14 Problems of Travelling With Kids

Home » Travel With Kids » 14 Problems of Travelling With Kids

This post may contain affiliate links.

Problems of travelling with kids, oh yes, there are a few. Some consider them major problems, others, tiny inconveniences outweighed by rainbow benefits. We are firmly in the second group or we wouldn’t be doing this crazy non-stop travel thing. We did it for 6 years, full-time, maybe we’re nuts. A post on the problems or challenges of travelling with kids as a family.

Problems of travel with kids

A reader asked me to write this post a long time ago, thanks Kellie, sorry for the delay, I was busy travelling with kids, it’s pretty full-on.

Problems of Travel With Kids

problems travelling with kids

I think the main problems of travelling with children are very similar to those of normal daily life with children. As parents we all have to get used to being on-call 24-7. We’re used to that, we signed up for it. I don’t think it’s actually a bigger deal when you’re travelling than when you’re at home.

Here for the uninitiated, are a few problems of travel with kids, most will only be problems if you let them be.

  • Money & Expense
  • Health Concerns
  • Worry, Stress, Anxiety
  • Normality & Routine
  • Packing
  • Cleanliness and Hygiene
  • Vaccinations and Malaria
  • School, and Education Outside School
  • Play and Playmates
  • Long Journeys by Bus, Air, Train, or Boat
  • Finding Kid-Friendly Accommodation
  • Surprise Bonus Problem!

1: Money

Problems of Travel With Kids
Sure, paying for 4 people costs more. Decide what’s important to you. This airboat ride and the memories it gave us was worth every cent.

It costs a lot more for a family of four to travel than it does for singles or couples.

But, outside of airfares, it’s nowhere near four times as much, so long as you’re careful and do plenty of shopping around for the best deals. Google likes to tell people that the cost for a family to travel the world is approximately $30,000 each. This is complete hogwash. You can read the real cost of one year of family travel.

We all signed up to pay for them when we took the parenting job, no surprises here. There are ways to make your dollar go further when you’re packing a family.

  • Go for a lower standard of accommodation, transport, food or entertainment. Pick whichever one is least important to you and slash the budget in that area. We know from personal experience that our kids don’t care if it’s a 5 star or a guest house. We’ll take the best value accommodation we can find and work hard at finding great deals, they do exist!
  • Travel while they’re young. Under 2’s can fly free, younger children are more likely to stay for free in hotels and young children can often sit on laps on buses and trains, cutting ticket costs. They also don’t eat so much and free admission to attractions is a bonus. However- young kids won’t remember or learn from their travel experience. For me that’s a reason to wait and pay more.
  • Visit cheaper destinations. We like to spend a lot of our time in Asia and Eastern Europe and keep trips to the west to a minimum. Within Asian countries, for instance Thailand, Bangkok costs more, somewhere like Kanchanaburi costs less, divide your time according to cost. Check out Southeast Asia with kids here.

Problems of Travel With Kids 2: Health

Food Problems Travel With Kids
Huge, delicious family dinners in Guatemala. No tummy trouble.

You can stay at home worrying about Delhi belly or you can get out there, throw caution to the wind and see what the world brings you. Odds are you won’t get sick and neither will the kids.

I was worried that the kids would be more susceptible than us to all sorts of bugs. It seems they’re actually not.

Tummy bugs are pretty common in Asia. Inthe last 6 months we ( the kids and I) have been fine. Chef had a nasty couple of days with high fever and diarrhoea in Luang Prabang, thanks to the terrible buffets. He ate it, we didn’t. He should know better.

The kids really haven’t had any major tummy problems at all, particularly not in Thailand.

The medical care we have received in Thailand has been of a great standard so far, Chef even had surgery. Likewise, in Guatemala and Malaysia we saw doctors we were very impressed by and Chef’s tooth extraction in Flores went well.

Dengue fever is my big worry, we have it back home in Australia, but not at the levels you’ll find in Asia. We think Boo (7) had Dengue in Vang Vieng. It wasn’t too bad, fever followed by vomiting, rash and aches. Children get it more mildly than adults. We went to the tiny local hospital, but lack of English meant we didn’t get a diagnosis.

Avoid mosquitos like the plague! If you do that you’ll cut your risk of a whole panel of diseases.

Problems of Travel With Kids 3: Worry

Problems of Travel With Kids Stress and Worry
Health and safety may not be what you’re used to. But try not to stress. Tikal, Guatemala.

