Kidsontheroad – 10 mistakes about traveling with toddlers

Most parents agree that traveling with schoolchildren or teenagers is a sensible or at least doable thing.

When it comes to traveling with small children, negative clichés seem to predominate. There are real reasons for most of them, but they are mostly generalized and push the positive aspects into the background.

Horror stories just spread faster than beautiful ones and have a tendency to become independent. "Lena must have roared the whole flight, imagine how terrible!" Is a more exciting playground topic than "" Müllers had such a nice vacation with Luis, he was very relaxed. "

When parents, who used to love traveling, stay at home for years because of such stories, it’s just a shame for both parents and children. That is why we want to take a closer look at 10 common negative ideas about traveling with small children in order to hopefully remove their terror.

1. Young children are more strenuous when traveling than at home

"That would be too exhausting for me!" Is the absolute classic among the reactions to our trips. "Sure," I then reply, "it’s damned exhausting. But not at home? "

Now "strenuous" is a very subjective category. Personally, I am always a lot less stressed out by my children when traveling than at home and believe that most parents will feel the same way as soon as they try it out. You are together 24 hours a day and often have to take care of the little ones more in a foreign environment than at home. But time pressure and everyday stress are eliminated, the children are more outdoors and therefore more balanced. The relaxation of the parents is transferred to the little ones.

For many parents it is only the distance from everyday routine that allows them to engage with their child at leisure, and children are infinitely grateful for that.

Especially if you have a little screamer or house tyrant at home, you should give him the chance to show yourself from a completely different side, detached from everyday life.

Depending on your travel destination, it can also happen that your unexpected support from the locals. In Asia, for example, parents can often eat in peace while the grateful little ones are spoken to by nice waiters or waitresses without being asked.

2. With toddlers you need a child-friendly travel destination

If "child-friendly" should mean "as close as possible, everything as possible as at home, with childcare and fun", then I can only disagree.

Firstly, I go on vacation with my children to experience something new with them and not to get rid of any activities that are also at home. Who needs playgrounds when there are beaches, wild nature and foreign culture? Second, long-range destinations can be more child-friendly than short-range destinations (see 6.).

Third, the most beautiful form of child friendliness is a population that children integrate naturally and naturally into everyday life. This makes your vacation a lot easier than the greatest kids’ club. Such child-friendliness can be found in many countries that are not necessarily considered classic family travel destinations, e.g. in the Arab world and in Asia. It is therefore worth taking a critical look at the common definition of “child-friendly”.

And fourth, we are better, happier parents if we do not lose sight of our own needs. So we should choose a destination that makes us happy.

Happy parents = happy children.

3. Traveling is too dangerous for young children

And here again the counter question: not living at home? Understandably, parents want to protect their children from all dangers. But our fears are often out of proportion to the real danger. It often seems to me that parents’ feeling of danger is particularly subjective and distorted. The fact is that most child accidents happen in the home, especially in the kitchen.

The potential dangers on the road are different from at home and often make parents unnecessarily unsettling. Of course, it makes sense to study the security advice from the Federal Foreign Office. But before you make the choice of your travel destination dependent on it, look for exact statistics or just ask yourself with common sense how big the risk is actually to be hit by an earthquake, tsunami or terrorist attack. It is certainly much less than being run over by a car at home. Tourists are rarely affected by political unrest.

Also, hardly anyone robs a family with young children, and locals are often keen to protect little tourists from any injustice. In Turkey, for example, no bee or wasp could approach our children without attentive Turks jumping to drive the animal away.

In many cultures (e.g. Asian) you naturally feel responsible for other people’s children. The anonymity and lack of interest in children, as seen in German cities, are unknown in most countries. This is an additional safety factor when traveling.

4. Young children get sick more often when traveling

There is no evidence for this widespread assumption either, and empirical values ​​also contradict this. The next time you hear a medical history from vacation, ask how often the child in question lies flat at home. Kindergarten children in Germany go through an average of 8-9 infections a year.

Don’t forget: Nowhere else do viruses spread as quickly as in daycare centers, and this focus of infection is eliminated when traveling. In addition, hardly anything is healthier for your children than lots of fresh air, and there is more on vacation than at home (especially if you escape the German winter).

Parents are often unsettled by the fear of the unknown: tropical diseases, doubts about the quality of medical care. Precise research beforehand, the conversation with the pediatrician and a proper first-aid kit are soothing here.

There is also at least one hospital of international standard in developing countries, sometimes the care is even better than at home (e.g. in Singapore). We have already been treated excellently in Bali, as well as in Peru, Thailand and South Africa.

5. Flying with toddlers is horror

May be, but need not be. Parents have a lot of options to make a long flight with toddlers more bearable. In particular, booking a night flight is crucial: at some point every child gets tired at night, and planes, with their even buzz, have a similarly sleepy effect on young children, similar to cars. If you have the right employment material with you, you also have a clear advantage. Even an age-appropriate iPod can work wonders.

And if the child does roar, it’s not the end of the world. Most passengers usually respond with understanding. We have also seen people sitting around (who are often bored on the plane) entertaining our children. This is so interesting for children that they usually stop crying faster than their parents. The cabin crew is often helpful too.

6. The closer the travel destination, the better

It cannot be denied that long journeys can be stressful for both parents and children. But many long-haul destinations can be reached much more quickly by plane than a supposed short-range destination by car.

In addition to the fact that driving a car can be even more exhausting than flights (traffic jam!), The better weather speaks in particular for long-distance travel by plane. Toddlers in particular enjoy a vacation most when they can be outside all day. In 6-8 hours flight I can escape a cold German wet spring. Bring the same time in the car me only in possibly equally rainy Italy. Rainy days quickly become a nerve test with toddlers or force you to activities that you really don’t want to do on your hard-earned holiday (indoor playground – my absolute personal holiday nightmare!)

By the way, toddlers can cope with the dreaded jetlag even more easily than adults.

The only problem left is the cost.

7. Long-distance travel with children is priceless

Flying with children is actually frustratingly expensive from the age of two. But it doesn’t have to be priceless. If the children are not yet required to go to school, you are more flexible in your choice of dates and thus receive much cheaper rates than during school holidays. It will definitely be more expensive later! A weighty argument against the widespread "we wait until they’re old enough" attitude.

In addition, the other additional costs such as accommodation, meals or rental cars outside Europe are often much lower. (The cost of renting a deck chair in Italy is unlikely to be topped anywhere in the world …) The longer the trip, the cheaper it will be in relation. The savings potential for accommodation is so great that I wrote my own article about it. Infants often pay no or very reduced admission and can sleep with their parents or in an (almost always free) extra bed. And for fun, make yourself aware of what you spend at home. The cost of living in major German cities is among the highest in the world.

It is even cheaper for long-term trips from around 2 months if you can sublet your apartment and deregister the child from the daycare.

8. Young children need their familiar surroundings

What toddlers need above all is the closeness and attention of their parents. They don’t really care where they get it. Many familiar rituals can also be practiced while traveling. The favorite cuddly toy and maybe your own pillow convey familiarity.

Neither do toddlers have such strong social relationships as older children that they would miss their kindergarten friends or educators. They feel safe where their parents are. If the parents are particularly relaxed on vacation and have time for them, then the little ones are particularly well. The smaller a child is, the less local conditions play a role. Many parents only discover how adaptable their little ones are when they are traveling.

I personally have never heard of a toddler who is homesick when traveling. Apparently, this phenomenon only occurs when they are no longer so fixated on the parents.

9. Travel with young children shouldn’t be too long

For the reasons just mentioned, there is nothing to be said against long-term travel with small children. On the contrary: Since the arrival and departure is usually the most strenuous part for the little ones, this should also be worthwhile. This is also financially sensible for a flight, since the flight is by far the most expensive and the other costs decrease proportionally to the length of the trip.

Just like at home, everything takes a lot longer when traveling with small children. You should plan 1.5-2 times the time for each walk and visit. In addition, you should take breaks with small children and not change the accommodation too often so that they do not have to get used to it all the time. So if you are planning a round trip or do not want to lie exclusively on the beach, you benefit enormously from a longer travel time.

Many adults also need a week or more before they can really switch off from everyday life and fully engage with their child. You will also experience that slower travel with toddlers can be much more intense and you country in a different way than without children.

And last but not least, a very pragmatic reason: When entering school, trips over 6 weeks become problematic or impossible for many years. Therefore: If not now, then when?

10. Young children have nothing to do with traveling

Oh but! And not too little:

  • relaxed parents
  • nice weather to play outside
  • experience real child friendliness and warmth of strangers
  • discover new sides through new experiences (self-confidence!)
  • Parents who have time for them
  • Nature that does not exist at home (sea, high mountains, jungle, desert …)
  • the opportunity to grow together as siblings
  • escape the kindergarten viruses for a while
  • experience the family as a safe haven in a foreign environment
  • Contact with children who live and play differently
  • Learn new things playfully and all by yourself
  • lifelong shared memories (and the photos)


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Christina Cherry
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