Family travel memories

Creating the best souvenirs

Monet’s water lily garden in Giverny, France.

We end our Family Travel Blog Series this week with reflection on how to keep the memories of your special travels alive for your kids to value throughout their lives.

We hope you have found inspiration and motivation throughout this series. Much gratitude to Regina at Fulltime Field Trip for heading up the project!

Our tips from World Wise Kid

Photos – We take lots of photos and video on our smartphones. While many we delete, a few amazing photos will be lifelong treasurers. The best images appear in our annual calendar and in photo books we order through Shutterfly. Some, we enlarge and frame.

Maps – For each region where we travel, we collect a paper map and draw our route in marker. This map gets tucked into the photobook and shared alongside the images. We also have a world map on the wall at home which continues to document where we have been, and where our next trip might take us.

Stories – The more we talk about our travels, the more the stories are embedded in our long-term memory. We encourage the kids to share their impressions with other travelers, and with friends once we return home. My son enjoys recording an audio clip of some of our silly moments. He then puts them it to a digital animation video.

Journals – My daughter and I love to write descriptions of places we go. We will describe the inside of a train station or coffee shop, or the feeling of sitting on a beach with the sunset and sweet breeze. We often read our journal content out loud to solidify the memories.

Blog – Many of our travel memories are put into blog posts to encourage others to worldschool and discuss academic experiences.

Magnets – Our home refrigerator is covered with magnets of places we love. One small, well-placed reminder, can bring back wonderful memories and ignite sharing of stories in our kitchen – where so much engaging conversation occurs!

This photo of our Paris visit will remind us not only of the amazing landmark but also the feel of the sun and the cool wind of that April day.

Regina at Fulltime Field Trip

We use travel to deepen our family connections. Doing new things in different places helps us grow as individuals and together as a family unit. We try to reduce tangible collectibles and focus on creating memories through these family connections.

While we try to live by the motto take only pictures, leave only footprints, young kids treasure a small keepsake of their travels and it helps them retain the memories of the trip.

  1. Keep It Simple.
    If we do collect something tangible, we like things like pressed pennies, foreign coins, and found objects like shells and small rocks. Small things that transport easily and the kids can keep in their treasure boxes once home.
  2. Keep the Trip Going At Home.
    This might be making art and drawing pictures of our trip. It could be reading and learning more about the things we were introduced to on the trip. Once we bought some flowers and planted them at home.
  3. Revisit The Memories.
    As the kids get older we like playing ‘high and low of the day’ to keep things in our mind. This is a great dinner time or bedtime activity. Just take turns stating your high of the day and low of the day. Once home, we’ll do high and low of the trip. Then we love to look at the pictures and see if we captured any highs and lows.
  4. Take A Moment.
    As we started our full-time travel journey, we implemented something we call ‘take a moment.’ When we’re in some amazing historical place or at a beautiful natural wonder someone says “take a moment.” We all pause for about 5-10 seconds and try to soak it all in. Trying to take in all the sights, sounds, smells and drop them into our long term memory. It sounds like a beautiful moment of reflection in theory. But mostly someone giggles or farts and we all crack up laughing. It’s not the soul touching experience I was hoping for but it still makes for some great memories.
One ice cream moment landscape not to forget. Crete, Greece.

Kirsty at World for a Girl

For us, keeping our travel memories alive is an essential part of the travel experience ( especially as I have an awful memory!) We use six different approaches to make sure that we have lots of objects and pictures around the house and in our lives that remind us constantly of the awesome experiences we’ve had together.

  • We have photos everywhere in the house. We choose our best ones and frame them.
  • We have globes and maps as decor throughout the house which provide great conversation prompts with the kids about our travels.
  • We’ve made and printed gorgeous hardback photo books of two of our main family trips. Both of our children have a copy that they can treasure forever.
  • Every country we visit we buy a postcard for our children and write a short message on it about that trip. Both children have a small box with the postcards in that they love looking through and talking about.
  • We buy children’s books from the places we visit that we then read as bedtime stories for years afterwards.
  • My partner and I like to buy each other creative gifts based on our adventures. For example, I bought him a bespoke print of a globe containing the stamps of all the countries we’ve visited together and he bought me handpainted copies of our favourite photographs.

Check out this post on creating memories.

Yamy at Go Fam Go

With today’s technology, you don’t need to be carrying around a large camcorder or a camera to memorialize your travel memories. A smart phone, which most people have, can be sufficient.

There are several social media outlets that let you share your photos and videos to family and friends. You have Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube, to mention some. However, there’s always something about having a physical book or album that you have in your family room at home.

Sites like Shutterfly, Walgreens or even Costco, have available templates for photo books. All you need to do is upload your pictures and they’d format the layout for you. You can also choose your favorite pictures to put in frames or a more traditional photo album. A magnetic, self-adhesive photo album allows you to include trip souvenirs like admission tickets or passes like a scrapbook.

While it’s fun to snap moments with our cameras, we should be mindful and be present in the moment itself. The best memories I have when traveling are usually the ones that I don’t have a camera snapping or rolling. The best memories I could remember are just from being there and spending time together with my family.

Kris at Gadsventure

The most important thing to remember about travelling with your family is this: Even though your younger kids might not remember the specific sights and exotic destinations you have visited, there is something tangible about being together as a family without the stresses of everyday life, that will stay with them forever. That feeling of belonging, and togetherness, of family bonding and security, wherever you are in the world. That is something real.

So, whenever someone asks me what the best age to travel is, I tell them every age! Don’t wait for the perfect time. The time is now! Take the trip. Life is short but family is forever.

The Gadsventure family traveling southeast Asia.

Shannan at Captivating Compass

One of my favorite ways to help our family make fun family memories when we travel is to let the kids pick their favorite activity for our destination. Early in the planning process, I’ll throw out a list of ideas and activities. We will all talk about them and everyone gets to list the activity that they would enjoy the most. Then, when we are on vacation, that activity is super special to that person because they got to choose it. Everyone gets to be involved and enjoy each other’s company. Sometimes the activity may not be one that everyone enjoys, but, it is a great opportunity to learn to think of others. Sometimes everyone is surprised that they all enjoyed the same thing!

Another way to make special memories while traveling is to ‘divide and conquer’. Splitting the group up to do a couple of different things and then meet up later in the day allows everyone to enjoy themselves. The kids enjoy a bit of quality time with mom or dad doing something they enjoy together makes it super special and memorable.

Annette at Tips from a Typical Mom

The most important thing about traveling is the memories we make. Pictures are very important to me, but I also need to remind myself to not focus on getting the perfect picture and live in the moment. Take a few snapshots at each new place, then just put the camera away and really be there.

I think because I’m not a millennial, it’s a little easier for me to put the camera down. Everyone doesn’t need to know what you are doing every moment of the day. It’s much more important to be in the moment making real memories and engaging with the family. When we get home I take all the pictures we took and create a slideshow. My kids love to watch these slideshows all the time. We also make photobooks (we like Chatbooks to do this). These memories are much more valuable than the money you spent on the vacation.

A very special sunset at the Temple of Apollo, Naxos island, Greece.

Melissa at Disabled Disney

Vacations are the perfect opportunity to make memories with your family! There are so many things you can do to make and keep your memories. I make a vacation book with photos and mementos from the trip. Scrapbooking can be very expensive so I buy a 3 ring binder and loose photo paper to save everything! You can also get buy a shadowbox and make vacation shadowboxes.

One way to get some interesting pictures is to give your kids a camera! If you are concerned about them losing or damaging one then buy a disposable for each of your kids and they can take personalized pics! If you do scrapbook make sure you save items from your vacation to aid in your scrapbook. Even things like napkins, maps and programs can be perfect keepsakes to aid in your post vacation memory saving projects!

We will forever remember the goats on Crete.
A kid’s favorite photographic subject.

Tiffany at Mommy and Me Travels

Family vacations and adventures are things that you can give your kids that they will never outgrow. There are many benefits to traveling with your kids. It teaches them flexibility, patience, and a sense of adventure. It builds family bonds that will last beyond the time that children grown up and move out of the house. This is a tradition that will be able to be passed from generation to generation.

We like to ensure that we have family involvement and input at every step of a vacation. Start by picking a location from your family bucket list. Plan your vacation and adventure as a family to start building your memories from the very beginning together. Lastly, enjoy your time together. These are moments that will pass all too quickly and you’ll never regret that you took the time to enjoy your loved ones.

Sarah at State by State

We travel to make memories. That is the best part about traveling together as a family. It is impossible to travel and not make a memory. Even a bad travel experience can turn into a funny memory later.

We once ate at a horrible restaurant, at the time it was extremely disappointing and frustrating. Spending money on food we could hardly eat was not the experience we wanted to have. Looking back on it now we always laugh. Every time we want to eat somewhere we say “it can’t be as bad as (fill in bad restaurant name here).”

Traveling all over the US as a family has been an incredible experience and one we wouldn’t change for anything. It hasn’t always been fun. We have been sick, had our car break, and stayed in some less than amazing places. We love every memory both good and bad. This is something we will all remember forever!

We hope you enjoyed this 9-week Family Travel Blog series!

If you missed previous posts, check out:

International travel tips

Road trip tips

Saving Money on Food

Packing for Family Travel

Saving Money on Transportation

Selecting Family Travel Destinations

Choosing accommodations

Exploring a new place

It has been a pleasure getting to know the other travel moms through this collaboration. I look forward to our paths crossing in the future and our kids getting to know one another.

Much gratitude to Regina of Fulltime Field Trip for initiating this wonderful series and organizing the travel mom bloggers! Thank you Regina for all your leadership and guidance.

Seeing the lights come on at Pont Neuf – Paris’s oldest bridge across the Seine –
a memory never to forget.

