Real life family travel means making family travel compromises for the benefit of everyone in the family. And that's okay. Here are six compromises we've made as a family in order to continue traveling together.
Family Travel

Real Life Family Travel: Compromises

I’ve learned a lot over the past eight years, first through traveling with my wife, then with my daughter, and now as a family of four. It’s easy to blog about the great experiences and make everything sound hunky dory, but I’ve long wanted to write a series talking about the real experience of traveling together as a family. Part I: The Glue turned out to be a bit nicer than I was expecting, but that was important to start the series off. Things get a little hairier in Part II: Family Travel Compromises.

The moment my wife and I started discussing our honeymoon, I realized that the key word would be compromise. I wanted to take it easy, she wanted to see the sights. I wanted to sit on the beach, she wanted to see the city. She wanted art, I wanted….not art.

Once we had kids, we had to make even more compromises for family travel. But the funny thing I’ve learned over the years? Our travel hasn’t suffered in the least even with a need to compromise. In many ways, it’s improved. But slowly but surely the travel compromises I’ve had to make have added up. Here are six compromises we’ve made as a family in order to keep traveling.

Real life family travel means making family travel compromises for the benefit of everyone in the family. And that's okay. Here are six compromises we've made as a family in order to continue traveling together.
It’ll be awhile before we swim out to any private beaches again

Compromise 1: Fewer connections, more nonstops

After we got married, I quickly realized that my wife wasn’t going to tolerate too many connections on the way to our destination, with good reason. Connections obviously increase the chances for stressful travel plus you’re spending more time in the air. Even when we started flying up front I only managed to convince Jess to fly one extra connection max. Same for long layovers. (Lufthansa first class going east to China was truly a victory though!) 

Once we had our first child, I pretty much stuck to the same rule. Of course, before kids, I would just take an extra connection (when allowed) to try out new first class cabins. After M, I would take that extra connection to save some money or miles. After our son came along? Suddenly, I have found that I am willing to pay much more, miles OR cash, to fly nonstop. 

If we’re talking a six hour flight it might be okay to break that up into two three hour flights. But anything under three hours forget it. It’s just not worth the extra hassle for me anymore. 

Compromise 2: No more super early or super late flights

I never have liked 5 AM flights, but I’ve booked them in order to save a few bucks or because of saver award space. Reasoning? I’ll just sleep on the plane! Sure it won’t be that comfortable but I can at least catch up a little bit. The only probem with kids? You can’t sleep on the plane. Even if the kids fall asleep, the odds of you being in a comfortable enough position to get any significant rest equal the odds of me ever qualifying for the Boston marathon.

Real life family travel means making family travel compromises for the benefit of everyone in the family. And that's okay. Here are six compromises we've made as a family in order to continue traveling together.
No matter class of service, avoiding connections is key for us

The other day we took a 7:45 AM flight to Orlando and I thought even that was pushing it for our kids. Again, with one kid we were much more willing to do this (I’m pretty sure I woke M up at 5 AM a couple times). With two potentially overtired kids, my scientific calculations put the odds of a meltdown at 5X as likely – and not worth the risk!

Of course, somehow I’ve found myself booked with the family on the 1:45 AM Cathay flight out of Boston in a couple months. Reasoning? Either take a connection or fly that nonstop. I opted for the nonstop but I genuinely have no idea how that will go. Two family travel compromises went head to head and I chose the nonstop. Should be fun! 😛

Compromise 3: Less activities, more breaks

Jess and I love hitting the ground running. I have fallen asleep at many museums in Europe after getting off the redeye and trying to fit in an entire day of sightseeing. Then we’d fill up the rest of our vacation with a similarly packed itinerary.

Learning to travel with my family meant learning this important family travel compromise: less is more. Nowadays I plan our arrival day around activities that should help us get acclimated to our new environment (I even skipped the parks on our first day at Disney!) If there are time zones involved I pretty much plan nothing except for where we can eat in a pinch. 

