With families hitting the road for weeks or months at a time, it’s clear that raising a family and seeing the world can go hand-in-hand for many travelers. To learn more about how they do it, we spoke to one of the most-traveled moms on Airbnb, Olga Kniazev-Julinski, who has made 21 trips with her husband and four sons this year. Here are Olga’s tips for families who travel long-term – or are thinking about it.
Pack light. (You already know that one!)
All you really need is your passport, credit card and a backpack half-full of your favorite and super-usable clothes. Leave the other half empty for some of the things you will undoubtedly pick up along your way.
Ditch the GPS. (Or keep it just for emergencies).
Instead, get a map of the country and the city you are visiting. Point out to the kids where you are on the map and encourage them to use it to orient themselves. It might take you a bit longer to get around, but it is totally worth it because it is such a fantastic teaching tool!
Do ask for directions.
You will find that people are more than happy to help you find your way. Some will even take the time and walk you over to your destination, in which case you can use this opportunity to have a quick chat about the neighborhood or whatever interests you about the area. And always ask your Airbnb host for recommendations. We would run our plans by our hosts and see what they would suggest. There is always something great that they recommend which we get to appreciate later.
Keep a family traveling journal.
It could be a notebook small enough so that you wouldn’t mind always carrying it with you. Then get it out every time you have a few minutes, say while waiting for your food to arrive in a restaurant or riding on the subway. Ask your children to do a quick journal entry. The little ones can make a drawing, older kids can jot down a few thoughts about the day. This will surely become a treasured memento of your travels later.
Take your kids to the playground – every time!
Kids learn through playing, and it is super important and fun for them to visit different playgrounds for a chance to interact with local kids. Don’t pass on other opportunities for them to play throughout the day. Many museums have kids rooms or programs, so do public libraries. You will get a kick out of watching your kids play with others who do not speak their language. And it will warm your heart to realize how much we parents have in common.
Build exercise into your travel.
Renting bikes or kayaks can be a great experience, even better to join a bike tour led by a local guide. Take the kids to the local indoor pool – we always do that on a rainy day. Drop in a class at a gym near where you are staying or jog around the neighborhood. Whatever you and the kids like to do to stay active, keep doing it – there is no reason to stop it while you are away.
Not only will this save you a lot of money, but you will avoid crowds of tourists and find locals even more friendly and relaxed.
Don’t overlook local events.
That includes local markets, fairs, celebrations and festivals, and they can be very fun! You can find yourself judging a pie contest, enjoying a terrific jazz performance in the park or watching a religious procession go by. It is the unplanned and unexpected experiences that end up being the most memorable.
Do take breaks.
Recognize when the kids get too tired and overstimulated and have a strategy in place on how to deal with it. You might need to take a break and take them to a quiet place, like a park. Teach them some relaxation techniques, maybe have them sit criss-cross-applesauce, close their eyes and breathe. It is amazing how little time it takes to restore balance, and everyone will benefit.
Cook at home.
Go to the supermarket and cook at home every once in awhile. It is fun if you get the kids involved in grocery shopping and cooking, and brings a sense of normalcy into their travel experience.