International travel tips

Exploring the big wide world with kids

This week our mom bloggers reflect on traveling abroad with the family. This is the eighth of our Family Travel Blog Series. If you missed previous posts, check out:

Crossing a rice field in Thailand.

Road trip tips

Saving Money on Food

Packing for Family Travel

Saving Money on Transportation

Selecting Family Travel Destinations

Choosing accommodations

Exploring a new place

Follow the links to each of the contributor’s websites for other great travel tips and educational resources!

Our tips from World Wise Kid

Our family values international travel for the educational elements, adventure and developing a global understanding. Here are some tips for getting closer to the people and immersing yourself in the culture of a new country:

Smile and greet people.

Watch some YouTube videos to learn the basics of the language. Choose a “word of the day” that you all learn and practice to keep your language skill developing. Ask the locals for help with pronunciation.

Watch a documentary about the place you will visit. Human planet, BBC Earth, National Geographic, or the History Channel give some background to a new place.

Stay in a guesthouse, homestay or farmstay instead of a tourist hotel.

Choose accommodation in a small town – wherever you land at the end of the day – where you can experience how people live outside of the big cities.

Let the kids see what it’s like to not understand the situation – include them in the problem-solving.

Trust in the flow of travel. Let unknowns play themselves out. Allow serendipitous encounters – they often become the best stories.

Regina at Fulltime Field Trip

International travel is an exciting experience. Things can work differently from country to country. Here are three important tips to keep your international travel smooth and safe.

Communications –There are a million ways/apps to stay connected and free WIFI all around the world. But sometimes you want/need an internet connection from your phone.
•Contact your service provider and ask about short term international plans, they may be more affordable than you thought.
•We like to get a SIM card in the country we’re visiting. FYI, your phone must be unlocked for this. While we may pay a bit more in the airport or bus station, it’s worth it to have what we need to help us navigate to our next location.
•For talking to anyone from taxi drivers to friends back home, we like WhatsApp. Viber is great when you need to make a call, like to your credit card company or airline.

Money – How will you access your money?
•Look for credit cards and banks with no foreign transaction fees.
•Inform your financial institutions where you’ll be traveling so your accounts aren’t frozen for potential fraud.
•Find out what your daily withdraw limit is and decide if you need to increase it.

Paperwork –In theory, all you need to travel is your passport. In certain places, and for certain types of visas, you may also need birth certificates and a marriage license.
•Keep your documents safe in a waterproof, RFID protective case.
•Keep a hardcopy of your documents somewhere in your luggage.
•Have a digital copy on your phone. Preferably somewhere that doesn’t require internet access to retrieve, like your notes.
•Ask a trusted friend or family member back home to keep a digital and hard copy of your documents in case of an emergency.
*We’ve absolutely used this last one!

Travel abroad…prepare to be amazed.

Kirsty at World for a Girl

The other day, we sat down and counted up the number of countries our five-year-old son has been to – we counted 29! He’s very well-travelled and his little sister is not far behind. Many of the countries we’ve visited have been a world away from our former ‘safe, cosy’ life in the UK. At the moment, we’re living in Malaysia. Drawing on our experiences, here are two things to consider whilst travelling in developing countries with young children.

1) Adjusting to different safety standards (if any at all) can be challenging (especially for parents). You always need to aware of potential dangers. From dodgy playpark equipment, street stands with flaming grills to open sewers, keeping your eye on toddlers and younger children can be hard work. Try carrying toddlers in child carriers as a way of keeping them safe and speak openly to older children about any dangers.

2) Culture shock can affect children as much or more than adults. Children like routine and rhythm in their lives. They might find the sights, smells and sounds of new places unsettling. Try to empathise with them, acknowledge the things that might worry them and give them the time and space to adjust to their new surroundings. Bring familiar toys and sometimes spend more money to go to a restaurant or indoor playground that reminds them of home.

Yamy at Go Fam Go

I always have a contingency plan set up whenever I travel especially abroad. When traveling internationally, you have to deal with unfamiliar cultures and bureaucracies in place.

One of the useful things to know when things go awry is how to access an emergency fund.

Aside from my travel pocket money, I have an emergency stash of cash in a safe place on my person, in case of lost luggage or theft. Hiding it in a piece of clothing like socks or shoes will allow you to use them when all you have is yourself.

Another source is your bank. You don’t necessarily need to open a foreign bank account to do so. Bank fees for wire transferring are expensive and are based on a percentage of the amount that you’re sending. Services like Xoom or Remitly have websites and apps that allow you to instantly send remittances to yourself when abroad. Rates are usually fixed. Check their partner locations where you could personally pick up your money (affiliate banks, money exchangers, or delivery to your hotel room). You can set up an account before traveling.

A good travel credit card that does not charge foreign transaction fees is also handy.

Sunset in Napflio, Greece.

Kris at Gadsventure

When travelling internationally, I always try to plan a trip based on short flights. Not only is it cheaper when travelling with a large family, but it also takes a lot of the stress of flying away.

Our youngest is almost 2, so for our current trip in SE Asia, we have her still sitting on our laps! The flights around Asia are only between 1.5 and 3 hours in length so we don’t have to be cooped up in planes for too long at all. This still maintains excitement levels high with the kids!

I also love the cultural value you get from travelling in a place like SE Asia. Not to mention the food! And when travelling with 4 kids, keeping costs down is super important too, that’s why places like Bali, Thailand and Vietnam are our go-to destinations.

Shannan at Captivating Compass

There are really only 5 basic travel tips for international travel. They are simple, fairly inexpensive and effective. In fact, all of these have been tested by myself and a multitude of other travelers, so I’m sure you will benefit from each of them.Be flexible. Planes are delayed, kids get ill, and shops close early.

Be flexible. A flexible attitude goes a long way in making the best of these inevitable situations.

Make a list. As you plan, even months in advance, making lists will help you keep things organized. From itineraries to packing, to places not to be missed, your lists will help keep it all organized along the way.

Learn a few phrases. Knowing ‘Thank you’ and ‘Please’, in the local language is a minimum. Improve your language skills before you go, if possible, and then try them out in-country.

Bring a sarong. It might seem funny now, but you’ll be so glad you did! Use it as a blanket, a hood or head covering, a shawl, and even a skirt or dress.

Get travel insurance. Without question, you need travel insurance. An accident or illness in a foreign country can be complicated, stressful and expensive. Good travel insurance is worth every penny just for the peace of mind.

Nikki at Yorkshire Wonders

Living in the UK we often fly for our holidays. When we visit Florida the flight is 9 hours on the way there (shorter on the way back!), but we have always chosen a flight with seat-back entertainment which is a lifesafer when you have kids! We also choose the four seats in the middle of the plane, and I sit on one end and my husband on the other, sandwiching the kids between us. They definitely feel more comfortable like this, as it’s their own private space then, and if they are comfortable they are happier! When we do shorter flights to Europe I make sure the kids have their tablets fully charged and a movie downloaded. When they have watched their own movie, they can then swap tablets and watch the other one’s movie!

Annette at Tips from a Typical Mom

A few tips from when my husband and I went to Mexico:

Passports take a very long time to get, so you should just get one now. Whether or not you are planning on traveling out of the country, it’s always good to have a passport for you and your family members.

Pack a bag that works as a carry on and is roll-able. I packed a carry-on but it was a duffle bag and it was the WORST to hold on to in the custom’s lines.

Research the area where you are going and find out if the water is drinkable. If not plan accordingly. Learn as much as you can about the culture so you don’t stand out like a sore thumb. You don’t want to look like a tourist.

Get an undergarment “fanny pack’ to keep all your money, passports and credit cards safe.

Call your bank and let them know that you are going out of country so they don’t freeze your cards.

Call your cell phone service provider and ask them about how to get an international plan for the amount of time you will be gone.

Melissa at Disabled Disney

My tips on international travel:

Get a document holder for passports and whatever documents you need. Make sure it is RFID protected and waterproof! And keep everything together.

Check if you need a physician statement about your medications. You can use http://www.incb.org/ to check for guidelines on controlled substances if you are taking any. Also take your original prescription bottle with you. In keeping with medications make sure your medications are in your carry on. The horrible truth is luggage gets delayed, lost and even stolen. If you keep your medications with you, it is less likely to encounter these problems while travelling. Also if you have disability needs you will need to research what the country you’re considering would have available for you. Not all countries have the same disability access laws.

Tiffany at Mommy and Me Travels

Traveling internationally is exciting but also has some additional stressors that you need to be prepared to overcome.

First and foremost, you can purchase almost everything you might need in other countries. The items that you need to ensure you have with you are your passports, insurance cards, and prescription medications. If you land in a country and have these 3 items, everything else is able to be located in local stores. You might not know what the brand of diapers is that you are buying but hey they still work.

Second, you will get the most bang for your buck if you do not try to convert one currency to another in a bank or one of those stands at the airport. Withdraw money with your debt card from an ATM. The currency conversion rate is usually much better because there is no fee involved as there is when you use a bank to change money. Also, look for credit cards that have no international fee. Not only will this make your purchasing power better but it helps to keep track of all your expenses while adventuring around another country.

Third, help your kids recover from jetlag by having a big breakfast the first morning you arrive, even if you just landed and it is breakfast time. Usually people think because they aren’t hungry they shouldn’t eat. This is not the case when you are traveling. Filling up bellies first thing in the morning helps kick start your body into knowing that you have started your day and adjust to a “new normal”.

Sarah at State by State

Traveling internationally is exciting, but a little scary at the same time. Foreign language, foreign food, and a foreign culture are all things to consider when traveling to another country. People from all over the world come to the United States. They especially seem to love visiting our national parks. So, while I have not personally traveled internationally, I have witnessed first-hand those that travel to the US.

From observing these travelers I have learned many things about traveling to an unfamiliar place. My number one recommendation is to be respectful of the rules and customs in the country you are visiting. Research what these my be before you go and learn from the locals once you arrive. Doing this will enhance your travel experience because people will notice your efforts and be willing to help you more.

