Several years ago, as I was planning a trip to Italy with my toddler son, I asked for travel planning advice and was surprised to receive this response: “Sorry, but you’re a parent now. No more grown-up vacations for you. Try a theme park or something.” This comment left me feeling judged, as though I was dragging my son to an adult destination for my own benefit. Since then I’ve noticed plenty of misconceptions about travelling with children, but the following five myths might be the most common ones you’ll hear.
1. Why travel with kids when they won’t remember or appreciate it?
There are many things we do with small children they don’t remember later. We may take toddlers to music class or read them books they don’t fully understand; these activities are good for their development and are bonding experiences for the parent and child. The same is true for travel. Small children may not remember their first family trips, but being in a different place surrounded by new things is good for their development. The travel experience is a chance for the family to bond and discover the joys of travel together.
Parents of older children may be concerned that their children won’t appreciate travel. Kids and teens may not be good at expressing appreciation, but every trip has the potential to change their perspectives on culture, people, and the environment while creating special family memories.
2. Travelling with kids is expensive
Family travel can be expensive; in fact, it’s often more expensive than those trips were before the kids were born. The first thing to do is consider where you want to go and when. Paris in the summer, for example, is not a good choice if you’re on a budget, but there are plenty of less expensive options.
The largest expense of family travel is airfare and accommodation, but with careful planning, a family trip need not be expensive.
Transportation: Destinations that can be reached by car may be more affordable. Check into train travel, which sometimes offers youth or group discounts. If you’d still like to fly, travelling in the low season is the best bet for very low airfares, and look for airfare sales that appear between November and January.
Accommodations: Try vacation rentals, hotels in the low season, and lodges in campgrounds. Vacation rentals have the added bonus of a kitchen, where you can prepare your family’s favourite meals and spend less than eating in a restaurant.
3. Travelling with kids is all about theme parks
Theme parks can be a lot of fun for children but are not necessary since the world is one giant place to explore. There is something for kids to do everywhere. From exploring nature on the coast of California or a tour to the Galápagos Islands, to exploring culture in the museums of New York City or the ruins of Machu Picchu, there is something for families to do all over the world.
4. Travelling with kids is not safe
Every family needs to decide where to go based on what they’re comfortable with, but it’s important to remember that many foreign countries have low crime rates and are quite safe for family travel. Parents should take precautions to stay safe and healthy while travelling by getting children the necessary vaccinations, bringing medicines in case of illness on the road, using a car seat when necessary, and teaching children some basic safety rules.
5. Travelling with kids is too hard
There is no denying that travelling with kids is different from travelling without them, but with a positive attitude and accurate expectations, it doesn’t have to be hard. Working some kid-friendly activities into each day’s agenda certainly helps. These activities needn’t be big ones; an ice-cream cone and some playground time may be enough to keep your kids flexible for the rest of the day.
Letting the kids have input is another key to happy family travel. From letting the kids choose some of the agenda items, to giving them a camera to document their experience, they will appreciate feeling a sense of control.
Finally, travelling with kids usually requires slowing down. One big activity in the morning followed by a small one in the afternoon with plenty of downtime may be a realistic travel agenda for travelling families. Fortunately, G Adventures can take out some of the guesswork of travel planning with their tours designed just for families.
The ways that children can learn from the world around them are countless. Once we see through these myths about travelling with kids, we can start planning to give our kids the gift of travel.
G Adventures runs a wide range of departure dates and activities to that cater to families. We’re thrilled at the prospect of showing you and your children this wonderful planet of ours in a way you’ve never seen it — check out our small group Family trips here.