They could be lost, abducted or injured in all sorts of horrible ways, but they probably won’t be.

People are mostly nice and have families of their own, people look out for kids all over the world.

I suffer from anxiety, if I can do this and stay sane, so can you.

Problems of Travel With Kids 4: Being Normal

Travel with kids play
Playtime with Dad, at the beach on a school day. That’s as normal as we get.

Normal families have bedtime, mealtimes, routines and rules.  Normal parents have jobs, responsibilities, me time and late nights. We’re not normal.

Normal goes out the window when you travel with kids, everything works better if you ditch normal completely. Parenting on the road does look a little different.

We have found it absolutely impossible 99% of the time to get the kids off to sleep while we’re still awake in the same hotel room. Our best ploy is to all go to bed at the same time and, if we’re not tired but they are, read until we drop off.

Admittedly, children’s bedtime can spoil grown up fun when it’s just the four of you in one hotel room. Our way around it is simple, no rules, no routines. We sleep when we’re ready and get up when we’re ready.

We’ve shifted our adult schedule forward to match that of the kids. If we want a fancy dinner and a few drinks, we do it earlier in the evening so that we can all go to bed at the same time and the kids don’t get tired and fed up.

We normally pick a restaurant on the beach or with some outside space so that they can play if we want to hang around with a couple more drinks. Places with pool tables are also a big hit with my two.

Lack of “couple time” and “me time” could be an issue for some, if you want it badly you can slot it in. My husband runs, that’s his me time. My early mornings on the computer are my solitary luxury. If I’m lucky, with a coffee

The better quality and non-stop family time is a pretty good pay off.

Problems of Travel With Kids 5: Not Travelling Light

Kids Travel Packing

You can travel light with kids, it is possible (we don’t usually through choice).

All of my boys’ clothes and small toys fit into their own 15L packs, way below hand luggage size. They have more changes of clothes than we do.

When we started this trip we were carrying a lot of educational materials, they really weighed us down. After chef’s surgery, we ditched them to lighten our load but stuff has accumulated again since. We homeschool AKA “worldschooling” You don’t have to, but we like it that way. You can read more about homeschooling and travel here or fast forward to worldschooling a 15 year old teenager. We cover all things travel and education.

We could maybe downsize to carry on packs if we wanted to strip it down to travel essentials but I like having a few “school” books with us. Those and the electrical equipment, first aid kit, and other family travel gear plus Lego take up most room in my pack. Electronic toys have sometimes given us a few issues at customs.

I’ll carry the kids’ Lego gladly, they deserve to have some things that are important to them along on this trip.

Problems of Travel With Kids 6: Keeping Them Clean

Vang Vieng Laos River
Easy, just throw them in the river! Laos, Vang Vieng

You can get laundry done cheaply and quickly just about anywhere.

In Asia you trot along to your local laundry shop, price is normally based on weight, so the kids’ clothes cost nothing. You’ll get your clothes back, usually within 24 hours, clean, dry and neatly folded.

I hand wash the boys’ clothes a lot, they dry really quickly if you hang them indoors in air-con or under a fan. Grown-up clothes may not get as dirty, but they’re far more difficult to hand wash.

In the USA most motels had laundry facilities and, on occasion, we’ve taken an apartment with a washing machine. Laundry has never been an issue.

Showers and baths are easy, but sometimes on long travel days, children can get a bit grubby.

I still carry baby wipes for my 10 and 8-year-old babies and hand gel is my friend for times of no water. You can buy both just about anywhere.

We also carry tissues or toilet roll and a plastic bag or two for unforeseen emergencies. Particularly on buses with no access to our main packs.

We had a vomit once in Laos, travel sickness on the windiest road in the world, we were very glad of the plastic bags. We’ve also been able to help out other, less well prepared, travellers. I sometimes become mum to the gap year backpackers too.

The best tip here is to just stop caring about being spotless, who needs it. They say dirt is good for kids.

Problems of Travelling With Kids 7: Vaccinations and Antimalarials

Travel vaccinations in Kuala Lumpur
We topped up our vaccinations in Malaysia, it was a lot cheaper than Australia.

These days many of us wonder about possible toxic effects of vaccinations.

Plenty of travelling families don’t vaccinate and survive just fine, plenty more go the whole hog and spend a fortune at the travel health clinics.

I take the middle ground, the kids have the vaccinations I think are really necessary. Same goes for Chef and I.

