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Tips for Traveling with Kids

As I write this, I’m in London with Eva and all 6 kids on our European adventure! I’m in the middle of my Grand Travel Experiment, and we’re all excited as hell.

A number of people asked me to share how we went about planning this and if I have any tips for traveling with kids … so here you go! This is a post with some of the things I’ve been doing to plan and keep the trip a fun and peaceful one with our large family.

Planning Tips

Well, we’ve been planning and saving for this trip for awhile now … I have a regular savings fund just for travel, and we don’t buy a lot of things so the savings is automatic and healthy right now. We also used lots of rewards miles that I’ve been accumulating to help lower costs.

Democratic planning: One of the best things we did was plan the trip as a family. We did this by voting on our destination cities using an online poll. We then took the winners and did a second poll, where everyone voted on how many days to devote to each city, and averaged out the results. Thus our itinerary was created.

Have them take responsibilities: We had the four older kids each take one of the cities and find an AirBnb apartment for that city. That means we had to decide what neighborhood to live in (I use a combo criteria that uses the density of things to see, vegan restaurant options, and good coffee shops) and then they had to do a search for good apartments that had criteria like a washer, decent photos and reviews, enough space and bathrooms for our large family, etc.

Pack light: By now, the kids have all adopted the “pack light” philosophy, and we travel with one light backpack each and no roller bags or other luggage (the younger ones carry their own small backpack). This allows us to easily navigate cities, airports, trains and buses with our packs, and we don’t get tired from lugging things around. The packing approach: take as little as possible, and wash clothes at each destination so we don’t need a lot of extra clothes.

Give Them Responsibility

We try to teach them self-sufficiency by asking them to help out with travel responsibilities as we travel. Of course, this has to be appropriate to their abilities and ages, but two of our “kids” are actually adults now, and two are nearly adults, so they can definitely share most responsibilities. Even the younger two have things to do.

Take turns being leaders: On past trips I usually play the role of being leader, but this trip I asked them to each take a day where they are responsible for planning, navigating, finding restaurants, and more. This should give them a lot of travel skills they haven’t developed much before. But we’re just starting this experiment so we’ll see how it goes.

Let them take care of their own stuff: I think as parents, we have a tendency to check on what the kids have packed, make sure everyone has their stuff, wash their clothes for them … but the philosophy I like best is to let them figure it out. It’s their stuff, and if they forget things, or lose them, they’ll figure things out.

Happy Traveling

All of the logistics are great, but what about happiness while your walking for hours around a city, and kids are tired and hungry? I don’t claim to have all the answers in this area, but here are some things I’ve been trying to do:

Give them a spirit of adventure: Things will go wrong, we’ll get lost, miss trains, and so forth … and that can be frustrating for our family, or it can be a part of the adventure! So I try to talk to them about how we’re going on an adventure, and things going wrong and getting lost is all a part of that. Putting them in the right frame of mind can be helpful.

Be flexible: It’s easy to get stuck into a rigid schedule and try to hit everything on your plan, but we all know that plans always go wrong. So I’ve found it helpful to take a more flexible approach, and not plan everything rigidly. We often have an idea of what we want to do each day (decided the day before, perhaps), but it’s best if we go with the flow of things and decide each activity as we go. This way we’re not stressed out when things don’t go according to plan.

Don’t rush: I tend to rush, if I’m being honest. I don’t know why, it just seems in my nature to want to walk fast, and expect everyone to keep up. I’ve been trying to remind myself not to be in a rush, though I often forget. There’s no need to get everything done in a day, and while I don’t like to miss a flight, we try to leave a little early so we don’t have to rush everyone (even if I prefer to wait until the last minute when I’m alone), and I’ve also found that it’s not the end of the world if we miss a train or flight. Anyway, main lesson for me: take your time, don’t rush people, and everyone is happier.

Realize they get frustrated too: It’s easy for parents to get frustrated when kids don’t behave perfectly, but honestly, why would we ever expect them to behave ideally? The truth is, they get frustrated and tired and grumpy just like we do. So when they behave imperfectly (daily, just like me), I try to remind myself to breathe, and to feel their frustration. To see that they are tired. To realize they’re struggling with things. And to feel compassion for their struggles.

Drop expectations: My mission this trip is to remind myself to drop my expectations of the kids, and of the trip in general … and just be there with them. Just experience the joy of travel with them.

Remind ourselves to be grateful: I have been constantly asking them (and myself), “How lucky are we to be here right now?” In the middle of a trip, it can be easy to forget how great our lives are, how amazing it is to be where we are … and sometimes we just have to stop and take notice, and appreciate the moment around us.

