FAMILY TRAVEL: 5 top tips for travelling with kids
1. Make time for things they love
It can be easy to think that you're travelling as a family because that's what you all want to do. But in reality, it's what you want to do... and you're taking your children along with you.
This isn't to say that they won't love the experience - it's a reminder that they're living your dream, not theirs. Hence it's important to infuse your journey with things that they enjoy.
This could be making the most of the more obvious, and expensive, activities a country has to offer, such as Disneyland or other theme parks, but it can be as simple as an agreement that you stop at playgrounds/parks/swimming pools/cinemas/zoos when you can, or you buy them something that they collect (hopefully small and light!) in each country or city.
The key is to know what your children love to do and make sure that they get to do it as often as possible. You may love scenery or historical sites, and there's no doubt that they'll learn a lot and enjoy those sorts of experiences, but they need to be children and have fun once in a while, too - on their terms.
Also, try to stop and join in with local activities when you see them as this is a great (and often free) way to immerse yourself in the local community, as well as get the children engaged in some fun activities - tasting food, going on rides, or joining in dancing.
2. Take things slowly
Don't try to fit too much into each day. You and everyone else will have a much better time - and be significantly less exhausted - if you aren't on a tight schedule.
If you take it slowly, you can stop and let the kids play when you pass a great playground or take a detour when you see something unexpected and interesting down a side street. Over-planning your days leaves less room for exploring and enjoying a place for what it is.
3. Always carry a pen and paper, a pack of cards and a roll of toilet paper
Noughts and crosses, dots and boxes, hangman, drawing competitions... with as little as a pen and paper, there are lots of simple ways to pass the time when your bus is late or the restaurant is busy. A pack of cards is better still - and you can improve the kids' maths skills by getting them to handle the scoring.
Toilet paper is another essential. This one item can act as tissue, wet wipe, serviette (and the obvious - it's a rarity in many developing world toilets) and it's easily replaceable from your hotel room. Snotty noses and dirty hands should be kept to a minimimum if you want to stay healthy and not looks like strays!
Yes, you could replace it with wet wipes and anti-bacterial gel - but just good old toilet paper worked well for us!
(Click here for more tips on what every mum should have in her handbag)
4. Use apps not toys
We let our children take one toy to sleep with for our year-plus journey. Anything more than that would have been too much to carry and would increase the chance that something will get left behind. There are so many great apps available now that you can cover games and education (sometimes together) easily, and you can change them on a regular basis.
5. Book ahead
It's very time consuming and tiring trying to find a family room on arrival at a new location. Obviously you'll have more choice the earlier you book, but even booking on the day before you arrive in a new town means that you have somewhere to go to as soon as you get off the bus - and preferably a pretty idea of how to get there. If the choice is limited, just book that first night and then look around for somewhere more suitable the next day.