The TOP Mistakes of Traveling Families

Top Mistakes of Traveling Families

orange background, Top Mistakes of Traveling Families ...are you making any?

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NO matter how much you have dreamed and prayed and hoped for baby it is still a shock how much your life changes. It is stunning how someone so small can disrupt everything so much.

Fast forward a few years and now baby is mobile and has strong opinions! Toddler wigs out when the foods touch or the toast is ‘too brown’ or ‘not brown enough’.  The cries of someone too tired or too hungry or just too….. something seem to echo. We have all been there!

Hell hath no fury, Top mistakes of traveling families,

Your visions of dinners out…and family vacations evaporate. What happened to your life? What happened to your dreams of traveling, exploring, and adventures? I felt really guilty at the time when I gazed down at my infant and wondered, “What have I done?” after sooo many days with no sleep or adult conversation or even a shower. LOL! Now I know that happens to everyone!


Yoda travel advice, Things to See in London,

I can teach you how to take the kids on wonderful family adventures and enjoy it! I’ve taken kids to fancy quiet restaurants all over the world like Denver’s famous Sushi Den and museums like the Louvre in Paris. We not only have great meals and experiences but our kids enjoy it, too!

The Educational Tourist: Making the educational FUN and the fun EDUCATIONAL

The time to take your kids on family travels and journeys near and far is NOW.  Learn how to teach your kids proper public behavior in a simple and painless way that would impress even your mother-in-law. ENJOY your diners out! But don’t make these common mistakes!

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Top mistakes parents make when traveling with the KIDS.

Top mistakes of traveling families: Taking a hungry child …..anywhere.

Hungry kid = disaster. Don’t you get crabby when you are hungry? Of course you do! But, you are an adult and can control yourself and your environment by waiting or getting a snack!

Children have no such control and worse….have no self control about letting you AND everyone else around them know they are hungry! Seriously- Snickers created an entire commercial campaign about this very thing in adults. Why should we expect kids to be happy and patient when they are hungry?

Snickers ad, mistakes traveling families make,

Top mistakes of traveling families: Taking a sleepy child….anywhere.

Do NOT skip nap time! All the books say to get kiddo used to sleeping in more than one spot and I absolutely agree. As soon as baby arrives start having them sleep in the bouncy chair or bassinet or carseat or stroller or baby bjorn.

I love the new tech in this baby bjorn that gives airflow to the baby! Nice to know they aren’t feeling hot and sweaty.

The advice you’ll read in books talks about routine – same bed, same bedtime story, same time, same place, same pjs, etc….but honestly that only works for people who have nannies. Who can stay at home every single time kiddo needs to sleep? You can not sit in your house at the exact time for nap or bedtime for the next several years (more if you have more than one child) unless you want to die of boredom and feel like your life is over! Kids can adapt.

But an overtired child is NOT fun. Get that nap – somehow, somewhere!

True story: A friend, who shall remain nameless, had her adorable baby on the perfect schedule – always the same time, the same routine, the same bedtime story and song and she slept like a dream. Then, my friend decided when the baby was about 19 months they were ready to take her on a trip! They packed up kiddo and stuff and off they went. The kid WOULD. NOT. SLEEP. After too many hours in a row of toddler screaming bloody murder and no fun/sleep/peace…they headed back home. Toddler screamed the entire way and did not sleep ONE. SINGLE. WINK. till home in her own bed.

Note to self: Perfect routines aren’t always what they are cracked up to be.

Top mistakes of traveling families: Taking a bored child….anywhere.

Young children and even older children do not find sitting at a restaurant relaxing or fun or interesting. Museums without background knowledge of what you are looking at are dull – just rows and rows of paintings. Remember that crazy places like Chuck E Cheese was designed for them – anything else is boring. Bored kids act up!

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How to avoid mistakes of traveling families!

Avoid the top mistakes of traveling families: Step number one!

Feed a hungry kid.

Firstly, my apologies to every grandmother out there who thinks that children need to wait for dinner and eat with everyone else, but if you want to have a nice peaceful dinner in a restaurant you need to make sure kiddo is not hungry when you arrive.

I know that sounds counter to the concept of going to a restaurant – you know being hungry to begin with- duh, but everyone knows that hungry kids do not wait well.  Hungry grown ups don’t either, but that is a whole different blog! LOL! Patience is a skill that comes with years and years of practice. Rome wasn’t built in a day so why should this skill be one mastered at such a young age? Who cares if kiddo has a snack before dinner? Mary Poppins does not work at your house!

Have snacks with you when you travel. Raisins or goldfish or chex mix is like magic in your bag. Dole them out by the handful when blood sugar is low! Healthy food snacking is perfectly OK!

Experts agree!! Ah, Parenting says….

“When kids are hungry, they’re hungry. It is a rare toddler who can wait until 6pm for dinner, and a rare working adult who can eat before 6pm. So my advice is to feed the child dinner when he needs it…”

Avoid the top mistakes of traveling families: Step number two!

Start with a rested child.

Have sleepy child nap….wherever and whenever and however it works! With my oldest I had to sit with the car idling once I arrived at my destination because even turning it off would wake her up – and no, she would not go back to sleep. Other times I drove round and round and round the neighborhood so she would get a nap. We parents do whatever it takes!! 🙂 No judgment from me on how kiddo naps- just get it done!

Avoid the top mistakes of traveling families: Step number three!

Bring something to keep kiddo busy.

Beautiful visions of children quietly chatting about their day and listening to you about yours for an entire dinner is right out of a fictional romantic movie – it just isn’t REAL.