Zen Habits

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Chapters
Neither Averting Nor Craving in Each Moment
How Taking Care of My Finances Changed My Life
Tips for Traveling with Kids
My Grand Travel Experiment
The Parent I Aspire to Be
The Best & Less-than-Best Motivations for Learning
The Miracle of Suspending Mis-Belief
7 Strategies for Dealing with Toxic People
Finding Motivation on Important But Non-Urgent Tasks
Learning Tips for the Top 8 Learning Challenges
The 30-Day Learning Challenge
The Place Where You Are
Feeling Determined to Change
Practicing Non-Judgment
Hold Your Own Feet to the Fire
Don’t Waste Your Opportunity
How to Beat Procrastination with Daily Training
The Time When We’ll Be Present & Content
A Simple, Powerful Self-Compassion Method
When Others Frustrate You
Your Internet Habits Create Your Reality
The Case for Replacing Exercise with Play
Leave Yourself Wanting More
Fail Faster at Habits
The Anti-Bucket List
Getting Started with the Discipline Habit
The Case for Caring About Your Work
Questions of Priority
The Futility of Always Pushing Myself to Be More
Pare Down with the Declutter Habit
You’re Not Doing Life Wrong
Getting Lost in Just Doing
An Addict’s Guide to Overcoming the Distraction Habit
The Source of Contentment
Savor Discipline: Merge the Interests of Your Future & Present Selves
What You Can Say Instead of “I Don’t Feel Like It”
The Things That Get in the Way of Doing
The Girl Who Saw Through the Illusions
A Gradual Approach to Healthy Eating
Unconditional Acceptance of Yourself
My Typical Day: How I Get People to Think I’m Productive
The Contentment Habit
The Delightfully Short Guide to Reading More Books
In Praise of Limits
The Art of Being My Dad
5 Ideas to Create an Amazing 2015
Essential Zen Habits of 2014
Karate Chop
Practicing Slowness & Being Present
Overwhelmed by All the Changes You Want to Make
My 2014 Successes and Failures
Finding the Motivation to Change Your Entire Life
When You’re Lonely
The Brain’s Fast Mode
5 Questions to Simplify Your Life During the Holidays
The Zen Habits Holiday Gift Guide
The Four Hidden Habit Skills
The Power of Delay
Overwhelmed & Rushed? Do a Stress Assess
Writer as Coder: The Iterative Way to Write a Book
Please Support the Zen Habits Book
Are You a Lift or Drag Force?
When Resistance Smacks You in the Face
When Your Plate is Too Full
The Quickstart Guide to Quitting a Bad Habit
The Zen Habits Book is Almost Done
A Quick Guide to Gaining Confidence When You Socialize
The Empty Container
The Realization
A Guide to Changing Self-Destructive Behaviors
Pushing Past the Terrifying Dip in Motivation
It’s Not Too Late to Change Bad Habits
The Smart Way to Stick to Habits
My Most Effective Learning Tools
What I Do When I Fail
How to Put Your Writing in Public
The Productive Sprint
The Biggest Reasons You Haven’t Changed Your Habits
Seized by the Thunderhold of Fear
What to Eat for Fat Loss
The Heartbreaking Cruelty of Comparing Yourself to Others
A Brief Guide to Overcoming Instant Gratification
How to Get Motivated After a Vacation
7 Strategies for Facing Your Internet/TV Addiction
How to Breathe
7 Discipline-Mastering Practices
7 Rules That Keep My Life Simple
An Education in the Majestic Sierra Nevada
The Lies Your Mind Tells You to Prevent Life Changes
How to Believe in Yourself
Don’t Waste a Moment
How to Find Your Life Purpose: An Unconventional Approach
How to Be Great
Making Yourself Work
Inhabit the Moment
How to Master the Art of Living
The Delusional Fantasies We Live With Each Day
Living the Simple Life
How to Be Prepared for Anything
Turn Toward the Problem
The End of the Day Philosophy
The Painful Beauty of Impermanence
How to Change Other People
Pursuing Happiness When It’s Already Within You
The Quickstart Guide to a Decluttered Home
Parental Zen: How to Keep Your Cool as a Parent
Looking for Love
How to Stop Your Habit Changes From Getting Derailed
Why We Have Regret
The Essence of Fatherhood: 6 Simple Lessons
A Call for Revolt: Advertising is the Anti-Minimalism
The Frustratingly Slow Pace of Making Changes
My Struggles with Eating Boring Food
The No Procrastination Challenge
Creating a Lovely Morning
A Father’s Manifesto: Raising Young Men Who Respect Women
Turn Inspiration Into Action
Coming Back From a Setback
The Gift
A Guide for Young People: What to Do With Your Life
No Excuses: Minimalism with Kids
How to Make a Marriage Work
Love Notes
Flavorless: My Month of Food Boringness
The Letting Go Ebook, Free
The Miracle of the Self-Compassion Habit
How I Tackle a Big Writing Project
The Habit Action List
The Reality of This Moment
Confidence in Your Business
10 Ways to Do What You Don’t Want to Do
On Making It Through Tough Journeys
The Hard Stuff Often Matters Most
What to Think About During Exercise
