4 Wonderful Keys to Traveling with Kids

family travel Nov 05, 2023
Traveling with Kids

“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” 



It seems overwhelming for many people to plan a day trip with their kids, much less a trip across the country or even around the world. We won’t lie – traveling with kids definitely has its challenges! But we’ve also gotten a lot of good practice the last several years as we’ve traveled with our own children, and we want to pass on four big tips that have streamlined the process for us. 

We think that implementing these tricks of the trade will help other families succeed in planning and executing enjoyable family vacations! And the good news is that they apply to any vacation, whether you’re traveling locally or around the world, and can be used with kids of any age. We have been traveling this way since Lily, our youngest, was two years old. So let’s get started with the Four Ps.

The Four Ps: Pray, Plan, Prepare, and Pay

1. First, we PRAY when traveling with kids.

We always begin our travel planning with prayer. We are so thankful that God has provided us with opportunities to travel, and it is important to us that we are good stewards of His good gifts. We also want to have our eyes open when we travel so that we might point others to Jesus through the places we go. 

Ultimately, we must give glory to God through traveling with kids. He is the one who has given us resources to travel as we do, and He is the one who created the world we are exploring. For this, we are most thankful!

 2. We PLAN when traveling with kids. 

To be effective stewards of the gift of travel, we must spend time and effort planning our trips. This ensures that we are mindful and aware of what our vacation will entail. There are several important components to consider when planning, and many can be easily remembered with the Five Ws (and one H) of problem-solving: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How?

1.     Who will be going? Your entire family or just a few members?

2.     What will you be eating when traveling with kids? Do you plan to bring and prepare your meals? If so, is there a grocery store at your destination or along the way? Will you be eating out?  If so, which meals? Do you need to make reservations?

3.     When will you be traveling with kids? Will you be gone for a weekend or a full week? Longer?

4.     Where will you be staying? Do you need to book a hotel or Airbnb? Are you camping and need supplies? Can you stay with friends or family?

5.     Why are you traveling with kids? Are you wanting to relax or work as a volunteer? Are you hoping to see a specific site or visit family? Is there an educational element to the trip?

6.     How will you get there? Will you take a road trip or a plane? Will you need transportation to and from the airport, or is it provided? Will you need a rental car or use cabs, Uber, Lyft, etc.?

These six questions are a great way to get started, but there are other considerations to keep in mind. And here’s an easy way to remember these: When we travel, we AIM HI.

“A” stands for Attractions. Are there specific shows or events that you intend to see while you’re on vacation? If so, should you purchase tickets in advance? Who will be going, and has everyone agreed on an appropriate time? Remember, parents with young children often have very different schedules than singles, families with older kids, or retirees.

We try and consider the other people we travel with, but we also do our best to avoid late-night activities and shows so that we can keep our children’s bedtimes as close to normal as possible. Making sure kids are well-rested at night when their days are full of excitement is key.

“I” stands for Insurance. Sometimes it is wise to purchase some for a specific vacation, especially if you’re traveling internationally. It gives you extra protection that can be extremely valuable if your plans have unexpected problems.

“M” stands for Money. Will you be able to use the US dollar, or will you need to exchange currency for your trip? If you’re traveling internationally, the answer is almost always yes. On a related note, do you need to notify any financial institutions that you will be traveling so that your transactions won’t be flagged as suspect?

“H” stands for Health. Will you need any special vaccinations to travel safely at your destination? Do you have the proper medications for yourself and your children in case someone falls sick? (We make a point to bring Motrin and Tylenol for our kids on most trips in case they are needed.) Will you need sunscreen and/or bug spray to protect your skin?

“I” number two stands for Inventory. (That’s just a fancy way of saying “packing list,” and we needed an I for the acrostic!) Take into consideration what the expected weather will be, as well as any special clothing or accessories that might be needed at your destination or excursions you plan to take.

These are some great guidelines to get you thinking about all the aspects of the planning process! They are a very helpful way to make sure your bases are covered.

 3. We PREPARE when traveling with kids.

When we are getting ready to travel with kids, we always make sure to discuss our plans as a family. We talk about our traveling expectations, what we plan to do while we are at our destination, and specific things that the kids might like to know about ahead of time. For example, food can be a battle for many children with strong preferences. It is a kindness to our kids if we prepare them for meals that might be different from their traditional fare (and sometimes it can really help to bring along some snacks if you think they might be needed). 

