There are many reasons why traveling solo is so popular. You have the ultimate freedom; you decide everything for yourself, you can go wherever you want and do whatever you wish without having to answer to anybody else.
But what about starting a family?
Many people get their traveling out of the way before they have to worry about a family, feeling that once you have a kid, that’s the end of it. Of course, you can resume traveling when your children are grown up, but that’s a long time to put your traveling on hold.
Is it feasible to travel with the whole family?
Yes, absolutely. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not impossible, but it does require a different style and approach to travel. What are some of the things you should consider before you set off for a family adventure?
Consider Everybody in the Family
There are many countries that are dangerous enough to travel in by yourself or with responsible friends. Even places that are perfectly safe may still not be ideal, especially if they don’t offer many family-friendly activities or attractions. Do your research to make an informed decision, and based on what others say, don’t go anywhere where you feel bringing your kids might not be safe or appropriate.
That doesn’t go away when you’re on the road; for example, you may be perfectly fine with an 8-hour long train ride, but your children will likely get bored. Keep things enjoyable for them too by giving them ways to occupy themselves during the more mundane travel moments. Secondly, kids will be kids!
Occasional kid-friendly excursions or treats, like ice cream or spending a day at the amusement park, can go a long way in keeping kids happy and making a trip more memorable for them.
Pack as Light as Possible
Traveling means that you carry all your gear with you. Packing light is great advice for several reasons when you’re a solo traveler, and it’s even more prudent when traveling with a family of 3, 4, or even more people.
Carefully study each item you’re looking to pack; is it portable, versatile, something you know you’ll use often? When it comes to clothing, remember that you can always do laundry.
A little louder for the people in the back: taking unnecessary items with you will only weigh everybody down and make you miserable. Never pack things “just in case” – if you discover there’s an item you’re missing, you can more than likely pick it up at your destination.
You simply can’t move as quickly when there are more members in your group. Instead of trying to rush through a city in 1 or 2 days and getting burned out, make it 4 or 5 days and take your time!
A group can travel only as fast as its slowest member, and you need to allow yourself time to balance traveling and adventure with taking care of everybody’s needs. Besides, you’ll always have a richer experience if you take your time and really get to know a place.
Have Off Days
This relates closely to the above point. Even if you’re exploring each new city at a more deliberate pace, you’ll still burn out if you don’t stop to recuperate. Adventure is great, but you’re not doing yourself any favors by waking everybody at 6am for the sixth straight day of nonstop checking landmarks off the list. Nobody can be at 100% all the time.
Instead, take 1 or 2 days each week to relax, take things easy, perhaps unwind with your significant other with a day at the spa or some red wine. Your body, spirit, and family will thank you for it.
Embrace the Uncertainty
Life can be unpredictable, and few things in life can be more unpredictable than up and leaving to explore different places for weeks, months, or even years. You’ll get lost, you’ll miss trains or flights, you’ll deal with crappy people, you’ll lose things – challenges on the road like these are hard enough to handle solo. With a family thrown into the mix, emotions can run high.
The key to staying sane in the most trying moments is accepting what’s out of your control, dealing with what you can control, facing it all with a smile, and realizing it’s just a part of the journey. There are many life lessons that traveling can teach us. This can be a great one to demonstrate and teach to your kids, and it’s also the perfect segue into our final piece of advice:
Look For Opportunities to Educate
On a final note, traveling with the family, especially young children, is full of golden opportunities to instill positive values or teach important life lessons. It was Mark Twain who famously said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness… Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” This statement couldn’t hold more true for children, whose unique insights and perspectives gained while traveling in their formative years can stick with them for the rest of their lives.
Yes, traveling with a family can present its own set of unique challenges. It’s not easy to travel with the family, but it’s definitely not impossible. Those who manage to make it happen are rewarded with more adventures around the world, a closer-knit family, and the chance to give their children valuable experiences and opportunities to learn life lessons early and hopefully grow up into well-rounded adults.