Sarah at Dandelion Seeds

Most of the travel in my adult life has been international. I’ve learned a lot of lessons that differ from what I know in my life in the United States. One of the most important, however, was to bring an old-fashioned paper map of the area I was visiting, particularly when I didn’t speak any of the local languages. True, GPS works nearly everywhere on a mobile device. When it hasn’t, however, I’ve found myself in some suboptimal situations. A paper map isn’t necessary in areas where someone is likely to speak your language, but pointing at a map is a wonderful universal “language”—and a great safety net.

Also, study the local transportation system ahead of time. If you’re traveling by train, do you insert the tickets into a machine for a stamp/validation before boarding, or not? If driving, are there tollroads, and how do they work? Knowing ahead of time is incredibly helpful!

Next week’s family travel blog topic: Making memories with your family travel.


Road trip tips

I just can’t wait to get…

This week we share 12 perspectives from seasoned travel moms with our insights into how to have successful road trips. This is the seventh of our Family Travel Blog Series. If you missed previous posts, check out:

Visiting the ancient city of Mycenae on a lone hilltop in the Greek Peloponnese
Visiting the ancient city of Mycenae on a lone hilltop in the Greek Peloponnese – easily reached with a rental car.

Saving Money on Food

Packing for Family Travel

Saving Money on Transportation

Selecting Family Travel Destinations

Choosing accommodations

Exploring a new place

Follow the links to each of the contributor’s websites for other great travel tips and educational resources!

Our tips from World Wise Kid

We love exploring landscapes with a good road trip, following a map on a mountain, coastal or desert road, bringing the contours to life. While traveling across monotonous flatland to get somewhere, the kids can color, game, read or draw, but when the landscape itself is a reason for the travel, it’s important to encourage them to look out the window and learn about the culture and life as we travel through a new and different place.

Listening to audio tracks is entertaining and educational. While road tripping through the Peloponnese region in southern Greece, we listened to interviews of Rick Steve’s free audio guides on the Eastern Mediterranean. While exploring Hawaii, we tune into hula music on the radio or a CD. When we toured Florida, we listened to Hoot, Flush, Chomp and Scat by Carl Hiaasen – youth fiction that takes place in the Everglades and Keys. We download Podcasts to listen together: KidsNuz, StarTalk, Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me… and RadioLab. We sync to the car speakers with Bluetooth or an audio cable so everyone can hear clearly.

We love a very loose agenda when road tripping – with time and freedom to stop in an interesting looking shop or cafe, or run across a field. We often take breaks in small towns to get coffee and snacks, interact with the locals, learn about their town culture and history and to download another audio track!

Regina at Fulltime Field Trip

Who doesn’t love a good road trip? But when you add kids, you may be looking at a few spills, tons of extra bathroom stops, and at least a million “are we there yet” questions. Here are my favorite tips for road tripping with the kiddos.

Are We There Yet Map.Sick to death of the endless “when will we be there” and “how much longer” questions kids naturally ask? Buy or print a map of the area you’ll be traveling. Next, draw on it each leg of your trip. Pin it on the ceiling of your car for all to see. Or place it on a clipboard to be passed around. On a clipboard, I assign kids to be in charge of this sacred item for an hour or two. A responsibility they look forward to. Not only is this educational and makes a nice keepsake; it truly reduces that ever-so-annoying question.

Snacks.You can never go wrong with extra snacks. When you can’t find a restaurant or you’re stuck in traffic it will be snacks to your rescue every time. We skip anything sugary or messy and always have wet wipes and a towel within reach.

Kirsty at World for a Girl

Since having kids, we’ve become roadtrip fanatics. When you have young children travelling by car gives you freedom, flexibility and lots of space! We’ve done some epic road trips in the last five years including driving the ring road around Iceland with a baby, driving around Cyprus with a toddler and this week, we’re driving the entire length of Taiwan by car.

We’ve learnt a lot on our long car journeys. We’ve had disasters, adventures and a lot of vomiting! Some of our top roadtrip tips are:

Pack lots of smaller bags so you can leave the ones you don’t need in the car boot overnight.

Try to plan each segment of a long drive to last around 2 hours (about the length of a kids movie!) Use Google Maps to locate local parks where you can pull over and play.

Picnics are a wonderful way to experience the outdoors with young children. They are also a great way to break up long drives. Even busy motorways can have attractive rest areas. Plan ahead, bring a cool bag and enjoy some memorable lunches.

Yamy at Go Fam Go

Road trips are money saving alternatives to flying the whole family to your vacation destination. However, usually it means getting there longer.

It can be tempting to keep pushing forward when you shouldn’t. You may have a plan that you want to stick to, but you need to listen to your body. If you are tired, resist the urge to keep pushing, and stay well rested and hydrated. Keep caffeinated beverages to a minimum, and follow the same advice for alcohol. A jittery or hung-over driver can be just as dangerous as an intoxicated one.

Plan for breaks by stopping over for sceneries, checking in a hotel or motel in your route, or doing day trips in a town you’re driving through.

Kris at Gadsventure

We travelled around Australia for 12 months when our kids were very little. The best road trips tips we have gained from this is to only drive short distances, and have plenty of time in between travel times. We find the kids are perfect for the first 4 hours or so, and then things will start to go pear shaped.

Crossing the Nullabor Plain on our Australian Road trip

Crossing the Nullabor Plain on Gadsventure’s Australian Road trip

We also love to leave super early in the morning if we know we have a long haul drive ahead of us, for example a 10 hour trip to see the grandparents. If we can leave at 3am, then we get the first half of the drive under our belts before the kids even wake from their slumbers!! Driving with sleeping kids is a fantastic way to do it!

Shannan at Captivating Compass

Things you need to consider if you’re planning an international road trip:

  1. Will you need a special license, permit or insurance?
  2. What will it cost? Parking, tolls, and petrol are costs you will need to consider above the cost of the car, van or camper rental.
  3. Distance vs. actual drive time. The cultural dynamics of driving in a different country are so varied. Knowing that it will likely take 45 to 60 minutes to drive 30 miles in Scotland (link to: https://www.captivatingcompass.com/scottish-highlands/) is incredibly important if you don’t want to spend your entire trip driving. Give yourself ample time to get from point A to point B when you are in an unfamiliar place. It will almost always take longer than expected.
  4. Become familiar with local road signs and what they mean before your trip. Some are funny, some are confusing. You may even find familiar signs or street markings mean something completely different than what you thought.
  5. Have a co-pilot, if possible. It’s less stressful if you have a co-pilot to help navigate, read road signs, and manage the phone, snacks and music selection.
  6. Have a good mapping app or offline map that you can use without incurring international data charges.
World for a girl explores Iceland

Nikki at Yorkshire Wonders

We like to play the ABC game in the car. So, we choose a topic, it could be animals, countries or capital cities for example. Then we take it in turns, so the first person names a country beginning with A, the second person names one beginning with B and so on. It can be as silly or as educational as you like! When the children were younger we used categories like ‘girl’s names’ and ‘boy’s names’. You can target it to their age group.

Annette at Tips from a Typical Mom

Road trips are pretty much the only way we travel with our kids. We used to live about 4 hours away from family when our kids were really little, so we got really good at road trips. Here are my best tips for road trips with kids:

  1. Only bring water. Do not bring flavored drinks. If you do, your kids will chug them and you will be stopping to use the restroom every 30 minutes.
  2. Have plenty of movies (if you have a dvd player), or downloaded movies on the iPad to give to the kid who is making the most trouble.
  3. Coloring pages, small toys, word searches are all great for when they need a break from electronics.
  4. Put everything away and play games together. 

Melissa at Disabled Disney

We love to go on road trips! As a matter of fact we normally drive to our vacation destinations! So what do you do for long hours in the car? First tip is bring snacks! Kids of all ages can normally be pacified with a snack. Snacks don’t have to be sugary and sweet. You can bring popcorn, nuts (depending on food allergies), cheese (if you bring a cooler), pretzels or whatever your kiddo likes! I have even brought snap peas and baby carrots.

Second tip is games. Take good old favorites like the license plate game…but give them a twist. Make up rules just for your family like the first person who spots three different states gets to choose the music for the next (fill in time parameter). Or the next vanity plate or even choose a letter or number and the person who spots the most of that…wins!

Third tip is choose music your whole family likes to sing along to! With us it’s a good bet that Disney songs, 80’s or metal will be chosen! And fourth tip bring comfy stuff like pillows and blankets! Kids and adults sometimes like to snuggle and take naps on long car rides.

Tiffany at Mommy and Me Travels

Family road trips are some of our most fun and memorable adventures. They have also been some of our most stressful. Well not anymore! We have mastered road tripping and ensuring that the ride is enjoyable for all. Start by thinking back to when you were a child and there were no electronics. How did your parents entertain you? Some of those tried and true games really work. To entertain my 6 year old our favorite is the alphabet game. For this game all you need is your eyes and signs or licenses plates.

To play, everyone starts at A and whoever finds all the letters A to Z in order, wins. It’s a race and you can’t use the same “a,b,c…” as someone else. For my toddler, his favorite game is trying to get the semi-trucks to honk their horns. You play this game by moving your arm up and down as if you were pulling the string for their horn. He gets a big kick out of it and also is focused on finding “another big truck”.

Sarah at State by State

While driving your own car can help you save money on your trip, it can be a challenge for little ones to sit still so long. We are in the car all the time and have learned how to make it a better experience for everyone. The best advice I can give is to break long trips up whenever possible.

When we first started traveling full-time we would drive five or six hours at a time. This made for some really long days. We all felt tired and cranky by the time we arrived at our destination. Now our travel days are only two or three hours. This means we are all in a better mood when we get to our destination and we have time to enjoy it too.