We also let our kids know when we will be packing – usually two or three days before we leave – so that we have time to look through their bags and make sure everything is ready to go. This ensures that we are less likely to miss something or bring many unnecessary items because we have plenty of time to make adjustments or take a last-minute shopping trip. We’ve also found that giving our kids each a packing list helps them make good decisions about their own belongings.

We make sure to talk about any special things we want to see and do as a family as well. Sometimes, it is a great idea to read or learn about something specific before the trip to enrich the experience. For example, we tried to learn about Machu Picchu and Peru’s culture before we traveled to South America. If you are working with a travel agent or a local coordinator as you plan, we definitely recommend trying to get as much information from them as possible to ensure that you have all the information that they consider to be important before you set out.

 4. We PAY when traveling with kids. 

Or rather, we figure out how and what we’re paying for by making a detailed budget! It’s important to have an accurate idea of your trip’s cost and ask yourself how much you plan to spend on the vacation. 

We recommend having the money saved before you travel rather than putting trip expenses on a credit card to be paid later. Remember, being good stewards of the blessing of traveling means also being wise with the money God has entrusted to us. We have found that abiding by the principle of buy now, consume later from the book Happy Money allows us to prepay for as many expenses as possible and plan responsibly.

As a bonus, it makes the “already paid” portion of the trip more enjoyable when a bill isn’t hanging over our heads! We also recommend you keep in mind the reality of potential unexpected expenses and be prepared for those. 

If you’re taking a road trip, car troubles could cause an unplanned detour and a cost that takes you by surprise. We once drove to San Antonio and had a wheel bearing on our van go bad. We ended up having to be towed, and the vehicle had to be repaired – a shocking twist to our vacation!

Our last two tips have to do with the kind of trip you plan to take. Our family typically takes one of two approaches to how to travel with kids: a family trip or a one-on-one. Family trips are exactly what they sound like – time for family! We generally try to travel often as a family, and we enjoy having this time together. 

Vacationing allows us to create special memories as a family unit and uniquely bonds us. We can share the entirety of the travel experience together: the anticipation, the destination, and the memories made. We also understand that our time traveling together will not last forever.

Our children are constantly growing and changing, and this precious time we have with them can’t last, even if it leads to other wonderful times. And so we make an effort to make lasting memories with them now, enjoying all of our time when our family is still just “us.” And this leads us to our final tip.

One-on-one trips with our children are an extra special way that we bond with them. Sometimes Derek will take long weekend trips with one of the kids, which creates a unique experience between parent and child that is not tied to daily routines or even traveling as a family. Trips like this allow the child to try more activities that they specifically desire, rather than participating in activities designed for our entire family. 

We value our children’s input, and they get to help choose what to do, where to go, what to eat, etc. This makes the trip even more meaningful to them. On the flip side, being with one child allows the parent to do more specific teaching or mentoring with that particular child. Such special time can lead to spontaneous conversations that leave a mark.

Children recognize that they are loved, important, and valued by their parents when they are willing to take time off and plan a trip for them individually. It also sets a good example for the child and teaches them the importance of being generous with their own gifts, a trait we hope and pray they pass along to others as they grow.

How This Works For Us:

· We try to have our trips planned for 6-15 months in advance, depending on the location and duration of the trip. This gives us plenty of time to get the right reservations and plans nailed down.

· We discuss upcoming trips as a family about once per week or every other week during our weekly family huddles.

· We get ideas from all family members regarding any new locations they would like to visit, either as a family or one-on-one with a parent.

· We discuss the cost of our trips and travel expenses with the kids to educate them about travel’s financial aspects.

· When each family member reflects on daily or weekly blessings, we try to mention our recent and upcoming trips and remind each of them that the trips we take are a gift from God and should be treated as such.

· Some of our children really enjoy the preparation process, and we do our best to encourage that. Leah will pack for trips weeks in advance as much as possible. She likes to bring special clothes on vacation – especially her one-on-one trips. She always wants to double-check her packing with a list we’ve prepared. She has a small travel bag full of things such as toothpaste, a toothbrush, and hair accessories. It is always ready to go and is easily packed for any trip. We’re pretty sure she’s more prepared than we are sometimes!

Check out these 6 Exciting Reasons to Practice Intentional Christian Stewardship of Travel with Your Kids.

Key Points

· As thankful and effective stewards of the gift of travel, we should spend time planning and preparing when traveling with kids.

· Budgeting for trip expenses will help us to be better stewards of our travel experiences and the financial resources we plan to use.

· Traveling with kids often provides unforgettable shared experiences and memories.

· One-on-one trips are a special way to demonstrate the parents’ love for their children and that each parent individually values them.

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