Plenty of families take advantage of holidays or weekends for travel, but others hit the road for months, even years at a time, skipping across the globe with kids and grandparents in tow.
Long-term family travel is no small undertaking – but it’s well worth the effort, according to family travelers we spoke with. To learn more about how family travelers do it, we found 50 families who traveled the most between January and August 2017, making themselves at home in some of the more than 2.3 million family-friendly Airbnb listings across the globe.
Hailing from thirteen countries, and with broods of various sizes, here are some of their tips on building unforgettable family trips.
Deciding Where to Go
Among the family travelers, the most-visited countries were the U.S. and the U.K., followed by France, Italy, Spain, Japan, Canada, Croatia, Germany and New Zealand. Some families plotted out destinations based on history, cultural heritage and natural landscape; while others, like Ruth McAllister of Bristol, UK, chose destinations primarily around budget, accessibility and weather.
The essence of traveling is that, when you wake up in the morning, you never know how your day is going to go.
Ruth McAllister, United Kingdom
But family travel calls for the right balance of planning and spontaneity, the families agreed. With anywhere from one to seven children, the majority booked flights and their initial Airbnb listings well in advance. Most stayed in each Airbnb for 3-4 days on average, with some longer stops along the way.
Making Yourself at Home
After making initial bookings at the start of their journeys, most families booked subsequent homes a week or two in advance. And for many, picking an Airbnb became a family affair.
For Jarik and Mariza Jansen van Rensburg, their 12-year-old son became the expert at identifying the best listings, and by the sixth week, he was choosing their homes on his own. In addition to family-friendly amenities like washing machines, Internet and ample space, a key criteria is location: Is it close to not just sightseeing, but parks and public transportation?
“Unlike short vacations, for our long-term travel we require adequate space to do schoolwork, prepare some of our own meals, and find a home, even if it is only for a few days,” Mariza adds.
Airbnb allows us to experience the lifestyle of the local people, in their neighborhoods, in their homes. Some of our best and unexpected adventures came from the connections made with the hosts.
Jarik and Mariza Jansen van Rensburg, Australia
During a long trip where packing light is necessary, being in Airbnb homes helps kids feel more at home. And each check-in brings renewed excitement: “They love getting to each new holiday house and exploring the space,” adds Michelle Robertson, who traveled with her two kids from Surrey, England.
Keeping it Simple
When traveling with kids, all families agree on one point: Stay flexible, keep it simple, and don’t over-plan.
Even on the road, most families maintained tried-and-true routines: A first day spent settling in their listing; going to the local supermarket to buy cooking supplies; then discovering what the place has to offer through hiking, biking, or simply exploring the neighborhood.
Many families found that their best resource was often their Airbnb host. Says Haipei Li from China, who traveled for 100 days with her 4 year old son and her 72 year old mother, “we have made many friends throughout this trip and many of them were hosts. This human connection is what I believe makes Airbnb very special.”
The advantage of Airbnb is that we can have various experiences while meeting and talking with the owner of the home, visiting the host’s garden or the playground nearby, and interacting with host’s pets or wild animals near the place.
Yong-Soon Oh, South Korea
Embracing the Unknown
A long trip can be a challenging prospect for anyone. But parents see benefits for their young children, who wind up exposed to new languages, cultures, and ways of living they may never see otherwise.
“They had oodles of fun, met interesting people, created life-long memories, formed opinions, challenged their thinking and picked up new skills,” says Ruth of her 8- and 10-year old sons.
Being away from friends is hard, but the benefits of travel were echoed by 12-year-old Ruzow Jansen van Rensburg, who took 32 trips with his 3 siblings and parents. “At first I thought traveling for so long would get a little boring and tiring, but I was wrong about that as well. The longer you travel, the better it gets. We grew in confidence and now we are up for just about anything.”
I was keen on learning about new cultures and how people live in other countries. I am glad I have such amazing parents who made me travel around the world. I will definitely never forget this great trip.
Eulain Jansen van Rensburg, age 9