Young family hiking at the Matterhorn (Dreamstime)
List Words : Wanderlust team | 28 December

The biggest travel mistakes made by families and how to avoid them

Travelling with young children doesn't have to be an ordeal. Avoid these easy blunders and your family adventure will be more fun, more relaxed and more enriching

1: Thinking that your toddler is getting a life-changing experience 

Sisters eating ice cream (Dreamstime)

Sisters eating ice cream (Dreamstime)

Travel is not a life-altering experience for toddlers. It is uncomfortable and confusing and takes them out of a routine of eating/sleeping/playing that they’ve become quite partial too.

It’s true, they might get something out of it on a primal level. It’s nice to swim in a pool and gelato always tastes good. But whether they can differentiate between swimming in a pool in Tuscany or the one at the local leisure centre is open for debate. When you’re two, a Mr Whippy is just as good as a scoop of stracciatella from a cute little gelaterie in San Gimignano.

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2: Trying to do too much

Around the world in a day (Dreamstime)

Around the world in a day (Dreamstime)

Common consensus is that you shouldn’t try and do more than two or three things a day when you’re visiting a place. Throw kids into the equation and you should probably cut that down to one.

That doesn’t stop some families trying to visit every museum and art gallery in Paris in a day, with a two-hour queue to go up the Eiffel Tower thrown in for good measure. You get hot and flustered, the children get bored and irritable, and the only thing they’ll remember is the police chasing off the hawkers selling Eiffel Tower key rings anyway.

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3: Taking kids long haul

Not fun for anyone (Dreamstime)

Not fun for anyone (Dreamstime)

Unless you're visiting family, is there any sane reason for you to subject your young family - and the unlucky souls seated around you – to a 22-hour flight to the other side of the world? 

Australia and New Zealand are lovely places with great beaches, amazing wildlife and friendly locals. But your kids will probably get a lot more out of them when they go there for their gap year, after sensibly breaking their journey, for a couple of months, somewhere in Thailand.

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4: Thinking that travel will make your kids travellers

Can’t we just stay at home? (Dreamstime)

Can’t we just stay at home? (Dreamstime)

Remember how your parents forced your to study the violin when you were little? When was the last time you pulled out a violin and played it for pleasure? Forcing someone to do something when they are young does not magically make them want to do it when they are older.

Keith Richards tells a story in his autobiography about a guitar his grandfather bought for him and kept just out of reach. He couldn’t get it until he’d earned it. When he had, he really appreciated it. It’s the same with travel.

Besides, if your kids have travelled the world before they are 12, what is left for them to discover when they are older?

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5: Not considering what your kids might want to do

More fun than a museum (Dreamstime)

More fun than a museum (Dreamstime)

Think back to your favourite holidays when you were a kid and chances are they’ll involve lots of unsupervised adventuring, discovering the world around you with your mum and dad nearby, but not looking over you shoulder.

Now think back to that short break you took in Europe where every moment was planned, the kids were never out of your sight and everything had to be a ‘cultural’ experience. What would the younger you have made of that?

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6: Trying to broaden your kid’s palates

Pizza. Popular everywhere (Dreamstime)

Pizza. Popular everywhere (Dreamstime)

Concerned that your kids have a penchant for bland, uninspiring food? A one week trip to India or Vietnam is not going to change that. You’ll just spend your time scanning menus for something they might eat, or, worse, start looking for the nearest McDonalds.

Acquired tastes are exactly that: acquired. That doesn't happen overnight, but usually comes when you’re older and trying to impress someone you fancy.

That’s why they serve pizza everywhere in the world.

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Main image: Young family hiking at the Matterhorn (Dreamstime)