7 tips to help kids get the most out of travel

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by Debra Dane on February 12, 2013

in Parenting and family life

Since I am an American married to an Englishman and living in Australia it is a given that we are world travelers. We have passed this onto our children who have had passports since they were infants and struggled to hold still for the required official photo. We have taken short trips, driven 1000km back and forth between Sydney and Brisbane without hesitation, and traveled overseas repeatedly with them on long haul flights and extensive road trips.

I am here to tell you that not only can you travel with kids, but they can thrive on traveling – learning, experiencing, exploring new things, places and people.

7 ways to help your kids get the most out of any trip

1. Use visitor’s centres

Most towns and cities have at least one visitor centre staffed by people familiar with what is on offer in your destination. Take advantage of their knowledge and ask about kid-friendly tourist spots, activities and programs that can capture your kids’ attention.

You may be aiming to learn about American history and your kids hear “another boring stop today”. There may be tours on offer that draw them in. There might be exhibits that are more hands on and interactive which always makes learning more fun for kids. Try to balance the kinds of activities you do so kids stay interested and everyone has fun.

2. Don’t monopolise the map handling

While you are at the visitor’s centre grab a few walking maps of the town. Look them over with the kids. Circle where you want to go. Let them help plan out the route or order of events, maybe deciding where your first pit stop for food will be or identifying an ice cream place on the map.

Let them hold a map and help with navigating your way. They can look out for landmarks you circled and that tells them they are on the right path.

3. Take local transport (or go on foot)

Mix things up. For kids the transportation can be half the fun (or more). Take trollies, carriage rides, tram, subway, ferry, buses, etc whether you are going 5 blocks or 2 miles. They are usually affordable, let you mix with locals (kids love to chat with each other), and often have stops near all the tourist areas. Some places we’ve traveled have some form of free transport for tourists so ask around (and always ask if kids are free).

4. Stay active

Try to mix up the types of things you do in a new place. While you may want to see a museum or a historical site, they might like to have a more active approach to engaging with your destination.

Let them climb on things – whether it is a series of statues in Central Park or replica cannons in Charleston, many of our photos show our kids exploring in their own way. They are not causing harm and you will often find that these things are allowed or encouraged by those that installed them.

Visit parks and playgrounds and mix with the locals.

Try out sports that are popular there, of the season or new to you. Ice skating, horseback riding, boating and others can give you glimpses into local life.

5. Try local foods

It can be tempting to feed them familiar foods as much as possible. Trust me I know. Seek out menus that don’t strictly cater to your usual foods. You can order a variety of things including the familiar and let everyone try dishes. Seek out a few buffets if you are somewhere especially exotic so they can freely try one bite of as many things as interest them.

6.  Before the trip preparation

Before you set off on your trip read books about the place you are going or stories set in the locale. Check out visitors blogs and other online resources for information, tips and games. Many destination sites are loaded with tools for kids.

7. After the trip keep the memories alive

It is possible for young kids to completely forget a big overseas trip. What has worked well for us, since our kids hit the 4-5 year old mark, is talking about the trip long after we get home. We create and look through photo albums / photo books. We create scrapbooks or journals. The kids display souveniers they selected and often bring them into their at home life. Whether it is their flamenco dresses and fans from Spain or their Tshirts from NYC, there are reminders of our trips everywhere in our home. People ask them about them, they take things to school for show and tell, they play with them, read the books they bought, enjoy and use things rather than pack them away.

 

What is your best travel with kids tip or experience? Do you enjoy travel with kids or hold off until they are much older?

 

Find your simple,

Deb

 

It is Tuesday so today I hang out over at Jess’ place for IBOT – come over and check it out

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Robomum February 12, 2013 at 8:00 am

Some great tips!
Reading your post has made me crave a holiday even more now.
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Debra Dane February 12, 2013 at 8:17 am

I hope you start planning an awesome adventure!
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Jo February 12, 2013 at 8:11 am

We, too, have travelled extensively with both of our children since they were very young, with our eldest having an overseas trip booked in before he was born, and a passport since he was 3 months old. We are now currently living in the US, seeing it as a great opportunity for the whole family to be immersed completely in another place and culture.
One thing we have routinely done when travelling is to “wing it”. That is, have a day or two of making absolutely no plans, and just set out to explore and see what comes our way. We have had some of our most interesting and memorable experiences on the days when we had no plans at all!

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Debra Dane February 12, 2013 at 8:19 am

I totally agree Jo – this trip we just took to the US was the first time i did not plan things – we just set the itinerary, but often woke up in a new city with no plan and just headed to the visitor’s centre for a few questions or asked at the hotel for a recommendation to get started- it was the most enjoyable trip we have ever had! a new direction for me as a control freak who likes to know what is coming up… i had no expectations and was fine if we missed out on something we had loosely planned (i started thinking of them as hopes rather than plans)
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Claire T February 12, 2013 at 9:53 am

Love these tips. I have never used a visitor’s centre since we had Scarlett! I find we tend to look up expat sites for the city we are visiting as they are a treasure trove of parks, playgrounds and child friendly activities. I totally agree with the local food thing. Fortunately our daughter eats pretty much anything. I have a fond memory of a trip to Thailand where she ate practically her own body weight in pineapple rice and a toned down green curry.
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Debra Dane February 13, 2013 at 1:45 pm

definitely the expat blogs – people often think some destinations will be too hard but we need to remember there are people living there with kids so they must be able to get nappies somewhere, feed their children and entertain them…
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Aroha @ Colours of Sunset February 12, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Great tips as always Deb and I am sure if anyone knows how to travel with kids you’d be up there with the best! The best thing for us when traveling NZ with Nick (2000km in the car in 8 days!) was the iPad! Thank God for technology! Imagine how many fights would have been avoided over the years, and how fewer times parents would have had to hear “Are we there yet?!” if they were invented eons ago! Thanks for sharing! x Aroha #teamIBOT
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Debra Dane February 13, 2013 at 1:47 pm

yes i admit this trip was super easy with entertainment on long trips (including 12+ hours on amtrack one day) since i had an ipad, the girls had touches and hubby had an iphone (plus we did other stuff but it flew by and we could do what we all wanted at times)
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EssentiallyJess February 12, 2013 at 2:26 pm

I’d love to do more travel with the kids, and hopefully in the future this will be more feasible
My biggest tip is relax and have fun. That makes a huge difference.
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Debra Dane February 13, 2013 at 1:54 pm

I agree – the more relaxed you are the better the experience will be for everyone
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Emily @ Have a laugh on me February 12, 2013 at 2:34 pm

We haven’t got any trips planned for awhile, but I’ll keep these in mind for any outing, big or small :)
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Debra Dane February 13, 2013 at 1:55 pm

Thanks Em – hope you get even a small outing in soon xx
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Leigh February 12, 2013 at 3:27 pm

Awesome tips! Im so desperate for a holiday!!! I think to be relaxed and prepared is a great tip too xx

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Debra Dane February 13, 2013 at 2:02 pm

yes the balance between preparing so you are not flailing about (or have no undies packed LOL) and relaxed is the sweet spoot
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