If you have young kids and think that traveling with them is super difficult and exhausting, don’t worry. It DOES get easier. My kids are now almost 7, 9 and 13 years old, and we survived many trips with them as babies and toddlers. Most of the headaches and mishaps from our early travel with them is now forgotten, and only (mostly) the happy memories remain.
However, traveling with older kids has its own set of challenges and isn’t always a piece of cake.
How Family Travel Gets Easier With Older Kids
We don’t have to haul around as much equipment. Yay, no more strollers, car seats or bottles! Also, our kids can carry our own things and even help us wheel around our big family suitcase.
I remember our first family vacation as a family of five when we went to San Diego. My youngest was just three months old. Looking back, I’m not sure how we even managed that trip!
Public transportation becomes more of an option. Without car seats and strollers to lug around, we are free to climb up and down those subways stairs to get to the stations. We waited to travel to New York City until we were stroller-free. Uber and cable cars/streetcars are a breeze with no strollers.
On my recent trip to New Orleans, I saw a young family struggling with a stroller inside the streetcar. I offered to help fold it up, but they were able to muddle through it. I am thankful for moving past that travel stage!
No kids menu? No problem. We used to pick our restaurants based on the kids menu. Now, even though two of our kids can still order from the kids menu and we like the lower prices, the kids menu is not the determining factor. Our kids’ palates have expanded, and they can usually find something to eat on almost any menu.
Older kids can read stuff on their own in museums! Hallelujah! I remember going to a dinosaur museum in Colorado that had so much writing on the walls. Only one of our kids could read, and even he didn’t have the patience and stamina for that much reading. Oy!
Bathroom breaks and logistics get easier. No more diaper changes and running to the bathroom every two hours for us! If our older kids need to go to the bathroom, they can go by themselves. When our older kids want to skip a ride, they can wait for us at the exit. We can move faster and accomplish more.
How Family Travel Gets Harder With Older Kids
School calendar and activities make it harder to schedule vacations. For my family, this is the biggest downside to travel with older kids. I pulled my kids out of school for off-season travel every year in elementary school. I thought I wouldn’t do it in middle school, but now my new policy is pulling out only 3-4 days. When my oldest hits high school, we might have to eliminate these ditch days altogether.
Tweens and teens are harder to impress and default to phones/video games. Gone are the days when we could rest at a playground inside a theme park and just let the kids run off steam. My 13-year-old jumps on his phone the minute we have any downtime. That is a big pet peeve of mine. Look at these photos my husband took of my son on his phone during our recent Disney cruise to Alaska:
Despite being on his phone sometimes, my son still had a blast in the tween club on the ship. However, at our all-inclusive resort in Puerto Vallarta last year, the teen club was empty. My son wanted to be on his phone ALL THE TIME. In my opinion, that’s not what vacations are for.
My husband says, “Young kids are more like dogs. Older kids and teens are more like cats.” He means that dogs are always raring to go have fun at any time. Cats are finicky and need coaxing to get up.
Older kids have different interests. Now that we have a 6-year-old and a 13-year-old, it’s sometimes hard to find things that interest both of them. At SeaWorld, my youngest wanted to spend hours in the Sesame Street Bay of Play. My oldest wouldn’t be caught dead anywhere near Elmo but would be thrilled to ride an extreme roller coaster.
Bigger kids want more space. When our kids were little, they loved sharing hotel beds and would fight over who gets to sleep with who. Now, my teenager would prefer to have his own room on every trip. He would be thrilled to stay up late and sleep in as late as possible in the morning without any of us disturbing him.
I’d love to hear about your funny or difficult travel experiences with your younger or older kids. What is easier/harder for you as your kids get older? Please share in the comments!
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Nancy is a contributing writer for Miles For Family. She enjoys traveling to the beach and is a big fan of Disney. Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids.