Let our expert teach You: How to Travel with Kids

Our Interview with Shanna Schultz from There and Back Again Travel Blog

Traveling with kids may seem like too daunting a task to attempt, but after meeting Shanna, her husband Aaron, and her family I know that anyone can travel with kids. Before they had kids they loved to travel and visited many bucket list places like Norway, Prague, and Korea. They thought that after they had kids their travel days were over so they crammed everything in at once. Sound familiar?

It was only after they had kids, that they realized that it was possible to travel with kids. They’ve been none stop traveling since. Just this past few months they’ve visited Thailand, Scotland, and Virginia. Traveling with kids is possible and they are here to help you learn how to do it. You can find more information about their blog on There and Back Again Travel blog. For now grab a nice brew and relax with our fun interview!

How to Travel with Kids

How would you suggest making traveling with kids easier?

The #1 thing that I have learned traveling with kids is not to schedule too much.  This just makes for tired, exhausted, cranky kids and cranky adults. When the kids were babies, we strictly stuck to a one sight per day rule.  We would hit one big sight early in the day. The afternoon time after nap time was reserved for wandering looking for ice cream or playing in the park.  Now that our kids are toddlers and preschoolers, we sometimes try for one big morning sight and a less intense sight in the afternoon.

Our days of running around like crazy tourists are DONE, and this is ok.  Leaving open, unscheduled time to hit the local market everyday or to hang out with local families at the playground also affords a more authentic and genuine travel experience.  Also, if you are traveling far away leave room for a few less intensive days at the beginning of your trip when everyone will be adjusting to the time change.

My second magic tip (that makes our trips SOOOO much easier) is to prioritize booking accommodations near a park or another open space.  Having a close space to let the kids run off steam makes everyone’s days less stressful.

traveling with kids
Playing in the splash pool at the park!

Tell us your story

We are high school sweethearts who both grew up traveling all over the United States.  Since having kids, we have been driven to include the kids in our travel addiction and to show them this big, beautiful, amazing world that we live in.  We live in Minnesota in a house that we built with our own hands, and I am continually OBSESSED with planning our next adventure (the planning is how I maintain my sanity between trips). Although, we are not full time travelers – just normal people who get a normal amount of vacation time. We want to make the best possible use of it by filling it with experiences that enrich our understanding of the world and bring us closer together as a family.

What are the easiest countries to travel to with kids that you’ve been to or have heard are really easy?  

Costa Rica was the most family friendly destination that we have visited with the kids.  The whole culture is very family oriented. Folks went out of their way to make sure the kids were happy and having fun.  The food in Costa Rica was very appealing to our kids (lots of rice, beans and fruit smoothies which they both loved). Any destination that combines beaches and animals is a big hit on my kids’ list!

It might just be at the top of my mind because it was the last big trip that we took, but traveling by train across Austria and Switzerland with the kids was one of the easiest trips that we have taken with them.  If you have the opportunity to travel with kids by train – DO IT! Our train time was spent playing games, watching the scenery, showing the kids where we were on the map and teaching them about where we were going next.  It was more than just transportation. It was time to relax and recuperate from the rigors of travel.

On the train heading towards Switzerland

What are some traveling with kids travel hacks that you’d like to share?

I work in an airport so I get to see a lot of people traveling with children.  When I see someone with lots of kids who really has their travel system down, I like to pick their brains for tips. One of the best tips that I got was from a travel momma who was traveling with 5 kids by herself and really had things in order.  She told me that there are three things that they always make sure that EACH kid has in their backpack – a tablet with their own headphones, a water bottle and a little bento box of snacks. We try to do this with our kids now. Giving the kids the means to take care of some of their own basic needs takes some of the burden off of you as a parent and gives the kids a feeling of responsibility.

Had you and your husband traveled before having kids and what inspired you to start traveling once you had them?

We were fortunate in that we had the opportunity to travel extensively before we had kids in our 30’s.  We traveled like crazed maniacs, taking exhausting trips where we checked as many things off of our bucket list as we could.  I am glad that we got that out of our system before the kids, because it is impossible to travel with small kids in that way, even if we wanted to.

Travel is a part of our lifestyle.  My husband and I both grew up traveling, and have continued that into adulthood.  When the kids came, whether or not they would come on our adventures was never a question or an option.