Shorter trips are not always possible for families on vacation. You may need to get to your destination in one day. If this is the case, you can still use this tip. Make sure you stop every two or three hours and let the kids out. When you stop for gas or a bathroom break, let the kids run around for a few minutes. It might make the trip longer, but it will be better for everyone to get out and stretch their legs.

Sarah at Dandelion Seeds

As with all things, know your audience (in this case, the people who’ll be in your car). Younger kids often, although not always, need a lot of movement. It may seem counterintuitive, but I plan to reach our destination as quickly as possible–and that might mean less movement in a single day. It might mean a single uncomfortable day, but then it’s over. If you plan too many stops to “get wiggles out,” it can become increasingly difficult to get back into the car every time. Drive the maximum amount you can handle before that mandatory wiggle time.

Alternatively, and what works especially well with older kids, is to make the journey part of the adventure. There might not be much between Albuquerque and Las Vegas, for example, but spending half a day to walk around Meteor Crater would be a really memorable adventure for the whole family!

Bryce Canyon road trip. Photo credit: Dandelion Seeds

Next week’s family travel blog topic: Tips for International Travel.


Saving money on food

Tips and insight

This week we share 13 perspectives from seasoned travel moms suggesting tips on how to save money on food while traveling with the family. This is the sixth of our Family Travel Blog Series. If you missed previous posts, check out:

eating gnocchetti di mare in lucca, italy
Enjoying gnocchetti di mare in Lucca, Italy.

Packing for Family Travel

Saving Money on Transportation

Selecting Family Travel Destinations

Choosing accommodations

Exploring a new place

Follow the links to each of the contributor’s websites for other great travel tips and educational resources!

Our tips from World Wise Kid

Meals are a very important time for us when traveling – a time to discuss how things are going for everyone, reflect on places we have been and come up with new educational travel blog topics for worldwisekid!

We typically have one big, hot, sit down meal in a nice restaurant or cafe each day. We are selective about where this main meal will be, asking opinions from locals about a family-friendly, non-touristy place that uses fresh, regional ingredients and offers vegetarian options. This meal is a time to observe the culture, connect with the locals and do some journaling or researching our next location.

For the other meals, we find street food and shop at the local market. Breakfast is simple: yogurt, fruit and cereal. Dinners are often bread, cheese, and lots of fresh, raw veggies that the kids need to stay strong and healthy. When we have cooking facilities at a hostel or rental apartment, the kids love pasta, rice and potato dishes and these meals save us a lot so we can splurge on the next nice restaurant meal.

Fried Rice under a banana leaf – a favorite (and reasonably priced) breakfast in Thailand.

Regina at Fulltime Field Trip

Here are five ways we save money on food during our family vacations.

  1. Cooking At Home. Where other people enjoy the sights and sounds of a new city, I’m crazy for grocery stores packed full of new-to-me items. I enjoy the challenge of preparing meals with whatever is available in a particular market.
  2. Pack One Meal. We are always ready for a picnic. Whether it’s hardy sandwiches or carb loaded pasta, we can eat lunch (or dinner) on the go anywhere.
  3. Special Treats. For special, regional food, must-try dishes, we get a couple of orders and share rather than each person getting their own plate. That way everyone gets a taste and none is wasted if it’s not well liked.
  4. Eat On The Streets. Street food is cheap and amazing. They will almost never take a credit card so be ready with cash. For safety make sure the food is piping hot. We look for food carts with a line. A long line means tasty goodness. Some of our tastiest adventures and best memories were made sampling a variety of street foods.
  5. Reduce The Price. Coupons are global. Look for discounts at Groupon, Living Social, tourist boards, those cheesy travel brochures in rest stops, and local blogs that connect you to all types of meal deals. Even in Thailand, we found a Taco Tuesday with half-price tacos.
Picnic on a park bench

Kirsty at World for a Girl

We don’t have a particularly stringent travel budget when it comes to food. We love to eat out and experience new cuisines and cultures. We tend to look for cleanliness and a family-friendly atmosphere over price. However, many of the things we do for convenience actually save us money in the long run.

For example, we always try to book self-catering accommodation. We find it a struggle eating every meal out with young, energetic and noisy kids. Eating breakfast at ‘home’ not only saves us money but the children always wake up starving and want to eat straight away. Likewise, after a busy day sightseeing, a simple sandwich with some salad makes a relaxing and easy supper.

If you’re a parent of under-fives, you’ll also know how essential it is to always have snacks with you. Not only does having a Tupperware container full of crackers or dried fruit prevent tantrums and prove a useful distraction but it’s also a lot cheaper and healthier than an ice-cream.

Snacks and a water bottle – never leave for the day without them!

Yamy at Go Fam Go

Our family loves eating and trying out new places when we travel. You can consider us the type of travelers that will travel for food. When we went to Walt Disney World, you bet, we attended the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. It was an amazing opportunity to sample international cuisines without having to fly to all of them.

The cost of dining out could easily skyrocket for a party of 4 and up, which is usually the case for family travelers. When we travel with a large party, one of our money-saving strategies is to look for a restaurant that can serve family-style dishes. The meals often come in a large serving on a platter. In the USA, the serving sizes of meals are often good for 2 servings. If we don’t end up sharing, we pack the leftovers to go for a later meal in the day. This is especially the case when we book a hotel with a microwave in the room.

Kris at Gadsventure

We are currently travelling through SE Asia with our family of 6 and we have found a few great ways to save money on food while travelling. With a big family, food takes up a lot of our budget!

1. Find accommodation which has breakfast included
2. Stay in an apartment or house with its own kitchen so you can cook some simple meals for yourself. Find a local market for fresh farm produce.
3. Try to eat local style food. For example, Nasi Goreng is so much cheaper than a Hamburger in Bali!
4. Check out the menu before going into a restaurant so you don’t get any nasty surprises with the bill.

Check out the menu prices before sitting down!


5. Don’t stuff yourself with 3 big meals a day. Make dinner more of a snack after a big breakfast and lunch.
6. Prices are higher on the beachfront. All you need to do is go across the road from the beach and you can save half the price on a meal.
7. See if there is a ‘specials’ board.
8. Share meals. We often buy only 3 or 4 big rice meals for our family of 6 and it is heaps for us.
9. When we travelled around Peru you could save a ton of money by asking for the Menu del Dia (the menu of the day). It is a set menu that gives you up to 6 courses for the price of one regular menu item. This would include a soup, a cocktail, appetiser, entree, main and dessert! The key is you have to ask for it though, it is not freely advertised. Remember the Menu del Dia next time you are in Peru!
10. Take some of your own favourite snacks or breakfast cereals from home if you are going somewhere foreign for a short vacation.
11. Eat less meat.

Shannan at Captivating Compass

  1. Pick accommodations that have cooking facilities. Most hostels have a community kitchen and dining room to share with other lodgers.
  2. House sit – Using a well-equipped kitchen is always a luxury while traveling. Cooking for yourself will allow you to splurge on the decadent dessert or local bottle of wine. Stop at the local market for fresh ingredients and try a new recipe. You will make such enjoyable memories in your home-away-from-home while dining in affordable luxury.
  3. Picnic Lunches – On days out, plan on either bringing lunch with you or stopping at a market to buy local cheese, bread, fruit and chocolate for a European style picnic lunch. Plan ahead by making sure you have a bottle opener and cutlery in your backpack. Find the perfect view overlooking a canal, countryside, cityscape or beach. Then, pamper yourself (and the rest of the family) by trying a fancy coffee or local drink before heading out for the next family travel adventure.

Nikki at Yorkshire Wonders

Before we go to Orlando I always check the local voucher sites such as Groupon or Wowcher. You can pick up some bargains here for meals out (and activities too). It’s also worth signing up to the newsletters of the restaurants you might visit as you are often sent vouchers to use for a free starter or dessert. Try to leave this until quite close to your trip as the vouchers tend to have short use by dates – or use a second email to sign up nearer the time. Also check out the ‘Kids Eat Free’ cards.

Even traveling abroad, the kids need their occasional comfort food.

Annette at Tips from a Typical Mom

Food is a huge expense while traveling when you have a large family like mine. Especially with teenage boys! So we’ve learned how to cut a few corners. Most of our trips are done in the car so we pack sack lunches and put them in the cooler along with all the snacks the kids will need while traveling. It’s important to only give the kids water to drink so they don’t guzzle down a huge bottle of juice and then need to use the bathroom every hour. Water is boring so they will only drink it when they are thirsty.

I also look online for coupons to local restaurants we want to try out. I usually find a “kids eat free” coupon at most places, or even free drinks. We also always have the kids share an entree. Most places give you way too big of a serving for just one person. This works for our younger kids, and for our teenage boys, we always make them order something that will keep them full for a long time.

Eat breakfast at the hotel if possible, that’s a huge savings. And my last tip is to shop at the local markets and make sure your hotel has at least a fridge and a microwave. Store bought meals for the family are always cheaper.

Melissa at Disabled Disney

We like to vacation at Disneyland! While it is the “Happiest Place On Earth” it’s also one of the most expensive places on Earth! But there is hope! One of the ways we save money is by NOT purchasing food in the Parks! Wait…did you say NOT purchasing food? Yes I did. Disney allows you to bring in food. So we will bring in snacks, sandwiches like peanut butter and jelly, soda, bottled water, and basically anything we like to eat! The only caveat is NO glass with only a few exceptions.

We eat breakfast either at the hotel or before going in, bring food and snacks with us, and usually will get a late dinner on our way back to the hotel! And we also get hotels with microwaves and refrigerators because then we can buy some cheap microwave things to keep in our hotel room for food! This means we don’t have to buy food in the Parks!!! Although we do usually budget for a small meal or snack in the Parks because their food is really yummy.

Tiffany at Mommy and Me Travels

My family loves to enjoy the foods of whatever city or country we are visiting. As all are aware, this can add a lot of cost for a family adventure when eating out.

