I have to admit: part of the reason I wanted to travel the world was to reward myself for staying home with the kids for the three years since we had moved to California. My world had become so small and I wanted to enlarge it. I also wanted to be around people other than kids. It was quite the reality check then when we set off on our 6 month Round the World family adventure and I realized I would be traveling with kids 24/7!
As a person who likes to have alone time, I wondered what I had just done. How was I going to survive being with the family that much over the next 6 months? I’m not alone in this regard. When I asked my friend what concerns she has about traveling with kids for an extended period of time, she wondered how they would get along if they were together so much. It’s a good point. If a family can’t make it through a weekend at home without getting on each others nerves, how will it handle being together for more than the standard 1 week vacation?
I thought about what I did on our 6 month adventure and here are my top 5 tips for staying sane when traveling with kids:Top 5 tips for Staying Sane When Traveling with Kids #familytravel Click To Tweet
1. Build in alone time
Take turns with your spouse so that one person can have alone time while the other stays with the kids. We didn’t do this nearly enough on our trip, but when we did it was fantastic. Some of the ways we built in alone time were by sitting 3 and 1 on a plane, instead of 2 and 2. Or by having one parent take the kids to play cards in the dining cart of a train while the other stayed back.
In Borneo, I decided to hike to a waterfall by myself, as the rest of the family wasn’t interested, and it was great! In Thailand, I went to the spa one evening while Anthony stayed with the kids. On another night, he went out to the night market while I stayed back. When we were in Rome, Anthony spent a day exploring the city, while the girls and I had a lazy day at the apartment, venturing out only for gelato!
2. Get out and explore!
We recognized that we started to get on each other’s nerves when we stayed inside, in close quarters, too much. Even though the girls would resist going out, once we got them outside everyone was in a much better mood. On the days we were inside doing homework, or suffering from sightseeing fatigue, we found it helped to get out even just for a drink and a pastry. We also noticed that when we were out exploring, we were arguing less because everyone was too busy taking in the new sights, sounds, and smells. It’s easier to get out and explore when you’re in a new place, especially if you don’t know when you’ll be visiting again.
3. Split Up
It’s important to still build in one-on-one time with each child, even when you’re traveling. This can be as simple as taking one child to explore airport shops while the other parent/child stays at the Gate lounge. In Thailand, Amy and Anthony had bonding time at a waterpark with another family we had met, while Hannah and I stayed back at Dolphin Bay Resort. At KidZania in Mumbai, the girls would split up to try out different activities, since they had different interests.
4. Keep yourself separate from your kid’s emotional life
It’s easy to start copying your child’s emotional state. They get upset that you bought donuts with chocolate icing instead of strawberry, then you get upset because you were trying to ‘treat’ them and are not being appreciated and thanked for it. This is a situation that can happen anytime, not just when you’re traveling. It can be that much easier to overreact though when you’ve been together 24/7 for several months. Try to empathize and understand why your child is upset, without getting upset yourself. Easier said than done, I know! It doesn’t make their tantrums any more bearable, but it also doesn’t escalate the situation either.
If your child is driving you crazy, again try to understand what is behind the behavior. Is it that your child just needs something to eat, needs a nap, or just needs some down time? If so, try to fulfill their needs as soon as possible. This is what happened to us at Machu Picchu. The girls had to get up really early and didn’t have a good breakfast. The first 2 hours at Machu Picchu, they were whiny and unbearable. After they had a bathroom break and something to eat, they were totally different girls, and the next 2 hours were much more enjoyable!
5. Change your mindset and have fun!
Sometimes all it takes to make a situation better is a change in mindset. This is what I remind myself to do whenever I start getting negative about spending time with my family. If you’ve embarked on extended traveling with kids, it’s because you want to have more bonding time with your kids. This was a major rationale for why we went on a Round the World adventure. To create shared memories and see the world through our kids eyes.
Traveling with kids for an extended period of time gives you an opportunity to see your spouse and kids in a new light. We were amazed at the adaptability of our girls and developed a much greater appreciation for them. We also realized what a special opportunity it was to model different behaviors for our girls. For example, they got to see how their parents handled different currencies, languages, people, foods, modes of transportation, etc. The girls saw us figure out how to find a grocery store in a city we’ve never been to and what to do when your train gets canceled. These are invaluable moments that outweigh the strife of occasionally getting on each others nerves.
I hope these tips helps and if you have any additional ones, please leave them in the comment box below.