You’ll remember trailblazing Mark Wolters of Wolters World from a previous feature about traveling as a plus-size person. He’s back with some NEVER-before-heard advice on traveling with children. Mark has traveled the world, explored and filmed in over 50 countries for his successful eponymous YouTube Channel, which boasts almost a million subscribers.
One of his top tips is to encourage your kids to play with other children, particularly if they don’t speak the same language. Kids have a unique way of communicating through games such as UNO, football and other team sports. It allows your children an insight into other cultures; who knows; they might even pick up a new word or phrase. If you travel to remote parts of the world, this interaction will likely form memories they will never forget.
Remember that your kids might turn into mini-celebrities in some parts. Mark fondly remembers, “When we visited China, we spent at least 45 minutes to an hour every day taking pictures with locals who just wanted pictures with our children. My oldest used to say he was famous in China because of all the pictures he had taken on our trip”.
It’s essential that you don’t over-schedule your day. If you do, you can guarantee that some nerves (probably yours) are frayed. Kids have their own agenda. They will likely have a different appreciation of the endless art galleries and museums in New York or Paris than you do. Remember to allow them to periodically let off steam. If you pass a park, let them have a run-around and an ice cream before you venture to the museum you’ve always wanted to see and if you pass a bakery on the way, grab a baguette to top them up before they announce they are hungry halfway through the gallery.
Your kids will love to help you plan your trip; they will be over the moon to see their desired places in your itinerary, whether it’s seeing Pompei, a Disney Princess or the Manga Museum in Kyoto. Consider their body clock’s when planning your trip. If they are early morning risers at home, they will likely be the same when you travel. If you know they need an afternoon nap, don’t force a visit to see the Mona Lisa; they will likely be asleep in your arms.
Early Bird bookings tend to be a lot cheaper. Mark reminds you to book well in advance. He recalls, “Trains in Italy allow you to book your seats months in advance, and they offer special promotions for families with children. We were able to book first-class family discount tickets a week before our trip that were cheaper than if we had booked second-class seats the day of the train journey”. Always ask for child rates; wherever you travel, many discounts for children could range from $1 off admission to completely free.
If you are staying at a hotel, it should have a limited number of pack-and-play amenities for your little ones. It’s a handy baby and toddler play space, bassinet, and nappy-changing station all in one. Book one in advance; they are ideal for tired children. You can usually include your requirements upon booking; if not, send the reservations team a quick message.
Don’t feel like you have to buy everything before your trip; why pack a suitcase full of nappies when you can buy them at your destination? Pack a change of clothes for your entire family in your carry-on luggage; unfortunately, luggage can go missing and having some clean clothes to wear when you get to your destination is a joy.
Another top tip is that airlines can only sometimes accommodate your check-in requirements, such as seating you all together. It’s easy to book seats next to each other when you book online or through a travel agent, even if it means paying a little extra. Take advantage of the benefits of traveling with children, which could be as simple as early boarding or skipping the line. If you do get this privilege, don’t both board at the same time, one of you can go first and set everything up whilst the kids play until the last minute. Even if you are not a fan of devices, a Nintendo or iPad can be a firm airline savior, particularly on long journeys. Remember, while your children’s ears are sensitive, the children’s earphones are often too quiet for little ones to hear their show over the roar of the plane. Therefore adult headphones are a better option, and many are noise-cancelling which could help them sleep.
Dining is an essential part of your daily routine. Whilst regular meals are essential, encourage them to experiment with food from the country you intend to travel to. It makes the transition a lot easier. Not every country has a child’s menu, so consider ordering something from the ‘starter’ menu or sharing your meal with them. Always ask for smaller portions if they don’t have a child’s menu. The restaurant will likely be more than happy to accommodate their wishes. Mark recounts, “This has led our children to learn how to make pasta in the back of a restaurant in Lucca, Italy”.
When traveling with children, don’t assume that this exempts you from pickpockets and thieves. An opportunist might see one of your little ones holding an expensive camera, tablet or laptop, so make sure you manage your expensive travel accessories and keep them safe from the unsavory minority folk.
Bumps, scratches and tummy bugs are likely to happen. Consider taking a mini-medical kit containing medicine for upset stomachs, mosquito spray, plasters, wipes and an antibiotic ointment like Neosporin. If you feel burned out or the kids are exhausted, take a morning or afternoon out of your busy schedule and enjoy a duvet snuggle and Netflix binge in your hotel room.
Prepare your entire family for your holiday. If you are planning to walk around a city and they are not used to such long days of exercise, it will likely end in tears. Break them in over a couple of weeks before you travel! Don’t buy new shoes just before the trip. You and the kids should wear comfortable shoes; new shoes can cause blisters and sore feet, making the children miserable.
Just remember that kids will be kids; let them be part of your holiday and enjoy their company.