If staying in a hotel, find a place with a continental breakfast. Or if you are in an apartment like Airbnb, make your breakfast at “home”. This meal is the most important of the day as it gives you energy to enjoy all of your daily activities. Don’t skip this meal but use the cost effective means available to you for 1 of the 3 meals you will have that day. This will be free or pennies for your morning breakfast budget.

For lunch, find an off the beaten path restaurant. These non-touristy places are usually less expensive but also more authentic. We love to ask the locals where their favorite restaurants are located. Normally, the responses will be places that have great food and is extremely budget friendly. Locals usually aren’t paying an arm and a leg to go out to lunch.

Use a coupon app, we like Groupon and Restaurants.com, to save money on your meals that you are going to eat out. You can find deals like 25% off your bill or a free kid’s meal with the purchase of an adult entree. This will save you a significant amount of money on those “fancy” dinner outs.

Sarah at State by State

Our family spends a lot of time in the car. Driving from campground to campground and also from attraction to attraction. I always pack a bag of snacks before we leave. Having snacks in the car means we don’t have to stop and eat somewhere. Some of my favorite car snacks include: granola bars, grapes, berries, dried fruit, trail mix, baby carrots, sugar snap peas, and applesauce drinks. We also keep an old coffee can with candy in the car. The candy is helpful if we have an extra long car trip or need the kids to calm down in confusing driving situations.

Eating on a ship is a unique and memorable experience.

Another way to save on food while traveling is to find restaurants that offer deals for kids. Many places offer kids eat free with paid adult entrees. Having three or more kids means you are still paying for somebody, but it significantly reduces the cost. There are many small town places that offer these deals too, not just large chains. Check their website or Facebook page to see what they have to offer.

Shannon at Grab My Passport

Road Trips – When we road trip we like to pack a cooler bag with sandwiches and fruit, and then pack a reusable shopping bag filled with lots of other snack options, such as pretzels, Goldfish, cereal bars, fruit snacks, etc… We also pack plenty of water and Gatorade. This helps us avoid grabbing expensive gas station snacks or having to eat unhealthy fast food.

Air Travel – Airport snacks can be pricey! We always pack sandwich bags with snacks to munch on while waiting around the airport, as well as for the plane. We also bring refillable water bottles – just dump them out before going through security checkpoints and refill them once you get into the terminal.

Sarah at Dandelion Seeds

Especially since we have food allergies, we always stay somewhere with our own cooking facilities. With that in mind, one of our first stops at our destination is always the grocery store. Sexy? Notsomuch. Practical and helpful? Definitely. We make a list of our favorite meals from home and make the easiest ones while we’re traveling, so we can reserve the bulk of our time for adventures outside the kitchen. I come up with a meal plan and shopping list for the week and buy only what we need (it works our much better financially than impulse shopping and also creates less waste).

When you save on meals every day, you can splurge on the treats more often!

The more diligent I am about doing this, the more money we save, and the more impromptu ice cream we can have whenever it calls our name (like this lavender ice cream made with fresh lavender picked from the adjacent field in France–YUM)!

Next week’s family travel blog topic: Road Trip Tips.


Packing for family travel

Tips and insight

This week we share 13 perspectives from seasoned travel moms suggesting tips on how to pack for family travel. This is the fifth of our Family Travel Blog Series. If you missed previous posts, check out:

backpacking Europe
Traveling by train in Gulf of Naples

Saving Money on Transportation

Selecting Family Travel Destinations

Choosing accommodations

Exploring a new place

Follow the links to each of the contributor’s websites for other great travel tips and educational resources!


Our tips from World Wise Kid

One of the greatest parts of traveling is minimizing. Knowing you can survive for weeks on just the basics on your back is empowering. Packing light does involve conscious planning and investing in high quality gear.

Backpack. Unless we are travel camping, we carry on our luggage. We know our personal items are safe and will arrive with us. We love Osprey packs with their synching straps, padded electronics sleeves and thick hip belts. These packs give us maximum flexibility when finding our lodging down a cobblestone street, across a rice field or over muddy dirt roads.

Ultra-light. All items must be as light as possible – no big jackets, no heavy shoes. Down jackets are perfect (and currently conveniently fashionable!) A lightweight waterproof shell is an insulation layer and a must for day packs. We carry thin sarongs instead of bulky towels.

Educational tools. It’s hard to leave the paper travel guides and books behind but for minimalist travel, we have converted to ebooks on the Kindle and tablets. A library subscription gives us access to print resources. We use downloadable audio guides to destinations, and supplement studies with podcasts and YouTube videos. Each of the kids carry only an academics notebook and a journal/sketchpad for studies.

Traveling light means it’s fast and easy to pack up and go to a new destination. It’s easy to find what you need quickly. We off-load clothes, pamphlets and maps as we travel. We take lots of photos and few souvenirs.

Regina at Fulltime Field Trip

How much do I love packing cubes? Oh, let me count the ways.

•Packing cubes come in a variety of sizes. We have little use for the large. We rarely use the mediums. But we’re crazy for all the options offered by the small and slim (long and skinny) sizes.

packing cubes
Colored packing cubes to organize.


•Because there are so many colors choices, you can color code in numerous ways. Color code each member of the family. Color code like items as in all kids shirts go in blue and all kid shorts go in red, etc. Or you might assign colored packing cubes to each day of your vacation ROY-G-BIV style. Everyone’s Monday clothes in red, Tuesday in orange, etc.

•You should make your clothes fit the cube. This may mean laying all items flat, folding them in unusual ways, or rolling them. Experiment with the cube size and the folding until you get it just right.

•Make the packing cubes fit the luggage. Experiment with various configurations until you get the most out of it. This might mean one bag uses one medium, one small, and three size slim packing cubes. While another piece of luggage uses two smalls and four slims.

•Also, packing cubes can serve as drawers whenever you go. Or you can actually unpack, then use them in reverse for dirty clothes.

Anyway you use them, packing cubes make the job of packing quick and easy.

Kirsty at World for a Girl

As our children are still young, most of the packing still falls to me. Packing is definitely something that I start thinking about a week or two before each trip jotting down items on a handwritten list. We travel a lot and the longest that we’ve spent continuously on the road with the kids is 14 weeks. I’d like to think that we’ve got our packing strategy down to a tee. One item that has made our packing and re-packing easier is packing cubes. These simple fabric/mesh zip bags come in lots of sizes. We use them to keep everyone’s clothes separate. Even the kids know exactly which cube all the socks live in!

Perhaps my favourite thing about using packing cubes is that we don’t need to unpack all the time. For example, right now in our closet, there are lots of packing cubes already filled. For example, one contains the children’s travel toys (toys they don’t play with at home). Another contains travel size washing up liquid, an elastic washing line and all the other laundry items we need only when we’re on the road. Another is a travel First Aid Kit and so on. This system saves me so much time. I know that when we go on holiday next that all I need to do is fish out the already packed cubes and add some clean clothes. Try it, it’ll save you hours.

travel for 2 month trip
Luggage for a 2 month trip with a toddler by World For a Girl.

Yamy at Go Fam Go

Aside from our set of clothes and toiletries, our luggage always has a medicine kit for the most common health issues you can encounter while traveling. One issue that I don’t want to deal with is figuring out where the pharmacy is in an unfamiliar place. Not to mention, if they even carry the medicine that I am used to. It even gets more complicated when you are traveling abroad, where the medicine might be prohibited or carried in a different formulation.

Set aside at least one packing cube for this. Make sure that if you are bringing a prescription-strength medication to bring a copy of the prescription with you. This is necessary during inspections in airport checkpoints, for example.

As a family who travels with an elderly with several health issues, we also make sure to bring a medical history packet with us. This packet includes her medical and surgical history, list of medications with dosages and frequencies, and a contact list for her medical team. That way, if something should happen while you’re on a vacation, the new healthcare team will have more time to address the health issue than doing guesswork.

Kris at Gadsventure

We recently left our home in Australia with all of our belongings packed into a couple of small suitcases for our year of travel. With 4 kids, this was no easy feat! We have a detailed list of what went into our bag here – https://gadsventure.com/travel-packing-checklist-family-edition/

Packing cubes are by far and away the number one best way to pack, especially when you have a lot of people to cater for. We got ours from Amazon. Each person has their own colour coordinated set, with one bag containing 5 sets of clothing, and a smaller bag for socks, underwear and swimwear.

Family travel duffel bag
One large check in bag is a great investment. Photo from Gadsventure.

Now 2 weeks in, we are able to cull anything we haven’t been using in order to make our bags even lighter. We always find that you only really wear the same few items over and over again.

When travelling for a long time, less is more. Have as few bags as humanly possible. There is nothing worse than getting off a plane with a bunch of kids, all refusing to carry their own backpacks, so Dad ends up being a pack horse while Mum headcounts the kids and the bags!

Shannan at Captivating Compass

Get ready to teach your kids life skills that will last a lifetime by teaching them to pack when they are young for camping trips or overnight sleep-overs. Teaching kids to pack for an entire trip, regardless of length or destination in just a carry on is doable! I’ve used the same checklist for nearly 15 years and it has never failed me (or the rest of the family). It’s simple and easy enough for most 7-year-olds to do practically by themselves. The key is to give the kids the list and let them create their ‘outfit piles’ according to the list. Then, before it all goes in the carry-on, it is checked by an adult. Finally, outfits are put into a zipper-lock bag and it’s done! This method has worked so well for our family that we have been able to pack for 3 weeks in Switzerland (in the winter) using just a carry-on and backpack! You can grab the full packing tutorial over at CaptivatingCompass.com

Nikki at Yorkshire Wonders

We travel frequently to Greece on a low cost airline. The flight ticket allows one carry on each and any extra bags need to be paid for. We usually just pay for one bag and then each take a good sized carry on. Usually we can check in the carry on at the travel desk for no extra cost which saves a great deal of money. My tip is to divide the families clothes between the bags and then if one is lost at least you all still have some clothes!

