Traveling for an extended time with your children is easier than it sounds, especially if you have worked up to it and helped your kids become good travelers. We recently returned from 32 days in Asia (5 countries, 59 hours of flight time), our longest trip as well as the trip that put us all out of our comfort zone more than our previous travels did. The entire time, my husband and I kept looking at each other in awe because it was going so well. Here are some of the things we did that worked in our favor.
Pacing- We thought long and hard about our itinerary and the speed we would travel between countries. As a guide we looked at Vacations by Disney China and South East Asia trips. Both were amazing if you wanted to check a bunch of major sights off quickly and move on. We took their ideas and doubled the time in each place. Our goal was to see the same sights but also have time to take in life like a local, experience the culture and have down time. If we had a big sight seeing day, the next day we took it slow, lingered at cafes or parks, swam if available and didn’t rush out the door. If we had an early morning we chilled in the afternoon. In addition to pacing the time and activities we also paced our lodging. If we stayed in a no-frills hostel in one city we cashed in points in the next so we had a pool, or a club level, or more space.
These two now appreciate down time at cafés
Packing- As usual, we travelled with backpacks and knew we had weight restrictions midway through the trip. We packed light on clothes and heavy on toiletries. Our thought was that as we used up things like sunscreen, wipes, Kleenex, etc… our bags would have room for souvenirs. We also each brought one pair of shoes that were at the end of their life and left them after we didn’t need them any longer. As we accumulated light elephant pants and skirts we also left some clothes. On a couple flights we expanded our duffle and paid for one checked bag so we could stay under the 7 kilo mark for each of us.
Half way through the trip stuff starts to hang out of the backpacks
Down time/admin time- Rather than push everyone over the edge we made sure that everyone had downtime everyday. At times this meant time on devices, other times it was a nap but most times it ended up spreading out and reading. We also used this time to plan, book or research the trip or write blog articles. Realizing the importance of this time was key to everyone’s mental state.
Library books on Kindles- This is the first trip we have taken where all of our kids have stamina for reading. In preparation for this trip, Kindles were the choice gift at Christmas. We used our library and kept checking out books as we needed them. The record was 9 books read, which would have been impossible to carry.
Chilling with our Kindles
Plan travel time wisely- On days when we had plane travel we focused on flight times that made sense. For example, when we were at a beach destination we flew out later in the evening so we could enjoy one more beach day. When flying from one extremely hot place to another we used the mid day as our flight time because it was too hot to enjoy the day. We tried to arrive in time to have a few hours to enjoy the new destination.
Airport time can be just as fun as the trip
Freedom- We allowed our kids to skip things that they would absolutely hate, unless it was something we thought was a must do. Our son hates shopping, so when our plan was to wader the night market on the way to dinner, he waited and met us at the restaurant an hour later. Another night, a couple kids stayed in the hotel rather than taxi into the nearest town to explore. After a day of seeing temples, three opted to not go see one more the next day. Thankfully they are at an age where we can allow this. A side note on this is that a kid could miss out on an entire vacation if you let this go to far.
Note who didn't have a desire to launch a lantern while floating in a boat
Take a vacation from your trip- I feel this is the most important part of planning a longer trip. Visiting new places and sightseeing is exhausting both physically and mentally. If you go day in and day out, kids will literally forget where they have been. The key is to take mini vacations during the trip. On this trip, it was beach breaks for us at the 1/3 and 2/3 marks of the trip. In both instances, we booked a nice resort and didn’t leave for a few days. It was the perfect way to recharge. On a previous driving trip in Europe we booked a cruise for week 2 of 3. We still saw new places each day but we didn’t have to pack and unpack or think about where we were going to eat which fulfilled the vacation feel.
Beach time is the perfect break from seeing the sites