What Kind of Traveler Are You?
Think about how YOU really enjoy to travel
Before you set off to travel with kids, you need to figure out what kind of traveler you are. Traveling will take everyone out of their comfort zone and it is important to know what you are looking for when you leave home.
Do you prefer the beach or mountains, love the heat, cherish museums and architecture? Are you a foodie who loves to try new things? Are you looking to relax, or to party? Do you enjoy exploring off the beaten path? Is it important to you to have at least some knowledge and understanding of the language, culture, religion? Do you prefer to travel alone, in groups or to resorts? Do you enjoy travel planning and organizing everything yourself? Do you have any conditions that limit your travel (illness, disability, alleriges, etc)? Is your budget a big factor? Are you looking for a holiday or a travel adventure?
You should sit down and really give these questions some thought. Be honest to yourself and don’t let any expectations that others might have, limit you in your assessment.
Travel With Kids
What kind of traveler is your child?
Now that you’ve given your personal travel preferences some thought, it’s time to consider what your child likes. If he’s still a baby most likely he’ll be happy anywhere you take him as long as he’s with you! Once children get a little bit older, you will already know whether your child is patient enough to travel in a car and whether you can go on extended road trips together or if perhaps another means of transport is more suitable.
Obviously travel with kids is different from setting off alone or with friends but it can be so rewarding. Many doors will open for you and most likely people are always willing to help if they see you’re in need. Let yourself and your child be swept away by this great adventure and become citizens of the world! Allow him or her to experience that you also sometimes need to ask for assistance, might not understand everything or you will get lost – and that that is okay. Explain what you see and experience together new food and music and perhaps establish a routine on the road that’s different to the one at home.
How and What to Pack
What pieces of luggage to take?
There are so many packing lists out there and I’m not about to add another one. However, I have a few items I pack along on every trip and those I’d like to share.
First, I’ll share some thoughts with you on the piece of luggage itself:
In case I travel only with hand luggage on flights, I have a fairly big, but light and foldable backpack (around 40l) and a cabin size trolley that also my child can easily pull. These 2 items are usually enough if we travel for a week.
As long as I was still traveling with a stroller, I would use a big traveling backpack (no hands free to pull a suitcase along) and a smaller foldable backpack that I would either hang on the stroller or carry in the front.
Now that I don’t travel with a stroller anymore, I have bought a suitcase on wheels which I can pull but which also has straps and a waist belt and can be carried as a backpack. Great, if you don’t have your hands free or you’re walking along an unpaved road/beach etc. The fantastic thing about this suitcase is, that I can also fit a small “Laufrad”, a walking bike, inside and therefore my son doesn’t have to walk everywhere and gets more freedom to explore on his own.
Don’t leave home without these
Essentials you should have with you on every trip
- International birth certificate: if you are traveling without the child’s other parent you need their written consent. If you are a single parent (“alleinerziehend”) then you need a paper proving you have the sole custody of your child (“Sorgerechtserklärung”). Immigration officers all over the world are trying to crack down on child trafficking and I have been asked to show these papers multiple times in both Europe and elsewhere, even though my son and I share the same last name and both travel on German passports.
- Nightlight and headlight
- Children’s drinking bottle that won’t leak! Even when liquids are banned most likely security will let you through with something to drink for your child.
- Small blanket: has come in handy so many times.
- Wet wipes and hand sanitizer
- If you’re traveling with a baby, a sling carrier
- Medicine you know your baby/child can take. You’ll be thankful to have the basics against fever, flu, insect bites, etc with you and don’t have to deal with a pharmacist who might not speak your language.
Useful ideas that could save you lots of hassles
- Upload all your documents to the cloud. Upload your passports, tickets, driver’s license, birth certificates, health insurance, etc to a folder that you can easily access from anywhere. In case your documents get stolen this could make things much easier for you.
- Vaccination Card – have it with you (updated!) and also saved to your cloud.
- Photograph your luggage – keep pictures of your luggage on your phone. In case it doesn’t arrive at your destination, it will be much easier for the airport staff to track it down if they know what it looks like.
- Download maps (to google maps or maps me). This way you can access your maps also in offline mode.
Alternatives to hotels and how to find good means of transport
Of course traveling is never cheap but believe me, there is a way to do it regardless of your budget.
As long as your child does not yet attend school, you are flexible when it comes to choosing travel dates. Flying during the week can save you considerable sums of money as well as flying off season. There are websites out there that help you with any sort of travel planning and will alert you when prices for your dream locations are especially cheap. I highly recommend the app Hopper, which tells you when to book your flight to maximise savings. The website Kayak is a great resource as aside from searching for flights it can tell you how far your budget will take you.
Of course flying is not your only option: taking the train might be a good alternative as your children can move around. The Deutsche Bahn takes kids for free until the age of 15 (they still get their own seat!). They also have great deals on rail passes.
When it comes to accommodation you also have many choices: Why not consider staying at a private room in a hostel, renting an apartment via AirBnB or staying for free at a host’s house via Couchsurfing. Try swapping your home with someone else’s. Also housesitting and petsitting can be a cheap alternative, giving you plenty of opportunity to spend a longer period of time in one location.
Find out how we do it!
Read about my backpacking adventure with a baby to Myanmar and about our Caucasus road trip (in German)
Together my 5 year old son and I have traveled to 55 countries. Of course he doesn’t remember all of his trips and that’s also not the point. (staying home also doesn’t mean they’ll remember everything!) He can revisit places he’s interested in when he’s older. However, he is not scared to explore and leave his comfort zone. Even though he’s shy, he is open to new people of any background or skin color. Differences make any child curious not scared. He knows that “home” is only one way of living amongst so many and that not everywhere things are as comfortable, easy and familiar.
Even though children surely won’t remember every site they’ve visited they will surely remember exploring and will in the long run hopefully grow into openminded and inquisitive persons.
We have been fortunate to make many unforgettable experiences on our roads traveled. Our backpacking trip through Myanmar and our road trip with friends through the Caucasus are just two great examples.