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Family travel tips: lessons learned from over 10 years travelling with kids

Family travel tips: lessons learned from over 10 years travelling with kids

Family travel, like everything, can take some time to perfect. It’s often said that you need 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in something and, whilst we’re not there yet, we’ve managed to build up a useful bank of family travel tips to help you get off to a good start on your own adventures.

We started travelling as a family when our eldest was only three months old and continued to travel together when our family of four was completed. There have been lots of happy successful times, mixed in with our fair share of fails, all of which have gradually made us better family travellers. But we’re still at least a few trips away from being considered experts!

How we travelled when the kids were toddlers has evolved into something different now they’re approaching double figures but the core principles remain the same. Of course, not all these tips will work for every family, you’ll need to discover your own pace and decide what does and doesn’t work for you.

Our first trip to Morocco when we just had the one kid and he was 1yo.

Why travel with kids

Taking the plunge and deciding to travel with kids is usually the hardest step, especially if everyone in the family isn’t quite on the same page. It’s difficult to pick out one single reason or benefit of family travel and it’s unlikely you’ll have a single ‘Eureka’ moment. It’s more likely that, over time, you realise the pros greatly outweigh the cons, and you’ve run out of reasons not to book that flight.

Here are some words of encouragement and food for thought:

Budgeting for family travel

Travelling as a family is a privilege that not everyone can afford, but it doesn’t have to be as expensive as you might think. There are ways you can make your budget go further and allow you to travel longer as a family.

When the kids are very young, you’ll find you can make savings on accommodation and travel costs but these tend to disappear once kids reach 7 or 8 (just at the same time their appetites grow leading to a hike in restaurant bills – factor this in if you’re fond of eating out).

Choose your destination wisely

Not all destinations are created equal when it comes to budgets, so make sure you carefully research where you want to go and what a realistic daily budget might be for the whole family. There are exceptions, but you’ll typically find Southeast Asia and Africa the two cheapest regions to travel, with Europe and North America the most expensive.

Road trip tips

We’ve been road tripping with our boys ever since they were born. From a first road trip around Scotland when Arthur was 3 months old, to a 4 month overlanding expedition around Sub-Saharan Africa when the boys were aged 1 and 3, to our many family road trips to Europe in our Bongo campervan (our regular readers will know we especially love spending our summers at various family campsites in France).

We love the freedom and flexibility of a road trip where we can be on our own terms.

However, the journey towards a successful family road trip starts with the planning. Your vehicle will become an extension of your home and it should ideally contain everything your family might need. So make sure you read our guide to road trip essentials with kids.

Long-haul flight survival

Try not to worry too much about long-haul flights and how your kids will cope as the destination will make any journey worthwhile. However, if your kids are young and you’re concerned about that long-haul flights, these blog posts may help:

Backpacking with kids

There are different styles of travel and one might suit your family more than the others. Some families prefer to move to a new country and setup a semi-permanent base from where they explore. Others might prefer a shorter, more luxurious trip which they know won’t last forever, but will be amazing whilst it lasts.

Our own preferred style of travel has always been slow and inexpensive, which is where backpacking comes into its own. There’s something incredibly exciting and liberating about squeezing your life into a 30L backpack, strapping it on, and heading out into the world. The freedom and convenience is ideal but more importantly, we enjoy the philosophy of backpacking and want to pass that onto our kids.

Long-term travel strategies

Any length of trip is worthwhile, even a short city break can be magical. But, nothing seems to beat long-term family travel, where you’re removed from your home bubble and thrust into a new life and experience together.

Spending weeks or months as a family is a true bonding experience, allowing you to fully immerse yourselves in a country or region.

It can be a logistical challenge though, removing yourselves from home, work, school, friends and family for an extended period. It is a way of life more strongly associated to digital nomad families.

Over the past few years, we’ve taken several long-term trips (including living in Morocco for four months and travelling around Southeast Asia for 10 weeks) which have tested our planning skills to the max but in each case we managed to balance work and school to make it all work (most of the time).

Some useful reads include:

Travel gifts

And finally, if you’re like us, you probably prefer gifts that are useful for your family travels. We’ve got you covered: