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Managing Expectations: How to Prepare Your Kids for the Realities of Travel

Managing Expectations: How to Prepare Your Kids for the Realities of Travel

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Are you stressed out about bringing your kids on a family vacation? Keep scrolling to check out my top travel tips for setting realistic expectations!
This list of travel tips for families was written by family travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.

Hey there, fellow parent travelers!

Going on a journey with kids in tow can sometimes feel like you’re setting off on a wild adventure without a map.

From the bustling streets of Europe to the laid-back vibes of Hawaii and the magic of Disney resorts, my two boys and I have journeyed through a world of experiences together.

We’ve seen it all, from the days of easy-breezy baby travel to the pandemic pause that had us yearning for our next adventure from the safety of our living room. Now, as we navigate the world of travel once again, we’re facing a whole new set of challenges.

Reintroducing my kids to the joys (and occasional trials) of travel has been a learning curve—for them and for me.

We’ve had our fair share of hiccups, from the woes of long plane rides and the despair of wifi-less accommodations to the great bed-sharing debates and the quest for familiar food.

So, how do you manage your kids’ expectations and prepare them for the realities of travel? Here’s what I’ve learned on our journey to becoming seasoned world travelers once again.

7 Tips for Setting Realistic Travel Expectations with Kids

Talk About the Journey

Before we set off on our travels, I sit down with my boys and chat about the journey. This means talking about the long plane rides, including the exciting parts (movies! snacks!) and the not-so-fun parts (sitting still for hours, ear pressure during takeoff and landing).

Image of a boy wearing a backpack walking toward an Alaska Airlines plane

We discuss how it’s a part of the adventure and brainstorm ways to make it more comfortable, like packing their favorite snacks or choosing a new book or game for the trip.

Set Realistic Tech Expectations

In a world where wifi is as essential as air, not having it can be a shock to the system.

I prepare my kids by letting them know that while we might not always have internet access, it’s a chance to disconnect and explore the world around us. Yes, this usually means not having wifi on the flight.

Image of Marcie Cheung and her son reading in a cabana in Puerto Rico

Since I’m a travel blogger, we usually stay in hotels that do have free wifi. But, I let the kids know when they can zone out on screens. And it’s clear that it’s not an “iPad trip” because we’ll be out and about exploring.

We talk about alternative entertainment, like journaling about their travels, playing card games, or having a good old-fashioned conversation. It’s about finding joy beyond the screen.

Introduce Them to Different Cultures Before You Go

One of the biggest eye-openers for kids can be the cultural differences, especially when it comes to food.

Before we visit a new place, we dive into the culture together. This might mean trying out a few local recipes at home or visiting a restaurant that serves cuisine from our destination.

I frame it as a fun food adventure, encouraging them to find at least one local dish they’re excited to try. It’s about broadening their culinary horizons beyond chicken nuggets.

Practice Flexibility

Kids thrive on routine, but travel is anything but predictable. To prepare them for the unexpected changes that can come with traveling, we practice being flexible at home.

We might switch up our weekend plans last minute or have a surprise dinner. The goal is to teach them that while plans may change, we can still make the most of it and have fun.

Involve Them in the Planning

Giving my boys a say in our travel plans has been a game-changer. They help pick out activities they’re interested in and even help plan the day’s itinerary.

This involvement gives them a sense of ownership over the trip and helps manage their expectations. When they know what’s coming up and have chosen it themselves, they’re more invested in sticking to the plan.

Share Beds, Share Stories

Sharing beds in hotels can be a novelty for kids used to their own space. To make it more appealing, we turn it into an opportunity for extra bedtime stories or quiet chats about the day’s adventures.

It becomes a special part of our travel routine, something they look forward to at the end of each day.

We do one parent and one kid per bed. This works well while they are still sort of little.

Pack Patience and Gratitude

Most importantly, I teach my kids (and remind myself) to pack an extra dose of patience and gratitude.

Traveling allows us to see the world, experience new things, and spend quality time together as a family.

When things don’t go as planned or when discomfort arises, we try to focus on being grateful for the opportunity to explore and the memories we’re creating.

Wrapping It Up

Preparing your kids for the realities of travel is about setting realistic expectations, embracing the adventure (bumps and all), and finding joy in the journey.

It’s a process, one that involves patience, understanding, and a healthy dose of humor. As we relearn how to be world travelers in this post-pandemic era, I’m reminded that the true beauty of travel isn’t just in the places we see but in the growth we experience together as a family.

So, to all the parents out there gearing up for your next adventure, know that you’ve got this. With a little preparation and a lot of love, you and your kids can navigate any travel challenge that comes your way.

Here’s to the journeys ahead and the stories you’ll tell! Safe travels, my fellow adventurers!

Looking for more family travel tips? Check out 10 Mom-Approved Travel Hacks That Will Change Your Family Vacations, Surviving Family Travel: Essential Tips for Traveling with Kids, The Secret to Creating a Bulletproof Family Travel Itinerary (That Everyone Will Love!), Avoid These Money Drains on Your Next Family Trip, Surviving Multi-Generational Travel, How to Save on Summer Travel This Year, and The Ultimate Checklist for Traveling Abroad with Kids (What NOT to Forget)!

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