You have to do what makes you comfortable, if you’re spending your whole trip worrying about what your kids might catch, you won’t be enjoying your time.

So far we’ve avoided taking antimalarials, we’ve very cautious about avoiding mosquito bites because of Dengue and we lived with vast swarms of mozzies back home in Queensland, so we’re fairly good at not being bitten.

Residents in the countries we visit, local or ex-pat, don’t take prophylaxis, so do we really need to? Again, this has to be a personal choice, what are you comfortable with?

Our tips for voiding mosquitos might help you if you’re new to living in the tropics. I’ve posted about our journey to travel vaccine decision-making in our travel health category.

Problems of Travelling With Kids 8: School Time

travel kids
Experiences like this, a lovely lady explaining a temple to us on Penang, beat school hands down. See our one year of travel, and educational highlights, for more.

Here is a word for you: Deschooling.

Deschooling is the process of forgetting everything you were conditioned to think about the nature of education, what it is, how it happens and its need to be tested. It takes a while to change your thought pattern and I can’t cover everything here. Read up on unschooling and worldschooling. Homeschooling, if you take it to mean school at home, isn’t a great option for travelling families, it’s far too regimented and time-consuming, check out the alternatives, they’re magical!

You will normally have to unenroll your children or risk being truant. In some countries you will need to register your kids as homeschooled, in others you won’t. Local and state regulations vary.

I can guarantee that your kids will learn more in the real world than in a classroom. Think about it, what is there to learn in a box?

Problems of Travelling With Kids 9:Play Time

travel with kids
Play and a new friend in Malaysia. Every day, there is play.

We find playgrounds, open spaces, other kids, beaches, trees and organised play facilities everywhere. We’ve never had any problem finding places to play.

Problems of Travelling With Kids 10: Finding Food

You’ll find food everywhere, but they may not want to eat all of it.

For us this is pretty easy, we have non-picky eaters and just one allergy or intolerance to accommodate. The food restriction is challenging, particularly as we like to avoid meat, but it’s do-able.

You will find shops selling western food almost everywhere if that is all your kids can face. Burgers, pizzas, french fries and yogurts could be your salvation. In Thailand there is a 7-11 every few paces, there are supermarkets and fresh produce stalls, there is street food, restaurants and night markets.

You’ll be able to find something, even if it’s only bananas, nobody will starve.

Problems of Travelling With Kids 11: Finding Accommodation

hotel vang vieng travel blog
It took us maybe an hour to find our base in Vang Vieng. It was on this island, over “our” rickety bridge. It became home for a month and we loved it.

Rooms for 4, or harder still, 5 +, do exist, but they are way, way harder to find that singles and twins and they will usually cost you more.

The USA was the exception to this, all the motel rooms we stayed in had 2 double beds and there was no extra charge for 4 person occupancy.

Hostels would seem to be a good option, but we find that paying the full adult price for 4 beds usually works out more expensive than a cheap hotel room. We’ve only ever used a hostel once for that reason.

We look for children stay free if using existing bedding deals, sometimes kids right up to 12 years can get away with this. We share beds with the kids most nights, we do it at home anyway, it makes no difference to us. Everyone is happy.

Asia has mostly been easy for allowing 4 of us to share a 3 or even 2 person room. It’s always easy to go to the hotels and guest houses in person rather than online. Rules can be bent in a person to person transaction and prices are usually lower.

Problems of Travelling With Kids 12: Long Transport Hours

sleeper train problems of travel with kids
The kids LOVE Thai sleeper trains, so do we!

We’ve spent days and nights on buses and trains. Mostly it’s been fine. The kids love sleeper trains and they’re usually OK on buses, they read and look out of the window. Planes hold no demons because of the luxury of in-flight entertainment and food, but budget airlines are less enjoyable.

travelling with kids blog world
Waiting can be trying. Have props! D loves his Kindle and we bought 2 10Baht plastic toys from a vending machine to make this 5 hour wait more fun. They both eventually found another family with kids to play catch with. If all else fails, break out the UNO.

I think it’s the adults who worry more about this stuff than the kids. The boys have quite often got chatting to people on the backpacker buses or if it’s really boring, they sleep. It’s been fine, honestly!

Problems of Travel With Kids 13: Family and Friends

We’re unusual in that we’ve never had a support network. We’ve never lived near family or friends because we move around so much. If you’re from a tight-knit little group you may find it strange to be flying solo. For us it’s fine, so I can’t help you much here.

