When travel with kids isn’t all rainbows and unicorns

Written by special contributor, Hayley Jennings

*This post may contain affiliate links.

Family vacations can be exhilarating, exciting, and educational for everyone. You can help your child explore a whole new world and they can offer a perspective that can help you discover some of the sense of wonder that you might have lost. However, it’s not always easy to travel with kids. It’s not an understatement to say that when it goes wrong, it can feel like a nightmare rather than a dream trip. Here, we’re going to look at why that is and, more importantly, what you can do to fix it.

When travel with kids isn't all rainbows and unicorns

They don’t do well in the average hotel

The hotel might be where you spend a significant amount of time in the morning and evening, but while you might be happy chilling and decompressing after a busy day, your child might not be as excited to sit around and do nothing. Of course, you can find enough to do during the day that they get tired out. But if you want to have a moment of peace, you better find kid-friendly hotels that offer a few attractions to keep them busy, too. Otherwise, you are going to be feeling the brunt of their boredom.

When travel with kids isn't all rainbows and unicorns

Kid-friendly Kinzie Hotel in Chicago

They do even worse on long flights

Speaking of boredom, most trips are going to involve long periods of transit at one point or another. Whether it’s a flight or a road trip, this can be the moment when the parents’ patience is truly tested. You might be tempted to simply “grin and bear it”, but that just means you’re going to be arriving at the destination with both you and your child feeling frustrated and ready to pop at any moment. Not the best way to enjoy all the sights and activities of your chosen destination. Make sure you have plenty for your child to do during long trips. Keep them engaged with toys, books, games, snacks, or let them enjoy in-flight entertainment. Fail to prepare for that long trip and you are guaranteed to suffer through it.

They have a much harder time getting the rest they need

Adults need to prepare for jet lag, but you aren’t going to be suffering the way your child does after a long trip. Kids don’t get enough sleep on average even when they are at home. If you arrive at your destination and don’t plan to afford them as many hours of rest as they need, you are going to be coping with one of the most uncomfortable, tired, cranky, and unhappy children you have ever met. Try to be considerate of their needs for proper sleep when putting together your travel plans. 

When travel with kids isn't all rainbows and unicorns

Their needs don’t always take center stage

Even if you’re bringing the kids, it’s easy for your travel wishlist to be at the forefront of your mind. You might have plenty on your bucket list that you have always wanted to see and do, but if it’s not as engaging for the kids they will let you know about it. That nagging can really dull the shine on some of the experiences you have been looking forward to. Make sure your kids are satisfied by finding them things to do. Give them options and let them pick, so they feel like they are being listened to and that they have a real choice. Be diplomatic and take the family to the kids’ choices first. They will be much happier to share with your own interests and less likely to keep asking when it’s their turn.

They can be afraid

Sometimes, we take complaints at face value and don’t realize there’s a deeper truth. We deal with our children’s complaints every single day. But, when traveling, if your child is complaining and refusing to do anything, the truth is they may very well be afraid. Showing some compassion, expressing a little of your own fear, but encouraging them to be brave and leading by example can help them come out of their shell. Once they are in the experience after being prepared for it, those fears can fall away. If they are truly terrified of a certain experience or place, don’t force them to go. Be kind and be patient when possible.

They don’t have your stamina

Travel can be physically demanding, a fact that parents can sometimes forget. Your child is going to need a lot more consideration to ensure that they are comfortable but more importantly that they’re not at risk of falling ill. Routinely ask them how they’re doing. Do they need to sit down for a bit? Do they need to eat some travel snacks? Ensure they are plenty hydrated when you’re out and about as well. Be aware of how much you can expect from them on any given day. Keep the itinerary loose so that you’re able to be flexible if they just need to chill out or even take a nap.

They add even more stuff to carry

Finally, there’s the challenge of the dreaded bags. Packing for a family can be truly tough. But this is partly because most families don’t really organize their luggage very well. If possible, pack super light so that you’re able to fit all the family belongings in as few bags as possible. If you do need a little more with you, make kids responsible for a portion of their own luggage. Kid backpacks and suitcases are designed to be much easier than standard luggage. It also gives the kids a sense of responsibility; they are in charge of their own luggage.

When travel with kids isn't all rainbows and unicorns

Travel with kids might seem difficult, annoying, or frustrating, but you have to remember that, as an adult, you have all the power. You can make the decisions that can help ensure the kids are having a good time. It might require a few sacrifices, but you are guaranteed to have a more enjoyable trip if everyone is on the same page.

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