How to travel with a school-aged child (so that you all enjoy it)

It’s been a while since I thought about how to travel with kids, because it’s got much easier in recent years (compared to the toddler and preschooler days!). My travel-loving son has just turned seven, and is in the second grade at primary school here in Australia. Partly because he’s grown up travelling reasonably regularly, and partly because he’s probably figured out it’s *really* important to me, he is a really easy kid to travel with.

How to travel with a school-aged child

Tips for travelling with kids aged five to eight

But of course, it’s not the same as travelling without kids. I had an amazing solo trip to Japan last year and you sure can get a lot more done without kids trailing along, but I so often wished my son was there so I could have shared some of my excitement with him. (He’s currently persuading me to take him to Japan next year!)

Travelling with early-primary-school-aged kids (say first and second graders on average) is one of the most fun ways to travel, but it’s not without its difficulties, and there are plenty of things you can do to make it easier.

Kids love planning travel too

At this age, kids are starting to be more independent and don’t necessarily like being told what to do – fair enough! So when it comes to trip planning, I get my son involved in all kinds of decisions. For example, we’ll hop on the Airbnb website together and search for accommodation that suits us both – I always remember a place we ended up staying in Vienna basically only because my son liked the orange bed spread in the photos! I often present him with a bunch of choices about a trip – should we go to Museum X or Museum Y – so that he feels he has a real say in what happens. It also helps me when I’m trying to narrow down a million possibilities!

Travel with kids - Busselton Jetty with a seven-year-old

At the Busselton Jetty in Western Australia with my travel-loving seven-year-old son

Taking the right kind of toys

Like pretty much any kids this age, my son loves screen time. Like pretty much all parents, I have a love hate relationship with screen time. But when we’re travelling, the rules alter a bit, and so screen time becomes a key distraction and one of the main kinds of toys we take. (Which is handy as it’s not as bulky as some of the toys he wanted a few years ago.)

I also ask him to pack a few particular favourite toys – often small things like a few toy cars or a small pack of Lego – and he usually adds stuff he finds randomly on our trips and comes up with great games to play.

Plan in public transport

There are lots of advantages to using public transport when you travel, and it’s something I’ve always done as a traveller usually because it’s cheaper – but when you have kids of this age then the transport can be part of the adventure too. Using a public bus to get somewhere might take a little longer than a taxi, but that’s OK, because you won’t be trying to do as many things in a single day anyway (my biggest lesson on travelling with kids!), and my son loves the experience.

Include kid-friendly activities regularly

At this age, kids are all about negotiating. For example, on a recent trip in south-west Western Australia, my son was perfectly happy to have a “boring” adults lunch at a winery if the rest of the day involved a visit to an animal farm and two sessions at the skate park. While we don’t sit down and figure out an exact 50/50 split on our travelling activities, my son and I are both aware that some things will be more interesting to him and some will be more interesting to me, but that it’s fair to have some of each.

This video made by My Voucher Codes includes similar tips to these and a whole lot more to help make your family travel with kids heaps of fun for everyone.

Your tips for travelling with first and second grade kids

These have just been my favourite tips for travelling with kids aged around five to eight, and the ones that work best with my son, but I’m always keen to hear more: what do you think helps you and your kids have harmonious travels? Let me know in the comments!

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