The summer holidays in Australia are so close I can smell them! I know this is a time many families take the opportunity to travel, so this guest post today from Caz of Ytravel is perfectly timed.
If you haven’t heard of Ytravel, they are one of the worlds’s most popular travel blogs. They have just released a fantastic free family travel planning toolkit, which will show you how to:
- include everyone’s interests and goals in your family vacation planning
- avoid the potential family travel disasters
- plan an incredible family holiday experience
- save time by having everyone contribute and getting it right from the start
You can sign up for it here.
Travel with kids does not have to be an experience you dread. You envision the dream as it appears in the brochure, but you know the reality often ends up a little more frazzled with you bearing most of the responsibility for planning and ensuring everyone is happy!
It just doesn’t feel like much of a holiday, and you’re the one who probably needs it the most.
There will be challenges when you travel with your kids, but there are challenges when you don’t travel with them too right?
The trick is to prepare your kids for travel and get them involved in the planning process, no matter their age.
By following my ten steps below, you can help ease your child’s fears, prepare them for the change, and put them more on the excited side of the tarmac, rather than the side where they hold onto the checkpoint security guards and to beg them not to let them through.
Oh, hang on, is that you doing that?
Time to let go and enjoy the family travel experience!
1. Travel with them from the beginning
Maybe boarding your flight straight from the birthing suite is not the starting point for family travel, but I do recommend introducing travel into your family life as soon as you’ve recovered.
And yes, I do mean when they are babies; it’s one of the easiest times to travel with your kids. As long as they’re curled up on your chest in a Baby Bjorn, they won’t even know they’re travelling. But, subconsciously they’ll be picking up the travel vibe and what constant movement and adaptation mean.
Travel is such a natural thing for my daughters as they’ve been doing it since they were born. Flying with them, as a result, has mostly always been a breeze, and they feel totally in control of the travel experience.
2. Travel in your own backyard
You don’t need to head off overseas to have an adventure. Travel is ultimately a mindset, and you can apply that to anything you do with your kids. Use your home region to help them develop curiosity, exploration, discovery and adventure.
They’ll still be within their comfort zones of familiarity, but you’re stretching out the boundaries a little by allowing them to try and do new things and see your backyard through the eyes of a traveller.
3. Talk to them about why you’re travelling
Children might not understand a lot of things, but they can easily connect to a why. When they understand why you are travelling together, they are so much more likely to support and want to contribute to the dream.
What are you hoping to achieve from the travel experience? More connectedness, an insight into a new culture, adventure in the outdoors, space to unwind and relax, or to just have fun together as a family.
Why is it so important to you all?
4. Motivate and inspire them through stories, music, movies
Travel can come alive for a child through the books they read, the music they listen to, and the movies they watch. Connect to the real-life versions of what they are interacting with via these mediums. If you are planning on travelling to a specific destination, engage in stories, music and movies that showcase this destination. There’s nothing more thrilling than arriving at the scene of your favourite movie – in real life!
I mean who does not want to go to Hogsmeade in Universal Studios and have a Butterbeer?
5. Dream, plan, research together
We’re currently dreaming, planning and researching for a big US road trip next year (including Butterbeer tasting!). My girls are with me every step of the way. They’re only 8 and 4, but helping with the trip planning makes them feel like they own the travel experience, which only boosts their enthusiasm for travel and their ability to connect to the experience. It’s also an incredible bonding experience on its own before the travel adventure even starts.
Last weekend, we sat down together to look at YouTube videos of potential RV’s. The girls gave their opinions on what they thought would be a great fit for our family trips and now they’re super keen to move in!
We talk about the things we all want to do and why, and then we check out those experiences online through videos and photos. We cut out pictures from brochures and create vision boards.
We talk about finances and budgeting and how you have to prioritise. It’s great to talk about savings and creating more money for your dream so they are aware of what it takes and can start contributing to it themselves.
My eldest loves to look at maps and figure out where we’re going, my youngest does the same from a four-year-old perspective. i.e. running her finger along the road and telling us where we are going.
