Whether you've trekked in Nepal, hitchhiked in South America, backpacked in Europe or traversed North America by road, children are likely to change your perspective on travel. Sleeping in a railway station because you didn't consider the implications of a 2am arrival and no hotel room may, at age 20, lead to great memories. When traveling with kids, a night on the floor is more likely to be a nightmare. But that doesn't mean you're limited to caravanning on the beach 'til the tikes turn teens.
Travel with kids is all about traveling smart. Selecting the right family travel destination and choosing the perfect hotel, resort or inn are a start but may not be enough to make a family trip fun. Finding family attractions and activities that are both age appropriate for children and enjoyable for the adults is just as important. Scheduling your itinerary to match your child's pace - from taking time out for a proper breakfast, lunch and dinner to alternating play time and sightseeing - will go a long way to avoiding a meltdown.
Travel planning can alleviate much of the stress we associate with travel for kids. Researching your travel destination thoroughly in advance will ensure you don't miss important details; vaccinations for example. Yet travel health is not the only issue that requires advance consideration when vacationing with kids. Reserving train seats and booking entrance times to museums and attractions beforehand will help you beat the queue and reduce long wait times. Understanding transport passes can save more than just a few cents; buying a pass on day one circumvents the need to study the fare schedule and stand in line on days two, three, and four.
Food is likely to be a problem whether you travel to a neighboring state or half way round the world. Research your vacation destination's culinary treats before you depart. Find out if your all-inclusive resort offers a children's menu before you book and, if possible, introduce the kids to foreign foods before you depart. Pack their favorite snacks in resealable bags and if you're traveling to a remote destination, carry enough of their favorites to keep them happy for the entire vacation.
Long distance travel with kids can be a hair-raising experience; it can terrify even the bravest of souls. Planning your travel time to coincide with an infant or toddler's nap or sleep time will not only reduce the time you need to keep them occupied it also eliminates a cause of irritable little ones. Flying direct can cost more than connecting flights. Yet if a direct flight reduces your travel time by an hour or more it may make sense to shell out the difference.
Pack the car and your carry-on with the kids in mind. Include travel games and activities that will keep them occupied but won't annoy your fellow passengers. Avoid sets with small pieces. Take out the toys one at a time. And while you may want to include a book or magazine for yourself, keep them stowed until you've played with the kids for an hour or two. A family vacation is first and foremost an occasion to spend quality time with your offspring.
So the next time you're thinking about a summer vacation or weekend break with kids don't let a fear of traveling with the little ones impact your choices. Travel smart and plan ahead. And leave others wondering, 'Why would they take their children there?'