Family Travel Information, Tips, Advice and Ideas
Is it really enjoyable to travel with Children?
The short answer is YES! But, as well as being a wonderful experience, family travel is often hard work. We usually use the term 'experience' rather than 'holiday' when talking about family travel!
By adjusting our 'holiday' expectations downwards, we are often pleasantly surprised with reality, rather than having high expectations shattered. This mindset works wonders!
Children in any environment require the constant input, help and supervision of parents. They need to be fed, clothed, bathed, played with and taught things. This is the same at home, or when away.
Sometimes the necessities of life are easier when you travel because:
- There are often two parents available
- There are usually less outside pressures such as jobs, phone calls, weekly commitments and television.
Rottnest Island quokka
- There is ready access to lots of natural, healthy 'entertainment' - beaches, rivers, mountains to explore, new friends to meet and play with, as well as countless man-made attractions - museums, galleries, mines, craft workshops etc.
But often the basic life activities are more difficult and/or more time consuming. For example:
- Finding public toilets or walking children to toilets in campgrounds/caravan parks (several times a day!)
- Grocery shopping - finding the store, locating items, and planning meals when unsure of access to the ingredients.
- Washing clothes - locating laundromats (and waiting around while the washing is done) or hand washing.
- Visiting public amenities for showers, or heating water for your DIY bathing. Bathing is truly a 'planned event' with young children (you can't just put them in the bath at a moment's notice as you do at home).
But don't be put off, family travel is rewarding, worthwhile, and fun. Your family will bond, and enjoy the experience from the viewpoint of the various life stages of your family members.
See our "Tips for the Travelling Life" page for top ideas and advice on carrying out these everyday activities while travelling with children.
Travelling with Babies and Young Children.
Is it possible or wise to travel with babies or young children?
It is certainly possible, and not at all unwise to travel with babies or young children. We strongly suggest a degree of prior planning and preparation though, to ensure that your family travel time is not just endured, but enjoyed!
Some Advantages of Travelling with Babies and/or Young Children (over older children):
- If you plan your driving times around naps, the motion of the car will often lull the children into a very good sleep, and driving time is peaceful and enjoyable.
- The choice of where to go and what to do is all yours! Older children require/demand more input into destinations and activities which can increase family conflict (especially with many children with different interests!)
- Almost all accommodation and activities are free for babies and young children. Some caravan parks start charging for children as young as 2 years old, and most by the time a child is 4 years old. Many activities are free for children under school age. Don't underestimate how much older children cost for accommodation and activities - enjoy this advantage while the children are young.
Some Disadvantages of Travelling with Babies and/or Young Children (over older children):
- It is difficult to maintain a consistent rountine (which many babies and young children thrive on). This can obviously lead to tired and cranky children.
- Preparing bottles and home-made baby food is much more difficult than at home.
- Children are too young to remember the details of the trip. (Our view is that they still benefit enormously from access to a variety of surroundings, spending quantity and quality time with their family, and experiencing things they normally wouldn't).
- Children are too young to participate in many activities and often restrict what you are able to do.
Link to our 10 Essential items to pack when travelling with children page for a list of 'must have' items to pack for day-trips and longer term travel.
See our "Tips for Travelling with Babies and Young Children" to help you make the most of your family travel.
Family Travel Safety
Keeping your children safe while travelling is a major concern for parents. Parents need to have a heightened awareness of safety while travelling because the surroundings are often unfamiliar (to you and your children), and the dangers can be different to those you have at home.
Being in unfamiliar surroundings, and participating in activities you normally wouldn't, can lead to incidents and accidents occurring because you are simply unaware of, or unprepared for the dangers.
Realising the need for a greater awareness of safety in an unfamiliar environment is the first step to keeping your children safe. This should be followed by a conscious assessment of risks as you approach new surroundings and activities, and deciding on and communicating with your children, what you believe is needed to keep them safe.
See our Family Travel Safety Tips for ideas on how to keep your children safe in various environments - including car safety, beach/river/waterhole safety, bushwalking safety, and so on, and for some general safety ideas for family travel.
One of the best aspects of family travel is the increased amount of time you get to spend together, and be available to one another.
Time to experience new environments, activities and adventures, or even just time to go about the mundane aspects of life in an unhurried way or in different surroundings.
Don't let all this time simply slip by. Make some purposeful choices to use the time wisely and create the bonds and memories that will last a lifetime.
See our "Tips for Family Bonding" for ideas on how to make the most of this unique opportunity of family travel to knit your family more tightly together.
Looking to fill in some travelling hours, have some fun, enhance family bonding, or try something new? Then try playing some games.
See our ideas on "Travel Games" suitable for various travel situations and ages.
Children's Best Age for Travel
We are often asked "When are children at the best age for travelling?" We don't have a simple answer for this question, but just a few ideas for consideration by the family asking. As each family's circumstances are unique, what may be a good time for one family, may just not be right for another.
- Is the trip to be short or long? If short - within reason, just about every time is good. Make the most of your opportunities to experience the benefits of travel with your family. The longer the duration of the planned trip, the more consideration that will be required to make a wise decision.
- Do you feel comfortable Home-Schooling or using Distance Education? If not, you will need to travel before the child is of school age, travel during school holidays, or only travel for the time acceptable to your school (usually 3-6 mths maximum).
- Would you like your child settled in a school for a particular age period? Eg Kindergarten or High School?
- Parents work situation. For example:
- You have long service leave due, or other leave available.
- You are between jobs, and may not be able to get leave for a length of time after beginning a new job.
- Housing situation. Sometimes having sold a house and not having bought another is a good time to travel. Or maybe you have someone available who could rent or house-sit for you.
- Life stresses. If you are in the midst of, or have just come through a particularly stressful situation in your life, some time spent travelling may assist in healing you, give you time away to think and give you some added perspective.
As you can see above, many of our considerations for the 'best age for travelling children' has little to do with the children themselves, and much to do with the entire family circumstance.
Each age of children has its advantages and disadvantages. Small children aren't physically able to bushwalk long distances, dive, snorkel etc, but older children may miss their friends terribly or be keen to keep a part-time job that they currently have or not miss out on large chunks of high school.
Each family must carefully weigh the pros and cons of the timing of travel for their unique circumstances. But be careful of waiting for the 'perfect time' - there's a high probability that it will never come! (Many people have to take a 'good time' and JUST DO IT).
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