Travel is such a natural process for them and an in-depth learning one. They intrinsically understand the value it gives to their lives.
I have a free family travel planning toolkit to help you move through this process with your kids; you can access here.
6. Talk about possible problems and solutions and plans to overcome them
Travel is full of uncertainty and change. Reduce the shock of this (and resulting meltdowns) by preparing your kids for potential problems and solutions. Talk about the challenges of flying, of new cultures, of tasting new foods, unusual smells, living out of a suitcase and what happens when you get really tired.
Don’t assume they are too young to understand. Any small amount of awareness can help make a huge difference in their ability to feel safe and cope with sudden changes und unfamiliar territory.
7. Help them get used to minimalism
One place your child might get stuck on your trip is with not having their creature comforts. My guess is they will be having far too much fun, BUT, we always want to prepare just in case. Help them get used to minimalism and enjoying the simple things.
Take away their toys for a day and have them play with the outside world and use their imagination to create using the resources around them. My girls have mastered the art of imaginative play with a cutlery set and sticks. They’ve mastered the art of leaving that new “toy” behind once we leave the restaurant or forest.
If they have a security toy, see if you can get them to rotate it with other toys regularly. When it comes time to leave on your trip, have them select one security toy to take on the trip with them.
8. Create a list of things you need to prepare for your trip
This is when you can talk about passports, insurance, visas and vaccinations. Adapt to your child’s age level, but I don’t believe they are ever too young to have these conversations.
It’s so important for them to understand that travel is a process that involves planning and preparation. With that comes the grunt work. Even though you don’t want to do it, it’s important. This is also teaching them a lot about what it takes to achieve dreams.
Again, your child feels a part of the process and perhaps a bit calmer when it comes time to take those annoying passport photos, and to get their necessary needles.
Our daughter recently got very annoyed after the 20th take of her US visa photo. She walked off and refused to have another try. It was an opportunity for me to talk to her about why we’re having the photo and what it meant we could do.
We reconnected with her dreams of having breakfast with the Princesses at DisneyLand and cruising through the US in an RV. She happily jumped back up on the podium, head forward, no smile and nailed the shot.
9. Let them pack their bags
Talk with your child about the destination’s climate and the types of activities you’ll be doing. Let them suggest to you what would be great to pack and allow them to take control of it. Depending on their age, you may have to guide, oversee or check it.
My eldest, Kalyra writes out her packing list and packs her bag. I’m not sure how she is my child because she is super organised and neat. Despite my nearly 20 years of nomadic living,
I persist in being a last-minute throw it all in and hope for the best kind of packer.
Our youngest packs her bag, and for our next trip I’ll have her start to create her packing list through pictures. Kalyra tends to take control and pack her bag too.
Involving your children in this tedious joy releases a lot of travel preparation stress for you and helps you enjoy the process. You’re creating something magical WITH your children.
This is particularly important if you are travelling overseas. Prepare your children before leaving by practicing what some of the new experiences might be. Try the foods of the culture, either by cooking them together or visiting a local restaurant. Talk about flavours and what they like and don’t like.
Learn some of the basics of the new language. You can easily find it online. Your children will love entering a new country and saying hello in the local language. You can research cultural traditions and taboos and rehearse what some of these are and talk about why it’s important to respect them.
Practice brushing your teeth with bottled water and explain why it’s important that they do.
Now when it comes time to leave for your family trip, your children will fill confident, capable, well-prepared and ready to go! All you have to do is enjoy the memories you’ll make together.
How do you prepare your kids for travel?
Caz Makepeace is on a mission to prove travel does not have to stop once you have kids and help empower families to love the experience. She’s the co-founder of yTravel, one of the world’s biggest travel blogs, with her husband, Craig. They’ve just finished an 18-month road trip around Australia and are planning for an epic US road trip next year. When not blogging or travelling, you’ll find Caz swinging in a hammock to the tunes of Jack Johnson and a glass of chardy! You can follow their adventures on Instagram and Facebook.