Living on a sailboat in the Bahamas, zip lining in Cambodia, camping in the desert of Jordan, riding a motorbike across Vietnam… Lots of people seem to think that once they have kids travel to exotic and exciting destinations is a thing of the past. And while there’s nothing wrong with an all-inclusive package holiday (which depending on your kids’ character might be very challenging indeed), we still prefer some more unpredictability and excitement when we travel… with our toddler. There’s still so much you can do when you have kids. In this post, you can read some fantastic stories about traveling with kids. If you really thought your traveling days were over when your children were born, think again!
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While kids change the way we travel, having kids is definitely not a reason to stop traveling. When our son was 3 months old we lived in Dahab, Egypt for 2 months. And then when he was 1,5 years old we went on a 10-month long trip around South East Asia (want to know what that was like? Read our post about the reality of traveling with an infant). We’re definitely not the only traveling family out there and not the only ones sharing our family travel stories either. There are even digital nomad families, that travel long-term or indefinitely, and families with 6+ kids that still manage to travel. You’d be surprised at all the cool things you can still do when you have kids. Having kids doesn’t have to mean your traveling days are over, not by a long shot!
Just to prove this to you, we asked some of our family travel blogger buddies this question:
“What is the coolest, most exciting, scariest, craziest thing you ever did while traveling with your kids?”
In this post, we share some of our own stories and some great stories from other traveling families. All of us had amazing experiences when traveling with our kids. So yes, you can still travel when you have kids. In fact, travel with kids is fantastic! I love the way it changes your perspective and forces you to slow down.
Easy Riders Vietnam… with a toddler
Everywhere in Vietnam you encounter the Easy Riders, a motorcycle outfit that has been around for a long time. Vietnam Easy Riders tours are legendary. Of course, just about any organization selling motorcycle tours in Vietnam calls themselves ‘the original Easy Riders. Most likely you’ll never find out if they are ‘the original’. But the tours are a fantastic experience, so who cares.
We thought that with a toddler and a lot of luggage, a motorcycle tour wasn’t for us. We talked about it a lot though. And at some point, while we were in Nha Trang, we decided to go to one of the many offices and ask. It turned out our luggage could be transported ahead and taking a toddler wasn’t an issue at all. So we did a very cool, 5-hour motorbike tour from Nha Trang to Dalat and all three of us enjoyed it tremendously. Riding in a massive downpour the last hour of the drive wasn’t much fun, but our little one was warm and dry and even managed to fall asleep! We were so happy with dared to step outside our comfort zone a bit and tried something new. It was an amazing experience that we won’t soon forget.
Dalat is a lovely city. Want to visit with your family too? Check prices and availability of hotels in Dalat.
Halong Bay Cruise with kids
Another thing I never thought we’d do is spend 3 days on a boat cruising Halong Bay with our toddler. And we did it anyway. The boat wasn’t great, but the people were awesome. And Halong Bay was a unique experience and I felt incredibly lucky I could share this with my family.
We were on a Golden Bay Cruise ship, which at $99 per person was just about the cheapest we could find. Of course, it showed. The window in our cabin leaked and the aircon made a horribly annoying noise. It was a bit of a party boat, with drinking games in the evening. But we met some really great people on the boat and had a fantastic time. All of them were very sweet to our little world traveler too, even though as a family we stood out a bit. Taking a cruise with a toddler who can’t swim yet on a ship that has seen better days… I couldn’t have predicted that we’d do it. But we did and we loved it!
A tip we have for other travelers or traveling families is that the cruises double function as a ferry service to Cat Ba Island. Our cruise included one night on the boat and one night on Cat Ba Island. We found out we could extend our stay on Cat Ba Island at no extra costs, only the costs of the hotel room. We just had to phone the cruise company the day before we wanted to leave, to let them know we wanted to travel back to Hanoi. The return trip was included in the price of the cruise. Does this sound like a good option for your family? Check prices and availability of hotels on Cat Ba Island.
Want to visit Halong Bay with your family? The easiest starting point is Hanoi. Check prices and availability of hotels in Hanoi.
Traveling around the Mekong Delta with kids
The Mekong Delta Region in Vietnam is a fantastic area to travel as a family and expose your children to a different way of life. We choose the city of Can Tho to explore the area and had so many fantastic experiences. One night we took a boat ride down the waterways at dusk where we got a glimpse into the local life. Kids and dogs were playing in the water, whilst others were taking their evening baths. Women were preparing the evening meal’s vegetables right by the water. The waterways are used to transport people and goods and we saw men returning home from work as well as farmers loading their boats with their produce for the next day’s markets.
Early one morning we visited the floating markets. There was so much chaos as farmers sold their produce to local store owners. We were amazed at the ladies in their small boats who whizzed around selling people hot coffee and made Pho right there in their little boats. We were offered delicacies like crocodile, snake, frog and rat. I was not brave enough to try.
