Let’s be honest, planning a vacation with kids is nothing like planning a vacation for adults. Are you yelling in your head, “right! Someone gets it!” I mean planning for 10 adults is so much easier than planning for even just 1 child.
Everything changes when you start to consider traveling anywhere with children. So, I wanted to share some of my best tips from traveling with our daughter to 9 different countries before her first birthday. And now we travel with two kids under five!
These tips include the best times of year to travel, how to pack for a family, and my favorite mom topic for traveling – coffee abroad. Let’s get started, shall we?
Go off-peak for bigger savings. The days right before and right after major holidays tend to be the busiest (and most expensive), so opt for off-peak and you can save considerably, sometimes 25-50% off. This is a great tactic if your kids are not yet school age, homeschooled, or you don’t mind them missing a week outside of the classroom. Who knows, with our “new normal” someday and distance learning sticking around, maybe this will become easier for all families.
Off-peak savings also apply to destinations, not just travel times. Cities that host conferences regularly usually have open hotels (with deals) over the holidays. Cities like Orlando or Las Vegas are great examples of where this happens. Also, if looking for a beach consider something other than Florida. Destinations like Georgia and Texas have great rates, especially during the off- peak seasons.
Don’t rule out Europe for a pre- or post-holiday escape. TravelChannel.com author Valerie Connors says, “ During the winter, roundtrip flights to Europe can be as much as 20% cheaper than during summer months, when hordes of travelers descend on popular European cities like Paris, London, and Rome. In winter these same cities can be blissfully quiet, with short or no lines to enter major attractions like the Louvre or St. Peter’s Basilica.” Sounds pretty great, doesn’t it?
Packaging for Families
Remember the 80/20 Principle — that is, 20% of what you pack will be 80% of what you actually wear (for your kids too!). If you’re like most people, you’ve already noticed this. You pack four pairs of shoes, but you really only wear one pair every day. You pack three sweaters and a shawl that you never use because you wind up just wearing your favorite light jacket that goes with everything you own. The same goes for the kids, worried that something will get too dirty or an accident will occur.
If you know that you tend to buy goodies when you get there, opt for an expandable bag as your carry-on, and slip in an empty, durable nylon bag to bring back new things with you.
Don’t pack for every possible situation. Pack for an average day. There’s no way you can cover every contingency. Look at the forecast, the average temps and weather for that time of year, and go with that. If there’s a freak week of rain in what’s normally a sunny season, there’s probably also a store nearby with just the thing you need.
One time in Portugal we ran out of diapers. I freaked out for a minute, then remembered that moms live in Portugal too. So we just stopped by a local shop and got what we needed!
Does my luggage match the type and terrain of the trip I’m taking? Because we feel we need to pack so much as moms, we also feel we always need a wheeled suitcase. However, if you are lugging a heavy suitcase through bumpy streets, broken sidewalks, dirt paths, or up endless flights of stairs in old, gorgeous elevator-less buildings, you’ll be praying to the luggage gods for a simple backpack with padded shoulder straps.
My recommendation is to carry the kids on the front and backpack on the back. If you have kids that are in between being able to walk everywhere, but get tired then an umbrella stroller and back packs work best.
Finally, if the kids are completely out of strollers then backpacks for the adults and the rolling suitcase that turns into a backpack for the kids works well. They can roll it, and you can carry it on the front of you when they get tired. Wheeled suitcases usually only work well for cruises or if you will be in one location the entire time (beach house, for example).
How to Get Your Coffee Fix Abroad
One of the surprisingly hard things we would travel around as parents of a baby under one, was understanding the coffee menu. I remember being tired, but excited to get out the first full day in a new city abroad. Where did we want to start? With breakfast at a local shop and a coffee. But looking at the menu I had NO idea what I would like. Even though it was in English, I could not understand what was what. So here’s my quick lifesaver’s guide to coffee abroad for you momma.
Understanding the coffee menu.
● Caffè – Coffee with a shot of espresso. It is meant to be enjoyed throughout the morning.
● Caffè Americano – Diluting an espresso with hot water.
● Macchiato – An espresso with a drop or two of hot milk.
● Marocchino – A shot of espresso, a layer of foam, and a sprinkle of cacao powder in a glass mug that has been dusted with cocoa powder.
● Caffè al Ginseng – For those that enjoy a chai tea (which is impossible to find abroad), this is close. It is an espresso prepared with ginseng extract.
● Caffè d’Orzo – Like our decaf option, but even better. It is 100% naturally caffeine-free. This is a great option for the kids to pretend with, if they enjoy getting something when you get your coffee.
● Cappuccino ( my favorite ) – Espresso with steamed milk and lots of frothy foam on top
● Caffè Latte – Espresso with steamed milk and a small amount of foam on top
● French Press Coffee – This is your standard black coffee, but instead of using a drip coffee method, cafes in France commonly use a French Press.
● Greek Coffee – The beans grind into a very fine powder and brew it in a narrow copper pot creating a thicker liquid with a bit of coffee froth at the top. This drink is very strong! It’s meant to be sipped over a nice long coffee break or morning breakfast.
● Flat White – Similar to a latte but with less foam. This is a staple drink in Australia.
● Short Black – Straight espresso. Hello, caffeine!
● Long Black – This is akin to an Americano. Simply espresso and hot water