What I’ve learnt about travelling with kids

When just getting out of the house with kids feels like a big achievement, the mere thought of venturing to far-flung places can be alarming. But a little prep can make it worth the long haul, writes Sally Heppleston.

When my husband and I were newly married, we did what many our age were doing and booked a European holiday.

Once our kids arrived, travel seemed like a distant memory. Life was now about nappies, naps (or lack thereof), full boobs and empty bank balances.

Things have now improved somewhat – and we we now now that travel with young children is far from impossible.

Our kids, now nine and seven, have joined us on a few overseas adventures in recent years, and have been awesome travel companions.

Here are the top tips for exploring the world with kids that I’ve picked up on our travels.


If cost is an issue, don’t be afraid to look at lower cost airlines.

Ultimately, the plane gets you from A to B. So if a first-class ticket with a big-name airline is not an option, an economy seat is not much different from airline to airline.

On a four-week trip to Europe this September, we spent less on on four return tickets than we did for two of us in 2006.

Shoulder seasons are a good time to travel.

Up in the air

Flying long-haul is hard.

You can include an overnight stopover to break things up, but we pushed on through.

Arriving in Europe in the morning meant we just had to keep ourselves busy all day then go to bed as normal.

It was hard, but we woke the next day as refreshed as could be.

If you don’t book an overnight stopover, look for flights with small layovers (but not so small you’ll have to sprint to make a connection).

Don’t be a pack horse

We took two suitcases for the four of us and one small backpack each.

It meant the kids didn’t have to lug much around and my husband and I had one hand free to hold their hands.

With the many stairs you often come across, with luggage, less is more.

Screen time

Deciding on whether to take the kids’ beloved iPads wasn’t a straightforward decision for us.

While they were both a blessing (cured boredom) and a curse (hard to prise them out of their hands), ultimately we were happy we brought them on our most recent trip.

Even if flights have enough inbuilt entertainment, the tablets come in handy while waiting in airports and for some downtime after long days of sightseeing.

Home away from home

Thankfully there are plenty of options now to find a comfortable home away from home, thanks to plentiful online booking services.

We saved a bit of money by booking one-bedroom apartments with a sofa in the lounge.

It meant the kids had to share a bed, but for the most part they didn’t complain.

Booking places just outside the main cities can be cheaper and gave you opportunities to explore towns slightly off the well-worn tourist path.

Sally travels

Take a break

The chaos in some parts of Europe can be stressful (hello driving in Italy!) but there are some things Europeans do well – and one of them is the siesta.

We would head out early each day but would always return in the afternoon for a nap.

We then had time to regroup before heading out again in the evening.

Adjust your expectations

If you enjoy exploring churches, art galleries and other historical landmarks, be prepared – kids can be quite bored by these sites!

Thankfully, there are plenty of parks just like at home and kids can always find other kids to play with, even if there is a language barrier.

You might find also that you can’t cram as much into your day as you did while travelling solo or with other grown-ups – so be prepared to take things slower and see less.

An ice cream a day …

An apple a day might be the rule at home but on holidays, some rules can be broken or relaxed.

Our kids managed to wrangle an ice cream a day on our recent trip. And given that on some days we were walking more than 20km, heck they earned it.

Have fun

Travelling with kids can be challenging. And expensive.

But life at home can be hard and expensive too – so make the most of the time together, away from the stresses of everyday life and enjoy seeing different parts of the world through the eyes of your children.

Heading on a family holiday? Make sure you tick off our first aid travel checklist.