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The Two Word Travel Mantra You Need to Travel With Kids

The two word travel mantra you NEED to survive travel with kids!

I’m in the process of planning our 3rd extended International family trip. This one is to Japan, a place none of us has been and there’s SO MUCH we want to do! However, now that I’m booking day by day, I’m keeping my travel mantra in mind: minimize transitions.

When I recap our trips, I try to document the failures as well as the successes. Almost every failure I can remember involves the movement from location to another. We’ve missed the Eurostar, threw the kids and bags at top speed to make a 3 minute train connection, scrambled for flights and gotten lost in rental cars among other mishaps, and they always happen when we’re loaded with luggage and stressed to make a deadline. In Austria we made the firm check-in deadline for our castle only by the crazily efficient operations of Lufthansa at FRA.

So I go out of my way not to move once we’re set up in a location.  This means I plan activities based on what’s a do-able daytrip from our home base, and I plan our home base based on what we want to do. It takes more work on the front end and some flexibility on what you see, but I find it’s definitely worth it.

For example, when we went to Guatemala the kids were 4 and 7.  We made the decision to skip Tikal because we were based in Antigua.  Instead we visited Iximche. Was it as tall as Tikal? No. But it was 90 minutes from Antigua and was almost entirely deserted. Deserted except for the actual Mayans who still used the site for their holy rituals. And we didn’t have to pack up and board a plane.

The only real fail in our Guatemala trip? Taking an overnight to the beach. We didn’t have to unpack entirely, but between the 3 hour drive each way and our hotel being a far cry from our “home” 2 bedroom condo in Antigua it just didn’t measure up to the rest of the trip.

So in Japan we want to see Kyoto, Nara, and Hiroshima, but we’re staying in none of the above. Instead, I’m picking a hotel in Osaka which is an easy train ride from all three. We can stay there the entire six nights instead of jumping around, and it’s 1/2 the cost. Yes, we’ll have longer transit times each day, but I’ll take that over moving our entire caravan.

Do you have a mantra you keep in mind when booking your family trips? Please share in the comments.

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12 thoughts on “The Two Word Travel Mantra You Need to Travel With Kids

  1. Erik

    When traveling as a family, I generally avoid 1 night stays and try to book at least 2 or more nights. Occasionally I will make an exception if it is unavoidable or super convenient (i.e. airport hotel for a flight the next morning). I think that 2 hours transit one-way is probably my limit for a day trip and I probably wouldn’t want to do that every day. It also depends on the method of transportation and the route, i.e. driving 2 hours through the scenic Alps is probably more exciting than driving 2 hours on flat polder land next to the sea in the Netherlands. In general, I agree and try to take things a little slower than traveling in the past as a couple. Are you doing the Japan rail pass for your trip?

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Hi Erik,
      90 min each way is more mine, which is putting Hiroshima as a stretch. Looking into the rail pass at least for the 2nd week. So much to do!

  2. Sandy

    We did the same last year when we were in Japan. We are family of four, mom, dad and two 9 years olds at the time of travel. We used Osaka as the home base and explored Nara and Kyoto (went there 2X). We didn’t make it out to Hiroshima as we spent half of our six days there visitng family. We stayed at Hilton Osaka, which is just bove the Osaka station and it was a wondeful location, close to all kinds of restaurants.

  3. Kate

    We spent almost two weeks in Japan with our then 13 year old daughter a couple of summers ago. Sounds like you have decided where you want to go. Just some thoughts…there is such a tremendous amount to do in Kyoto, I would really give some thought to staying half the time there or just letting that be your base if possible. We went to Hiroshima, interesting for adults, but I really would not recommend it for younger children. Partly, because if you don’t want to read exhibits in a museum, there is just not that much to do. The deer roaming around at Nara were fun for our daughter. We also stayed at the Hilton in Osaka for a couple of nights. In fact, we stayed at Hiltons every night but one in Japan, and just by virtue of Gold through a credit card saved a fortune on food (and drink). In Osaka, we ate under a department store in a maze of restaurants. Would highly recommend! We sat next to eavh other in Reston at a points gathering. Please contact me if you want more information. Hope you have a great trip!

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Hi Kate,
      Nice to hear from you!

      I think we are going to drop Hiroshima. Just a bridge too far.

      I also am looking to leverage hotel status…in our case Hyatt Diamond. Not only for the cost savings, but for the kids to see at least one familiar meal a day. I’m not going to Japan and only eating McDonalds! At least with a big Western breakfast I won’t feel bad if they turn their noses up at lunch.

      Kyoto…keep going back and forth. Thanks for your insight.

  4. MaryE

    Spend more time in Kyoto. A beautiful city and lots to do. You can eat affordably in the department store basements. Try Sogo, Hankyu Hands, Daimaru, Hanshin. The food in supermarkets tends to be expensive, BUT if you go about 1/2 hour to an hour before closing, you can buy cooked and packaged food for up to 50% off. You can eat a feast that way and bring it back to your hotel room.

  5. Becky

    My mantra: Long lunch. Because everybody needs a break (even without kids) and that’s a good chance to decompress in the middle of the day before moving on to the next activity and it works as a time buffer when unforeseen delays pop up. Bonus points for being delicious!

  6. Raleighlaura

    I just found your site- and am excited to follow you now!
    My two-word mantra for traveling with my kids is “Ice Cream.” When we push too hard we all get cranky, and ice cream is frequently the answer for us. We choose, we sit, we smile, we taste; it’s hard to be grumpy when eating ice cream (or frozen yogurt, or gelatto, or an italian ice…).

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