I travelled the world for ten months with my partner and two kids. Spending 24/7 with your children for that long is a privilege I will never take for granted. But I would be lying if I said it was all happy sunsets and lazy days. It was exhausting. I googled the hell out of travelling the world with kids before we left, followed all the glamorous travelling families on Instagram, but nobody mentioned how hard it would be.
But the truth was there all along. From our first flight to San Francisco to our last flight back from Saigon: Put your own oxygen mask on first. It took a few flights to appreciate the significance of these words. Travelling for long periods with your kids takes its toll. Think public parenting, tsunami toddler meltdowns and more lollipop bribes than you will every admit to your family dentist.
I will not gloss over the mental resilience it takes to up sticks and take your offspring around the world.
Whether you have easy going kids or feisty spirited ones like mine you are going to need this advice:
Advice I wish a travelling family would have given to me before we hit the road. Parents, look after yourself.
1. Lower all expectations of a perfect family holiday: Your kids will moan. Your kids will have public meltdowns. Your kids will be bored. They won’t want to get on the train. Some days your kids will have too much screen time. Let it go. Sorry to burst your bubble Lou Reed but there is no such thing as a perfect day… with kids only perfect moments. And do your best not to let an early set back ruin your whole day.
2. Use social media with caution: When things start to go pear-shape, stop looking at social media. Mindlessly scrolling through picture-perfect families at the top of Machu Picchu will get you nowhere. It will make you anxious, make you feel inadequate and leave you wondering whether there is something wrong with your family. Rest assured behind every perfectly curated travelling family Instagram feed are two parents losing it too.
3. Meditate: Without getting too touchy-feely on you, I would recommend spending a bit of time getting to grips with the mind before you leave, this can help hugely with the letting go part of parenting on the road. I used a great app called Clementine along the way which really helped with stress and overall well-being. Headspace is also great for beginners and exercises are easy to do on the go.
4. Split up… not literally obviously. If you are travelling with more than one kid, don’t be afraid to split into teams. One parent and a child do one thing, the other parent and your other kid(s) do something else, and you all meet back up at the end of the day. We spent many a happy day not being all together.
5. Phone home: Listen to ET and phone home. It’s not because you are doing something amazing that you will be on top of the world every day. Your trip is not a failure if you are not enjoying every minute. Travelling 24/7 with your family sure does narrow your perspective. Talking to someone living in the real world back home really helps.
6. Alone time: Spend some time alone. The holy grail of travelling with kids is hard to come by. Organise some me time. An hour, a morning or hell a whole day. You will be a better parent for it. Take it in turns.
7. Exercise: Physical activity releases dopamine into the brain and dopamine makes you feel good. You know once you have been for that run/swim you will feel better. There are so many ways to keep active when travelling: A run on the beach, a swim in the pool, a workout from You Tube. Preferably alone.
8. Kids clubs: Holiday resorts with kids’ clubs might not be your thing. It wasn’t necessarily ours. But when you travel for so long a resort can be a god send. Plan your budget accordingly. Slotting in a few stops in resorts with kids’ clubs can give you a break from constantly organising activities. Kids can mix with other kids and parents can spend some time alone by the pool. Happy kids = happy parents.
9. Music: Start curating your pick-me-up playlist. While I used to use my hypnotherapy app to take the edge off a tough travel day, my partner used to listen to music. Nothing like a bit of French indie rock to keep you going.
10. Pamper: If you are travelling the world, south east Asia will no doubt be on your destination list at some point. Great food, great weather, welcoming people and still relatively cheap. Massages, spa days, manicures and pedicures, there is loads to choose from for all budgets.
Quitting our London life to explore what the world had to offer was one of the best decisions we ever made as a family. What an adventure! But thinking through how you and your partner will keep an even keel is well worth it. Let the in-flight message be a constant reminder.
We felt so passionately about taking our kids around the world, we created an online course to help you do the same:
How to travel the world with kids launches in January. Four weeks, four modules, ten spaces. Build confidence to make the best decision of your life. Save money to fund it and get the most out of it without loosing your mind.
Get your 20% early bird discount now.
To read more about Katie’s family adventures check out her blog.
Follow her on Instagram.
Written by Katie Tucker
Katie Tucker is a writer, traveller and entrepreneur. She quit her corporate job in 2018 to go travelling with her family. Katie now advises businesses and charities on all things management. She also supports other adventurous families planning long-term travel with kids. She lives in London with her partner and two kids.