When our oldest was 2, the ONLY time she ever used crayons was at a restaurant. This made crayons amazing and fascinating magical tools! Wonderful! Dollar store coloring books and crayons had her happily coloring while hubby and I had a peaceful dinner – as a family. ***Remember, dinner is not about the food, it is about the time spent together.

Travelers expect it! Cruise experts suggest activities for kiddos!

“…always bring a book or portable video game (as long as it can be used with headphones) to entertain fidgety kids…”

Busy activity suggestions for ages:

2-4 years old

crayons, playdoh, sewing cards, stickers

5-7 years old

mazes, search and find books, scissor practice, pipe cleaners

8-10 years old

story books, blank books for doodling, zentangle,


Don’t fight it. You are not alone. This is not a romantic time for two! Instead…lean into it. Savor it. Enjoy the brief moment’s of childhood you are witnessing.

Talk to the kids! Ask them about their day. Ask them to discuss what you saw in your traveling that day. Or, just pull out a list of topics for conversation and choose one!

Use a conversation starter if you need ideas for what to talk about with the kiddos.

Avoid the top mistakes of traveling families: How to talk to kids

Take tips from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Protocol on interviewing children: 

Make sure they know they can answer.

Remember, kids are used to being talked ‘to’. They sit quietly at school while someone talks ‘to’ them. They sit at church while someone talks ‘to’ them.  So, teaching them the give and take…back and forth of a conversation is a valuable school. Teach them they can answer, ask questions, and respond.

Make sure they know ‘I don’t know’ is an acceptable answer.

Having a conversation with family and loved ones is fun, warm, and you feel accepted. You don’t have the stress of having to have all the right answers. So, make sure your kids feel comfortable saying, “I don’t know’.

Make sure they feel safe to be wrong.

When kids feel comfortable talking with you, you might get a question that surprises you…perhaps about a topic that makes you feel uncomfortable. Traveling has you seeing things in the world that are new and open your eyes. Nude statues? Poverty?  Keep your responses calm. Invite curiosity and let them know that no topics are off limits with you.

Teach elaboration.

Encourage details. Ask them to tell you more. Ask questions that show you are listening and interested. Be your child’s fan. That warm feeling they get when you listen will be a wonderful memory they keep forever!

Avoid the top mistakes traveling families make: What to talk to kids about

Have fun and play games! My family loves movies so sometimes we choose a movie character and everyone else tries to guess which one by asking questions. Our version of the Twenty Questions game. Get more dinner table game ideas here.

Get more information on how to keep traveling kids busy while on the go by clicking HERE  or HERE.

Child writing in journal, mistakes traveling families make,

 I eat at nice restaurants and visit world class museums with my kids and you can, too.

Family eating at restaurant, mistakes traveling families make,

Don’t leave home without The Educational Tourist’s  destination specific eBooks to keep kids happy, engaged, and learning when you visit historical sites.  Check out these destinations:

Rome   The Louvre   Austin   Canada  Nassau, Bahamas   Spain   The Prado  Vatican City  London   France   New York City


Find more tips to help you plan the trip of a lifetime with YOUR kids! Read these related posts for more information.

How to Get Through Security EASILY with the Kids

Pack Light for Your Family Trip with the Kids

Activities to Keep Kids Busy on an Airplane

Have fun raising global citizens while seeing parts of the world YOU want to see! Show them the world!

Family in Athens

Happy family travels,

Natalie, The Educational Tourist


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12 Responses

  1. Lisa says:

    I don’t have kids, but I know from all my friends who do, that it’s a lot of work. I really admire you for taking your kids abroad and teaching them all there is about the world while young. I like your tip about feeding a hungry child. I think I feel the same way as a hungry adult!

  2. Isabel Leong says:

    Wish I could show this to my mom :p but I feel you! We always travel together as a family, at least once a year, since I was a little girl. Hopefully I can practice these when I have my own family one day too 🙂

  3. Ashley Smith says:

    What a thorough article! I love how you’ve listed enrichment activities for children of diff ages — and crayons are always a great idea!

  4. Mel Butler says:

    I do not have children but it is something that I am hoping for in the future. I completely understand how much work they are because all of my friends have them and occasionally I travel with them. It is definitely completely different to the way that I travel on my own and with my husband. I like that you take your kids everywhere and wanting to educate them, I wish my parents had done that for me 🙂

  5. Aditi Shukla says:

    I have heard so many stories of being bothered by a cranky and sleepy child while travelling. Many of my friends complain about revolving the trip around the mood of the child. I like the way you have listed these points so honestly. Like you said, it’s about how you talk to them and educate them that matter.s Cheers!!

  6. I totally agree with this. We have a two year old and no way can he go somewhere already too hungry or tired. We let him eat or sleep when he needs, it makes travel way more enjoyable for us all

  7. Abigail Sinsona says:

    I love to travel and having kids is one of the things that worries me. I am worried about not being able to bring my kids with us when we travel. Or, that it can limit how we travel. This post has truly opened my eyes to understand that there is no reason to fear.

    • NatalieTanner says:

      Abigail I am SOOO happy to hear that! It is true that traveling requires more effort to get them ready but it is so worth it to see the things you want to see! You don’t have to go to Chuck E Cheese only!

  8. Kathy - Walkabout Wanderer says:

    I think that these steps are great for not only children but when travelling with me too. It is a nightmare when I am tired, hungry or bored 🙂 Some great tips here for over coming these problems. I am yet to have children but when I do, I will be travelling with them.

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