Lately my personal Facebook and Instagram feeds have a lot of simplicity posts. Simple Meals. Minimalist Homes. Capsule Wardrobes. I’m not just jumping on some simplicity themed bandwagon, no, I’ve found that living more simply lets me enjoy my life more. Life can sometimes be so chaotic living overseas with two kids and a husband who works erratic hours that I strive for my daily life to have order and be easy. Be Simple.
Traveling with children could be the definition of chaotic and as far from simple as it gets, right?
Sometimes I completely agree. But the more we travel with our little ones and the more I have learned to apply the simplicity aspects of my daily life over to my trip, the more enjoyable my trips have become. Here’s a few tips that I’ve learned for how to travel more simply with your children.
I’m not an expert at this, but I’m trying. I follow many other traveling families online and am amazed at some of their travel tips when it comes to packing. By far, no matter the type of luggage you use, the easiest way to simplify is by packing less. I used to be a notorious over packer, just thinking about our first road trip with a 2 month old as new parents makes me cringe, but I’m constantly improving with every trip and really learning to pair it down to essentials.
The less you bring, the easier it will be to pack. I consider if I have the ability to do laundry, the availability of things I purchase at my destination (things like diapers, wipes, medication if needed, toiletries), and limit shoes to a max of 2 per person. I’ve recently started using packing cubes to organize my suitcases (each family has a set of 3 packing cubes in their own color) so I can quickly grab the cube containing whatever it is we need. My children like to dress themselves and their idea of coordinating is loose, so I really don’t worry much about their things as long as we have enough underwear and layers. For myself I’ve found that leaning more towards a capsule wardrobe in my everyday life makes packing so much easier because I can make many more outfits out of fewer individual pieces. I also always remove one or two outfits per person before I finally zip up that suitcase but somehow I always end up still packing too much.
This is a personal choice but for my family road trips are the clear winner. Our kids do very well in the car (see my road trip 101 post here ) and our current location in Italy means we can easily drive just a few hours per day and get to some very desirable and interesting places. We can come and go on our own schedule and be more flexible with moods, naps, etc.
When it comes to flights, the cost of a better time or direct flight might be well worth it to keep the travel day as simple as possible. Also things like staying near the airport the night before an early flight or the price of taking a cab over public transportation has always been worth its weight, since we don’t have to do it too often.
Be realistic when it comes to setting an itinerary. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
Living in Italy I hear of people attempting 9 day Italian itineraries where they fly into Rome, spend a night or two there, then off to Venice, then Florence, and Pisa, and Cinque Terre or the Amalfi Coast, then back to Rome. All with a 18m old or a handful of little ones in tow. It makes me cringe.
Remember this: no matter where you go on vacation, you will NEVER see everything there is to see. Never. You’ll miss a sight, or a city, or a festival… so you might as well enjoy your time. We would rather stay 3 or 4 nights in one location, taking day trips as we desire, and enjoy our time than be constantly zipping from one place to the next to attempt to cross off some bucket list of sights. We leave our schedule fairly open to allow for our moods, the weather, and our overall desire for the trip to dictate more of what we see and do than a travel guidebook does.
We often list one or two major things we’d like to see in a city and then the rest is bonus. We travel to eat. To experience the local culture. To visit friends. Often avoiding the major tourist areas can make the pace slower, easier, and just more simple. Of course, some tourist areas are busy for a reason- they are amazing! We loved the Colosseum in Rome but we balanced out the day by then walking up a more residential and quiet street in Monte, finding a nice spot to relax and eat dinner, and not trying to see the Trevi Fountain and Vatican on the same day.
For a one night stay I prefer a hotel. Easy check in and check out, no need for a kitchen or laundry, and often free breakfast. Great.
For anything longer, I really do love apartment style hotels or AirBnBs (use my referral link here for a discount if you’re new to Air BnB). Our family can have free access to laundry, separate rooms to sleep in, a kitchen to lower meal costs and just more space to enjoy some down time during the trip. When we drive I always make sure that parking is included in our AirBnB, especially in large cities (or even small European villages) to keep things simple, even if it adds a bit to the cost. The ability to cook some meals usually makes up for that extra cost of things like parking or a second bedroom.
Enjoy your time traveling with your children. This is the whole point of traveling, after all. Plus you’ll find that keeping things simple reduces your stress which I am certain rubs off on our children and makes for a much more enjoyable vacation for everybody!