Slow travel is the only way to travel with kids. Logistically, it’s impossible to drag around all your luggage and your kids to different parts of the world every week. Plus, if you want to keep your sanity intact as a parent, you’re better off slowing way, way down when you travel with your kids. You’ll enjoy the experience of being together on the road more, when things are slower and less stressful.
Here’s a handful of suggestions on how to travel slowly with kids:
- Pick a place and stay put. A good rule of thumb is three to four weeks per destination, especially if it’s a large metropolitan area. We spent five weeks in Buenos Aires, Argentina and had plenty of different places to go during our time there. To really immerse yourself in a city or country, you need to physically be there for a long a period of time. Don’t “do” Italy by spending two days in Rome. Stay there as long as you possibly can, and in the very least, 3-4 weeks to make your time meaningful there.
- Put the kids in school. We’ve done our version of world schooling in four different foreign countries so far, enrolling our kids into preschool and/or primary school anywhere from four weeks to twelve weeks long. In most countries, private schools will be happy to take short-term students (a.k.a. paying customers). The beauty of this deal is that the kids are instantly engaged with school activities and new friends, while the parents’ time is instantly freed up to do things that wouldn’t be so convenient with the kids around (ie. work, exercise, reading, lazy days at the beach, day trips, etc.).
- When you get bored, move on. When you don’t really have a long list of places you must see, you can move by intuition, rather than by necessity. For example, in Nicaragua, we didn’t like the busyness of Granada, so after five days there, we moved on to San Juan del Sur. This sleepy beach town had just the right vibe for us and we ended up staying there for the last three weeks of our trip in Nicaragua.
- Do it one country at a time. Once you get started in international travel, it’s easy to get caught up in the country counting game. In the end, it’s insignificant how many total countries you and your kids have visited together. What matters is how meaningful and deep of an experience your kids had while in the countries you visited. If it was all tour busing, photo taking, and shopping, then your family might have missed the point of actually being in the country. Stay in a country long enough and you’ll discover where the locals eat, what they do to entertain themselves, and what really makes up the culture of the country.
- Do it one trip at a time. Unless you’re a nomadic family on an open-ended trip around the world, which 99.9% of the families aren’t, then you’ll need to do these trips one at a time. Take these trips knowing that you’re making the most of the opportunity you have with the resources you have. If you can only do a three-week trip one year, but you anticipate having two months off the next year, then plan accordingly. You have a whole lifetime to travel with your kids, so don’t cram it all into two weeks or even two years.
There are lots of reasons to travel slowly with kids. The most significant reason is that more meaningful experiences and relationships are created when you travel slowly with your kids. You’ll create more lasting memories when your family travel is done at a pace that your kids can keep up with. And travel will become more enjoyable and meaningful because everyone is more focused on being together than constantly moving around.
Traveling with kids can be fun and meaningful, as long as it’s done really, really slowly. So pick a destination for your next trip and perhaps even think about putting your kids in a local school. Take your time, enjoy the journey, and relish the shared experiences you’ll have with your kids while you travel.