We’re happy with our own company, but if we weren’t there is no difficulty in staying in touch through the internet. Install Skype or Zoom, chat to your friends and show them where you are and what you’re doing through sound and pictures, for free.

In the olden days, we used to have to make sporadic international phone calls and send postcards. Those days are long gone.

My boys occasionally say that they miss a particular friend back home, but it’s very rare. Mostly they’re too tied up in what they’re doing to think about things like that. They’re not interested in going back to Australia at all, they’re enjoying our new life, as are we.

Save the picture below to Pinteres before you read what the biggest problem of travel with kids is. It will surprise you.

Biggest Problems of Travel With Kids

The Biggest Problem of Travel With Kids

The big one, the one nobody tells you about. The problem that right now is turning my world upside down is this one.

I can’t think of any other potential problems of travel with kids, can you? Pop them in the comments section if you have any thoughts, fears or worries that I or other travelling parents could help you with. Thanks for reading our family travel blog, don’t forget to click “like” or better still “share.”

If you'd like to hire a car during your stay, use this car rental comparison tool to find the best deal!

We also suggest you take a look at this company to get a quote for all kinds of the more tricky adventure or extended travel insurance.

Try Stayz / VRBO for an alternative way to find rentals on homes/apartments/condos in any country!

About the author
Alyson Long
Alyson Long is a British medical scientist who jumped ship to chase dreams. A former Chief Biomedical Scientist at London's West Middlesex Hospital she started in website creation and travel writing in 2011. Alyson is a full-time blogger and travel writer, a published author, and owns several websites. World Travel Family is the biggest. A lifetime of wanderlust and over 6 years of full-time travel, plus a separate 12 month gap year, has given Alyson and the family some travel expert smarts to share with you on this world travel site. Today Alyson still travels extensively to update this site and continue her mission to visit every country, but she's often at home on her farm in Australia.

37 thoughts on “14 Problems of Travelling With Kids”

  1. Thank you for acknowledging the fact you have anxiety and worry alot about your kids. I also suffer from anxiety (especially relating to the safety of my kids) – and to be honest this is one of the reasons we are choosing to travel, I’m slowly wrapping them tighter and tighter in cotton wool and its madness. Do you have any other advice? Our kids are under 6 so we are going with baby ergo for the 18month old, spare ego for the 3 1/2 year old for long walks along with a body strap harness, and wrist harnesses for our 4 and 6 year old. I know that probably sounds over the top to some but oh well! Thank you again for sharing.

    • A lot of your worries will disappear when you hit the ground Louise. You’re probably worrying about an imaginary reality. I had a diagnosis of anxiety years ago and they tried to give me medication. I threw the Xanax in the bin. Mine was brought on by perimenopause from the age of about 40. Magnesium, B vitamins and plenty of walking, running or just being outdoors seemed to help me al lot. If I get anxiety now I know it’s because I’m short of Magnesium. But yes, I’m very protective of the boys because they do the craziest things. I learned through experience to expect the unexpected in the random things they do. They’re very rarely out of my sight and that’s great.

      • Thats very interesting about the magnesium and vitamin b, I’ll give them a try. I’ve had anxiety as long as I can remember, at times on meds but off completely for the past 5 years. you hit the nail on the head I worry about imaginary scenerios. I also have very inquisitive fearless kids. Thanks for the advice- I’m looking forward to the changes travel will bring.

  2. Great write-up. We also travel around the world with our kids and experience many of the same issues. As we live in South Africa, our biggest problem is the high cost of flights for 4. Schooling is the next biggest issue.

  3. Your blog has been an inspiration, I have followed for a while now and we have finally plucked up the courage to take six month Sabbaticals and follow our hearts. We have two children 6 & 8 and we are confronted by families and friends in disbelief or ore. Although our journey is somewhat less world travel as we have chosen America to travel around for our six month escape travelling in search of all the movies and films we love and to become Junior Rangers at all the National Parks and Monuments there are to see. We are so excited and a little nervous but I would like to say a huge thank you for your advice and stories on your blog.

    • Thank you and the very best of luck Sarah!

  4. Hi there, loved your article and we’re not far off embarking with our one year old, cannot wait! I did have two “problems” with travelling with kids which I’d love some ideas for / tips. First is money, how can we afford it long term? Any tips appreciated! And a carseat. Should we take our own? Going to South East Asia and Europe. Cheers!