Annette at Tips from a Typical Mom

Packing for a family of 7 is a daunting task but we have figured out a way to make it as simple as possible, especially when taking a flight. When we are choosing lodging, we make sure that they have a laundry facility available to its guests. That way we can pack a few outfits and do our wash on a night while the kids are swimming in the pool. We can usually pack one carry on per person. This way we avoid any fees that are associated with airline baggage. It’s also very nice if we are driving because our luggage takes up so little space and leaves extra room for all 7 of us.

Make sure you check your kids bags if you let them pack themselves. You don’t want to arrive in Hawaii and have a bunch of winter clothes and no swimming suits packed! I usually make a checklist of things they need to pack so they can feel like they are independent, but I have them lay everything out on their beds and go and make sure they made good choices before they pack their bags. It’s a time-saver for us to do it this way. I also have a tricky way to pack your jewelry so it doesn’t get all tangled. You can read that post over on my blog.

Melissa at Disabled Disney

As a person with a lot of medical problems and disabled my packing is a little different then a normal healthy person. I have to make sure I have my medications and in an adequate amount for my trip and whatever equipment I need. I travel with a shower stool and a wheelchair. I also bought a foldable cane for travel so if I don’t have a lot of room to store it, it folds up!

My best tip is make sure your medications are in your carry on because if your luggage could get lost or held up you may not have your medications when you need them. We also travel as a family and when you have kids you have to take Ziplock bags with you! They are great for half-eaten snacks or if your kids are prone to motion sickness can be used in a pinch for those moments. We also go to Disneyland quite a bit. If you go on the water rides having a plastic baggy can protect anything you don’t want to get wet!

Tiffany at Mommy and Me Travels

To check a bag or not to check a bag? That is a continual battle. As airlines continue to add fees for everything, the largest cost is still a checked bag. No worries, you normally can get away with just a carry on for everyone. How you might ask, well easy, don’t try to pack the kitchen sink when you travel. Lets look at what is needed for a week long family trip.

Quick hitting packing list for each person: 2 (maybe 3) pairs of pants, 4 shirts, 7 pairs of underwear, 1 swimsuit, 7 pairs of socks. Some might think, no way can we pack so little. Remember most of the time you will be doing different activities so you can wear those pair of jeans more than once. And, if they do get dirty, just wash them in the sink or the bathtub. You can easily hand wash the clothes and hang them to dry. Viola, clean clothes!

One last tip… Buy different color packing cubes. I usually can get the above clothing list into one cube per person. The larger cubes are great for the adults and then as you move on to the kids you can use the small and medium ones. I love packing cubes because I quickly can locate each person’s clothes and not have to pull everything out of the bag to located that one item that is hiding at the bottom.

Sarah at State by State

The best tip for packing, whether it’s for a family vacation or living in an RV full-time, is to pack light. This can be a challenge when you have kids. They just seem to need a lot of stuff. Diaper bags, toys, books, extra clothes, it all adds to the space and weight when packing.

When we decided to move into our RV we had to do some major downsizing. It was difficult to decide what would come with us. The decision ultimately came down to how useful an item was. If something has multiple uses it makes it that much more appealing. Consider how you will use the item you are packing, if it is absolutely necessary, bring it.

Often we think we will need something, then end up never using it. It is amazing what we really can live without. The less you bring with you means the less you have to keep track of and the less you have to bring back with you. Try to stick with the necessities and not over plan for every possible disaster.

packing the minivan
Packing the minivan for family travel.

Shannon at Grab My Passport

Even as a seasoned traveler, I’m still guilty of overpacking. We love packing cubes and zip-tight storage bags to keep things organized, but one of my latest discoveries is grocery delivery services! On our recent week-long trip to Orlando, and our first with our newborn, I discovered Instacart and it was the greatest! I packed enough snacks and baby formula to get us through two days. Then, our first night in the hotel we signed up for Instacart’s free trial and placed our first order. We bought snacks, milk, bananas, yogurt, and baby formula. It arrived at our hotel lobby so quickly and everything was fresh! There are a lot of these types of services in the US, so check out what’s available in your travel area before you head out to help save some room in your suitcase.

kids love to pull their own luggage
Kids love to pull their own luggage.

Another quick tip we learned on our Orlando trip was all about taking advantage of checked car seats. Most airlines let you check a car seat for free, but they don’t specify that if you place your car seat in a protective carrier, that you can only put a car seat in it. We were able to toss a week’s worth of diapers in there with plenty of room to spare! Just tuck the diapers (or whatever) in the seat, buckle them in so they don’t get tossed around, and voilà, more space saved in your suitcase!

Sarah at Dandelion Seeds

I’m an optimist, but with airlines having lost my checked luggage more than once (my bags went to Paris and Hawaii without me!), I try to pack light and use only carry-on bags. If I do need to check a suitcase, I use it to pack things I could replace if I had to. What stays with me includes everything my family will need within our first 24 hours at our destination:

packing list
A written list is a wonderful resource to keep organized for family travel!

– My child’s lovey (can’t sleep without it!)
– Our toiletry bag
– Debit or credit cards, passports (for international travel), IDs, and insurance cards
– One day’s worth of clothes if they fit in the bag, or at least new underwear and socks
– My itinerary and confirmation numbers
– Phone charger

I also pack my packing checklist so that if I lose everything, I know exactly what I need to replace. In a nutshell, if it’s critical travel gear, it stays within reach. Everything else can go in the checked bag just in case it decides to take its own adventure!

Next week’s family travel blog topic: Saving Money on Food while Traveling.


Exploring a new place

Sightseeing and Activities – how to plan

sightseeing - mycenae archeological area in greece
Lions gate at Mycenae in Greece

This week we share 13 perspectives from seasoned travel moms suggesting tips on planning daily activities and sightseeing. This is the fourth of our Family Travel Blog Series. If you missed previous posts, check out:

Saving Money on Transportation

Selecting Family Travel Destinations

Choosing accommodations

Follow the links to each of the contributor’s websites for other great travel tips and educational resources!

Our tips from World Wise Kid

Exploring a new travel destination is exciting but can be also be frustrating and exhausting. From our experience, giving yourself lots of time, being prepared and staying flexible are key to creating great memories.

Time. Allow yourself the opportunity to ease into a place, walking around or sitting at a cafe to observe the surroundings and environment, soaking in the sounds, smells, and energy of a place. We find that discovering sights and wildlife on our own is so much more memorable than taking an expensive tour and having someone else show us and tell us about a new place. Often tours go too fast and don’t allow time to just wonder.

Being prepared. We try to do background research as a family before getting to our destination to know about the history, culture, wildlife, language and people. A story helps the kids connect to sights. Maps are fantastic visuals.

Be flexible and forgiving. Most important is balancing the kids’ and adults’ needs. Check in with everyone and learn how to compromise. Don’t be too attached to an idea of what the experience should be. You might not have time to see it all but you have an introduction to the place and can plan to return someday!

costa rica landscape - include time to ponder in your travel plans
Make sure to allow time to wonder at the landscape and sights.
(Photo credit Dandelion Seeds)

Regina at Fulltime Field Trip

Sometimes we plan our whole vacation based on the things we want to see and the activities we want to do. Our bucket list just keeps growing. I believe every place has a great story and there is usually something for all ages. Here are my five most practical tips for sightseeing.

Balance must-see spots that require a ticket purchase with free things to do.

Be prepared in case you’re out longer than you plan. For us, this means snacks and refillable water bottles. It might be extra diapers or cash for the next family. When you’re in the moment or the commute takes twice as long as planned, be prepared.

Download the app Field Trip and find things to do everywhere.

Break up into two groups. One parent with the older kids, the other with the younger kids. Or some other way to divide that suits your family. This works great at theme parks.

acropolis, athens - family travel sightseeing
Hit popular sights early in the morning to avoid the crowds.

Workaround the busy times. Don’t plan to use public transportation during rush hour. Do take advantage of evening or extended hours for sights. Don’t visit at the busiest time of the year. Do go to things early at the opening time when you’re more apt to see the things most important to you. Always look for crowd calendar type apps and sites to stay informed.

Kirsty at World for a Girl

Travelling with babies, toddlers and young children means very slow travel for us. Sight-seeing is spread out and copious amounts of time are spent in play parks and soft plays around the world. We try to factor in outdoor activities every day whether it’s beach time or a short hike. Making sure that the children get plenty of time to run around, be wild and have fun is an absolute priority.

When it comes to family-friendly cultural experiences, it’s all about ancient ruins and history museums for us. Visiting ancient ruins with toddlers might sound nightmarish but we love it. From the Acropolis in Athens with a baby to visiting the temples in Bagan, Myanmar with kids we’ve had nothing but amazing experiences visiting historic ruins. When they were younger, we carried the kids around sites in baby slings but now they run around pretending to be explorers.

sightseeing - archeological sights - theater in athens, greece
Exploring archeological sights allow kids freedom of movement, nature and outdoor exploration and a history lesson all in one place. (Theater of Dionysus, Athens)

Likewise, the children really enjoy history museums too. We’ve had the pleasure of visiting some amazingly child-friendly museums worldwide. For example, visiting South Korea with kids, we found that almost every museum has a superb interactive children’s museum attached. A brilliant way of combining sightseeing with play.

Yamy at Go Fam Go

Fear of Missing Out or FOMO is real. It’s a common mistake to condense everything into how long the trip is. You’re already there, might as well do it, right?

Try to not be tempted to overachieve. Enjoy and relax. Don’t drive yourself nuts as I did when we went to Walt Disney World for the first time. Have time for rest and cool spots. Otherwise, it would just feel like you are running appointment after appointment between every hot spot.

