Vacationing with little kids is a different kind of vacation than the one you may have taken before. Everything about it depends on where you are going, what you are hoping to do, your children’s ages, etc.
This may be more appropriately named a “trip” than a “vacation.” If you honestly consider your children and their challenges and needs and temper your expectations, you can plan a trip that will be fun and fulfilling.
What is it like to go on vacation with little kids?
When my children were 1.5 and 3 years old, we took a trip to Australia from Canada. This involved two planes and a 15-hour flight. It is doable with the proper considerations. Here are some of the extra plans I made:
Both of my was still napping at the time, so we found a lovely double umbrella stroller where the seats reclined independently with large sunshades.
This was their familiar spot, and it meant their “nap spot” would be with us everywhere, at all times.
I booked as direct and few flights as possible. Where I live, it commonly takes two planes to get to YVR (Vancouver), which is where you would catch the flight to Australia.
There are also many flights from there with layovers in Los Angeles and Hawaii. I made sure to book a single flight to YVR and, from there, a direct flight to Brisbane, where we were headed.
This gave us a rather long layover in Vancouver, but that’s much preferable to more flights. (Side note: In our experiences, TSA are very accommodating to small children, so one need not stress about that part.)
If the flight is long (as ours certainly was), consider what time you are flying and how you will spend the time. Sleep is the best option to pass the time.
Our long flight left at midnight, and we were careful with naps, so our kids slept most of the flight. Our doctor also recommended we give them children’s gravel to help.
Beyond sleep, we were sure to have plenty of snacks, and I found some helpful kid’s headphones in a headband so they could watch a movie.
Consider a home base where you are going. Our most successful time of that trip was when we spent several days in an Airbnb.
This allowed us to cook and eat whenever the kids needed and somewhere safe for us parents to nap. (That’s on tempering expectations; you won’t get much sleep on that flight even if your kids do.)
Hotels are nice, but the AirBnbs were better. Other situations may require other solutions. If you are road-tripping in a motorhome, for example, this is your built-in home base. (That sounds like an amazing way to travel with little kids, by the way!)
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Plan your activities accordingly, and let go of if-only. My husband would have loved to offroad or take a helicopter ride, but that wasn’t the activity for this trip.
I think you can do more with your kids than people may think, but there’s no sense in dwelling on the things you can’t. A trip with kids means finding ways to spend their energy and balancing that with what you want to do.
We all still managed to have fun at beaches, zoos, museums, and shopping and balanced that with some time at the Airbnb watching a movie.
I covered this in the above point but planning for downtime. You may be able to go, go, and go on a trip, but kids will get overstimulated at some point.
You know your kids, and you can probably tell when that will be. My kids did much better than I expected them to, but planning one big thing per day seemed right.
Sometimes we could also do something else, but that helped us, parents, not feel like we did nothing while permitting us mentally to call it a day after said activity.
For example, we spent a few hours at the koala sanctuary seeing many animals and watching a couple of demonstrations, so we found some takeout to take back to the rental for the evening.
Another day we did a hike, and the kids were still doing great, so we went to the beach after.
Finally, enjoy the trip from a kid’s perspective. They get excited about the little things; a cool statue at the mall, ice cream, a swing at the beach, picking out a toy at the store, and the list goes on.
Try not to focus on the things you didn’t get around to on your trip, but rather enjoy the moment.
All in all, going on vacation with kids likely means that you will have a little more luggage, take a little longer to do things, and maybe not do everything you wanted to do, but you make good memories, and it helps kids grow in ways you can’t possibly imagine.
My then-3-year-old is now 6 and still remembers things about that trip that amaze me, that have not been reinforced through photos and stories.
Special thanks to Sharla Paints to share her story.