    • If you think they need a carseat, yes, take your own. But what will you do with it on buses, trains etc? We took our own on short holidays when they were tiny, but once you go long term it becomes redundant. Money, well you live off savings or you earn online. That’s too big a topic to put in a comment,but if you go to our money section you’ll find lots of information on how we do it, but different people have different ways. Some hae regular jobs that they do online, but most are self employed. Bon voyage!

  5. We find it often takes Dad a few days to slow his pace and get used to kids 24/7 when we travel after coming from a fast paced job.

  6. Great article! Traveling light with kids is impossible. I have 2 sons. I can`t remember last time I have packed only one suitcase. It was a lifetime ago. I love your article. Greetings!

    • We did actually go carry on only for this last trip, London and driving accross Europe, but it was only 2 weeks and we didn’t attempt to take toys or work books. We managed fine.

  7. Hi,
    Do you have any problems keeping your family’s items safe at hotels, or while travelling?

  8. I agree that many of these can be problems, but they don’t have to be. I love how you have spelled out the ways to get over the difficulties.

  9. Haha this was a top read. I think many people do find it hard to consider travelling to certain places with kids. This article definetly points out the reality of how difficulties are quite small in retrospect. Thanks

  10. Looks like you’re “on the go again” with your posts, Alyson!
    This one is just great – I 99% agree. The only thing I can add is : don’t stop traveling when you’re kids grow older. Yes, you pay more for their flights, but again, the benefits largely outweigh the price. You may have to travel differently : teenagers need to be with their peers, and after several weeks of traveling in Borneo with our 18, 16 and 14 year olds, the two oldest ones did miss their friends at home (thank you facebook !). But they also immediately signed up for our next trip … having to cope with your parents seems much less annoying when you’re on the other side of the planet!

    • This one is several weeks old Talitha! Yes, I hope they’ll stay with us. Because they don’t go to school and we’re togethr 24/7 I think our bond is tighter than usual, but the day is coming where they’ll want less mum time. A lesson to everyone to make the most of it while they can.

  11. Great post. We’re only 3 weeks into our travels, kids 3 & 6. I too would be massively interested in any natural mosquito repellant tips. Heading to Central America in 6 weeks!

  12. I think it’s great to offer your kids these experiences. Whatever the problems. No one can those away from them ever.

  13. “people look out for kids all over the world”
    This is so true, we have never felt any worry when travelling with our son, if anything we’ve felt slightly more protected and insulated as a travelling family due to everyone protecting and valuing the family unit. Especially in Mexico where we were so well looked after by everyone from taxi drivers to airline hosts.

  14. This is such a fantastic post. It really is the great experience to travel with your kids. Yes, it can be hard. Yes, you can’t do everything you would do on an adults-only trip. But, I wouldn’t trade our experiences, lessons and memories for anything!

  15. Great article and tips! We can’t wait to hit the road – with 4 kids!!

  16. Great post, I was just nodding all the way through. I took my daughter travelling and schooled her on the road when she was 8 (she’s now grown up) so this was a great memory for me, and I had a little chuckle remembering all the nuances about travelling with kids. if nothing else it certainly makes them portable!

  17. I loved reading this! We travel a lot with our kids as well and it can be both an adventure and a chore. I find the good out weighs the bad, and what an education it is for the children. Keep on keepin’ on! 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  18. What an excellent post! I’m saving this one to share with my friends who think about hitting the road with their kids. Like you, we’ve learned to change how we do things and how we parent in general as we are on the road more and more.

  19. Very comprehensive list! I can relate to almost all of these, even with the shorter trips we do now. The food one is a big challenge for me; I’m pretty picky about my family’s diet and no matter what I do our “road diet” never quite lives up to my standards. Oh, and laundry is a bit of an issue for us in Europe. Even self serve is expensive and we went through one outfit per gelato with our little guy! Looking forward to hearing your mosquito tips since we don’t have many where we live and I’d love some tips that don’t involve slathering my kids with repellent!

    • Our travels in Europe have been short, never more than 2 weeks , so we’ve never really had laundry issues. Europe isn’t our scene although we enjoyed our brief visits to Spain and Italy very much, I’m afraid we’re not much help with Europe. Sorry!

  20. This was a terrific summary. I’m just wondering what strategies you use to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. I find that wearing long sleeves and long pants and staying indoors in the early evening helps when we are in Asia.


Leave a comment