Travel is our passion and travel with children has become our lifestyle since we decided to show our kids the world. Before that, there was our whole lifetime of single and couple travel to every corner of the globe. Six years of continuous travel around the world later, we’re still exploring, just that our family vacations get better with each passing year and our kids growing centimetres!
Even though things are bound to happen on family vacations, we felt it’s worth it for the great moments. We’ve had tantrums and time-outs all over the world, but we figure if we are gonna learn to master these behaviours somewhere, it may as well be on the go LOL!
The boys will only be boys once, so we’re just going to enjoy it. There’s no time like the present to start planning our next trip, and to show them that the world is vast, even when we are still singing “It’s a small world after all.”!
How to travel with kids, and enjoy it?
As parents (and travellers) we go to great lengths to plan ahead for our family vacation. It is imperative when travelling with kids to prepare transportation, meals, fun activities and most crucially, rest time in between. Kids love to explore and don’t care for the time pressures of travel, so we’re more likely to all retain our cool if we factor the faffing, stalling, toilet stops and tantrums into our timeframe.
The first thing we do in itinerary planning is making a list of everything we are interested in exploring. Next, we make another list of things that our kids enjoy by googling to see what fun activities are possible for them at each destination. Our itinerary will ultimately revolve around their breaks, so as to find solace at a nearby cafe over high tea while the kids enjoy their afternoon naps.
In any case, anticipation is half the fun, so we also involved the children in the planning part, learning a bit of the history of where we are visiting and what things we want to do there. To date, attractions such as the zoo, indoor theme parks, underwater world and not forgetting, the Disneyland Resort where there’s one!
As always, do take note of the operation hours and transportation routes so as to make sure we arrived in good time. For a little bit of fun previewing our destination, go check out Google Street View or interactive map for a quick walkthrough!
When we have our lists, we pick ONE thing from each list to do per day as most likely that’s all we’ll successfully accomplish, and even the “successfully” part is not always guaranteed.
Packing for the little ones?
Trust us, travelling with kids is a whole different kind of circus than setting off with boots and a backpack in our twenties. With two children travelling on planes, trains, boats, buses and on foot, we can imagine that our packing style has morphed somewhat over the years. Even for road trips behind our very own wheels, we tend to pack and travel light, using packing cubes to organise our stuff, sorting items into sturdy, light-weight, canvas zipper bags to eliminate the stress of digging through our luggage. In our recent 17-day trip to Europe, all we brought along was a mid-sized check in luggage, a cabin size luggage, a camera bag and another backpack for the kid’s stuff, while returning with just another extra mid-size suitcase for our shopping excesses! To build their excitement for the trip, we would involve our children in the packing process, discussing what to expect and what we might need, and pick out a few toys, books and activities to enjoy on the road.
Necessity has been the mother of invention, and we’ve learned, and relearned, how little we really need to make a journey over the years. Fret not, almost everything can be bought abroad, even though it might not be the same brand but we’ll manage if we are willing to adjust our expectations.
Hotel or vacation rental?
我们通常都是通过 Agoda、Airbnb 这些管道预订住宿,并且会先参考一些 Traveller with kids 的评语。除了要选择 Kids Friendly 或 Family friendly 的住宿,地点也要交通方便,靠近便利店、景点等,还有远离治安黑区。
Hotels have perks (room service, meals, babysitting services, etc.), but vacation rentals mean we can make it our home and prepare our own meals, which might be useful if our children have a special diet. It’s a personal choice, but one worth thinking about, with plenty of options available on Agoda or Airbnb.
Commute with more comfort and less hassle
Most kids love the novelty of travelling by train, bus and boat, so we tend to ditch the hire car and use public transport where possible so that they could soak up new experiences, excitedly absorbing each new sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell.
如果是在低消费的区域旅行,我们就选择租车自驾,出发前必需先查看驾驶执照的限制,以及当地的交通规则和驾驶习惯。当然也别忘了租儿童安全座椅;或也可选搭 UBER 和计程车,但必须事前查询当地的安全性,选择信誉好的导游包车也是一项不错的方式。
With ride-sharing services like Uber and Grab (not available in some countries) are all the rage these days. The coverage and response time can be excellent and usually quite a bit cheaper than taxis or car services in many cities, but subject to the overall safety of your travel destination. Still, nothing beats taking your own wheels and moving about at will with a rented vehicle where the overall cost of living is inexpensive, but it’s always good to check the traffic regulations and whether you are comfortable with driving on a different side of the road (left-hand drive vs. right-hand drive)?
Eating right with the kids in mind
Long-anticipated travel is not without its nutritional challenges, and adding kids to the mix multiplies those challenges. There’s more to consider than packing a few extra snacks and baby wipes. Pack some travel-friendly snacks and drink only bottled water, so no one gets sick. Our preference is to enjoy a combination of restaurant meals and packed food to save some money while providing good nutrition!
Keeping the kids entertained while on the move
In a tropical country like Malaysia, a family outing is just a drive away no matter what time of the year. We are fortunate that way but having said that, regardless of a day trip to LEGOLAND®, Pontian, Batu Pahat, Kota Tinggi, or a weekend staycation in Mersing, Melaka and other offshore islands, logging long miles in the car will certainly have our kids asking for snacks to ease the boredom. Apart from making regular pit stops so that they can enjoy their food, we would also try to “collaborate” with them on a list of boredom-busting activities such as games, music, videos, books and more.
For longer road trips further north to Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Kuantan and the eastern coasts or short haul flights to East Malaysia, our preparations were just as comprehensive. We were glad that our kids have grown quite accustomed to our travels and are generally quite well-behaved, freeing our attention to focus on getting to our destination in a peace of mind.
Keep the activities coming to keep them occupied
When we’re heading out on a long journey, we have a collection of stuff to be handed out once a while. Handheld puzzles, colouring books and even small packs of non-perishable snacks will pass the time on a long flight or car journey. Alternatively, we try to plan our trips around bedtime as a sleeping child is a blessing for everyone. If we have to make a connecting flight, be sure to leave a good amount of time, as the last thing we need is a mad dash through an unfamiliar airport. In short, try as much as we can to make the journey part of the vacation, so as to give ourselves ample time to stretch legs, visit bathrooms, eat, talk, play, and get ready for the next flight.
Don’t forget the medicine
Whether they’re out of routine, jet-lagged, or eating less healthily, kids always seem to get ill on holiday. Our travel first aid kit would always include medication for fevers, allergic reactions, upset stomachs, antiseptic wipes, bandages, plasters, sting treatment, hand sanitizer and thermometer. A wipe of the cutlery in restaurants where we’re unsure of hygiene, or a squirt of hand sanitizer when there are no washing facilities, can zap a few germs and prevent toddlers catching some common bugs. We also made it a point to read up on the travel advisory so as not to put ourselves at the risk of epidemic or security threats, while keeping a list of emergency contacts in times of need (touch wood!)
Travelling is life-changing, and getting out of the daily grind and being adventurous makes us come alive. Our travels have been the best times of our lives, and family vacations are a great way for us to build memories and makes for awesome stories too. As parents to two very young children, we can hardly wait to start planning our next trip with them.