We had traveled to so many places that we had reached a point of “travel overload”.  I know that there are a lot of travel bloggers out there who can relate to this. Sights and destinations that are bucket list material for most people seemed to blend into a long string of other amazing sights.   Seeing the world through their eyes and being forced to slow down have refreshed our drive to travel and to share our travel experiences as a family. Sometimes now this means more hanging out and less sightseeing, but I think that this gives us a more authentic travel experience.

traveling with kids
At Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai

What has been one of your most empowering moments traveling with your child?

I took both kids on a three hour flight and then to the beach by myself for a few days when they were 2 and 3.5 years old.    It was hard, but it helped me to break a mental barrier. I discovered that there are a lot of aspects of travel with kids that we take for granted when traveling with another adult.  Being able to run back to the car or back to the room when you have forgotten something without having to drag the whole crew with, or to dish up plates at breakfast while one parent sits with the kids at the table were challenges that I had to overcome. It made me appreciate my spouse’s role in our travel even more.   Kudos to all of the single parents out there who roll like that all the time when traveling with the kids! We did it and we still had a great time, and since then I have felt more able to travel with them by myself.

How do you think traveling affects a child’s development?

So many people ask me “Why are you taking your kids?  They won’t remember” and this drives me mad. Why do we read our babies books that they won’t remember, or take them on trips to the zoo that they won’t remember?  Travel literally shapes the way that a child’s brain develops. Even if they don’t remember, their brains are making all sorts of neurological connections stimulated by the different sights, smells, sounds and tastes.  Travel also gives kids a different perspective on the world. It opens their eyes to diversity and to people who have different living situations than us. I really think that the experience of travel can teach kids humbleness and compassion. It just makes them all around good world citizens!

traveling with kids
Shanna and her beautiful kids on the beach.

Are there any myths about traveling with kids that you’d like to rebuke?

 I could talk a lot about how much I hate people telling me that our travels were over when we had kids. And that my my passion to inspire others to share the world with their kids is misplaced….But instead I am going to debunk another family travel myth. That even I get stuck in.

When I read other family travel blogs or look at their Instagram feeds, I usually get the wrong impression. I get the impression that travel with kids is an easy walk in the park. That all pictures turn out perfectly, knees never get scraped and everyone always gets along.  Even I feel inadequate sometimes because our trips are certainly never that easy. Throw up happens. Jet lag is real and tough to get through. Meltdowns are frequent in the unfamiliar experiences that travel brings. The amazing moments are hidden amidst a string of mundane ones. With kids and there is no getting around that.

Portraying family travel as too easy is a dangerous trap. Because it sets expectations too high and sets rookie travelers up for disappointment. When reality hits and things really aren’t that easy.  The amazing moments ARE there, and they are sooo totally worth it. When you see your child make a connection in their mind because of some new thing that you have just seen. That moment watching their eyes light up because they have just seen an amazing wonder, you will know this, too.  It just takes a little work to get to there. Travel is an amazing opportunity. It allows your family to meet challenges and get through them to the amazing stuff on the other side.

What are your go-to best kept secret resources for finding information for travel and help with traveling with kids?  

My best go to resources for travel are hidden in plain sight.  When I want the low down about what to do with kids in a destination, I reach out to the locals. I contact the tourist organization there and to local travel bloggers that I found in my trip research.  If I can’t find information on their websites about family oriented activities, I send them a message. These folks are locals. If they can’t answer my question, they are in a much better place to find someone who can.

Now that blogging as become a primary source of travel information. There are niche travel blogs that focus exclusively on the city or country that you are visiting.  I usually come across these when searching for other information related to that place. These travel bloggers are goldmines of local information and are great to reach out to with any specific questions.

traveling with kids
After a long day, it was almost dinner time by the time we finally made it up to the top. He was on the floor in mid tantrum in this picture.

Let me know if I missed anything. Do you have any other thoughts you’d like to share?  

Travel is not just something fun to do with your kids, but it creates a true family legacy.  I really think I love travel because of the adventures my parents took me on. They took me to TONS of places of places while I was growing up.  Ditto for my husband. Our parents took us a lot of places because their parents took them a lot of places. A love for travel is a family legacy. You are passing this legacy on not only to your kids, but perhaps to your grandchildren and so on.  When I put all of this together in my mind, it really opened my eyes. I truly understand how important sharing travel with our kids is, because it has the potential to influence future generations.

Thanks for the wonderful interview and tips Shanna!

Thank you for the very helpful interview Shanna!! Like I said before if you need help traveling with kids Shanna is your woman to ask. She’d love to help you with any questions you may have. Also, if you want to read more about traveling in Costa Rica read our blog post.

As always let us know your thoughts with comments below and feel free to email me at hailey@mentortravel.org. We can’t wait to hear from you!

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