Summer time is coming and I’m in the midst of planning our summer vacation, for my wife, my son and myself. I once heard a comedian in Germany say that many people don’t understand that they have to make a choice in life: enjoy vacations, or have children. Well it’s not that extreme, but if not planned well, your vacation might turn from tranquility to turbulence. Here are my top five recommendations for parents to keep in mind to enjoy a successful summer holiday with kids.
- The most important advice of all: take your time and don’t rush. Your kids will. They don’t have the same feeling of time that you have. Know that scene from the Simpsons on family trip, Bart and Lisa asking Homer ‘are we there yet?’ … a hundred times in a row? Your child’s time span around everything is ten minutes at max. They can’t wait to get into the taxi and on the way to the airport will start wondering how long it will take before they arrive at Disneyland (still a twelve hour flight away). If you try to think of every part of your journey in bits and pieces, and take your time at every part along the way (coffee wise you’ll be covered by Italian coffee from Seattle at every airport from here to the Gobi desert) and allow for play time, you’ll arrive back home saying ‘yep, we’re there’ without too many bags under your eyes.
- Travelling with kids can turn parents into sherpas. The ‘eessentials’ for a baby are often enough that, if stranded on a lonely island, you’d have enough resources to cover your child until school enrolment. So check your gear and pare it down to the essentials. Get a lightweight stroller that you can take to, or even onto the plane instead of your multi terrain multi everything pram. For the little ones, get a car seat shell that you can also use in the plane, and for the older kids check where you can rent a car seat (most car seat rentals offer that kind of service). What kind of cosmetics and baby food do you need to bring along, and what can you buy at your destination? For older children that can’t travel without bringing along their complete Barbie / Matchbox collection, get a pull along suitcase for kids so you don’t need to take Ken and Barbie in and out of your rucksack every five minutes.
- Don’t be dissapointed if your child prefers french fries to trying whatever exotic delicacies are on offer at your destination. You may be tingling with anticipation for dishes that have names you can’t even pronounce and flavours you haven’t tasted before, but as a father and owner of (family) restaurants, let me assure you that the eating habits for children are very much the same, regardless of nationality. They love french fries, spaghetti bolognese and gelato. So whether you are sitting in a restaurant in Bombay, Barcelona or the Maldives, and they cry for French Fries, don’t be disappointed. Your child is like the other billion of their kind on this planet. But rest assured, unless you’re in a restaurant in the middle of the Amazon, you will probably be able to find something on the menu to please your kids.
- Take your time and don’t plan too many stops, for the sake of both you and your kids. I like to take my son to different places so he gets to know different cultures (and Europe is perfect for that), but I like to plan 2-3 day stops. I have found that that’s enough time to make some friends (try Airbnb!) and enjoy your stay, but still see enough different locations. Children are not used to the stress of travel, they need more sleep than their parents and they love to hit the pool (not visit every airport and bus stop from Helsinki to Rome). If available, hotels that offer special activities for the kids are ideal to make sure you also get some down time to relax. Parents also need a break from time to time.
- Don’t expect the ideal, perfect, best-ever holiday. Don’t be like Chevy Chase in the old Family Vacation movies, eager to provide his family with the perfect vacation, just to feel miserable when its not working out at all (very funny movies still). I always hope for some great days in the summer, but sometimes the hotel wasn’t as good as you hoped for, the food not as delicious as you expected, … Bottom line – you are still spending time with your family and can enjoy places you may not normally visit. And here you can learn from your kids who take every place as it is.
I hope your summer travels will turn out nicely and that you make some long lasting memories — be they at the beach, in a foreign city or visiting the grandparents. Its your break from work, your kids break from school or kindergarten. Enjoy, relax and let us know how it went!
By Nils Van Doorn, founder of Baby International
Nils founded baby international with his wife when his son was born. Tired of shoddy service and poor product quality, they decided to set up a portal to serve modern parents. When he’s not writing for their magazine, Nils enjoys playing with his son Vicent and cheering for Oranje.
Do you have any top tips on travelling with babies, toddlers, children and teens? Share them in the comments section!