Doing nothing should be in your itinerary. Take this time to rehydrate, rest your aching feet from walking, or talk to your family and reflect on what you just saw and experience.

Kris at Gadsventure

You have to be incredibly organised when planning your itinerary, especially when you are on a short trip, and when you have a bunch of kids of different ages! A recent example for us was when we went to Tokyo, for 5 nights, with 4 kids. Tokyo is such an incredible place to visit, but there is just sooooo much to see and do!

We had to consider the weather, it was freezing cold. We were really there for snowboarding in the alps which made Tokyo around 5ºC during the day.Our boys are into anime and computer games and our daughter loves animals. The baby was easygoing luckily!

So we made a list, and we prioritised. Unfortunately Tokyo Disney was not an option for us thanks to the cold weather. We didn’t fancy queueing for ages in a light Siberian breeze. But we made sure that every person had something that really appealed to them. Miss 5 got to go to a Hedghog Cafe, Mr 7 loved the robots at the Miraikan Museum and the giant Gundam Statue, while Mr 9 especially loved all the gadgets at Akihabara Electric Town. Then there was Karaoke Kan, Segaworld VR, a Maid Cafe, Kiddyland Toystore, Takeshita Street, and so much more!

Being fitting as a samuari in Tokyo while waiting for a flight.

Shannan at Captivating Compass

E=MC2
Excitement = Museums X Coffee 2 – That was our travel formula before we had teenagers. It was perfect for our little crew. It’s my number one sightseeing and activity planning tip. We’d take in a museum in the morning when we were fresh, stop for a spot of lunch near somewhere that had a place to let the kids get rid of some energy while the parents grabbed a coffee (double shot, of course). Then, it was onto the next exciting activity.

Free time to just run!

We found that our kids regularly needed time to just play – at a park, in the water, along a hiking path or out in a grassy field. Museums are fantastic! Art, history, and science are all incredibly inspiring but don’t forget to sprinkle in a bit of free play to let their little brains organize and process all that information. Now that we have teenagers, we still follow this sightseeing and activity formula. It’s worked for so many years, it’s now a comforting routine for all of us.

Nikki at Yorkshire Wonders

If you are looking to make the most out of sightseeing then what we do is make a list of all the things we want to do at a particular destination. Then we each vote on our favourites until we have a shortlist. Then we either do all the things, if times allows, or we choose the top three or five attractions that got the most family votes and do them. If you are visiting a city like London, also take into consideration how close attractions are to each other and plan your route ahead of time. 

Annette at Tips from a Typical Mom

I start by finding the website for the destination we are going to and seeing what the locals recommend. We plan our itinerary around these activities starting with the most active activity since the kids have been sitting in a car or airplane for so long.

Next, we look for deals online from websites like Groupon. There is even sometimes a “City Pass” type of card that you can purchase for each family member that gets you into the most popular places. Take your time and I’m sure you can find some great deals to maximize your time spent there.

Melissa at Disabled Disney

What do you do while on vacation? That’s where sightseeing and activities comes in! When you’re travelling you want to see and experience everything. That can end up wearing you out. We make a list of priorities that are important that we get to experience. Everyone gets to pick 1 thing that is we absolutely have to do. That way everyone gets a say in how the vacation goes.

We also look at accessibility for my wheelchair. I normally Google the location to see what is interesting around the destination and also look for tours. Another thing that we do is take a “day off” day where nothing is planned so we can rest. If you don’t get to everything you want to do just go back!

Tiffany at Mommy and Me Travels

The first thing I’m going to tell you to do is, breath and relax. You are not going to get to see and do everything in a new country or city if you are on a 1, or even 2, week vacation with kids. This does not mean that you can’t make the most of your trip and still get the cultural or relaxing vacation of your dreams. Traveling with young children just means that you have to be creative in your strategy for sightseeing. I’m sharing my top 3 lessons I’ve learned over the last several years traveling with small children.

1) Be flexible. Traveling with a baby/toddler means a lot of unplanned activities and stops. It’s nice to sit and enjoy the scenery, smell the roses, or chase a bird ;). Welcome these breaks instead of worrying about staying on a schedule.
2) Include fun kid activities. Most museums and architectural places will not keep a kids attention for very long. Plan fun things to do in-between the museum and old church, even if it is just a short stop at the local playground so that they can burn some energy.
3) Invest in a great umbrella stroller. European attractions and activities (like taking a metro) are usually much more compact than we are accustomed to in the USA.

Sarah at State by State

For me, planning what to see and do at our next destination is the best part of travel planning, but can possibly be the most difficult part as well. Every destination we have traveled to always has so many amazing things to see and do that it is impossible to fit everything in. So then, how do we pick and choose between all the many options?

Well, being that we are very budget conscious, we try to participate in family-friendly, inexpensive activities that we all will enjoy. This often includes hiking and playgrounds, but can also be visiting museums and historical sites too. Having an ASTC membership has saved us tons of money and allowed us to visit some incredible museums across the country, for free. If you don’t have one of these ASTC memberships, but you enjoy visiting museums when you travel, I highly recommend getting one.

playground
Playgrounds are a great way to balance out sightseeing.
Photo credit Captivating Compass.

Sometimes, the kids are happy just to walk around town, other times they may need a little more entertainment. We are always on the lookout for a great value. For me this translates to, are we getting a good amount of entertainment, education, or fun, for the price? By waiting until October to visit San Diego for instance, we were able to save a ton of money because kids go free the whole month. So instead of just being able to buy tickets to Legoland, we were able to visit several attractions.

Shannon at Grab My Passport

Now that we’re traveling with kids in tow, planning activities is so much different than when it was just the two of us. We’ve got to ensure that there will be things to keep our four-year-old entertained, as well as ourselves. And, it must be baby-friendly, too! Here are our top three tips:

TripAdvisor: We usually start by seeing what TripAdvisor has to say. We’ll read through user comments for additional tips and “can’t miss” ideas.

Family Travel Blogs: Obviously! We’ll do a good old fashioned Google search for “things to do in [+ city].” We’ll comb through family travel blogs for the best family-focused activities and tips, as well as “travel hacks” for traveling with younger kiddos.

Discount Deal Sites: We’re always checking sites like Groupon or Living Social for deals in the local area. You can find everything on these sites, from discounted shows, activities, restaurants, hotels, and more!

Once we’ve narrowed down our wish list, we plan out each day, leaving room for relaxing, snack times, and free time to just play around. We try to plan out restaurants too, to make sure we won’t need reservations and that they are kid-friendly!

Sarah at Dandelion Seeds

My best advice is to incorporate some memorable, fun, and unusual-for-you modes of transportation into your sightseeing activities. Preview the area you’re visiting online, including mapping distances, then decide who in your family can walk, light rail, bike, or tuk-tuk to whatever sights you’re prioritizing. If your kiddos are little, they might get a thrill from an open-air bus tour, and you’ll see places where you want to return and spend more time. The internet is great, but there’s just no way to replace getting the lay of the land with your own eyes.

Millenium bridge London- Sightseeing with kids
Allow time to connect with the wildlife while going place to place.
Photo credit: Yorkshire Wonders.

One of my favorite vacation activities of all time was a horseback ride through the rainforest of Costa Rica, surrounded by howler monkeys, before swimming in a waterfall-fed pond. Getting there was (more than) half the fun. Make the journey part of your sightseeing adventure!

Next week’s family travel blog topic: Packing Tips.


Choosing where to stay

Camping, guesthouses, hostels, hotels or an apartment?

This week we share 13 perspectives from seasoned travel moms contemplating how we choose accommodation. This is the third of our Family Travel Blog Series. If you missed previous posts, check out Saving Money on Transportation and Selecting Family Travel Destinations.

I encourage you to follow the links to each of the contributor’s websites for other great travel tips and educational resources.

Our tips from World Wise Kid

Choosing where to stay depends on location, climate and the focus of our travels. For wildlife and nature-based trips, we love car camping. We fill one big check-in duffel bag with tent, tarp, sleeping bags, and pads. We rent an economy car at our destination and seek out small campgrounds at beaches and parks. Wherever we pitch the tent the kids call “home” – and we get to use our own personal bedding! When the kids wake up, there is wild space to run around. We’ve toured Hawaii, Costa Rica, Alaska, Florida, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand this way.

New Zealand is an ideal destination for car camping.

With trips focused more on history and culture – in more urban areas – we find an apartment, bungalow or guesthouse through Airbnb or Booking.com. Homestays are great to get to know the locals and culture. Scanning the photos helps us identify simple, rustic accommodation that matches our style and needs. We use the mapping feature to choose a quiet neighborhood, within walking distance to sites and stores.

Traveling mostly in the off-season, and avoiding the beaten track, we decide on a day-to-day basis where we will stay, rather than booking in advance. The trip is a spontaneous adventure!

Regina at Fulltime Field Trip

These days there are a variety of accommodations for family vacations. But at some point, you’ll probably have to stay at a hotel. When that’s the case, here are four ideas to reduce costs.

1. When planning, search incognito or use a search engine that focuses on privacy like DuckDuckGo. That way your searches, and thereby rates, are not stored in your cookies.
2.Take advantage of hotel reward programs. Credit card sign-up bonuses add up to huge savings.
3.Be flexible with your dates. You may get a better rate staying on a Sunday night, during the week, or a certain number of nights.

Only stay in hotels that offer free breakfast and have a mini fridge. Free breakfast means one-third of our food is free. Mini-Fridge means we can pack our own lunches and save money. And while it’s usually against the rules, I’ve been known to bring a crockpot on vacation to prepare dinners.

Kirsty at World for a Girl

When it comes to choosing good family accommodation with kitchen facilities, we have two favourite routes. The first is using hotel booking platforms. We use the search functions to really narrow down the options. For example, if you use Booking.com on a PC you can use the search bar on the left to select only apartments or only places with swimming pools. On AirBnB.com, there is a similar search feature where you can search only for family-friendly properties (under the Trip Type tab) and select items that you require like cribs and high chairs (under the More Filters tab).

