Every time conversation turns to traveling with kids, people immediately start giving all kinds of reasons why they don’t (yet) travel with their children. ‘My kids are too young’. ‘They are not good travelers’. ‘They are fussy eaters’. ‘They don’t sleep well in strange places’. ‘They will not handle a long flight (or a long car ride) well,… And probably the most popular one – ‘the kids will not remember anything anyway’.
When I talk to the same people a year or two later, they tell me how much they would like to travel, but they use the same excuses as to why they don’t do it – yet…
If you have never used one of these excuses not to take your kids on a trip, you can stop reading now and start planning your next vacation.
Let me tell you a secret: there is never going to be the perfect time to travel with your children! And there will always be an excuse not to do it.
Something will come up and you will putt off your plans till next summer, next spring break, next year… And before you know it, your kids will be too old and will not want to travel with you.
When we visited Namibia with kids, we did a sundowner safari ride at one of the lodges. We shared a jeep with another Belgian family traveling with their kids of 16-18 years old. They couldn’t believe we were doing a road trip in Namibia with three young kids.
They told us that this was only their second trip with their children and that they were sorry that they didn’t travel with their kids when they were younger. ‘We just didn’t dare. We realize now what we had missed’, they said.
To tell you the truth, we also have some worries when we take our kids on a trip. The difference is that we don’t use them as an excuse not to travel. We just do it and figure out the rest along the way.
Here are the most popular excuses not to travel with kids (and why they just don’t cut it):
1. We don’t travel with kids because they will not remember anything
Think of the latest trip you made. And the one before that. Think of something you did when you were 20. Now be honest with yourself – do you remember everything you did back then? I don’t!
What we remember is often not much more than some details, funny stories, people we met, impressions, tastes, sounds, emotions… All the rest we ‘remember’ when we look at the pictures, read the travel diary, or when we see something that reminds us of the places we visited.
When I ask my kids what they remember of their trip to Australia a few years ago, they usually say they don’t remember much. But then all of a sudden one of them asks ‘is it that trip where we were running behind kangaroos trying to cuddle them?’ ‘And do you remember that bird – it stole daddy’s sandwich, didn’t it?’ – says the other one. ‘Oh, and was it there where we were rolling down the red sand dunes and where I saw those elephants before anyone else did? And where we saw a koala crossing the road…’
They may not remember every detail of the specific trip or mix it all up that’s how African elephants mix up with Australian landscapes), but they did experience it all. And all those experiences are worth more than the precise knowledge of where and when you traveled and what exactly you saw at one or the other place.
People grow through experience and it’s your experiences that shape you. Not the memories.
2. My kids are too young to travel
‘I cannot really take a 5 (or a 2,3,… just fill it in) year old on a trip. He cannot do much and thus we will not be able to do anything either’.
Yes, you can! All you have to do is plan your trip accordingly. It’s true that there will be some things that you will not be able to do on a trip, but there are always plenty of alternatives and if you want to you can travel almost anywhere with children of any age.
LEARN MORE: Tips for Traveling with Kids
3. My kids will never survive a long-haul flight
It’s amazing how often this excuse is used! If we can take three kids under 5 on a 28-hour long flight (with 2 stop-overs) to Australia, then you really have nothing to worry about on a 10-hour flight. Really!
And since you are still worried (I can see it), go ahead and read our guide to flying with kids and you’ll feel less anxious about taking children on a plane next time. Take a look via the link below!
LEARN MORE: Tips for Flying with Kids
4. Our children are terrible travelers, they can’t sit still in a car
It’s a tough one because it’s true. No child can sit still for a long period of time. Not in a car, and not anywhere else. It’s against their nature.
You just have to learn to live with it. If it can be of any consolation, I can tell you that it does get (a bit) better with the years.
When we travel overseas, we usually go on road trips, which means that we spend many hours in the car every day. Below, you can read more about how we (and our kids) handle long car rides.
LEARN MORE: Tips for Car Rides with Young Kids
5. My kids don’t sleep well in strange places
This was the single most frustrating aspect of any trip for us when our kids were younger. Not that our kids don’t sleep well. It just takes them ages to fall asleep in the evening because they usually share a room when traveling and they just have so much to tell each other in the evening…
We hardly ever have this problem when we are on a road trip though. We sleep at so many different hotels during the trip that it’s a different experience every night.
