You Don't Have to Stop Traveling Just Because You Have Kids. Here's How to Make it Work.
Should you stop traveling once you have kids?
International travel is on the rise and destination marketing boards are taking notice. Everywhere we go there are niche tourism ads pushing women to go on their eye-opening "Eat, Pray, Love" journey; men to find more adventure (as if women can't); and singles to finally nail down their international soulmate. But what about travelers with children?
Some of my readers, friends, and loved ones have at least one child now. When I first started traveling, I only cared about backpacking and eating boiled eggs / sandwiches to stay on budget. But the truth is, family life catches up with us (or says hello earlier than expected) and it is just something we have to adapt to. Even me, eventually.
I understand some of you struggle with juggling parent life and your love for travel. I want you to know having a child isn't the end of your traveling life.
Besides being terrified at the thought of having to save money to travel for more than one person, parents often worry about traveling with their children -- and the uncomfortable experiences that might occur for everyone involved.
Tight budgets are real. Tantrums are real. Parenting disagreements are real. And yes, child-shaming is also real (especially in transit) -- and many parents feel self-conscious about it.
They worry about angering the airplane cabin when their kid starts misbehaving or crying when hungry. They worry about managing the trip itinerary and pleasing very different, stubborn opinions.
And they worry about over-worrying while on vacation!
Do I have a secret child I've never mentioned?
Nope. And don't even THINK about asking me when I plan on having one.
That said: one doesn't need to vaginally birth a child in order to know what it is like to care for and travel with children. I grew up with three other siblings and a single mother who owned a group day care. Plus, I follow some pretty awesome travel mommas and parents who are killing the family travel game.
They give me hope for my future Wild Thornberry adventures (read: distant future) and have inspired me to reassure you that travel doesn't have to stop the moment you have kids. Yes, it'll require more saving for them and less spending on you (and definitely more planning), but that is what comes with having a family anyway.
If you plan your trip right and adjust your travel style, you should be able to still enjoy travel regardless of your budget. Our parents were creating adventures for us before Google and home computers -- now that we can use the Internet to research and price compare, the opportunities are endless.
Don't believe me? I've compiled some money-saving and stress-free tips for traveling with children:
1. Take advantage of child-specific travel promotions and discounts
You may see frequent Disney World ads encouraging you to book multiple nights to get one free for your family, but are amusement parks the only place to travel with children? Between the noise, crowds, and high price tags, you'll drop a pretty dime for that free-night perk.
Did you know that you can save some money with "kid promos" all over the world? I see it often in the fine print when I travel, myself. Here are some examples:
- A camping trip in Patagonia, for example, offers children under 10 years old free beds at park Refugios.
- With an $80 U.S. National Park annual pass (per car), you'll not only receive free entry to all National Park Service destinations throughout the USA, you'll also be able to treat your kids to interesting and interactive learning opportunities at respective park Discover Centers within Visitor Centers and/or park museums. All for free, of course.
- Many hotels and transportation options provide children under 2 or 3 years old with free passes. Even Amtrak provides 50% off for ages 12 and under, and free tickets for ages 2 and under.
- Mid-week travel often grants deep discounts (up 50% off) or even free meals and lodging for children under 12 years old (check out Rocking Horse Ranch in NY, for example -- many family travel sites rave about it).
2. Get creative with free kid-friendly activities
I know many parents who spend thousands of dollars on an activity that their children just need but then either forget about or don't even halfway appreciate. That's the thing about traveling with kids: they often can't differentiate between expensive activities and the free ones, so why not go affordable?
When I explore NYC with my nieces or nephew (or even adult friends) I hardly spend any money at all. My family is always shocked when I return with the kids boasting about how much fun we've had. No matter what city or country I am in, the first thing I do is round up a list of free (and awesome) things to do in that area (like this list of the best free things to do in Boston). And when I get to those places, they're often quite child-friendly.
A simple Google search is your friend! Here are three random examples:
- In New York, you can take your children to the LEGO store every first Tuesday of the month for a free building workshop. Geared toward youth ages 6-14, TIME OUT says: "They’ll build cool LEGO creations, like robots and space rockets, that they can take home afterwards."
- In Canada, you can take your family to visit the Biosphère Environment Museum in Montreal and get free tickets for anyone under 17 years old. I went myself (at 28 years old), and it was so much fun!