Our second favourite way of finding exactly the right accommodation is home-swapping. We are huge house-swap fans having had successful swaps in Denmark, Switzerland, the USA and Jamaica. We swapped our 4 bedroom house in London with families and retired couples. Sometimes for just a week and twice for over a month. I can’t even begin to list all the benefits of house swaps here but they include cost (it’s totally free except a small fee to the organising website), the opportunity to swap cars as part of the deal, child-friendly houses filled with toys, meeting locals and exploring lesser-visited parts of the world. If you’re open-minded and relaxed about sharing your home with strangers house-swapping really is a fantastic and unique way to see the world.

http://www.peoplelikeus.world is a friendly community of travelers and home swappers.

Yamy at Go Fam Go

When booking for accommodations, our family usually prefer staying at 4-5 star hotels that we could get for the price of a lower tier hotel or maybe even “free”. We saved hundreds of dollars with hotels through the use of mileage and points accrued from a travel credit card.

One such credit card available to travelers in the USA is the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. When I applied for it, I received a sign-up bonus of 100,000 points and an annual credit of $300 towards travel expenses. On top of that, I also earn bonus triple points for using it towards any dining and travel related expenses. Everyday expenses such as groceries, eating out or even filling up the gas can turn into a free vacation once you accumulate enough points.

These credit card companies have online travel portals where you can book your hotels on a discounted rate. Otherwise, you can easily transfer your accrued points to their hotel partners in a 1:1 ratio. The points are not exclusive to a certain loyalty program.

Kris at Gadsventure

When choosing accommodation for our family holiday, I just can’t go past Airbnb. We have had a series of wonderful bookings worldwide and totally think it is the best way to go.

A family of 6 has little options with hotel rooms, often having to pay double for interconnecting rooms. However with Airbnb we have so many beautiful homes to choose from, and the prices give you so much better value for money. Our kids are still little and don’t mind sharing beds or sleeping on couches too.

Having little kids, I value the inclusions that you get from Airbnb such as a kitchen and laundry. It’s also the personal touches to a place that really make you feel you are at home away from home. Sometimes the owners fill the fridge with enough food for breakfast! Or I have seen welcome baskets of fruit too. Hosts are the best point of contact if you need to organise an airport transfer, or local ground transport too.

Kitchen in an family travel accommodation
There are many benefits to booking accommodation with a kitchen.

The most important thing when booking through Airbnb is to make sure you read the reviews, and if anything is unclear, ask questions of your host before you book. Hosts respond within 24 hours in most cases.

Airbnb has started advertising experiences now as well as just houses which can give you some great ideas on things to do during your stay. Have a browse, it’s totally free to join!

Shannan at Captivating Compass

Choosing accommodations for traveling families can always be a challenge. If you stress most about organizing lodging for your international destinations, these 2 tips are for you!

  1. Consider Hostels – They aren’t just for backpacking college students anymore. For any size family, but especially large families, this is a great money saving option to consider. If traveling mid-week and off season, hostels are generally very quiet. Many hostels have family-friendly game rooms and lounges to relax in. Perfect for kids that want to blow of steam and parents that want to relax. Most are family friendly, but make sure you ask before you make reservations, just in case.
  2. House sitting – If the price of lodging has put you off international travel, house sitting is the way to reduce your travel lodging budget to nearly zero. Joining websites that offer house sitting opportunities, preparing a profile to share, and asking plenty of questions during any house sitting interviews will secure you the perfect lodging arrangement while helping out a fellow traveler.
    You can read more about affordable accommodation options for families visiting the UK here.

Nikki at Yorkshire Wonders

Here are my tips for staying in a hotel with kids! The best arrangement are adjoining rooms. If you have older kids they have their own space, but more importantly, with younger kids you can maintain their bedtimes. You can settle them into bed and keep the room quiet, without having to sit in the dark yourself while they fall asleep! If you can’t afford adjoining rooms (and it does make it very expensive) then try and get a room with a balcony. Then at least you can sit with a book and a glass of wine on your balcony while the kids fall asleep! 

Van camping in Utah.
Car and van camping in Utah on the wild plateaus.

Annette at Tips from a Typical Mom

When it comes to choosing accommodations for my family, there is a checklist I like to use. This way I can be sure that we will be comfortable and have a chance to sit back and relax without stepping on each others toes.

1. Does it have enough beds for everyone to sleep comfortably in?
2. Is there a kitchenette so we can prepare some of our own meals to save money?
3. Is there a pool for the kids to spend some time in?
4. Is there a complimentary breakfast?
5. Is it close to all the sights we want to see while we are in the area?
6. Does it provide transportation to and from the airport and to activities and events?

If I can’t find a good deal on a hotel that can sleep our big family of 7, I start looking for Condos or Airbnb. I always find great deals at https://jifu.life/tipsfromamom. They have time share condos to rent when they are not being used! It’s amazing!

Melissa at Disabled Disney

When we are looking for a place to stay on vacation we look at price, location and amenities. When I am researching I use Travelocity to compare prices. I also look on Priceline and Hotwire if we are flexible on location. When it comes to location I try to get within a few miles of everything we plan to do. Since we normally drive, we have our vehicle to use.

I look at amenities for the hotels. The things that we need are handicap accessibility, refrigerator and microwave. If our stay will be longer than a few days I try to get an extended stay with a full kitchenette. If I can, I also try to use Booking.com to reserve our hotel room because I can earn Kicks from ShopKick and they have rooms you can wait to pay until arrival!

hotel double beds
Earns points with your hotel reservations.
Photo credit Typical Mom.

Tiffany at Mommy and Me Travels

When choosing accommodations for my family while on vacation I find the most important thing for us is cleanliness. While this seems like a given, we have found when traveling the USA and the World, the cheap places are not always the clean ones. I have young children that still enjoy playing on the floor and taking a bath. I can not in good conscious let my kids do either of these activities if a place is dirty. This sometimes makes people refer to me as that person who has champagne taste on a beer budget. While this might be true, I find ways to make budget traveling work. I accomplish this by researching more and finding other creative ways to save money. Here are just a few ideas on things I do to save money and find the perfect sleeping arrangements.

Quick hitting money saving ideas:

  1. Think outside the box for accommodations. We have flown to other countries and rented an RV to stay at camp grounds while we drove around to visit different locations. This not only saved us hundreds, possibly thousands, of dollars but it also gave our kids more stability as we traveled because they weren’t unpacking and repacking their suitcases. I was able to stop by a grocery store and buy some cleaning supplies to ensure that the RV met my standards of cleanliness.
  2. If staying in a hotel: join rewards programs, look for places you can cook (with a kitchen) or has food provided (such as breakfast and/or evening receptions), sign up for their email alerts, and be flexible on dates such as traveling during the week.
  3. Many sites are now available that let you stay in a house for a few nights to several months. You can find places such as houses that are only used for rentals to true house swapping where you and another family agree upon a length of time and pretty much free accommodations and everything in between. Depending on your requirements and level of comfort this could mean your accommodations only cost you pennies a night.

Sarah at State by State

Choosing where to stay is probably just as important as choosing where to go. Accommodations need to be comfortable, affordable, and most importantly close to our destination and the activities we plan to do. Our family travels full-time in a travel trailer, so our choice of places to stay consists of campgrounds, both public and private.

Ask the locals where you can free camp on public beaches. Photo credit to State-by-state.

We love staying in State and National Parks, but they are not always close to the activities we are planning to participate in. Honestly, price plays a big part in our decision on where to stay. We research quite a bit before making our final decision. Whether the campground or RV park has full hook-ups, showers, gravel or paved parking pads, trees or open spaces, fire rings, picnic tables, and other things all influence our decision. Since we usually only stay a few days or a week in any place, it allows us a lot of flexibility in choosing our accommodations, if we aren’t happy with the place we are in, we move!

One of the great things about traveling in an RV is the ability to be flexible. We almost never make reservations because we like to be able to change our plans on the spur of the moment. If someone tells us about a really cool activity, but it’s not on our route, we can change course easily. Some of our favorite accommodations have been in the least likely places.

Shannon at Grab My Passport

I do a lot of research into accommodations to make sure that where we stay is not only affordable but that it will provide everything we need as a family. Our two favorite online booking tools are Airbnb and Booking.com. I usually start with Airbnb to check out what’s available in the area and compare it to the pricing and locations of local hotels.

ski lodge
Renting a whole house for a snow trip. Photo from Gadsventures.

Typically, I’ll check booking.com for prices and reviews and then I’ll head to the hotel’s direct website to check their price. Booking.com runs great specials sometimes that can’t be beaten, but I prefer to book directly with a hotel if possible, as it’s usually easier to make changes when you do so. Traveling with young children, accommodations are the most important part of our trip!

Sarah at Dandelion Seeds

Choosing accommodations is different for us than it is for some families. We don’t always want to be in the middle of all the action. We crave downtime to decompress after exploring, so busy hotels aren’t our thing. A relaxing “home away from home” is perfect. I’m reframing that old adage, “If mama’s happy, everyone’s happy” to “A well rested child makes for an easy vacation!”

Moreover, with food allergies, we need a rental home with a full kitchen so we can have home cooked meals. Fortunately, Airbnb and VRBO, and some of their lesser-known international counterparts, let us “tour” potential accommodations before we go. If the place looks good for sleeping and cooking, we’ll gladly walk a few extra blocks for sightseeing. My advice for renting a home is to Google “best website for lodging in [the country you’re visiting]”. Know that it might be a different site than the one you use in your home country. You’ll likely get the best rates, security, and overall experience this way.

open door of old castle
The options are open – where are you going to stay next? Photo from Dandelion Seeds.

Next week’s family travel blog topic: Sightseeing and Activities.