Family travel doesn’t have to be a scary experience that should be avoided or postponed until the kids grow up.
True enough – you won’t have the freedom and flexibility of traveling alone or as a couple. But discovering the world together with your loved ones will be a whole discovery in itself.
Family travel will bring you shared adventures and help you get to know each other from a different side.
A little more planning, a little more patience, and you’ll be happy that you made an effort and did it together!
We’ve put together this article for three reasons:
- To inspire you and show you the magic of family travel
- To help you prepare for your trip – in a practical and emotional sense
- To help you save money as you travel and plan your trip
So read on, prepare, and enjoy!
Table of contents:
- Preparing for your family trip
- Managing your family’s traveling budget
- Choosing road trip or direct flights
- What to bring for a family trip?
- How to pack your luggage efficiently
- How to manage money while traveling
- Get inspired by globe-trotting families
- Conclusion: Start packing and planning!
How to prepare for your family trip
If you’re a beginner in the world of family travel, take these tips close to your heart:
- Choose your destination carefully – pick a place equally interesting to you and your kids. Think about logistics, too, e.g., if you use a stroller, select a location with decent streets, sidewalks and accessible public transport.
- Long travels are difficult for children, so opt for direct flights when possible.
- Choose the right timing – avoid traveling in high season.
- Make reservations ahead – even if you love spontaneous travel, it’s simpler and safer to book ahead when you’re traveling with kids.
- Consider booking a family tour instead of planning everything yourself. This might cost a little more but save you lots of worries. And your kids can make friends with children from other families.
- Prepare entertainment on the way. A beloved toy, a tablet with favourite cartoons or a colouring book – make sure you bring your kids’ favorite distraction for those parts of the trip that requires patience. Consider bringing treats to reward your little one for good behavior.
- Get proper travel insurance – don’t cut corners on something as important as this. Be sure to choose a policy that covers all the risks.
- Forget these common family travel myths.
How to plan and manage the family’s traveling budget wisely
With some research, planning, and patience, it’s possible to reduce the cost of your next family vacation significantly.
Here are some tips for finding an extra dollar when travelling with your family:
- Always book your flights from an incognito browser window – this way cookies won’t be able to raise prices for trips that you search repeatedly.
- Consider booking your flights at least 21 days before the trip and avoid booking tickets on Fridays – the day when business people are mostly flying.
- Flying on Tuesdays (or other weekdays except for Friday) is usually cheaper.
- Choose apartments or homes instead of hotels. Sometimes homes are more spacious than hotels, and they usually come with a kitchen so you can cook some meals at home – airbnb.com, booking.com, etc.
- Choose places that offer family discounts – some accommodations, sights, attractions, and restaurants provide friendly rates for families.
- Be flexible, as much as your little ones let you. Maybe you’re ready to travel in the off-season or fly to an airport that’s a bit more far out?
It’s a good idea to include your kids in your travel budgeting – show them the planning process and explain that they too need to sacrifice some snacks or toys to save money for the trip.
This will be a good lesson for them showing that one has to work to achieve something good.
Road trip vs. direct flight – what’s best choice for your family?
The benefits of flying are apparent – in only a few hours you can find yourself in an entirely different climate and culture.
However, you have to be better prepared when flying with your kids, as someone can get sick at the last minute.
Also, it might be hard to find cheap direct flights closer to the departure time, but layovers are pretty harsh for a family.
And then comes the painful question – how to calm your kids will be while you’re 4 km above the ground?
A seasoned traveler Cameron Wears shares his experience from family trips:
“The reality is that even the calmest of children have a breaking point. Crying and misbehaving will happen, so it’s up to you to roll with the punches. How you react will set the tone for future flights. If you freak out too, there’s a good chance your children will associate air travel with daddy and mommy being angry.”
Road trips are an inexpensive way to travel around with your family.
When you’re road tripping, you can be super flexible – leave whenever you want and stop as often as you need to.
Not even talking about the money you save on airfare.
These are some underestimated benefits of road tripping with your family:
- Find places off the beaten path and explore without having to use public transport
- Stay longer if you want to
- Teach your kids how to live in nature
- Have more space for your luggage
- Sleep under trillions of stars
- Actually, do whatever you want
What to bring for a family trip
The amount of things you bring on a trip largely depends on the type of your travel.
