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 an 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 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.
SOME TRAVEL INSPIRATION:
Best U.S. National Parks to Visit with Kids
Best Spring Break Destinations in the USA
Best Spring Break Destinations in Europe
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…
Online, you can find some great deals on flights and hotels using websites like, for example, Expedia or Booking.com (where we book all our hotels and apartments when we travel).
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 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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Tuesday 10th of August 2021
We traveled with our kids when they were younger and it was honestly WAY easier then the early teen years. We've taken a break from traveling with them for a few years because the last two international trips have been a constant stream of complaining about EVERYTHING. Traveling with young children is so much easier than older children in my opinion. For one, our two younger children have always been flexible and fairly content with just about everything. Our oldest has always been a handful but that's another story. We took them all over the place from 2-11 but now that they're 11, 13 and 15 we're taking a break with at least the oldest and probably the two oldest as they're at that age where they'd rather stay home and hang out with friends then travel with their parents. The long and short is, if you can, do travel with your kids when they're young. Long plane rides kids sleep, long car rides young kids sleep. The younger they were the easier is was to be honest.
Thursday 26th of August 2021
Hi Dan, I think you are quite right here - no matter how many challenges you think you have when traveling with young children, it's nothing compared to traveling with teens who stare at their smartphones the whole time and complain about having to participate in any activities... Our kids are coming to that age now and I notice that it takes more and more effort to keep them interested and involved. You have to come up with some really amazing activities or take them to a very special destination to keep their interest. And then a few years later, indeed, they'll rather spend time with their friends than parents. And before you know it, they're out of the house... So yes, make those memories together while you can! It's totally worth it. PS You may find that as your kids get older, traveling with them can be fun again. Especially if you take them to some unique places that they realize they wouldn't be able to afford without you. Then you'll have their interest again. :)
Wednesday 7th of July 2021
This is a really good article! I have to thank my parents for their willingness to take me to travel around when I was a kid, because they really met so many difficulties. May I ask if there are any difficulties you have encountered when traveling with your children that you will never forget? I believe the relationship between parents and children must be closer after going through these difficulties.
Friday 16th of July 2021
Hi Lynne, there are always difficulties when raising children, traveling or at home - doesn't make much difference. You just deal with it the best way you can, and try to make it work for everyone. The toughest for us remains kids fighting in the car, but they do that at home too. We try to rent a bigger car when we can, or I end up sitting between them :). It's all simple daily things, really. But there are so many rewards too and it makes it all worth it. Happy travels!
Sunday 2nd of May 2021
I’ve been struggling with the idea of traveling with kids (I have two). I have taken short trips with them. The fact is, I don’t like traveling with them. It’s not enjoyable or relaxing. Heck, I don’t even like taking day trip with them. It basically feels like work, except without the conveniences of home, and with more tantrums. I wish I could change this mentality of mine, but I don’t think I can.
Monday 3rd of May 2021
It sounds very familiar and I'm sure every parent can relate to this one way or another, Kirsi! But don't give up. It also gets easier when the kids get older and can do more without you having to take care of them every second of the day. We find that it's easier to keep our kids engaged and interested in something other than the screen when we travel vs when they are at home. They learn so much, also to be more independent and resilient. But yes, it happens that they don't want to cooperate and have a very different idea of how our days or activities should look like. When they were younger, we would often 'bribe' them into doing something by promising to get some ice cream or a pizza afterwards. You'd be amazed at how cooperative they become... :) In fact, we still do that now that they are 10, 10, and 12 years. When we have any long hikes planned, we always make it more fun for them by packing a picnic with some treats they like. We stop at the mountain restaurants to get some local specialties, etc. When we visit cities, we try to keep them interested by doing a mix of activities and visiting places that would also interest them. And we also have some 'off' days when they can choose what we do (often, it involves some fast rollercoasters or climbing in trees at an adventure park somewhere :)). If you can make the trip fun for the kids by doing something they love, they'll be much more cooperative to also do the things that you like. It's all a matter of finding the right balance that works for all of you. You may find some useful tips in our article for tips for traveling with kids. Also - don't forget to make the trip fun for yourself as well. Don't just plan everything around the kids. If you love the places you are visiting and the things you are doing, it will be much easier to cope with the tantrums! Good luck!
Thursday 2nd of January 2020
nice article Jurga! Me and my wife dream to have a big around the world trip but all the myths about traveling with kids are pressing us to make this dream happen before the kids arrive. your ideas just made this pressure weaker. would you recommend a long journey like a world tour with little kids along? is there a certain age you'd recommend for a kid to start traveling?
Friday 3rd of January 2020
Hi Erich, it's really hard for me to advise because every single situation is very different. One thing is for sure - traveling pre-kids is a thousand times easier (and MUCH cheaper) and you can go pretty much anywhere, plan as you go, etc. Once you have kids, everything changes. Of course, you can travel with kids and there are many people who even make round-the-world trips with babies. It's just very different and you have to adjust and adapt your expectations. Also, traveling with a baby (who always sleeps and can be carried on your breast) is often easier than with a 1-2-year-old (who is heavy to carry, needs a lot of sleep, but wants to walk and do everything 'self'...). Traveling with one child is incomparable to traveling with multiple children. Then, when the kids get older, you'll be restricted by their school schedule, etc. So there will always be challenges and life will never be the same as it was pre-kids. But yes, you can definitely travel with kids of all ages, as long as you're open-minded and ready to adjust as needed. And no, there is not one 'easy' age to start travel - every age is different (and fun in its own way).
Sorry if this confuses you more. :) I just want you to have the right expectations because, well, kids change your life in the ways you can't imagine now. If I were you, I would make a 'smaller' trip now, especially if you have never traveled longer-term before. And then, once you have traveled just with the two of you, you'll be better prepared for a big trip with kids.
Nero di Seppia
Monday 28th of January 2019
Hi, thanks so much for sharing your motivation with your post. I'm pretty sure most of the above are truly excuses that just require a little extra effort from us parents, but which will pay out in the long run. And had never even thought of my kids not wanting to travel with me anymore in a bunch of years. Yet the one thing that stresses me is food/water safety. How do you deal with that? Any tips?
Tuesday 29th of January 2019
Hi Nero, glad you enjoyed reading this and yes, believe me, it's getting tougher to get the kids to travel with you when they get older. Ours are just 8-10 years old now and already rather stay home, play with friends, go on summer camps... I hear that teenagers are even worse and even if they come, they spend the whole time on their smartphones... :) So enjoy it while they are little! As for the food and water, in most countries where we visit this is really not an issue. When we go to places like Thailand just recently or Africa, we make sure to only drink bottled water. We even use bottled water to brush our teeth. We also always try to eat in good restaurants or at the hotel and frankly very rarely had any issues with food poisoning. Just in case, our bag is always filled with medication, just in case, but luckily we don't need to use it all that much. We tried some street food in Thailand as well, but only when it looked very trustworthy to us - so no meat or fish that has been lying in the sun the whole day. I'd say just use common sense and you'll be alright! Happy travels!