It might involve a little more planning and fewer nights dancing on beaches, but having kids needn’t limit your travelling prospects, so says travel blogger Nellie Huang (wildjunket.com), author of new kids’ book, Explorers: Amazing Tales of the World’s Greatest Adventures.
She travels the world with her four-year-old daughter, and here shares her top tips for how families can go adventuring and exploring together, without it becoming a logistical and fretful nightmare…
1. Don’t wait to travel, go now!
Many people are hesitant to travel adventurously with their kids for many reasons. ‘We’ll wait until they can remember,’ they say. But there is so much to gain from bringing your small kids outdoors and getting them to experience new things at a young age. You’ll stimulate their interest in the world, encourage them to appreciate nature and to be open to new cultures and experiences.
My daughter is only four, but I already notice the impact travel has on her. She is curious, adaptable and independent, and her sense of adventure is growing with each exciting trip we take.
2. A family that goes on adventures together, stays together
Having adventures together is a great way to build stronger bonds with kids and create precious memories as a family. Overcoming fears and pushing your collective comfort zone can bring your family closer.
At home, we are often so caught up with our daily grind we are not truly present. But while on an adventure, you’ll find yourself more focused and attentive, and definitely in higher spirits.
I will always remember the excitement in my daughter’s eyes when she spotted her first giraffe on a wildlife safari in South Africa. And the time when she stood at the top of a sand dune in the Sahara Desert, and shouted, ‘I’m on top of the world!’ It’s moments like these that are so precious.
3. Adjust your expectations
I’ll be the first to admit that travelling with small kids can be difficult, especially when you’re a new parent. But with some adjustments and proper planning, it is possible.
Let’s say you’re an avid hiker and love going on trekking trips. You can still go on long-distance hikes with a baby or toddler on a hiking carrier. But once your kid is three or four, it might be wise to plan short hikes rather than venturing on 10km trails.
For culture vultures who like museums and historical sites, I would recommend picking out just one or two sites to visit on a trip, rather than trying to hit every single one of them.
4. Go slow and let your kids play
Regardless of how old your kids are, it’s best to take things slow when adventuring with kids. Try not to plan too many activities and give them time to adjust and rest.
Small kids, in particular, need a certain routine in order to feel safe and happy. Routines can take place anywhere, regardless of time-zone. For example, you can plan your drives around your kids’ nap time or read their favourite book before bed.
All kids want to do is play, so make sure to give them the time for that. Play games during game drives or hikes, and stop at playgrounds during long drives.
5. Plan trips involving nature and wildlife
Travelling with a kid doesn’t mean you need to stick to Disneyland or all-inclusive resorts. Based on my experience, kids do well on road trips as there are lots of variations every day in terms of experiences and things you see. My husband and I love road trips too, as it’s a convenient way to get around and explore the back roads.
A destination with plenty of nature and wildlife is always a huge hit with kids. Children need space to run around, play and have fun — where better than out in nature?
Iceland, South Africa, and Costa Rica (all of which are my daughter’s favourite countries) are perfect for nature-loving kids. An African safari with kids can be so much fun, especially for older children who know a thing or two about animals. It’s also really fun to travel Morocco with kids, as there’s a huge variety of things to do, ranging from running up and down dunes in the Sahara to surfing on the beaches of Agadir.
6. You don’t have to go far to have an adventure
An adventure doesn’t necessarily mean jaunting to a faraway land - you can have an adventure right in your backyard. There are countless of exciting, bold ways to have an adventure together as a family just minutes from home.
7. Pack light
Families tend to over-pack and end up travelling with more stuff than they can carry. I understand the need to bring items that kids are familiar with, but limit that to one or two items.
I’m a strong believer in ‘less is more’. The less you travel with, the more convenient it will be for your family to move around. Lugging around lots of luggage will only lead to frustration. The most important thing to remember packing is medication.
If you miss something you need, you can always buy it at your destination. It might be trickier when travelling in a developing country, but we’ve never had any problems finding milk, fruit or nappies, even in Timor-Leste and Haiti.
Explorers: Amazing Tales of the World’s Greatest Adventures by Nellie Huang, illustrated by Jessamy Hawke is published by DK children. Available now.