Real life family travel means making family travel compromises for the benefit of everyone in the family. And that's okay. Here are six compromises we've made as a family in order to continue traveling together.
Beach destinations have a greater appeal to us now that we can’t run around from sight to sight as much

This compromise manifests in a couple other areas. We spend more time in less locations now. This allows us to take things easy and not try to cram everything in to two days. When overseas, 4-5 days per destination sounds good to me. So when in the past we’d do five or six cities in a two week trip now we do about three.

The kids also mean that we need to be ready for a quick escape from any activity. That’s why cities like London where the majority of sights are free work super well for families; you can always bail and come back another day if things aren’t working out. Less activities is more, less time in each activity can be more too.

Compromise 4: Eating is mostly for sustenance, not enjoyment

Speaking of spending less time in each activity, I don’t know about other families, but with two kids under five eating can feel like a mad rush. Like, we might as well be feeding these kids from troughs! And when they’re done they need to be entertained or want to run around.

Real life family travel means making family travel compromises for the benefit of everyone in the family. And that's okay. Here are six compromises we've made as a family in order to continue traveling together.
We buy a lot of food on the go and only focus on restaurants we really want to eat at

That means fine dining (obviously) and even enjoyable semi-fine dining are mostly out of the picture. In fact, eating has become more about making sure the kids are fed and not grumpy and less about what we are actually eating.

Obviously, we still try to find places to eat that we would enjoy regardless, but the kids’ needs come first. 

Compromise 5: More apartments, less hotels (even with status)

I know people love their Hyatt Diamond status and I’ve really enjoyed having it the past two years. Still, the stark reality for our family? Most suites don’t surpass apartments when it comes to ease of use and comfort. With young kids, a kitchen makes a huge difference. It helps to eat better by cooking our own food and also bails us out in a pinch when the kids are hungry.

Real life family travel means making family travel compromises for the benefit of everyone in the family. And that's okay. Here are six compromises we've made as a family in order to continue traveling together.
Oftentimes, nothing beats a home cooked meal, but you generally need a kitchen for that

On top of that, even with Diamond status you can only bank on one bedroom suites. Having 2-3 bedrooms makes a huge difference for us since our son really needs his own room to function well (M was easy because she’d co-sleep). So having more space works better for us and I find my real life family travel compromise is giving up the lounge, free soda, the baller feeling of being in a suite, etc.

Of course going through Airbnb or something usually means you’re paying with cash – another compromise. Now that Hyatt allows Globalists to upgrade award reservations the valuation changes a bit, but not enough to make status worth it. And without status, the apartment rental/hotel question isn’t really even close.

Compromise 6: More domestic, less international

Our final compromise cuts me the deepest. We’ve really moved towards more domestic travel, dropping from two planned international trips a year to one. We love traveling internationally and love doing it with our kids but all the little tough things add up.

Real life family travel means making family travel compromises for the benefit of everyone in the family. And that's okay. Here are six compromises we've made as a family in order to continue traveling together.
America is already great…

Time changes usually take 2-3 days to deal with, so not only are those days affected but it really means that to make a trip feel worth it you need to spend at least a week. Language barriers are always tougher to navigate when you feel stressed and traveling with kids often creates stress! And while we love trying new foods (well, my wife does), the reality is, not having “safe” options for the kids can wear us out.

None of this even mentions the extra travel time (though as I love to say, it takes less than an hour more to get to Europe than California). So we’ve compromised a bit on our international travel. But hey, we’re still going to Asia in April and that leaves enough time to still make two overseas trips this year so we’ll see!

Real life family travel means making family travel compromises for the benefit of everyone in the family. And that's okay. Here are six compromises we've made as a family in order to continue traveling together.
…but jetlag is not

Final Thoughts

Real life family travel means family travel compromises. The trick for us is compromising on the little things but keeping the overall picture in focus. For our family, the focus is exposing our children to new environments, new cultures, and breaking out of our comfort zones. While we may travel shorter distances, eat faster, or see a little less, we still love traveling with our family and the “compromises” are what makes that possible. Worth it.

What kind of compromises do you make to travel with your family or loved ones? I’d love to hear them!

Real life family travel means making family travel compromises for the benefit of everyone in the family. And that's okay. Here are six compromises we've made as a family in order to continue traveling together.