One of our favorite things was a bicycle ride through the local villages. Everyone we passed was so friendly waving hello and the kids all wanted to stop for a chat or a hi 5. We were even invited by some monks to have lunch with them at the village’s pagoda and played with the orphans they cared for.
For our trip, we stayed at the Nguyen Shack which is a fantastic homestay where accommodation is rustic bungalows set out over the waterways of the Mekong Delta. The place is like one huge playground for kids – with the long swing bridge you need to go over to reach your bungalow, the various animals to play with like cats, dogs, fish, even a pig! If you want to show your children a different way of life, but in a safe family friendly environment, I highly recommend a visit to Can Tho in the Mekong Delta and a staying at the Nguyen Shack.
Want this too? Check out prices and availability of Nguyen Shack Riverside Resort.
Ziplining in Cambodia with kids
We visited Siem Reap last year and among many other awesome experiences, we also took the kids zip lining with Flight of the Gibbon. The zip lining experience is located inside the Angkor Archaeological Park not far from Angkor Wat. The setting couldn’t be more amazing as it’s located inside a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The kids have never experienced anything like this and although they were very excited, they were also very nervous as this was going to put them outside their comfort zones. It was great to watch their excitement build and the nervous chat with the American family that was in our group. Like all things with kids, after the first go their confidence grew and they started zip lining with no hands while making flying motions with their arms and singing as they zipped through the trees.
The experience consists of 21 platforms high up in the treetops, 10 zip lines with the longest being 300m long, 4 sky bridges to walk between the treetops and finishes with a 50-metre abseil finish. The experience takes a couple of hours and if you have a morning timeslot (I suggest you do, it gets hot over there) it will include lunch at a local Cambodian restaurant. I can not talk more highly of the staff and their very high standard of safety. The tour leaders regularly checked all harnesses and ensured the kids were always hooked on to the safety wires. I was very impressed with their attention to safety.
Interested in visting this area with your family? Check out prices and availability of hotels near Angkor Wat.
Washing elephants in Thailand with a 5-year old
Washing elephants in a river in Chiang Mai, Thailand, is not your typical holiday activity when you have a five-year-old in tow. However, when an unexpected opportunity to travel to Thailand came up, we decided to fulfill a lifelong dream of ours to visit the rescued and rehabilitated elephants at the Elephant Nature Park. The park buys back elephants from the tourism and logging trades and gives them home to live out the rest of their days in freedom. We visited the park for two days and took our daughter with us for the experience.
Meeting the elephants gave us an opportunity to teach her firsthand the importance of animal conservation. We heard their stories, fed them fruit and vegetables and threw buckets of water over their backs to help remove the insect eggs that made them itchy. Our experience with these big, gentle creatures was life changing for us all. When you look into an elephant’s eyes and see the scars from her former life, it’s impossible to ignore their plight. Our daughter now tells people we meet that they must never, ever ride elephants – the next generation of eco-warriors is on the rise!
Want to experience this with your family? Check prices and availability at the Elephant Nature Park..
Living on a Sailboat in the Bahamas with kids
I spent two years of my childhood sailing around the Bahamas with my parents and it was my dream to do the same with my children. One year at Christmas I started talking about buying a boat and sailing away. My parents offered to lend us their boat for a few months and the next year we were doing just that. Our family of 5 spent five glorious months island hopping from one beautiful beach and anchorage to another.
Of course living on a sailboat isn’t all sundowners and lounging around. Sailing a small boat around, maintaining it, navigating and planning around weather can all be quite stressful. However, all that work was definitely worth it to spend so much time together as a family. Living on a 40-foot sailboat, you get used to being in very close contact all the time. Since we didn’t have regular access to WIFI, it was so refreshing to be unplugged and to spend time on simpler pursuits: reading lots of books and playing boards games together.
The kids were not in school but learned so much in our time away. Travel is such a natural catalyst for learning and they were so curious about the different places we visited, the marine life they were seeing and the history of the region. Since they didn’t always have friends next door, they learned to make friends quickly with other kids on boats and often played in multi-age groups. Living on a boat also forces you to be much more self-sufficient. We had very limited amounts of water and electricity and certainly not a lot of space for toys and other trinkets. The hardest thing about this experience was it left me with a huge desire to do it again, longer and with our own boat. I am hoping that will be in our future.
Chicken bus rides in Nicaragua with kids
When traveling we enjoy riding local transportation to truly get a sense of a country. On our month long trip to Nicaragua we took quite a few “chicken bus” rides with our kids up and down the country. They may not be as comfortable as an air-conditioned private car, but they are certainly more interesting. All throughout Central America these brightly colored, converted old school buses efficiently transport locals from village to village and even between countries. The buses are crowded, hot and not particularly comfortable. However, they are part of the experience of traveling in Central America. Our kids received lots of attention on our chicken bus rides and what kid doesn’t like riding in a brightly colored bus?
