The “Secret” to Traveling with Children


I recently read an article from CNNGo about the "hard truth" of traveling with kids.  After a few paragraphs, I began to wonder if the author even HAD children and, if she does, felt a great deal of sorrow for them.

But I always have a hard time with anyone who doesn't see kids as a blessing, but a "curse" or an "oops" that they now have to figure out how to live with and around.

The truth is, for me, I don't like to travel without my children.  There was a time when my husband used to talk about taking a trip, just the 2 of us, to Europe.  I couldn't imagine it.  I never wanted an ocean between my little ones and me.  It's just not who I am, nor my husband anymore.

Not that there aren't challenges to traveling with children, because there are, but the benefits FAR outweigh the headaches.

When we used to take long trips in the car to visit family several states away, we had a few things we NEVER left home without:

  • Blankets and/or pillows to make the long drive more comfortable and, hopefully, allow the children to sleep some on the road.  It was also nice to have because no pillow sleeps as good as your own. :o)
  • Snacks, cups for everyone and a roll of paper towels.  Sometimes even an opened bag of breakfast cereal to eat at hotels that didn't have anything I liked.  Yes, I am a picky breakfast eater, much picker than my children.
  • DVDs to watch.  I hardly ever listened to music while driving, but have heard the movie Bolt more times than I can count.  If it keeps the children from fighting, I'm alright with that.
  • ONE toy per child.  Okay, this rule was broken often, but you have to let them bring something to play with.

Planning to travel overseas was a bit different.  Each child had her own backpack and she knew that the clothes went in first, toys went in last.  And if it didn't fit, it didn't go.


That's one thing about the article I mentioned above that I took offense to.  The author makes it seem like you have to pack the entire contents of your child's toy box for them to be happy on the trip.  But if it takes 100 pounds of toys to keep your children happy, you have bigger problems than traveling with children.


As for food options, I have a basic rule of thumb: if I can find something to eat, so can my kids!  Yes, they love french fries and chicken nuggets, but they have also learned that they like lentil soup, gallo pinto (rice and beans dish), tamales, among other dishes they'd never know they liked if we catered to their every want!

We really have only seen one major limiting factor when it comes to traveling with our children and that's the expense of getting to the destination.  Sure, $187 airline tickets are AWESOME until you multiply that by 7. 

I would much rather shell out $2K in airfare to build some amazing memories with my children than to leave them out.  I recall going to a fireworks show at EPCOT center one evening after a dinner ended at a MOPS conference and feeling SO alone without my children there to "Ooo" and "Aaa" with over the beautiful explosions overhead.  There I stood, with probably a good 3000 people around me, and all I wanted was my husband's and several pairs of little eyes to share the experience with.

Traveling with children, I believe, is as hard as you make it, or rather, a reflection of how your life is at home.  If you spend every waking minute wishing your kids weren't around OR trying to appease their every whim, travel will be no different.  However, if your children are used to expectations of being patient when things don't go as expected and know how to find ways to amuse themselves without 100 pounds of toys, they'll likely be just fine…and so will you.

I'm not the only traveling parent who took offense at many of the points in the article on CNNGo.  Here are some other family travel bloggers' responses:

A King's Life: The Surprisingly Easy Truth of Traveling with Kids

Worst Family Travel Advice I've Ever Read  by Gabi Klaf @The Nomadic Family.com

Debunking CNN's rules for traveling with kids by Mary @Bohemiantravelers

How Do you Travel with Children? by Alisa @ Living Outside of the Box

5 Rules of Travel With Kids: A Traveling Child Responds by Jennifer Miller

CNN's Ridiculous Rules About Travel With Kids by Corinne at Have Baby Will Travel (@hvbabywilltrvl)

Shocking Tips on Traveling with Kids That Went Unnoticed…It is Time to Demystify The Five Rules of Traveling with Kids by Claudia Looi @travelwritingpr

5 Amazing Reasons To Travel With Your Kids!

French fries and chicken nuggets are travel essentials: The worst family travel advice ever by Nancy Sathre-Vogel @familyonbikes

More Than French Fries by Lisa Shusterman

Rules are What You Make Them: Paving Your Own Way Through Family Travel by Jessica @Suitcases and Sippy Cups 

Why "Easy" Travel Options Aren't Always the Best for Kids- a Rebuttal to CNNGo "5 Rules of Traveling With Kids" by Jody Halsted; Family Rambling @iatraveler

CNNGo Five Rules of Travelling With Kids Are You For Real

Myths, NOT rules, of traveling with kids by Kate Rehkopf, Experiential Family @experientialfam

