out; one for you, one for me, one for you, one for me.

Remember when you were teaching your children about sharing? You had a bag of M&M’s, poured it out on the table and doled it out; one for you, one for me, one for you, one for me. Well, it’s time for sharing 202, this time with activities and/or sights. Explain to the kids that this is everyone’s vacation, not just theirs; therefore, everyone gets to choose activities they want to do. When it’s time for the adult activities, they don’t have to love them or for that matter, even like them, but they do have to go along with them and do it without complaining. You, of course, in return, will promise to do the same when it comes time for the activities that they want to do.

Getting kids involved in the planning from the beginning will help create “buy in” for the trip that is being created. If you’re not wedded to a particular vacation site, give them a choice of two or three places that are in the running. If they are older, have them review guidebooks to pick out places of interest they would like to visit. If they are younger, check your local library for videos on the location of choice so that they can watch it and get excited about your upcoming trip.

Biking Anyone?
Biking Anyone?

Assign them specific days that they are in charge of planning: what to do, how to get there, where to eat, etc. Most kids will enjoy the authority that you have placed in their hands and you’ll be the beneficiary of their creativity.

When traveling with kids you will want to do more planning than you might have done were it just you and your partner. Kids like to feel secure in their surroundings and the easiest way to offer that security is to feel secure and confident yourself. With advanced planning you can offer that to them. When you arrive in a city with reservations in place and the knowledge of how to get to that accommodation, the kids don’t have to worry about where they are going to be sleeping that night or if they’ll be lost in transit. They will soon come to trust that Mom and Dad “know what they’re doing” and that they need not fear the unknown.

Also keep in mind that while kids appear to be high energy, they burn out more quickly than adults, as they don’t feel the same drive we might have to “see the sights.”

Also keep in mind that while kids appear to be high energy, they burn out more quickly than adults, as they don’t feel the same drive we might have to “see the sights.” They want to move at a slower pace, see less in a given day and have more down time to play and to relax. If they’re really young, time to nap. Don’t fight their pace but instead embrace it! You may discover that traveling is a lot more relaxing and enjoyable when you’re not pushing yourselves to cover as much territory. You won’t see everything the city has to offer but chances are, even if you push yourself, you still won’t.

Flight of the Gibbon
Flight of the Gibbon

While there are things you surely won’t get to do while traveling with your kids, there might just be some incredible things that, had you not been traveling with your kids, you wouldn’t experience. A horse trek through the dunes in Chile or flying hundreds of feet above the rain forest on zip lines in Thailand would never have been on my list “A” list of activities. But, because of the kids’ interests, those were just a few of our activities on our year long trip around the world and what amazing adventures they turned out to be.

Editor’s Notes: All photos are courtesy of the author: lisa Shusterman. (Yes, lisa spells her first name with a lower case “L”. Honest. Not a repeated typo.)

lisa has also written two books following their “round the world” adventures:
ONE WORLD ONE TRIP and Around the World in Easy Ways: A Guide to Planning Long-Term Travel With or Without Your Kids.

(Oh, and the “Flight of the Gibbon” photo is a bit blurry because they were ‘in flight’. Have to take lisa’s word on that one.)

About the author:

lisa Shusterman has been traveling since the age of nine and hasn't stopped yet. Now, through her blog, One World - One Trip, you can follow her journeys with her own family.

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Discussion »

  • #1Scott

    Very impressive to travel with the whole family; I hope that someday (when I have a family), I’ll be able to bring them in tow :-)

  • #2JulieteTravels

    Holidays with my son are always full of adrenaline and adventures. Because he is so much into activities I usually end up doings thing I would never consider otherwise. The only thing I would never attempt is bungee jumping. Luckily for me so far he has remained impartial to this activity! :-)

  • #3Dave Chapple

    Outstanding article lisa with some great advice – it’s amazing how imaginative the kids can be when given free rein isn’t it?

    I recently wrote a short article about travelling with the kids and it’s so good to see someone else who gets them involved in the planning from the outset – so much more fun and far less stress.

  • #4Robert

    Very good article. Here is my 2c:
    1. In our crazy centure, when time flys, when mams are working 25 hours/day – I believe that travelling with kids is the must for many reasons: breeding, psycology etc.
    2. Because of harsh competition among people on various type of jobs: we have to teach our children from “first” month. In this case various culture and various place around the world can be one of the strong “driver” for learning.

  • #5Donna Brown

    This is amazing article for family travel. Choosing a family travel trip and find the adventures that is most exciting part of the travel.

  • #6Emily Adams

    Very good post, though I think I will still pass on having kids at all. :P

  • #7steve j

    great read! we always talk about doing some fun and different with the kids…but it never seems to happen.

  • #8Steven

    The biggest challenge when traveling with kids is how to get them occupied during the whole trip. Though you can simply provide them with activities of their own. It would actually be a better to engage them in the activities that you will be doing. This way, not only will you be able to get them interested to these, but it will also be a great bonding time for both of you.

  • #9Jo

    Great article, I think one of the best things you can give your kids is the gift of travel. It lets them see first hand the things they read about or see on tv. I think its the best “education” they can get.

  • #10soultravelers3

    Great tips! We have been on an open ended, non-stop family world tour since 2006 to 32 countries & 4 continents so far and find family travel the very best way to see the world!

    Age, how many kids, and personality of the kids and parents also affect travel. We started traveling as a family when our child was just 2 weeks old and that travel is quite different than what we can do today when she is 9 and half.

    When we started our world travel our child was 5 and the travel has done so much to enrich her education ( she is a fluent trilingual/triliterate and speaks some of many languages) and gained so much confidence.

    Even just using many ways of transportation from cargo ships, trains, planes, bikes, camels, sail boats, horses etc is part of the learning, fun and growth.

    I’ve done solo, couple, group, 3 generations and more travel, but find family long term travel the best so far! Don’t hesitate to travel the world with your child, you will all be richer for the experience!

  • #11Tuan

    I think that if you had gone many place and see everything from this journey, It will be better for your life. This is a great journey of you and your family. Thank for you to share this post.

  • #12Mike

    Hi Lisa, Great work by you. i always go with my family for holidays. i have tow childrens and they always help me to find the good places for vacation.

  • #13Tom

    Excellent article. Having taken many trips with my three children I can relate to the difficulty of planning a get away that keep the whole family happy and still gives me a chance to unwind. I love your ideas.


  • #14Kent

    keeping the kids happy on a trip or a long trip is an art form. Travelling with kids can be either a trial of your patience of a wonderful experience… Having travelled numerous times to Europe with our kids….. we find it is a bit of both…. it really has to be….. You just hope you have a higher percentage of good experience days vs the bad trial or your patience days.. We always found a good balance of one day for the kids activities ,,,, then one for the parents,,,, then throw in a third day that is equally split,,, then repeat.. happy experiences…

  • #15Craig

    I can definitely relate to this, we have a lovely 20 month old boy that is already very active. We went on holiday a month ago and had a real blast of a time. Only thing is that my wife and I did not spend much quality time together as we focused all our energy on our son. I must say that I would not give up fatherhood for anything in this world. I made the commitment to my wife and my son that I would be the best father and husband I could be. My priorities have changed considerably with the arrival of our son. I guess I still have to find that balance between my wife and son.

  • #16Christian Rene Friborg

    Me and my wife always have fun travelling with our son, although it can be really tiring at times. Nevertheless, I consider those as precious moments with the family.

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