Traveling with Kids: 3 Planning Principles

Traveling is one of our favorite topics. Josh and I love to talk about the countries we want to visit, places we want to see, and when we want to see them. And since we have kids, naturally, we want to take them along with us. They’re with us for such a relatively brief time and we want these traveling experiences to be a vivid part of their lives with us

That said, most of our world traveling so far has involved moving to different states for different jobs, and making road trips (sometimes epically long ones–42 hours once!) to see family. We’re going to Ireland on our first international trip with the kids in May, and that will be our first foray into Travel, with a capital T. After that trip, I’m sure I’ll have learned a few more things about traveling with kids, but as I go about planning it, I’m really sticking to a lot of the same principals that we use for any other kind of travel with our children.

Principal #1. Don’t Over-Schedule

This is probably the most important tip for any traveling ever, honestly, but it is even more important when you’re traveling with kids. It is also HARD to keep in mind when you’re really excited about going to a new place. Of course, if you’re visiting a new city or country for a few days, you want to fit in all the fun that you can, but if you’re like us, you probably can’t afford to come back so exhausted from vacation that you feel like you need another vacation just to get back up to speed. We also want to stretch and challenge the kids–but not so much that they’re no fun to be around.

My solution: Pick one. If we could see only one thing today, what would it be? That thing, whatever it is, is our main objective. I will probably have a list in my back pocket of a few other things that are in the area that we can tack on if we want, but we start with something big and give ourselves room to meander, take bathroom breaks, unbuckle and buckle kids back in, etc. Especially if we’re paying for tickets to see a site or enjoy an attraction of one sort or another, we get the most bang for our buck by being able to mosey and really enjoy a place.

Principal #2: Bring Snacks

There is nothing less fun than a grumpy, hungry child… except maybe paying exhorbitant prices at a gas station for snacks. I have a stop at the grocery store planned for our very first full day in Ireland. Believe it or not, I am actually legitimately excited about this, because I love Aldi and going to Aldi but in a different country sounds thrilling, but even if you aren’t slightly insane and obsessed with a grocery store, the money and attitudes you’ll save make this stop worth it. It’s not going to be a legit grocery haul or anything–we’re not spending vacation cooking, no matter how much I love grocery stores 😉 But we’ll definitely be stocking up on bottled water, string cheese, fruit, and all the other easy snacks and breakfast foods.

Principal #3: Expect the Best, Plan for the Worst

I don’t know if that’s the best tagline for what I mean here, but it’s catchy! Ultimately, attitude is everything. When we’re traveling with kids, our attitudes are even more important because they mirror us so often. Going into any trip, you know that things are going to go wrong. There are going to be mishaps and adventures gone awry. Where’s the silver lining in that, you ask? Whether the experience is bad or good, memories unite us. The stories we tell our children and the stories they tell each other about our life together are the things that endure. Even less-than-delightful experiences have the peculiar ability to bring families together. That’s what we want after all, isn’t it?

We go into adventures expecting mishaps and trying to be prepared for them. And when they inevitably occur we expect that whatever it is, THIS memory is one that we’ll talk about and laugh about for years to come. It might not fix the problem, but it can keep us from taking ourselves too seriously.

What are some things you try to keep in mind when you’re traveling with kids?

I’d love to hear other thoughts on planning travels with kids!