We adore travelling with our kids. To us the benefits far outweigh the negatives, but of course when you choose to take a family trip you need to be aware that life will be slightly more challenging compared to choosing to go on a holiday without them.
The reality is, just like some days at home as a parent is tough, so some days on the family holiday will be as well. Some days might just leave you feeling completely exhausted and drained whilst others will be so much more rewarding.
Before I go ahead and list 10 pretty realistic challenges you will most likely face when travelling with kids, I wanted to remind you of why these family holidays are also so important! The best way for me to do just that is through one of my favourite quote about children and travel!
When you travel with your children you are giving them something that can never be taken away … Experience, exposure and a way of life! – Chandler
10 Challenges you might face when travelling with kids!
Find below a list of some challenges you might face whilst travelling to new destinations.
1. Travelling with Children is more Expensive!
Whilst a family holiday can be affordable and whilst it doesn’t have to ‘break the bank’, the reality is that when you are travelling with kids, you will have added costs that need to be accounted for! The most expensive of these additional costs will obviously be in the form of your flight tickets, larger accommodation rooms and more expensive food bills. Depending on your style of holiday you might also find that entertainment for the kids, babysitting or kids clubs etc. can add on even more costs!
On top of all that, if your kids are older, they will most likely nag you about buying souvenirs and if like us, you enjoy a massage on your holiday to treat yourself, before long, the kids will be begging you to join in on this luxurious treat!
2. Dealing with their Fears!
Oh Gosh! This one hit me hard on our family trip across Cambodia. Lily (who was 6 on our trip) went through a stage where most things in life scared her; especially in regards to ‘new things’ that she hadn’t tried yet. Her biggest fear of all, going on a boat!! Because after all, the boat will most likely break, we will fall in the water and if the sharks don’t eat us, we are most likely going to drown! (insert the mother rolling her eyes here).
Of course we ended up being on a boat multiple times on our trip, we visited a floating village on the Tonle Sap Lake, we hopped on a long tail boat to get to Rabbit Island and we also had to catch a speed boat to get to the glorious Koh Rong Samloem Island! So yes, this face above in the photo and my daughter shaking from fear whilst I was trying to reassure her that everything will be fine, was not fun!
Glad to say that by the 5th boat ride, she was smiling a bit more and life was a bit easier, but gosh it was tricky getting from one point to the other with a girl next to me who truly believed that she was about to die any second!! So be prepared to tackle some challenges of fears that might come up! Do remember that as challenging as these are, it is so beneficial for them to learn to push through the fear and experience life anyways!
They gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which they really have to stop and look fear in the face.
Just be there next to them, holding them and reassuring them. Getting angry won’t benefit anything here.
3. Having to deal with the Sibling Rivalry!
If you have more than one child, then I’m sure you know exactly what this picture above is all about! Obviously, just like at home, when you travel with kids, your kids are going to get annoyed at each other, they will get on each others nerves.
Find something awesome like this swing hanging from a tree and they will most likely fight about whose turn it is. I find sibling rivalry to be very exhausting. I realize it is normal and that they need to learn to communicate, and share. But gosh, some days, it can feel like they are constantly fighting.
If they are not fighting about the swing, they are fighting about which colour hammock to lie in, or they are fighting about who gets to sit next to mum on the Tuk Tuk, or simply just getting annoyed at each other because they want to play different games in the resort pool. You know what I’m talking about!! You know it ain’t fun!!! Reality is, if you ask them to spend each day together, 24/7 for the duration of a whole family holiday, they will get on each others nerves …. guaranteed!!
4. The Boredom and Whining!
We all need to realize that we all have our own interests. Whilst in Cambodia, both me and Andrzej wanted to spend time exploring the Angkor Temples! However we knew straight up that this might not be a very exciting expedition for our little ones. They did well, for the first hour or so, and then the boredom and the whinging set in.
Somehow visiting these incredible impressive ancient temples are not the same when your child is walking next to you, constantly asking when we can leave and when we can go back to the hotel. They got sick of being in photos and soon I was taking photos of grumpy kids! I even have a photo of Lily giving one massive yawn in front of the famous Ta Prohm (Tombraider) temple- great family photo that one is!! Grrrrrrr! Let’s face it, their attention span is a lot shorter than ours!
