The ugly side of traveling with kids

There is an ugly side to traveling with kids

We have all thought of it, no one really mentions it, and thus everyone is left in the dark as to the real life of a traveling family. Yeah sure, some kids are mellow and just go with the flow. Some are easy going and just love everything. But the average child is not like this. The average child has strong opinions and even stronger desires to carry out those opinions, regardless of the consequences. This is the unspoken truth of traveling with those precious little bundles we call our children.

Tantrums in Public

People think we are kidnapping them. Seriously, when the yelling and kicking and screaming are at their max, onlookers suddenly start looking and asking each other questions. We haven’t gotten spoken to yet, but the kids are getting older so hopefully this ends soon. You never know when traveling with kids; witching hour is a real thing and being exhausted from all the travel and over-stimulation from the surrounding area can push even the greatest traveler over the edge.

Don’t listen

Even if they are being good, they can’t seem to lower their volume or intensity of the conversation. Private conversations seem to be blared out at maximum volume and they repeat the worst parts of it while eavesdropping. Stop talking about why that person is this or why they are eating that! Please!

Sheer amount of talking

I am a talker. I have always been a talker, just ask my mom. When I tell her my ears are bleeding between the two kids talking over my husband, she just giggles and says karma. But it’s true! They don’t stop talking. Sometimes I just want peace and quiet. I really want to listen to the audio guide that I just paid 5 euro for, or to hear the stories on the Hop On Hop Off bus. Heck, I would settle for the announcements on the train.

Always hungry and thirsty

During meal time, it never fails, someone isn’t hungry. We ordered them their own meal, and they just don’t want it. Minutes after leaving the restaurant, they are hungry again. And thirsty, after downing two glasses of milk and my last Capris Sun for the day.

This ultimately leads to always needing to use the toilet about an hour later, if we’re lucky.

Always wants to buy something

Create habits and rules regarding spending. They must look at the whole store, or even series of stores, before they are allowed to pick ONE souvenir. I usually question the choice and offer them alternatives that I think they would prefer. It doesn’t always work but they do only get one.

When they are older, they will have an allowance and only allowed to purchase with that. I will buy one per vacation and the rest is up to them. It worked with me when I was 12 on our trip to Walt Disney World.

What if they don’t like to travel?

There are times when little ones, and not so little ones, just aren’t that interested in travel. They just want to sit at home, watch tv, or colour, or have a play date with the neighbor. And any other day would be great, except the day we are leaving for our 2 week road trip across 3 countries. Why can’t you be happy with being a home body when we have nothing planned, like the last 2 weeks when you refused to do any of the things you suddenly NEED to do now?

Early to bed, early to wake

This one is kind of ok with me. Since their regular bedtime is 7 pm, as most children this age, it doesn’t really change when on holiday. They need to go to bed roughly 7-8pm at the hotel as well. Well, this means everyone goes to bed at 7-8 pm. One bedroom hotel rooms are great if you, the parent, are a little sleep deprived. Sleep when the kids sleep; it will be the most rest you’ve gotten in a while.

As for the early to wake; things open early. You want to be first in line anyways, at least now you have a cute little alarm clock hugging your face instead of a random person ringing the phone.

Never an “off” day to relax.

Unlike solo or couple travelers, family travel with little ones don’t really have a “day off”. We can’t just sit by the pool, sleep in until noon and do whatever. Kids need supervision at all times so unless they are at daycare while on holiday, you are still on duty.

Kids don’t have an off switch.

Going back to my point about no off-days, kids need structure in their day. Sitting around the hotel room doesn’t really cut it for most. They will annoy you and whine, and complain until you do something.

Hotels are harder to find, more expensive and a lot more crowded

Hotels have a nasty habit of charging per body in the room. I have no idea why this is, I mean, the room is being rented out whether it’s one person or 4. Why charge more for the same number of beds and towels. Either way, it’s not like you are going to split the cost of the room with them or anything so hotels tend to cost more for families. We also need a little more space than the average traveler so that brings the price up a little bit.

I prefer a hotel that is somewhat centrally located, only because I don’t have the energy to drag them on two connecting trains and a bus just to get downtown. This means the area is more crowded, my hotel costs more, and the room is probably smaller is I want to stick to my budget.

Bedtime sucks

Try to sleep in a different bed, large room, in sight of everyone. This leads to the 2 hours of “close your eyes, stop talking and go to sleep” broken record.

Must consider them when making the itinerary

Traveling is not longer about you, or your partner. You have other people to think about and they aren’t exactly verbose with their traveling desires. We need to think about what they would like to see, when they would like to see it throughout the day and if what I want to do with cause an epic meltdown because it isn’t “kid-centered” enough for them.

Throughout our 3 years of traveling, the kids have started to learn that the more they allow us to do, the more we will reward them with things that they want to do.

At the end of the day…

I love those little buggers and nothing they do will change that. Also, nothing they can possibly throw at me will stop me from taking them on vacation with us. Check out Why I choose to travel with kids for a Family-blogger Q&A and Why traveling with little ones is the best for some positive reasons to travel with the kids.

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Christine Leger is the founder of Tapped Out Travellers, a Family Travel Blog About Travel with Kids. We explore travelling on a budget, splurging on bucket-list travel opportunities along the way. Although Canadian, she currently lives in Germany.

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8 Responses

  1. This is all so true! But it’s still worth it 🙂

    We gave up on hotels long ago, now we stick to 2 bedroom apartments for our family of four.

    • We’ve tried apartments and sometimes they are just too darn expensive or out of the way. For the little one night stays, we have a hotel. Our recent stay in Rome was rather nice; two bedroom suite. No kitchen though. But at least we ha quiet time after the kids were in bed.

  2. Kevin Wagar says:

    People always ask about how we handle the kids on the road. Everything you say here is so true, but it’s just as true at home, the environment is just more familiar 🙂

    • Exactly. Nothing they do on vacation/traveling is any different than at home or in their own town. It just feels worse ’cause we can’t easily escape into our safety bubble.

  3. Alina says:

    The bit about food sounds like me 🙂 I am always hungry, thirsty and need to go to bathroom 🙂 so at least that won’t change some day when I will have kids to travel with 🙂

  4. Meghan says:

    So weird how I don’t really experience this other than the bedtime sucking lol Although most of the time we work them so hard during the day they pass out the second their heads hit the pillow lol That’s always my “plan” lol
    Now I just jinxed myself for our next trip… lmao

  5. I love the honesty in this post =)

    And reasons 1-12 are exactly why I’ve opted not to have children, ha! It’s a good fit for some people, just not me and my lack of patience 😉


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