Top Tips for Traveling with Kids (Part II)


In my last post, I discussed our passion for traveling with our kids. Whether you are dreaming of an international expedition or an overnight at a local wilderness lodge, here are some general guidelines we’ve found useful during our travel planning and execution.

Shift your expectations. 

This is probably the most important tenet we’ve learned to embrace while traveling with young children.  It sounds obvious, but it is absolutely essential to realize that a trip to Europe with a 1 and 3 year old will look vastly different than a trip with just you and your partner. When we took our toddlers to Italy, we didn’t see the Sistine Chapel or have a romantic dinner on a lakeside piazza or shop the high fashion district of Milan.  But we did hike through Italian countrysides and meander through small villages.  We did find out which Roman restaurant served the best Cacio é Pepe, but we did not ask for a table.  Instead we ordered it for takeout and picnicked on the Spanish Steps.  My husband and I drank local wine out of miniature bottles while our boys jumped from step to step amidst the bustle of Italian teenagers gathering in the ancient plaza.  And many days, our itinerary was simply to find a playground and watch our boys play with local children.  Bonus: There are snack bars at these European playgrounds that serve Prosecco and potato chips.  Dear St. Louis Parks Department, please take note. 

Swinging with a view near Pamplona, Spain.

No matter the destination, there is beauty in simplicity. We believe there will be other chances to hit up the museums and five-star restaurants.  For now, we seek out the ordinary in an extraordinary location and find it to be pretty amazing. 

Think outside the hotel room box. 

We’ve all been there.  It’s 8:00 p.m. and you are huddled in a dark and nondescript hotel room, whispering to your spouse and using the light of your cell phone to find the mini fridge.  You’ve had a long day and you finally got your kids to sleep.  Now what to do?

When we started traveling with our children, we were overjoyed to discover hotel alternatives like AirBnB.  Often times, we can find an apartment with a kitchen, two separate sleeping spaces, and maybe even an outdoor balcony for a price tag not much steeper than a traditional hotel room.

Our other favorite accommodations are farm-stays.  Also known as eco-tourism or agri-tourism, these offer unique opportunities to stay on working farms that give you an up-close encounter with the land you are visiting. What kids don’t love to roam with horses and pigs or pluck their own eggs from a hen house before breakfast? We have stayed on farms in both U.S. and international locations and have had unforgettable experiences.  

Research and Preview

We have learned that a little research goes a long way in taking the stress out of traveling with kids.  We try to find that balance between planning our itinerary and leaving room for unexpected discoveries. If we are visiting a new region of the United States or another country, we research the traditional cuisine and find out what new foods we must try and the best places to get them. (Don’t forget about the take-out option here!)  We also map out the locations of parks and green spaces, so we know where to head when the boys just need to run.  Having a few of these ideas in your pocket helps guide you as you lead your kids through all the sense-stimulating “newness” of a vacation. 

Making new friends at a farm stay on Orcas Island.

We also involve our kids in this research before we depart.  We check out books from the library about our travel destination.  We watch YouTube videos that feature sights we want to see.  We talk about the foods we might try and sometimes even cook a traditional recipe in our own kitchen before we go.  Arming our kids with this preview helps get them excited for the adventure and also gives them some background knowledge to hook into as they absorb new sights and smells and sounds. 

As I am sure you know, this crazy but oh-so-precious time of raising young kids goes fast. Your travel doesn’t have to be extravagant.  There are epic experiences to be uncovered in the everyday, just past our city limits. Go for it.