Travel with kids

| November 30, 2008

When travelling with children, keep it simple and don’t take things too seriously.

The Holiday season is upon us and many will be looking forward to traveling somewhere different to really give them the holiday spirit. I have just finished my travels and this season will be staying put, but I have a few words of wisdom that may be helpful for you if you plan to travel anywhere with kids.

I have two sons aged 6 and 3 and we have just finished a five month stint traveling down the east coast of the USA, the UK, Israel and Italy. My husband worked for most of the trip while the kids and I explored.

When traveling with kids my first piece of advice is to KIS (keep it simple). Once the flights were over and we had found our feet in our new location, I found that having a plan to do only ONE thing per day was more than enough – whether it be a trip to a book store, a trip to a museum or a visit to the library, it always worked best for me if I knew we weren’t rushing anywhere. A child and parent’s worst enemy is the clock. When you are trying to push a 3 year old to do something quickly when they really don’t want to do it, you are bound for disaster. Children need time to digest what is around them. We sometimes spent 3 hours at Borders Books in Philadelphia reading, talking to other kids, getting lunch at the café and reading some more. That was a whole morning gone and by then the kids were tired.

In Italy, where none of us spoke Italian, passing the time was a little trickier. We were there for 4 weeks. In a city like Rome it is a crime not to expose your kids to the history the city has to offer, regardless of their age, so we spent hours walking the streets. Get yourself a good stroller is lesson number one. You can’t expect young children to want to walk as much as an adult.

In Rome I spent many days repeating past experiences. Children are happy to revisit places over and over again. Large parks and gardens are a perfect place for kids to keep going back to and in Rome the Villa Borghese is just as entertaining for adults as it is for kids. The bus ride to the gardens was half the fun, so if you are with kids, try and take as much public transport as possible – it is always a treat for them.

Don’t take things too seriously when you travel with kids. Before you go out for the day, get your expectations in check so you won’t be disappointed if your kids don’t eat nicely with a knife and fork when you are out for lunch for the 6th day in a row. Children should know how to behave when they have to, but be realistic, they are kids and they don’t think eating out is fun all the time. While we were in Rome, we often took Italian DVDs and played them for the kids while we ate dinner. The kids loved the movies and we figured it was educational as they were hearing Italian words for duration of the film and we had some peace and quiet while we ate.

Divide your time. None of us are meant to spend 24/7 together, so why do we expect that to work on holiday? We all need a bit of down time. I found that sometimes it was invaluable for me to take one child and have special time just with them while my husband had the other one. We split for a few hours and then regrouped and told each other about our special outings.

I have learnt hundreds of lessons on this trip, but the most important one is how fulfilling and bonding traveling with your family can be. So enjoy your travels this holiday season, in the end you will forget all the difficult times and the hiccups and be left with fantastic memories and lots of photos to relive the experience for the rest of your life.

Catherine Fritz-Kalish is co-founder and General Manager of Global Access Partners (GAP) – a proactive and influential network which initiates high-level discussions at the cutting edge of the most pressing commercial, social and global issues of today. Catherine’s broad business experience includes coordination of a number of international initiatives for the SME unit of the OECD (Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development) at headquarters in Paris, marketing and brand management within all seven divisions of the George Weston Foods Group, and working within the TCG Group of Companies in the area of start-up incubator establishment.,



  1. sally.rose

    December 2, 2008 at 1:31 am

    Enjoying one thing at a time

    Your advice not to try and jam too much in to each day doesn't only apply when travelling with kids. There are times I've regretted leaving a place or activity I was enjoying because I felt under pressure to adhere to a self imposed schedule to fit "everything"  a city had to offer in to a short stay.  It will never happen, and you can't go wrong by just enjoying what you're enjoying.

  2. Juliet Bourke

    December 2, 2008 at 2:53 am

    Don’t underestimate the value of difference

    Great tips – can I add just one more –

    It seems to me that often when we choose a holiday that includes children we try for a location that will be easy for them to adjust to  – ie because of its similarity with their home territory.  I'm thinking here of holiday resorts in fiji or road trips in the US – which look and feel remarkably like a beach in Australia or a trip down the great oean road.  Add to that a similarity of food for those picky child palates and the risk factor of having a bad (from a child's perspective – and therefore a parent's) holiday is diminished. 

    This unconscious aim was brought home to me recently when we took our children (aged 8 and 13) to Japan and stayed in traditional japanese accommodation (read here communal bathhouses, sleeping on tatami mats and eating the full range of Japanese cuisine). 

    When I asked my 8 year old for her take on the best aspect of the holiday she said "experiencing a different culture".  I was dumbstruck.  She went on to explain, "our culture is about beaches and BBQs and theirs is about tradition".  It was not what I had expected (I thought she would talk about specific sites we had seen like the deer park).  She made me realise that children (like adults) value different experiences – and being taken out of their comfort zones.

     Juliet Bourke    


  3. queenbee14

    December 2, 2008 at 4:25 am

    kids and travel

    all great ideas. I have travelled with my son from when he was 4 months old. We have been to Europe twice and the USA 3 times and I totally recommend it for families. My son has seen and learned so much from our travels and has a bigger view of the world than his own town. 

    I would say that making some days all about activities for kids is important and then having educational days and other days where the children have to fit into adult activity.

    Plane travel is much easier now as most flights have individual screens with kids show running on a loop (although not recommended on a daily basis), and often being in a plane is so exciting for kids that they enjoy the experience. Having a new toy that can be given to the child mid flight is a great way to get through those long haul flights to Europe. There are ear plugs call plane ears that are essential for kids as it stops the pressure in the ears and make flying more pleasurable.

    I think road trips are not as easy with kids unless you travel small distances, buses, trains and boats are much more fun and a novel experience for children.

    Ultimately the experiences your children will have will be worth any difficulties you face on the way.