My Reality (Not Rules) When Traveling with Kids by Keryn Means/Walkingon Travels (twitter: @walkingontravel)

Forget the Rules of Travel – Try Backpacking with Kids in Yellowstone National Park by Sandra Foyt @sandrafoyt

"Yes ! It is possible to travel with children of all ages" by Susus 7 

5 Rules of Traveling with kids NOT to Follow

If you liked this article, you may like:

34 Responses to “The “Secret” to Traveling with Children”

  1. Shocking Tips on Traveling with Kids that Went Unnoticed…It is Time to Demystify The Five Rules of Traveling with Kids Says:

    [...] over the world:   1. A King's Life: The Surprisingly Easy Truth of Traveling with Kids 2. The "Secret" to Traveling with Children by Susan W 3. Worst Family Travel Advice I've Ever Read By Gabi Klaf 4. Debunking cnn's rules for [...]

  2. Best Family Travel Tips in One Place! Says:

    [...] The “Secret” to Traveling with Children by Susan W [...]

  3. Claudia Looi Says:

    Susan, I like traveling with my children as well. I agree with your statement "Traveling with children, I believe, is as hard as you make it, or rather, a reflection of how your life is at home". Happy traveling!

  4. Jennifer Miller Says:

    Best line in the whole rebuttal (all of which I loved): "But if it takes 100 pounds of toys to keep your children happy, you have bigger problems than traveling with children." AMEN. Kids are a BLESSING. Traveling with them is a PRIVILEGE and the MORE the MERRIER!! Well done.

  5. The Surprisingly Easy Truth of Traveling with Kids | A King's Life Says:

    [...] The “Secret” to Traveling with Children by Susan W [...]

  6. MORE THAN FRENCH FRIES Says:

    [...] The “Secret” to Traveling with Children [...]

  7. Mary Says:

    I agree and just hate the thought of experiencing anything really without the kids getting the experience with me.  It is an honor.  Why else have children in the first place?  All very well said!

  8. Myths, NOT rules, of traveling with kids - Experiential Family » Experiential Family Says:

    [...] The “Secret” to Traveling with Children by Susan W [...]

  9. Last Minute Travel Deals 24/7 | Why “Easy” Travel Options Aren’t Always the Best- a Rebuttal to CNNGo “5 Rules of Traveling With Kids” Says:

    [...] The “Secret” to Traveling with Children by Susan W [...]

  10. The world's worst family travel advice | Family on Bikes Says:

    [...] The “Secret” to Traveling with Children by Susan W from Family Travel Bucket List [...]

  11. Living Outside of the Box Says:

    I agree with Jennifer…you nailed it with the 100 pounds of toys quote. Seriously, traveling with children is not the issue. It is the parenting/child relationship in general!!

  12. Yes, You Can ! It is Possible to Travel With Kids of All Ages ! « Grow In Grace Life Says:

    [...] http://familytravelbucketlist.com/the-secret-to-traveling-with-children [...]

  13. Jessica Says:

    Like you, I don't feel like a trip is complete without my kids.  I went on a press trip recently to Sea World and while we were enjoying the Christmas lights show, i was just missing my kids and wishing they were there to share it with me.  Glad to know i am not alone.

  14. Rules are What you Make Them: Paving Your Own Way Through Family Travel Says:

    [...] The "Secret" to Traveling with Children by Susan @ Family Travel Bucket List [...]

  15. Marina K. Villatoro Says:

    Our secret is to make sure they have lots of room to run around between long flights, and on flights, we always try to sit in the way back, so that my baby can run around.
    But mainly, whenever we go anywhere, it's important that my kids have entertainment and when they are engaged, we have a blast!

  16. My Reality (Not Rules) When Traveling with Kids « walkingon travels Says:

    [...] The “Secret” to Traveling with Children by Susan W/ Family Travel Bucket List [...]

  17. How do you travel with children? | Living Outside of the Box Says:

    [...]  The “Secret” to Traveling with Children -Family Travel Bucket List [...]

  18. Julie Melnick Says:

    Traveling with kids is hard work but SO WORTH IT! I launched a site this past year called http://www.nannyintheclouds.com that is designed to give moms an extra hand while flying to their destination. It is a matchmaking site which brings together moms traveling with their young kids with babysitters already booked on the same flight! It's an affordable way to get help while getting from point a to point b. Check us out!

  19. InACents Says:

    Anytime anyone second guesses us again for taking our kids along on long vacations, I am going to point them to this article and the awesome group of other bloggers that feel the same way…that the kids can and should come along for the adventure. Everything about this article (not the CNN version) hit the nail on the head with exactly how we feel too. Great job!