For example, if you travel by car, you can take a bit more stuff with you but don’t go overboard!
If you’re traveling with a camper (which is a fantastic idea) consider taking bicycles with you.
However, some essential tips apply to any family vacation:
- Bring a health kit (drugs, teas, bandages, etc.). In addition to having your insurance, pack a first aid kit and consult your doctor about prescription drugs that could be useful in case someone gets sick abroad.
- Nowadays we don’t have to burden ourselves with bringing paper maps around. However, make sure you download the necessary map applications (specific regions/cities from Maps.me or Google Maps) before your trip, as they can come in handy as soon as you land in your destination. You can use those without an internet connection.
- Check the weather. This might seem obvious, but sometimes we underestimate the weather. Mind that the same temperatures can have a very different feel in various climates. If you can, ask a local what to wear or check a webcam located in your destination to see what people are wearing.
- Bring a spare payment card (more on that later)
Tricks and tips how to pack your luggage efficiently for your family trip:
- Be realistic. Even seasoned travelers sometimes bring too much stuff with them. Go over the contents of your suitcase and ask yourself if you really need all that stuff.
- Use the rolling technique. Roll soft, wrinkle-resistant materials like knits, wool, and cotton – just make sure you keep the roll tight since loose rolling will result in wrinkles, regardless of the material. However, you might want to fold dressier items and starched garments on top of the rolled clothes.
- Microfiber travel towels are an excellent investment for any trip. They are very light, dry fast and don’t take up much space.
- Choose apartments with laundry options.
- Follow step-by-step packing tips from this article or see this fantastic packing checklist with a timeline for traveling with kids.
How to manage your money while traveling
Spending money is a significant part of traveling.
How to spend only what is planned and not more?
How to be sure that your money is safe, and that you will have enough of it?
How to avoid all the currency exchange fees?
Will there be ATMs?
- Always have some cash with you, just in case.
- You might have a better exchange rate if you withdraw cash from local ATMs or Bankomats. But always check your bank’s withdrawal fees before your trip – those also depend on your destination country and the ATM’s bank. Usually, you’ll pay less commission if you withdraw more significant sums of money.
- Do NOT exchange money at the airport or nearby. Also, avoid currency exchange points at popular tourist areas.
- Consider notifying your bank about your travel. This way you’ll avoid situations when your card might be blocked because of “suspicious” actions in a foreign country. As you’re talking to your bank already, ask about your card’s fees and exchange rates in your destination country.
- Have an additional card – sometimes a shop or an ATM won’t accept your card for unknown reasons. It’s smart to have another card – preferably a different type – with you.
- Use a reloadable Prepaid Mastercard for travelers. You can order up to 3 additional cards – e.g., one for each family member – and transfer money between them in an instant. It comes with a mobile app, and it’s Mastercard, so it can be used all over the world.
- Keep a limited sum on your card. To control your spending, don’t make all your money readily available. In the best case, keep one account with the amount meant to be spent on the trip, and another one for emergency situations. Use a mobile banking app to monitor your spending easily.
Get inspired by other globe-trotting families
- Cameron Wears, author of the award-winning Canadian travel blog TravelingCanucks.com shares his experience and tips for better family travel.
- Falconer family leave their ordinary life behind for a year and travel around Europe with three kids, two dogs, and a 27-year-old motorhome.
- Fisher family sell their possessions and commit to traveling the world with their two kids.
- Watch this beautiful and sweet video of a family travelling through Europe in an old Volkswagen camper.
- Check out more inspiring family adventures on the website Bring the Kids.
Start packing and planning!
To make planning more fun and useful for everyone, include all your family in it.
This way you’ll avoid hearing phrases like “Hey, I didn’t sign up for this.”
When you’re there, make sure you show your kids the cultural differences – so forget about eating at McDonald’s.
Go to local stores, eat outside or cook food from local ingredients.
In short – just do it!
Go and travel with your family as much as possible!
Admittedly, it takes more time to plan the trip. But after the first one, you’ll be a PRO at it!
The best news is that you don’t have to sacrifice your whole family’s budget to make these amazing memories together.
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