Keeping kids motivated for travel, especially on a longer trip, can be a struggle sometimes. The physical act of travel can take it’s toll – bumpy bus rides, jet lag and culture shock can wear everyone in the family down.
So much of this depends on the child in question but here are some ways you can try to keep your kids motivated when you’re on the road.
Schedule in regular kids activities as a reward. If they’ve been well-behaved and have followed you around The Louvre for three hours surely they deserve a trip to a theme park like Disneyland Paris? A long, patient day on a bus should always be followed by a trip to a water park or swimming pool. If it’s 45° in Bangkok and you’ve just spent the morning at a temple, devote the afternoon to a lovely air-conditioned movie theatre. (Just make sure they know that this is a reward for good behaviour and not a give-in.)
Make educational activities fun. Part of the beauty of travel with kids is that the whole world becomes a classroom. No matter if they’re three or 16, there will be learning on the road… and it can be fun. Visit interactive museums and science centres, immerse the whole family in a language school, talk about everything and anything that you see around you.
Factor in downtime. If you’re travelling for a longer period of time, you need to factor in downtime for kids. They can’t hand the pace of a backpacking trip where you move from city to city every two or three days. This will wear them out… and quick. Travelling slow is the key. For every couple of weeks of travel, build in a week of downtime where you rent an apartment and chill out. Do normal family activities like movie nights on the couch, colouring in and relax together as a family.
Bribe them!!! I try not to use the awesome parenting technique of bribery too often but, sometimes, needs must. An ice cream might be the only thing that’ll get a tired boy through another hour of walking around the zoo or to sit through a restaurant meal at the end of a busy day.
Let them make decisions. Allow your kids to have some input into where you go, what you see and how you travel. Giving them some control over decision making will allow for a sense of ownership of the trip. Let them spin a globe and pick a country to add to your RTW trip. Let their passions dictate where you spend time as a family.
Visit people. Visiting friends, relatives or other travellers, especially if they have kids, can do wonders for a child’s spirit. I’m sure Reuben’s favourite part of our week-long trip to Sydney was staying over at his cousins’ house. Having a trampoline, a yard, playmates and toys will lift the spirit of a worn out little traveller. It’ll take some of the pressure off of you too.
What do you do to keep your kids’ travel spirits up when they are worn out? I’d love to hear any more suggestions you have to offer!
Our sons have made it to ages 29 and 25. Bribery is supposedly better parenting than threats. I resorted to both back in the day, but two travel events are still etched in family lore: “the time we were so bad we made Mom cry” in San Francisco and the “family trip from hell to Gettysburg”. Was it worth it? Kid #2 is a travel blogger, currently in Bucharest, Romania!
I’ve noticed that the kids here in NYC are so well behaved in the current extreme heat. Like the adults here they seem to take the subway in stride. I would’ve thought there would be a lot more upset children from overheating and getting tuckered out from the heat.
Great article. Slow travel for us seems to work well. We also research about the museum or place we are seeing beforehand to see if it has kid activities. If not then we will make a fun activity up such as a treasure hunt using our guide book as a reference.
Love the tip about bribery, nothing like a bit of motherly bribing.
Also the more practical “go slow”. You really have to factor in your child’s routine every child is different and as they get older their routines alter.
Just remember to go with the flow and the most important remain flexible.
Great tips Bethaney and I certainly got to see a lot of different playground styles on our last European trip for our regular “kids treat” activity! Also, someone recently told me it’s not bribing (since that’s an illegal activity), it’s incentivising. Sounds much better, doesn’t it? xx
Oh yes! Incentivising is a MUCH nicer word!!!!