Leo Babauta has decided to put his entire blog in free content, so this article is a personal translation of Leo Babauta’s post that you can find here.
Tips for travelling with children
I am in London with Eva and our 6 children in the middle of our european adventure and we are all very excited.
A number of people asked me how we planned this and if I had any advice for traveling with children… So here we go! In this article you will find planning this trip keeping it fun and quiet for our whole big family.
We have been planning and saving for this trip for some time… I have a special travel savings fund, and since we don’t buy many things, the savings are automatic. We also used a lot of the miles I accumulated to reduce costs.
The planning of the trip was done in a democratic way: everyone voted their preferred destination city using an online survey. We then took the winning cities and conducted a second poll, where everyone voted on the number of days to devote to each city: so the route was created.
Ask them to take responsibility
We asked the four older children to each take a city and find an AirBnb apartment in that city. At first we had to decide which neighborhood to live in (I use a combo of criteria that uses the density of things to see, vegan dining options and good coffees) and then we delegated the choice of the apartment according to criteria: washing machine, decent photos and reviews, enough space and bathrooms for our large family Etc.
Light Pack: Children have now adopted the philosophy of “light pack” and we travel with a light backpack (the youngest ones carry their own small backpack). This allows us to easily navigate cities, airports, trains and buses with our luggage, and we are not tired of dragging things.
Take as little as possible and wash clothes at each destination so you don’t need a lot of extra clothing.
Give them responsibility
We try to teach them independence by asking them to fulfill their travel responsibilities as we travel. Of course, this has to be adapted to their abilities and age, but two of our “children” are actually adults and two are almost adults. They can share most of their responsibilities. Even the youngest have things to do.
Take turns being leaders: I usually play the role of leader, but during this trip I asked them to take each day a day to plan, navigate, find restaurants, etc
. But we’re just starting this experiment and we’ll see how it goes.
Let them take care of their business
As parents, I think we tend to check what the kids have packed, to make sure everyone has their things, to wash their clothes…
That’s their thing, and if they forget things or lose them, they’ll understand.
All the logistics are excellent, but what about happiness as you walk for hours in a city and the kids are tired and hungry? I don’t pretend to have all the answers but here are some things I tried to do:
Experience an adventure: everything will go wrong, we will get lost, we will miss trains, etc., which can be frustrating or part of the adventure! So I try to talk to them about how we go on an adventure to put them in the right frame of mind.
It’s easy to stay in a rigid schedule and try to achieve everything, but we all know that the plans are always going wrong. So I found it useful to take a more flexible approach and not plan everything rigidly. We often have an idea of what we want to do every day (maybe decided the day before), but it’s better if we follow the flow of things and decide on each activity as we go along. That way, we are not stressed when things don’t go as planned.
Don’t rush: I tend to rush if I’m honest. I don’t know why, it just seems in my nature to want to walk fast, and expect everyone to follow. I tried to remember not to be in a hurry, even though I often forget. There’s no need to do everything in one day, and although I don’t like to miss a flight, we try to leave a little early so we don’t have to rush everyone. Moreover, it is not the end of the world if we miss a train or a flight.
Take your time, don’t rush people, and everyone is happier.
Also be aware that they are frustrated: parents are easily frustrated when children are not behaving perfectly, but honestly, why should we expect them to behave ideally? The truth is that they become frustrated, tired and grumpy like us. So when they behave imperfectly, I try to breathe and feel their frustration, their fatigue, and feel compassion for their struggles.
My mission during this trip is to remind me to abandon my expectations towards children and travel in general… and be there with them. Experience the joy of travelling with them.
Remember to be grateful: I have constantly asked them (and myself): “How lucky are we to be here right now?” In the middle of a trip, it can be easy to forget how beautiful our life is, how amazing it is to be where we are… and sometimes we just have to stop and take note, and appreciate the moment around us.