- In Australia, you can join a "Brisbane Greeters" tour and book volunteer guides to give you a free three-hour tour about almost any topic!
3. Find great family-friendly hotels*
To make life a little bit easier when traveling with children, nail down awesome (and affordable) family-friendly hotels*. Why is this so important? These niche properties might offer you better room service menus for the family, better sleeping arrangements and extra amenities, and even daycare services!
When booking, read reviews and ask if they offer parental relief programs where children can play with other kids while you get a much deserved massage.
- Where to find the best family deals for vacationers from the United States? Mexico and Caribbean countries like the Bahamas and Jamaica are literally swarmed with family-friendly hotels and freebies.
4. Bring epic entertainment
Some kids are just active and find it hard to sit still. For whatever reason (no judgement on your parenting skills), your child might need extra entertainment to keep them chilled during downtime. Thankfully, modern day tech gadgets are quite travel-friendly and great for family excursions.
LeapFrog Epic for example, is an android-based tablet made specifically for kids. Light, durable, (safe) web browsing-accessible, and filled with learning and game apps, LeapFrog Epic is ideal for multi and single-day trips with children.
Remember that fear of disturbing everyone with your energetic child? Bringing a form of entertainment like LeapFrog Epic will allow you to rest your eyes in-flight (or on a bus or train ride) as your child plugs in a pair of headphones and grants everyone much needed silence (works like a charm on my niece).
He or she will stay entertained with a stylus pen, customizable and playable home screen, real-time weather, daily surprises, and essential games for any kid on the go. You can even adjust how long the tablet allows them to use it per day (to make sure it isn't over-used).
Oh what do you know, I actually have an extra tablet in green (courtesy of LeapFrog) that I'll give away to one of you readers!
Read more about how to enter the giveaway at the end of this post. Oh, and did I mention it's kid proof? I've seen its strength against destruction with my own eyes.
5. Let them carry their load
Hauling tons of luggage (full of stuff no one ends up using) should be labeled an epidemic. It is difficult to joyfully survive a family vacation without an adult meltdown when you are overwhelmed with keeping track of the itinerary, hand-holding, and heavy baggage... all while trying not to get lost.
Opt for one large bag for everyone's stuff (and a small knapsack for each one's carry-on) or better: have everyone over five years old carry their own weight. There are plenty of super adorable luggages for kids available in your local department store that can likely wheel and convert to a backpack. You'll offer your child the independence he/she wants while lightening your load (and teach them to pack less and to want fewer souvenirs to take home).
As one of my favorite long-term travel mommas / blog crushes says:
"Accumulate memories not things. This one is hard to manage when slow traveling, because we come across loads of things we want to buy for ourselves or others. But when traveling for a year, that just isn't going to work.
- Emily, GraveyardShiftTravel.com
6. Hug it out
Speaking of Emily: she is taking a gap year with her 9 year old daughter. Not only does she keep it real about the ups and downs of longer-term travel with a child, she also has some great advice that can often be easy to forget.
"Traveling with a child 24/7 is a challenge for even the most enlightened parent. And I have no doubt that for kids, traveling with a parent full time can get exhausting as well. Tempers will flare, and arguments may ignite over lost sunscreen, but we have learned that it's ok to lose your cool sometimes, just be quick to apologize -- hug it out, and possibly go get gelato after."
Ready to travel?
Who wants to win a LeapFrog tablet for your next vacation?
You have the tools. Use them! Don't be afraid to expose your child to travel at an early age. Start saving and planning, and grab some entertainment to create new experiences with your family.
How To Enter to Win a Green LeapFrog Tablet:
Step 1: Comment below
- Comment below and tell me who would love this tablet and where you'd travel to!
Step 2: Share!
- Share this article on social media and remember to tag me at @OChristineMedia (on Facebook) or @OChristine (on Twitter).
For More Information About LeapFrog, visit:
*** This O. Christine giveaway is open to U.S. residents 18 years or older. Enter through 2/1/2017 at 11:59pm EST. Winner will be chosen by 2/2 and notified by email. The prize (LeapFrog Epic) has been donated by LeapFrog, free of charge. This contest, however, is not managed by the LeapFrog team. All opinions are my own. ***