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Must-Follow Tips for Traveling with Kids

Traveling with kids is easier, and more fun, than you think.

By David PorterPublished 5 years ago 4 min read

I have plenty of tips for traveling with children. It’s actually traveling with “child,” in my case, since I only have one. I love traveling with my son, Leo, who was born in August of 2010 in Nicosia, Cyprus, the easternmost island in the Mediterranean. We’ve done a lot of traveling in Europe, including tours of the Aegean, Athens, Israel, Milan, Venice, Vienna and Lisbon, which we visited in 2012 to see Bruce Springsteen play at Rock in Rio, and in the USA where, during the summer of 2016, we visited eight states! We’ve been on boats, in cars, on planes and on trains. We’ve eaten grilled octopus on a beach outside Mykonos Town and rode a gondola under the Rialto Bridge; we’ve swam in the waves of the Jersey Shore and picked blueberries in Rhode Island. And there’s plenty more to come.

Pack Light

You’ll see as your kid gets older that you’ll need less and less stuff. At first, with young kids, you carry extra stuff, so much so you feel like a Pink Floyd tour, if a Pink Floyd tour required baby food and granola bars. My first travel tip is, of course, pack light. It’s impossible to do with young children, particularly babies and toddlers, as you’ll have to take a stroller with you, but try—even if you don’t pack light for your progeny, you can pack less of your own stuff. Don’t be anxious about having enough change of clothes or wearing the same pair of jeans for three or four days – socks and underwear and clean t-shirts take up far less room in your hand luggage than jeans and dress shirts and sweaters. And yes, one pair of comfortable shoes is enough, especially if you’re traveling to a major city, where bootblacks abound. As for a car seat, don’t worry – just about every car rental company will provide you with one, so you don’t have to schlep yours.

Plan Ahead

Of all my travel tips, I think the most important is to plan, plan and plan. Have an itinerary and line it up with a map, find the best things for kids everywhere you go. Museums are easy with an infant or a toddler, just pop them in a stroller and roll. On our first trip with our son, when he was about 14 months, we visited Rome, which is great for toddlers. He ran all over the Forum and the Piazza Navona (fountains!), and we spent a lot of time in the Villa Borghese, Rome’s Central Park and home to some outstanding gelato (this describes all of Italy, pretty much). Planning is important, but so is flexibility – you have to duck and weave when you’re on the road and out of your element. In Rome, for example, it’s hard to find diapers, so we put a lot of time into visiting supermarkets; once we had the diapers, I couldn’t find a changing table anywhere and ended up changing Leo’s diaper with one hand in a somewhat damp and dank café men’s room at Piazza Navona.

Ask For Help

Don’t fret about air travel, it’s easy. Most airlines let you travel with a kid on your lap until he or she turns two, and you can always let your kinder roam the aisle between takeoff and landing – one flight with Leo, when he was around two, he disappeared with a little girl from Germany into a lavatory, where they were experimenting with the faucet. Your flight attendant and her colleagues will most likely love your kid and will be happy to provide you with whatever you need – hot water, crayons, extra bread…just ask. And definitely check-in online so you can just dump your luggage and head to the gate. Security at every airport is pretty miserable, but with a fidgety kid it’s sort of unbearable.

Be Spontaneous

The older your kids get the easier it is to travel with them and the more fun it is. For our trip to Lisbon, just before Leo turned two, I put together a comprehensive itinerary. Thanks to Google it’s easy to plan ahead, and I found an electricity museum in Lisbon, which is also home to a great zoo, the Jardim Zoologico, replete with a cable car that travels over the zoo for a 20-minute ride (no child can resist it!). Beyond my plans, it turned out one of Lisbon’s streetcars is a cable car, with a stop near our pension, and Leo and I took an early-evening ride through some of the city’s loveliest neighborhoods. And our pension was on the Praca de Figeuira, where innumerable youthful skateboarders plied their trade, and Leo loved watching them skate across the pavement. So yes, plan ahead, but keep your eyes and ears open once you’re on the ground.

Here’s the roundup, a final short list of tips for traveling with kids. First, leave the DVD player at home. Travel is our chance to soar beyond the everyday, the scheduled, the regular, the mundane, the expected…give your kids something different, even if it’s boredom. If you’re off to a foreign country or a new city, force them to sit and stare out the window, draw, keep a journal…talk to your kid’s teacher and see if he or she can help you design an extra credit project based on your travels. Engage and immerse. As Mark Twain once said, “broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all of one’s lifetime.” Bon voyage!

family travel

About the Creator

David Porter

David A. Porter has been the editor at large for Stereo Embers Magazine, an online music site, since 2007. David received an MFA in Creative Writing and an MA in English from San Francisco State University. He is a Rutgers graduate.

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