How is travel planning for a family different than it is for others? It is as different as the rest of life is once you have children. The different stages of a family’s life even require different types of planning. The most major difference, no matter the stage of the family is that travel with children requires planning! No more grabbing a backpack and picking a hotel day to day, or arriving in a city and ambling aimlessly; with children that tends to lead to exhaustion, hunger and finding the neighborhood you actually wanted to see right when their patience has run out.
What about the element of surprise, whimsy? Often the best parts of travel are the unplanned moments and excursions and families deserve those moments too. How a family balances the need to plan and still experience the unplanned is a true art that can make or break a vacation. Eventually itinerary planning is one of the things JrMagellan hopes to help you with. My cousin recently visited us in Hong Kong; and my family’s tours with him brought up some perfect examples of melding the planned with the unplanned.
My cousin is 19 years old and my children are 7 and 10 so balancing all three of this needs while touring on my kids last few days of Christmas break. Often when touring Hong Kong I allow my children to be the tour guides. This can be done in your hometown or by sharing books or websites about your destination with your children. My children gave my cousin a tour of central architecture on our way to City Gallery. As we were walking there we saw the AIA carnival. It had just opened and everyone including my cousin was desperate to go! It did not work in our schedule that day but we immediately booked tickets for two days later.
At lunch after visiting City Gallery my kids stared out the window planning which rides they would go on which lead to a lively discussion to say the least. There is often something special going on and making that fit into your itinerary is part of the fun of travel. The Carnival was one of the highlights of my cousin’s trip and integrating it could be done because I had reserved a day within our itinerary for impromptu options. I was lucky my cousin had six days in Hong Kong, which easily allowed for a full day of freedom for impromptu activities. Even when I don’t have a full day free though I try to reserve a half-day to return to places we love or for special activities we found.
On another day we took my cousin to the Big Buddha. We had our plan in place; we would take the cable car there, visit the Buddha and then go for a vegetarian lunch. We had called to reserve tickets for the cable car and were told it would be a 30-minute wait, but no advance tickets were left. Upon arrival the wait was more like 90 minutes. We kind of forgot it was January 1 and many may be there! It was time to change plans! We decided to take the bus up and cable car down. The bus ended up giving my cousin views of the beaches not seen from the cable car and my children got to watch the ball drop in NY on the bus. The day worked out beautifully we were at the Buddha within 45 minutes but again plans change in travel and it is important to go with it and accommodate!
Planning travel with children works best with advance research and buying online tickets as often as possible, the advantage to this is that once you arrive there is less waiting in line and searching guidebooks and more time to be present on the holiday. Even when plans work totally differently or not at all my first thought is always “travel builds resilience!” The thought calms me. Therefore my travel mantra is plan as much as possible in advance with children, then adjust and adapt plans when they don’t work out! Through accommodation we are teaching our children to be great travelers and building resilience and patience. In the end teaching children to be good travelers can be as important as teaching them about specific destinations.