10 tips for adventurous travel with young kids
In the coming weeks and months I’m hoping to bring you some guest posts from other travel bloggers and writers. There’s families from all over the UK having brilliant adventures with their kids and I’m very excited to be able to share some of these to you. First up is Jenny from Travelynn Family. She is a master of adventurous travel with young kids and is currently on an epic trip. But I’ll let her share more about that. What I wanted to know from her was: how does she do it? Over to Jenny:
I’m sat typing this in my Land Rover roof tent, on the shores of Lake Malawi, with my youngest curled up asleep next to me. We’ve been travelling through Africa for a month now with our two boys (aged 2 and 4), and still have a few months left to take us through Tanzania, Zambia and Botswana. I never want it to end!
As a family, we love adventure travel and have found ways to make it work for us. Over the past few years, our boys have been trekking in the Nepalese Himalayas, meditated with monks in Thailand, slept on overnight trains in India, explored temples of Sri Lanka, and walked amongst giraffes in Southern Africa. But now and again we also love a cosy country cottage in the Peak District and our Eurocamp holidays! We haven’t got anything against the conventional package holiday; in fact once in a while, ease and familiarity is what you need. However, more often than not, we just yearn for something more.
Adventure travel can be hard to define but I believe it’s independent travel that steps you out of your comfort zone and challenges you to do something different. It doesn’t necessarily have to be to a far-flung, exotic destination. A road trip across Europe, renting a canal boat on the Norfolk Broads, or even a long hike to a village pub. As long as it’s new and exciting, it’s adventurous! I’ve learnt a few things along the way with our family travels across the globe, and am still learning! So I thought I’d share with you my ten tips for adventurous travel with young kids:
1. Don’t jump in at the deep end
Some destinations can be more confronting than others. For instance, I wouldn’t recommend India to a family if they had not experienced another Asian destination; the culture shock can be quite overwhelming. Indeed, we visited a few ‘easier’ destinations before embarking on this current overland trip through Africa. One of our favourite early family trips has to be Essaouria in Morocco. An easy flight from the UK and a compact city with medina, port and beach to explore. There were still familiar Western comforts, but with the right amount of ‘intrepid’ sprinkled in.
2. Learn from previous trips
We are constantly evolving the way we travel. Every trip teaches us something new and we incorporate this into the next. Each family is different and it takes time to find what works for you.
3. Allow for downtime
New places, new cultures, new people can be an sensory overload for little minds. We find that the boys need more sleep when we’re travelling and a nap works wonders, even if your kids stopped napping back at home a long time ago. You know your own kids, don’t push it. Similarly, Mum and Dad need to check-out now and again from parenting. If there are two parents, book in time where each parent can have some time to themselves. If you’re travelling solo, find other families so your little ones have some new pals to do the entertaining for a while.
4. Allow time for play
Kids still need to be kids. If you have a long travel day, or you’re on safari, or doing a long walk, slow down and incorporate a stop or two along the way for play. When we visit cities, we always try and find a playground. Or if we’re doing a long drive, we find a nice grassy spot along the way to kick a ball around. Similarly, once a week we find it beneficial to stay somewhere with a beach or pool.
5. Plan journey times around naps/downtime
Kids are a lot easier to manage when they haven’t got energy to burn off. If the next destination is just two or three hours away, we try and time it for after lunch. More often than not, if we’ve had a busy morning, the boys will fall asleep and us parents can catch up!
6. Always have snacks with you
Sourcing meals when travelling can be unpredictable. Restaurant orders can be delayed, hunger can strike early after an activity-filled morning, and you may not know if the next town has a supermarket or not. A packet of biscuits in your day bag can save a morning from total meltdown.
7. Treat yourselves with nicer accommodation
If you went backpacking in a previous life, you were probably on a very tight budget and stayed in some questionable accommodation. With young kids, you may have to spend a little bit more to keep everyone comfortable and ensure a good night’s sleep. Essentials for us are an ensuite bathroom, temperature controlled room, good location and fridge to store milk and snacks. Although as the boys get older, we find we don’t have to be so strict. We certainly don’t carry around a toilet with our Land Rover!
8. Pack light
We like to travel with backpacks so that each parent has two hands free to hold children and fulfil their never-ending demands. Last thing you need when jumping on a crowded bus with kids is large heavy suitcases. You can always buy clothes on the road and we tend to wash underwear every few days in the sink. And keep toys to a minimum. We take a couple of small favourites for each child and some craft activities, but generally the boys find old bottle tops, sticks and stones to play with. Also, pack a good medical kit for all eventualities. Calpol, Diorlyte, plasters, thermometer, Sudocrem are essentials for us.
9. Keep it real
Tantrums, meltdowns and whinging still happen away from home. Indeed, travel is sometimes just everyday parenting with a different backdrop. You still need to be switched on as parents. However, new destinations create new sensory playgrounds, and we often find the novelty value holds attention longer. Plus, there isn’t a house to clean and maintain, and you may be eating out more, meaning no cooking and washing dishes! That certainly makes parenting life easier.
10. Now is the time!
Don’t leave it until they’re older and can supposedly appreciate it better. Family travel is all about spending time together, bonding and creating memories to last a lifetime. Once kids are in the school system, travel can become rather inflexible and expensive! Plus, those early years can be such a sleep deprived blur. Do something different and adventurous that you will remember and cherish.
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