Kids are usually very excited about each new place and so engaged in the lengthy process of deciding about who will sleep where, that they forget to be difficult. They are also usually very tired after a long day full of new impressions, that they fall asleep much easier than they do at home or when we stay at the same hotel for days in a row.
TIP: Tire your kids with all kinds of activities and new impressions during the day and you will have fewer problems getting them to sleep in the evening!
6. My kids are fussy eaters – it’s difficult to find something they like when traveling
Our kids can also be difficult about food. There is a whole list of ‘I don’t eat that….’ at home. But while on the road, they eat pretty much everything…
They tried oysters and ate crocodile steak in South Africa, they preferred kangaroo steak over spaghetti in Australia, and they couldn’t get enough of springbok antelope steak and squash vegetables in Namibia…
You can always find something to eat for your kids, anywhere in the world. Most hotels make extra effort to prepare special children’s’ meals. Furthermore, there is always a possibility of buying some snacks at a local store if you are really worried that you will not find anything suitable at a particular place or hotel…
7. We don’t have time for a far trip – the school holidays are so short
Our three kids are all going to school and we are also bound to the strict rules and can only travel during school holidays. Granted, it’s not always easy to plan a trip during the school holidays. Your time is limited, it’s much more expensive, and on top of that it’s simply not the best time to visit certain places…
Don’t let this be an excuse not to travel with your family! There is always a destination that can be visited during the specific vacation you have in mind.
Some places are so far away that it would be a waste of time and money to go there for a week or even two, but there are plenty of destinations where a week is more than enough to see the most worthy places.
It’s really just a matter of doing some research and finding a nice destination that appeals to your family and fits your travel dates.
8. Traveling with a family is expensive
Yes, and no. Traveling has indeed become very expensive recently. But then again, there are always cheaper alternatives: cheaper flights, cheaper rental cars, and cheaper hotels. Or, if it’s really above the budget, alternative destinations…
It’s usually much cheaper to travel by car than by plane, certainly as a family. Even if it means you have to drive a day or even two just to get somewhere. Why not turn it into a road trip instead and visit some nice places along the way.
There are also plenty of other ways not to spend too much money during vacation. Visit nature destinations, go camping, pack a picnic for lunch, or stay in self-catering accommodations…
You can always find a way to travel that suits your budget!
9. It’s too late for this year, we’ll do it next time
The truth is, you probably won’t. If you want to travel with kids, then just do it.
It might be difficult to book a complete road trip to a certain destination last minute, but don’t let that stop you – you can always inform about the possibilities.
Alternatively, look for another destination. You may be lucky to find some last-minute deals for the flights and hotels and travel to the places you didn’t even think about in the first place.
TIP: If you really want to make a nice trip, but are too late to make your own arrangements or don’t know where to start, look for a group tour or package deal instead. They usually have plane seats and hotels reserved in advance and you might even be lucky to get a discount if they really want to get the group going.
10. I don’t know where to start
Granted, not everyone has the time and desire to spend hours and hours planning a perfect trip. If you are willing to plan your own family trip, take a look at some of our travel itineraries for a big variety of destinations worldwide.
Alternatively, you can go to a travel agent and let them handle all the arrangements for you, yet travel individually. Or you can opt for a group tour.
While not my first choice when it comes to traveling with children, group tours can be the perfect way to travel and see the world for first-time travelers, singles, or for people who just want to enjoy their vacation and have nothing to worry about.
We never took our kids on a group tour, but years ago we traveled to China and India on an organized tour and I once visited Iceland in winter with a small group. Sometimes it’s just easier and it’s not always more expensive.
I would recommend looking for a small group tour as they give you a much more authentic travel experience. There are also companies specializing in group tours for families, often even per age group so that your kids can easily find friends and give you a much-needed break from keeping them entertained all the time…
There are literally countless choices these days – you just have to look for the way to travel that works for you and your family.
READ ALSO: Family Travel Destinations
There are so many excuses and reasons not to travel with children… It’s never the perfect time…
Stop making excuses.
Go ahead and plan a trip with your family.
You don’t have to start with a 4-week road trip in Namibia or a 5-week road trip in Australia if you never traveled before… But you don’t have to spend all of your vacations at the beach or by the pool either!
Take your kids on a short trip to a nearby country or another state, make a city trip, go on a cruise, or go hiking or camping. Once you set the first step you will be hooked and will never look back.
The whole world is waiting to be discovered. It’s full of possibilities. You just have to dare to start.
READ ALSO: Best Travel Books for Kids
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