Our best advice here is try ‘trading-off’ what you would like to do together with what they would like to do. We knew the kids would get bored, so instead of planning a full day of temple exploring, we focused on visiting the temples in the morning and heading back to the hotel for kids activities in the afternoons!! When the kids knew that their time in the pool was coming up soon, they tended to complain just that little bit less.
Our list tip? Make sure to print out a copy of our Knock Knock Jokes for kids! When our kids get bored, we make sure that we have a selection of knock knock jokes on tap. Within no time at all, everyone will be back to their happy selves.
5. We have to Think about School
Being a high school teacher, I understand the importance of what kids learn at school. I also completely understand why it is frustrating for schools and teachers when parents choose to take their kids ‘out of school’ to go on a family trip! Taking them out during school days means that they will fall behind, it means that there will be more work for the teacher in order to get the kids caught up again when they return and generally from a school perspective it is just a pain in the butt!
Reality is though, for some families, travelling during school holidays is just not always achievable. Some businesses won’t approve leave during holidays as it might be their busiest times of the year! Flights and accommodation are so much more expensive during school holidays that it might become unaffordable for some families on lower wages to travel.
We realize that the school that our two daughters attend are not always impressed with our decision of when we choose to travel! But being a travel blogger, to me, there is nothing as important education wise as the world education that comes from travel! I believe it is the best way to learn about the things that really matter in life.
‘’Through travel, the world becomes a classroom!’’ – Shabnan
Put away the geography textbook and travel somewhere! What better way to learn about where the country lives on a world map? About what sort of biome/s is present in the destination and what sort of animals survive there? Not only that, but you will learn more about what religion is predominant there, what daily life is like for the locals, as well what their traditions and culture is all about. Add in, an education that teaches you to speak words or phrases from a different language and how to exchange money into a different currency.
The education that comes from traveling goes beyond what is found in textbooks, it teaches them so much more in terms of life skills, social skills and about different worldviews!
So try to find a balance between what makes you and your family happy and what keeps the school happy! For us that might mean booking a holiday close to the school holidays, but still in school term – that way we can get cheaper flights and minimize the time that our girls miss out on their schooling! Do what works for you!!
Further Reading: We are loving this post about the pros and cons of taking kids out of school to travel.
6. Dealing with Jetlag | Strategically Plan Your Flight
Jetlag is not fun! It is not fun as an adult and it is definitely not fun when you have to deal with your own jetlag, as well as your children's. On our last trip overseas, I got little to zero sleep in on our overnight flight as a) I was 24 weeks pregnant so could not get comfy! and b) Lily simply could not get comfortable so kept on kicking me all night long. Needless to say by the time we got to our destination we were all pretty exhausted.
Thankfully adrenaline kicked in for us all and we hit the streets to explore! But before long we had all run out of energy. Back to the hotel and the kids passed out for an afternoon sleep. And they slept and slept and slept and slept. Stuck at our apartment, hubby and I was getting a bit bored, we wanted to see more of the country we were visiting. The kids kept on sleeping and after hours and hours, we decided to wake them up as we realized they would just keep on sleeping if we didn’t.
The waking up process did not go down well, they were grumpy, they were tired and they felt groggy. We chucked them on a Tuk Tuk to go and find a place in town to have dinner and it was moaning and groaning all the way there. We ate, gave up on the idea of exploring the markets after and hopped back on the Tuk Tuk where Lily promptly fell asleep again.
Long story short. Jetlag is not fun, and can be pretty challenging to get through. Fortunately we all know that it is only temporary and that the kids will adjust to the new time zone. But boy it can be hard to be patient when you yourself are suffering from exhaustion and jetlag symptoms! If you would like to read a helpful article, we have a post up on ‘Tips for when flying with kids’, simply click here!
Whilst you might know that you can't escape Jetlag, you can strategically plan your flight. What would work best for you guys? Choosing an overnight flight or choosing a daytime flight? Can you avoid that flight that leaves at 5 am? Chances are that your kids will be super tired and grumpy if you get them up that early. Think about whether the departure and arrival time of your flight is kids friendly! We are prepared to pay that bit extra to get something that will keep us all happy.
7. There are Things you just Can’t Do/ Less Freedom
The joys of children and travel!! Depending on their ages, you might have to face the fact that you might not be able to do everything that you want to do! Some activities are simply not geared towards children, some are not particularly safe for kids and others, well maybe it is simply just best not to expose your kids to some things.
Easy example, travellers visit Phnom Penh mostly because of the history that lies there – visiting the killing fields, the museums etc. where the war is shown and explained in detail. We knew our kids weren’t ready for the gruesome details to Cambodia’s history that lied there! We didn’t find it was a suitable excursion and knew they would probably have nightmares after. So instead we skipped over that part of the city and focused on other activities such as a sunset cruise on the Mekong River.
Another important point is that travelling with children generally means that the adults have less freedom. You will be stuck at the apartment when your kids need to go down for the night sleep and lets face it, when they are little, this can be pretty early. There is no exploring till late at night, getting lost in the atmosphere and buzz that comes out after dark. Freedom is limited. So much so, that I got pretty annoyed at one stage as I couldn’t even go to the toilet by myself, the girls always had to come along and boy did I miss my privacy on the throne. Less freedom, definitely yes!
Our eldest daughter is at a stage where she loves anything technology. I think travel is especially beneficial for her as it gets her away from the screens and forces her to re-explore play without the usual technology. BUT regardless we still had begging from her, asking if she can just go on her tablet for a little while. Now I should add that the only reason we had the tablet in the first place was because we flew with a budget airline who didn’t have the handy little TV screens, so the tablet was only meant to be used on flights and bus rides.
But here she is in the photo above, on an incredibly beautiful island, hanging out in a hammock and instead of swimming or playing in the sand she is on her tablet. We gave in, on a few occasions. Because it gave us some peace and time to relax together as husband and wife without her whinging about being bored and having nothing to do. I didn’t like it though, but hey, the time with hubby was nice though!
9. Finding kids friendly meals at the Restaurants
We are very fortunate that neither of our daughters are fussy eaters! They typically give most foods a go before deciding whether they like it or not. In most countries we have no problems with finding food suitable to them. In Cambodia however, after a few days of trying out various dishes, they simply got to a point where we heard ‘We sure do miss Australian food very much’ on a regular occasion. They struggled with the cuisine there, which is fair enough as it was not my favourite style of cuisine ever either.
We ended up having to compromise by seeking out restaurants that had a mix of both Cambodian and International cuisine! In the photo above, we got loads of typical Cambodian dishes, we were on an island, so choices in other dishes were limited!! Lucky they had good old Nutella on bread though, I’m sure you can see Lily ‘eying’ off the food a bit sceptically haha.
10. Dealing with Sickness whilst away
Even when you take all precautions on your trip with your kids, they might still get sick. Being sick away from home is not fun. Recently, on the way back from our holidays we all managed to come down with a horrendous tummy bug. Lily started vomiting in the check in queue at the airport, she threw up on the plane right to our next destination, she threw up whilst we were trying to get through baggage and passport control on the next airport and before long we were all vomiting along side with her.
Challenging doesn’t even begin to explain the situation. Lucky we had some medical supplies on hand (always be prepared I say), but even with our own supply of medication, we still had to call out the airport doctor to come and treat us. Thankfully we had travel insurance which covered all the expenses for us. If you want to read more about this ‘not so fun’ part of our holiday, click here!!
Quick Tips for Making your Trip Easier:
I know we all want our family holidays to run as smoothly as possible!
In the end, kids won’t remember that fancy toy or game you bought for them, they will remember the time you spent with them – Heath
These trips are creating memories that will last your child a lifetime!! It is a perfect opportunity to enjoy some true quality time together, something that I think most families are in need of! Step away from the distractions of the routine of life and remind yourself on these trips how special these kids of yours are!
Travelling with kids provide you with space to just watch them, watch how they learn, watch how they observe, watch how the passion is visible in their eyes and the excitement is bursting from all over their face!
Dedicate time to them, because we all know how busy we get with life at home and how sometimes we seem to have very little time for these super important people in our lives!
Is it time to book that next trip as a family yet?? I think so!! We are off to France next, where will you guys go?