 

Joe
Just an average joe trying to fly his family for less
http://www.asthejoeflies@gmail.com

18 thoughts on “Real Life Family Travel: Compromises”

  1. This is a wonderful, thoughtful and resourceful post. Thank you. I can certainly relate to everything you mention in your post, I have 2 children under 5, and over last 9 years I went from traveling solo, to traveling as a couple, to traveling with 1 child and now traveling with 2. 🙂

    More domestic, less international. If we make a connection, we try to do it overnight at a airport that has an airport hotel, so at very least we can get a couple of beds for the night. More beaches, less cities. No table cloth restaurants. Apartments or Timeshares (on points) with a kitchen, washer/dryer and space are definitely being used more than ever before. I felt like I was reliving my travel life while reading this post. It hit right home to me.

    Churning and Earning for 4 now, always an adventure.

    Cheers,

    PedroNY

  2. My parents dragged us around traveling when we were young too. We kids hated it, or at best, didn’t remember. Moral is you’re delusional if you actually believe dragging young children around the world is somehow in their best interest or culturally enlightening.

    Face it, what you are doing is the exact opposite of what’s in your kid’s best interests. What you are selfishly doing what is what YOU want (ie, to keep traveling). So quit this ridiculous nonsense that you are broadening your toddler’s horizons – they’d rather be at home – as you surely know.

    1. Interesting perspective. I respect that. My parents took us traveling a lot and I complained a lot at the time but I love traveling now. My daughter is having a blast on our current trip so maybe different strokes for different folks!

      1. I think Mser communicated his views in an unnecessarily rude manner (delusional, ridiculous).

        However, Joe, I do wonder how much this travel is really achieving those goals you mentioned (new environments & cultures, breaking out of comfort zones). Given the compromises required, you are focused on beach destinations and food that mimics home and quick activities with bite sized content. This excludes local food, cultural experiences beyond museums, or significant nature trips. And then there is the question whether the kids really remember much before the age of 5ish, which seems to be as far back as most can recall.

        So if travel with kids as this age involves quite a bit of stress/work and the experience is limited/standardized, I wonder if the domestic/Caribbean beach trips are not the best option until the kids get to an age (6+) with limited meltdown risk, independent mobility and ability to participate more fully in international experiences.

        1. Thanks for your thoughts. Couple things.
          1) Remember, as parents we’re just making it up as we go along. I’m not saying anyone needs to do what we do, just writing about my journey and figuring out what works for us.
          2) We live in New England – the beach is a viable option 2 weeks a year (exaggerating). And my kids LOVE the beach.
          3) We are American Born Chinese who speak Mandarin at home. That means it’s important to us to bring out kids back from time to time, to experience places where everyone looks like them.
          4) In terms of not remembering, that’s never been a huge deal for me. Wrote about it for Traveling Dad.
          5) This series is about real life family travel. I promise you if I thought our kids weren’t benefitting from it we would stop, we really aren’t “dragging” them (my daughter is always asking where we are going next). But I’m saving why I think it’s all worth it for the last post in the series, these next few posts are going to be all the hard stuff!

          Thanks for reading!

  3. How do you upgrade Hyatt award stays? With more points or with cash? And is this a new feature of the Discoverist/Explorist/Globalist thing?

  4. Good stuff, though I would disagree about early morning flights. I’ve found leaving early in the morning is more likely to result in my kids sleeping on the plane and letting us have a more peaceful flight. YMMV of course depending on your kids and your preferences.

    1. Oh, and going domestic is good advice since many elements of what people might look for in a trip abroad (cities, nature, beaches, skiing, museums etc) can be found domestically. I would even take it a step further and advise looking for destinations (tripadvisor is great for this) within a 2/3-hour drive that otherwise wouldn’t be on your radar. We’ve found some nice places/things to do that we otherwise never would have bothered with since we’d be focused on more prominent destinations.

      1. Exploring near home is a great idea. I’ve ended up in various small US cities for various reasons (job interview, they were on the way to somewhere else etc) and have come to the conclusion that just about every place is good for at least a long weekend. One of my favorites is Knoxville. I have this idea that we should just sort of randomly choose places that are convenient to get to and then spend a few days there. We’d probably have a good time.

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