The chicken buses are a great way to get around on a budget. They are extremely inexpensive and the on-board ticket collectors very honest. They are called “Chicken Buses” for a reason as passengers are jammed into the bus like chickens, so be prepared to lose your personal space. Bags typically go on top of the bus and you often pay a little extra for the bags.
Chicken buses make many stops at all the small villages and roving vendors board the bus selling anything and everything. These people are often very poor and make their wages from the snacks and trinkets they sell. We tried a few of the local foods and sweets on board. We were mesmerized by the special elixir creams on offer and the vendors selling pharmaceuticals out of their pant pockets. Riding the chicken buses in Central America is definitely a fun experience as a family and a great way to get around.
Granada is a very popular destination in Nicaragua for both families and backpackers. Check prices and availability near Granada.
Wadi Rum, Jordan with a 2, 4 and 7-year-old
Ever since the kids’ Nan bought them there first sleeping bags they have been begging us to go camping. We had laughed it off, our expat pampered kids are usually found in a 5-star resort kids club – they couldn’t possibly enjoy camping ‘in real life’, could they? Our trip to Jordan provided the perfect opportunity to get the kids into the great outdoors and experience camping overnight in a traditional Bedouin tent in Wadi Rum desert.
With much anticipation we jump into the back of Mahmoud’s ‘jeep’ at Wadi Village and we are whisked off on our desert experience. Expecting a rather bumpy ride akin to dune bashing, he drives carefully with the kids, making sure to slow and point out interesting features he thinks the kids will love. At the first stop they are off climbing rocky mountains, after some goats they spotted before I can chase them down with the sunscreen. Next, they spot the camels, another thing we had long promised they could do and off they went again for their first solo ride!
Tackling the big red sand dune was rather epic. At some points the kids were sinking in it up to their knees but nothing was going to stop them reaching the top. Every stop it was the same enthusiasm and gusto we had never seen from them before! The excitedly bundled themselves out of the back of the Jeep and climbed anything they could, spotting insects, asking about the rocks and why the mountains and sands looked like they do in the desert. The most nerve-racking moment was walking through a narrow canyon with them, desperately griping their over-enthusiastic hands and clambering to the walls we made it to see the ancient rock carvings inside – they felt victorious and so did we!
The best part though was night. The tent was rather fancier than expected and raised off the ground with a proper bed frame and mattress – not quite the ‘roughing it we expected for the middle of the Jordanian desert but the kids thought it was the most amazing experience ever. After witnessing the most beautiful golden sunset atop of a small rocky mountain, we then descended to join our fellow campers in a traditional Bedouin dinner – now here I will admit I couldn’t get them to end their fussy habits but with their rosy, windswept faces at this point I couldn’t be cross.
Then there was the silence. Nothing around us but the uninterrupted star-filled sky and three children absolutely sound asleep after having had the adventure of a life time – and parents who have suddenly realized there are no limits when it comes to where you can travel with your kids – and enjoy it!
Want to go camping in Wadi Rum too? Or do you prefer some more luxury? Check out prices and availability of accommodations near Wadi Rum.
Travelling with kids, in a caravan during winter in Europe
There was no real plan on just how we were going to travel around Europe in winter when we left Australia on Christmas Day. That tends to be the way I approach all my travels though, buy tickets and head off, working things out as I go. We headed to the UK with our daughters, who were 9 and 12 at the time, visiting family and friends before my husband returned home to work and retreat from winter in the northern hemisphere!
The plan was to buy a car that was big enough to use as a camper, a people mover type…though it had 7 seats, the car we bought was far too small but had the advantage of already having a tow bar. So, why not buy a little caravan? We had never had one, so it seemed a great idea. ‘Priscilla’ as we named her, was a tiny 2 berth van, just 11 feet long, ever so light weight, but ideal for the three of us.
And off we went, across the English Channel and into Europe. Spending months exploring Denmark, across to Poland, Austria and the ski fields, over the Swiss Alps to Italy, a lap or to around Monte Carlo and up through France and Holland. What an unforgettable experience. Snow covered mountain passes, cobblestone streets that rattled our van to bits, driving the Cinque Terre – not realizing we were not meant to take a caravan down there.
We stopped to ski, hiked to frozen waterfalls and camped in overnight rest areas for free most nights. The girls became proficient at helping to turn the van by hand on a few occasions when roads ended after we went exploring off the beaten track. The trip was one I’d do again in a flash and will always remember for its incredible times with my kids.
If you are thinking of doing a similar trip – it is possible, it is incredible and will build life-long memories for everyone! Some of our favorite places were skiing in Schladming and going over the snow-covered roads through the Dolomites, Prague was a hit with the kids and another was the Cinque Terre where we hiked the trails overlooking the Mediterranean and explored the villages.