Danielle Aubin, LCSW
How To Travel With Kids
Updated: Jul 5, 2022
For those of us who were avid travelers before kids, we can feel a bit intimidated by all the moving parts involved in traveling with kids. They require their own little passports which require that you somehow get a baby to look into a camera. You need to get them onto a plane, for many hours at a time. You have to make decisions about important topics like if you should bring the car seat with you or rent one when you get there. Sleeping arrangements can be challenging too especially if you cosleep and your baby loves to roll around. All those tall king beds that look so luxurious in the AirBnB ad now look dangerous!
Despite all of these considerations, most people who love to travel agree that traveling with kids can be an enormous amount of fun. It is an adventure and there is nothing quite like watching your kids discover the world and experience all the variety this world has to offer. There is no replacement for travel, the discovery channel will not provide the tactile experience of walking into an open-air market in Egypt and noticing how many types of dates are being sold alongside old antique swords. Or the feeling of waking up to the sound of a squirrel monkey family sitting on your roof in Costa Rica.
Travel does require some forethought and planning. You'll need to research what type of visas you may need, immunizations, contact your doctor to see if you need to bring malaria prophylaxsis, etc. Those of us with anxiety can find that this can feel activating because there are so many things to consider. Lists can help with getting everything down in a manageable format. Here is a sample list for a Costa Rica trip:
Have sufficient money in your account so that this trip is achievable financially
Passports for kids (take photos or pay to have them taken)
Purchase airplane tickets. Make sure you leave plenty of time to get to your flights.
Make an itinerary
Secure an AirBnB/lodging
Purchase travelers health insurance
Check if your cell phone will have reception/service (if not, search how to purchase sim card for phone)
Make a decision about if you are bringing a stroller, baby carrier, pack n' play, car seat, etc. There are pros and cons to bringing or not bringing them.
Order rental car or plan for public transportation
Hire a housesitter
Set outgoing messages on email/phone, inform friends and family of trip and, assign them tasks if needed (e.g. watering plants)
Bring entertainment for your kids for the airplane and beyond. This includes electronics, art, games, toys, snacks, you name it!
Make a list of supplies you will need to pack, try to pack light. Figure out what items you can purchase when you arrive (e.g. pool floaties, diapers)
This is just a basic list but it can give you an idea of what to think about when planning travel. For each of the items on your list, make sure you have a contingency plan. If the flight gets canceled, what will you do? If your stroller breaks, what will you do? Some people just arrive somewhere and then decide what to do. Others tend to be planners and what every excursion planned out from the beginning. You can hire a travel company to plan out excursions or you can plan them out yourself. It's important to take into consideration the age and personality of each of your kids. It's usually wise to plan for no more than 1 major activity per day. If your kids are older and enjoy a packed day, perhaps 2-3 planned activities would be ok. A word of caution about planned activities: the more you plan, especially in advance, the more pressure this puts on your family to get out there and do it all even if you are having an off day or are just feeling tired. My recommendation is to have as little as possible pre-planned and try to go with the flow. Be gentle with yourself and your family members, it's ok to "slow travel" and you don't need to see every "must-see" attraction.
Some potential unexpected benefits of family travel (especially during the postpartum period)
Travel can restore your sense of wonder and connection to meaning
Travel can create connections between you and your family members through the shared experience of being somewhere new
Travel can break you out of a slump and help you see the world through new eyes
Travel can give you new career or business ideas
Travel can open up a world of alternative lifestyle possibilities
Travel can help you appreciate what is truly important and allows you to see things clearly
Travel can ignite a love of travel and of meeting new people in your child(ren)
Travel can teach us that we all have more in common than we realize and humanity really is one big extended family
So what are you waiting for? Traveling could be just the ticket to changing your life in the best way. Your children will forever be changed by their experiences. There is added difficulty with traveling with children, yes. But there is added benefit as well. See you out there!