WORDS & IMAGES©: Victoria Louis
As an adult, there’s the type of trip you dream of going on.
And the trip you actually end up planning when you’re travelling with kids. Right?
Wrong! The gap need not actually be that big. And family holidays need not always be on ‘Plantation Island’.
With great planning, an adventurous spirit and realistic expectations you can actually have amazing overseas jaunts the whole family will enjoy. You need not sacrifice your wanderlust just because you’ve had a family. But you do need to make allowances for the needs and wants of little people.
Throw that dart at the world map and choose your next destination. Long haul flying, remote destinations and cultural experiences are all still achievable, you’ve just got to know how.
1. Be realistic. Like really, get real.
Sure, you want to explore every historic castle in Scotland. Realistically? Your kids can probably handle about three hours a day of Outlander-inspired-architecture and they’ll be done. That’s cool. Plan your day so when they’re at their brightest and best you do ‘your stuff’ and know you’ll need a lunch break and a park play by 2pm.
2. Let yourself be a little looser. Everyone will like you more. Including yourself.
At home, you might be a stickler for no-snacks and early bed times but the freedom of a holiday calls for everyone to be a little less rigid. Within reason, flexibility is your friend. And you’d be amazed the difference a more casual approach can bring to your little people. When you’re relaxed, they’re relaxed – embrace it.
2A. Don’t be too proud to bribe your kids to compromise. Bribes get results.
If you’re not adverse to a bribe or two, (if it worries you, bribes can also be called ‘behavioural incentives’ and sound much less dodgy!) – use them! Let’s all enjoy this Museum – and then we’ll grab a milkshake… Get my drift!? Bribes work. You’d be mad not to.
3. Don’t be an idiot, set yourself up for success.
I didn’t ever want my kids to have iPads. They weren’t even allowed much TV. All that changed the day before we took our first long haul trip when I walked into Apple and frantically bought two devices. Despite my decree that we’d ‘never have screens’ it was the best money I’ve ever spent.
There’s nothing fun about flying with children, but 9 hours into the sky is not the time to realise you made a terrible mistake. If your kids are into colouring, stickers, puzzles, iPads, card games, whatever – you need to be Bear-Grylls-level prepared. You think bored, whinging kids fray your nerves at home? Imagine what they can do en route from Sydney to Rome.
4. Being disorganised will end in absolute-freaking-chaos.
In your 20’s that Bohemian, gypsy thing might have worked out fine. But when you’ve two kids stood looking at you. Waiting and frustrated. While you try and decide what you’ll do that day. Via a map that’s in French… things are going to end really, really badly.
What happens next is this. The adults begin discussing some ideas. It’s a bit tense because you’re in another country, it’s in another language and you haven’t been here before. Two minutes become 20 as you debate the bus versus the train. You turn around and the kids are wrestling. Or playing with an ashtray. Or maybe they’ve just hopped in a lift for a quick press of all the buttons. You know the drill.
Anyway, the point? Plan ahead. If you can’t map out your whole adventure before you go, plan the next day – in full – once you get the kids to bed each night. Trust me, a plan is your very best friend.
5. Treat your kids like adults – you’ll all have a heaps better time. But know when they need to be children.
If you go with the mind-set that you’re “travelling with kids” you’ll eat every meal in a McDonalds and be stuck in a hotel room each night by 7pm watching dubbed Everyone Loves Raymond re-runs. By no means am I saying take them to a sex show in Amsterdam but treat them as almost-equals and they may just surprise you. Kids can absolutely sit up in a restaurant, explore a gallery and enjoy a night market or concert. They’ll relish their new-found privileges and you’ll appreciate that you’re not eating your 14th whopper burger that week. Of course, all illusions aside, when push comes to shove you are traveling with kids and compromises are inevitable. Make plans for some early nights, some afternoons just walking on a beach and some Happy Meals. You’ll get the best of both worlds.
6. Don’t romanticise family travel. It’s not all a bed of roses. In fact, some of it is nightmare stuff!
Sure, it’s fun and fabulous. But it can also be often tiring and maybe even stretch your parenting skills to the max. At home, there’s a million reasons why you have less-than-perfect days. Same goes for any other place on earth. But amplified. Drill this expectation to yourself before you leave and you’ll be much less devastated when it’s not all postcard-worthy. Trust me, the 98% of brilliant moments will always outweigh the 2% of ‘dear god take me home‘.
Speaking of less than ideal moments? Get insurance. You’ll never, ever regret it.
Travel truly is an amazing family experience. You’ll laugh, you’ll bond, you’ll learn about other cultures and one another. And yep, there will be tears. But with a no-nonsense approach the world is still your oyster and little people need not hold you back. They can in fact add a whole new dimension to how you see a destination. Have kids, will travel.
Thinking of traveling overseas? See what this tribe loved about Strasbourg.