  20. Yellowstone National Park | Backpacking with Kids Says:

    [...] The “Secret” to Traveling with Children by Susan W from Family Travel Bucket List. [...]

  21. lisa Shusterman Says:

    I have enjoyed a few small trips with just my husband since our kids were born, but then half of what you talk about are your kids.  The other half is spent shopping for gifts for them.  Might just as well bring them along :-)

  22. Jody Says:

    I feel the same way!  It was never a question of  will we travel with kids but of how best can we travel with kids? 

    I don't understand the thought that kids must be entertained all the time.  Down time is good.  Imagination is good.  And, sometimes, just staring out an airplane window at clouds is really, really good!

  23. Sandra Foyt Says:

    That phrase "SO alone without my children" really spoke to me. Now that my kids are getting older, I don't get to spend nearly as much time with them as I might like. But I can look back fondly on travel experiences that we shared, and that helped cement us as a family. I'm grateful for that, and wish the same joy to others. How sad it must be to be so negative about family travel as the author of the 5 rules article!

  24. w/ Says:

    [...] The “Secret” to Traveling with Children by Susan W [...]

  25. walkingon travels Says:

    I love this line "But if it takes 100lbs of toys to make your children happy, you have bigger problems than traveling with children." Ain't that the truth? We have a quart size ziplock bag of toys that goes in my purse. That's it. That's all he gets. You know what he plays the most with from that tiny bag? The toy airplane. Cause really, why not fly your own plane when you are on a plane. He loves it. The rest of the time he walks to aisles or watches a movie. Because like you, if it keeps the peace, I am fine with a little TV while getting to our destination. Plus I get to sit back and read a book. Everyone wins!

  26. A King's Life Says:

    Was I the one to introduce you to lentil soup?  I'm proud of that, if I was.

    Having met your wonderful family in Costa Rica I can say that your 5 children have awesome, conscientious parents that, aside from mom's food picky-ness, are awesome travelers ;)

    Looking forward to more posts from your clan.

  27. Corinne @ Have Baby Will Travel Says:

    We've also yet to take that romantic couples' trip – simply because I know we'll spend the entire time thinking about how much they'd enjoy what we're doing!

  28. Lisa Wood Says:

    There was so much in the(CNNG)) article that I did not agree on! We are travelling with four of our five boys, and wished we had done it sooner!
    We can't ever imagined living them at home and travelling without them – and like you said, its all about making amazing memories, and watching something fantastic together!
    We also let our kids experience new places, and new food – they love travelling to where ever we go!
    Cheers
    Lisa

  29. Monique Says:

    I've had that experience of being at Disney World for a conference without my kids and feeling like I was only getting part of the experience.  Kids do add something very special to travel. They have such a wonderful and innocent perspective on the world.

  30. Susan Verbeeck Says:

    It's true that it is not always smooth and easy ( the long car trips and the frenzy of the airports) but sometimes those crazy moments are the memory making ones. We fly non rev. standby and most times have to need to spread the family in random open seats on the airplane! It is really funny to see them settling in next to a stranger and having nice chats with them during the flight. 
    Many times, due to having so many children and the fact that I am 48 now, I do need to be alone ( to finish a thought in my head and find a quiet time of peace ! ) But like you, when I am traveling I want my whole family with me to share in every exciting encounter !
    Susan

  31. Nancy Sathre-Vogel from Family on Bikes Says:

    I am so glad I'm not alone! Love this part: "if it takes 100 pounds of toys to keep your children happy, you have bigger problems than traveling with children." <–AMEN!

    Kids are GREAT travelers – much better than most adults. Why do people not see that?

  32. Rules are What you Make Them: Paving Your Own Way Through Family Travel Says:

    [...] The “Secret” to Traveling with Children by Susan @ Family Travel Bucket List [...]

  33. The Worse Family Travel Advice I’ve Ever Read | The Nomadic Family Says:

    [...] “Secret” to Traveling with Children by Susan W (like to keep my last name off) http://familytravelbucketlist.com/the-secret-to-traveling-with-children  Debunking cnn’s rules for traveling with kids by Mary @Bohemiantravelers [...]

  34. The Worse Family Travel Advice I’ve Ever Read | The Nomadic Family Travel Blog Says:

    [...] “Secret” to Traveling with Children by Susan W (like to keep my last name off) http://familytravelbucketlist.com/the-secret-to-traveling-with-children  Debunking cnn’s rules for traveling with kids by Mary @Bohemiantravelers [...]

Leave a Reply