Trisha Rivera, January 2021
Traveling as a family can be such an incredible experience. Moments with your little ones taking in a new view, watching them laugh and giggle as they play in the waves of an ocean far away from home, the excitement of nightly gelato in Italy, roasting smores in Tahoe and the countless travel traditions that collectively add up to lifelong memories and nostalgia. And then there is the reality of family travel. The wrangling and packing, the mid-flight outfit change thanks to your “tidy” toddler, and the unexpected meltdowns. These tips are well learned and I hope help to set you up for success and keep you as sane as any parent with kiddos can be while traveling…
"Traveling in the company of those we love is home in motion" – Leigh Hunt.
#1 IS THE HOTEL CHILD-FRIENDLY
Equipped rooms (like play pens, sofa beds, little robes, connecting room options) , kid friendly menus, and babysitting services are some of the ways that properties make it less stressful for their guests. A good travel advisor will always be sure to cover these points with the hotel, but you can always speak with a concierge for family-friendly suggestions and family forward local experiences, they are a wealth of knowledge.
#2 PACK YOUR PERSONAL AND CARRY-ON BAGS WITH PURPOSE
Long gone are the days I’d pin travel goodie bag ideas thinking how thoughtful it would be to pass out on my son’s first flight to passengers around me (full disclosure: it never happened, and I can assure you everyone was fine without my earplug and candy gift bag). I have learned, however, that unpacking anything and everything you’d need for the flight for your kids right away will set you up for success. Use small bags to separate belongings into categories, i.e. toys and play, medical, snacks, etc. If you can get to it with one arm you are ready for that long flight! Pro tip- always have a full change of clothes on the ready for the real young ones, even my potty trained son needed a full change mid-flight when he dumped his juice down his front.
#3 LIGHTLY PLAN YOUR DAYS, EVEN IF YOU LOVE BEING SPONTANEOUS
There’s nothing relaxing about an overtired and grumpy kid on a vacation. I like to break the day into pre-nap/lunch and post-nap/dinner activities. This gives us two solid chunks of time to explore and experience each day. If one day is jam-packed with sightseeing and late-night meals, I make sure the next day is light and relaxed. Sometimes a night in with takeout dessert and movies in bed (in an incredible hotel of course) are just as memorable as the more planned aspects of travel.
#4 FIND TRADITIONS TO LOOK FORWARD TO FOR EACH TRIP
As a child I made it a point to search for hot cocoa in every destination I visited and it sort of stuck with me and has now become a fun thing to look forward to with my son and husband. It’s such a deep dive into nostalgia each time we try a local’s must-try, see or do recommendation. Whether it’s searching for a bookshelf treasure together or a cooking class in each new destination, these traditions create something to look forward to and help to give him a sense of thrill and involvement in the day's plans.
#5 DON'T GET HUNG UP ON PERFECT DAYS OR FOLLOWING THE PERFECT SCHEDULE
If you are planning to travel with your children, I suggest getting comfortable with setting realistic expectations for planned days. Then if things don’t go as planned, it’s a wonderful teachable moment for your kids, a chance to show them how to respond to frustration and disappointment. It's so easy to want all of the planning and energy put into these vacations to turn into perfect memories, but some of the best parts can be in the unplanned moments and in the discoveries you make as a family. A big part of that is bringing the right energy to each day and spreading that energy to our children.
"And at the end of the day, your feet should be dirty, your hair messy and your eyes sparkling.” – Shanti
If you haven't decided to ditch your kids after this and are still with me I leave you with this; I promise that family travel doesn't need to be stressful. With a little planning and adopting that more relaxed "second child" mentality, trips with your children can be joyous and unforgettable memories that you'll share with your children for the rest of your lives.