Having kids changes everything, but it doesn’t have to curtail activity-filled vacations. Think of the added challenges as part of a new adventure. And think back to your own earliest adventures; if they played a formative role in your life, then pay it forward by launching new ones with your children. It’s an invaluable gift to help them appreciate travel, new experiences and problem-solving the adversities of travel beyond their comfort zones. So, step out of your own travel routines and bring the whole family along for a new challenge filled with more moving pieces.
Yes, the dynamic changes and the extra considerations stack up, but there’s an added reward—even if indirect—in the memories and years of stories from a trip spent sharing something you love with your kids. Whether your dream is showing the kids your favorite desert river or exploring Europe by bike, tackle the task with the following tips, considerations, and questions to ask yourself before planning your next epic family adventure.
Pick the Right Location
While you might be dying to take your family to the rock climbing destination you frequented pre-kids, it’s important to pause and ask yourself if that’s the best place for everyone to have an enjoyable, fun vacation. Do your kids enjoy rock climbing? Are there routes that they can climb there? Are there other activities in the area? What’s the weather going to be? While you might tolerate the hot sun, your family might not be too keen on spending the whole day in the heat. When you consider the best location and activities, be honest with yourself about what’s right. Don’t overlook the importance of playgrounds and kid-first amenities. There are so many family-friendly adventure options out there, but you need to first calibrate your expectations to do what’s best for the group.
After all, you want your kids to love the outdoors. Nurture that love as opposed to scaring them away with an experience that’s too intense. If you’re unsure whether the family will enjoy backpacking, try car camping and day-hiking first. And for the first camping or backpacking trip, pack the luxuries: Bring a comfy sleeping pad, spring for a backpack that’s comfortable for your kid, and bring a tent that’s roomy enough for everyone. If you don’t know if camping is the move, plan for a night of camping and a night in the hotel. Does the hotel have coveted kid draws like a pool? As long as everyone’s needs are considered, the trip will be a success.
Allow for Extra Time
Nothing creates stress faster than being pressed for time. You can set yourself up for a calm travel day if you allot more time than you think you need. It’s safe to expect that something will go wrong—a flight delay, long security line, or problems with public transit—but if you have a buffer for the unexpected you can avoid the stress that comes along with that. If you’re flying, leave plenty of time to get to the airport, schedule longer layovers so you have time for food and pee breaks. Make sure to bring luggage that’s easy to maneuver and don’t overpack—heavy bags make moving between cars and planes and trains so much more cumbersome. When traveling with kids, keep important documents with you and keep essentials in your carry-on to reduce the headaches that occur with a lost bag. And remember, if a child is traveling internationally with just one parent, airlines will typically want a notarized letter of consent from the other parent. It’s also a good idea to inject some extra time into your itinerary to reduce stress during the trip and focus on the fun.