You’ll Be OK
The Most Important Two Minutes of Your Life
A Call for Compassion for the Defenseless
The Cure for Your Distraction Syndrome
You’re Not Worse Than Other People
Being Mindful of Your Stress
What if You Didn’t Have to Worry About Yourself?
The Universe of a Single Task
Simplifying Is Painful
Becoming Emotionally Self-Reliant
How I Cleaned House & Simplified My Work Life
The Busy Person’s Guide to Reducing Stress
My Month Without a Smartphone
What I’ve Learned as a Writer
What the Exercise Habit Did For Me
Fear is the Root of Your Problems
This Moment
36 Lessons I’ve Learned About Habits
The 3 Do-What-You-Love Conundrums
How I Conduct My Business
Constant Task Switching
The Habits of Five Amazing Founders
The Incredible Importance of Sleep for Habits & Motivation
What Really Motivates Us to Stick to a Project?
I Tried to Quit & It’s Too Hard!
Unwired: A Month With Limited Internet, & Now No Cell Phone
Procrastination is a Mindfulness Problem
Letting Go of Judging People
Don’t Scratch the Itch
Become Happy in the Face of Physical Misery
How Repetition Can Kickstart a Habit
Zen Productivity
When You’re Feeling Self-Doubt & a Lack of Motivation
The Child That Holds Us Back
Stateless Mindset
My Month of (Almost) No Internet
12 Changes for 2014
Essential Zen Habits of 2013
The Fear of Being Alone
The Calm Approach
Things Every Man Should Own
Family Gatherings: The Ultimate Mindfulness Training Ground
Letter to an 18-year-old on the Career Path Less Traveled
A Method to Find Balance
16 Surprising Lessons from My First 50-Mile Ultramarathon
The Simple Fitness Habit Holiday Challenge
Struggles with My Morning Internet Fast
Surrender, Mindfulness & Entrepreneurship
How I Learned to Stop Procrastinating, & Love Letting Go
Finding Focus
When You Run Out of Ideas
The Necessary Art of Subtraction
Jealousy & Suffering
How Creativity Works, & How to Do It
Self-Discipline in 5 Sentences
Make It Your Job
Developing Selfless Compassion
Lyrical Learning, & Why We Learn Habits Wrong
A Month Without Sugar
Why I Read (+ a Dozen Book Recommendations)
12 Indispensable Mindful Living Tools
Burn Down the Farm
My Most Minimal Travel Setup Yet
The Exquisite Habits of the Founder of Blue Bottle Coffee
3 Little Tricks to Deal With People Who Offend You
My Healthiest Travel Routine Yet
Startup Founder Megan Casey’s Habits of Priorities
My Pursuit of the Art of Living
A Month Without TV or Video
The Way of No Debt
Letting Go: How to Live With the Loss of a Loved One
The Way to Be
Ramit Sethi’s Entrepreneurial Habits
The Time to Shut Down
The Pain & Beauty of Life Changes
8 Creativity Lessons from a Pixar Animator
Zen Mountain: Leave It All Behind
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My Failed Month of ‘No Sitting’
The Thinking Habit That Changed My Life
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Unschoolery: My New Blog on Unschooling
My Advice for Starting a Business
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Travel Lessons with My Family
Easier Decision-Making: Conduct Experiments
Simplify: Let Go of Your Crutches
The Fear of Being Found a Fraud
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A Month Without Coffee
The Healthful Vegan Diet
Living the Quiet Life
The Art of Tasting Chocolate Mindfully
Why Fear of Discomfort Might Be Ruining Your Life
The Habits of Happiness
How to Keep Habits Going During Travel
A Year of Living Without
The Key Habits of Organization
I Failed
Vegan Guide to San Francisco
The Futility of Comparing Yourself to Others
A Secret to Dad Greatness
Habits: A Simple Change in Mindset Changes Everything
The Worry That You’re Doing the Wrong Thing Right Now
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The Obstacle is the Path
5 Lessons in Contentment from Billionaires Warren Buffett & Charlie Munger
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A Guide to Practical Compassion
6 Steps To Healing Yourself
The 7-Day Vegan Challenge
Why You Should Write Daily
Achieving Without Goals
Flowing with the Stresses of Kids (or anyone else)
Habit Mastery: Creating the New Normal
Defeat Distraction: Refocusing with Purpose
Expanding the Envelope: A Method for Beating Anger
A Guide to Practical Contentment
The Practice of Work Mind & Vacation Mind, Simultaneously
How to Eat Real Food Without Spending Hours in the Kitchen
Quitting Your Habits
The 38 Best Methods of Successful Exercisers
How To Make It Impossible To Fail
The Not Knowing Path of Being an Entrepreneur
How to Change Your Life: A User’s Guide
Getting Your Family On Board with Life Changes
How to Stick to a Habit When Life Falls Apart
Zen Mind in the Middle of Chaos & Stress
Create a Sacred Space in Your Heart
Meditation: The Most Fundamental Habit
Creating the Genuine Connections We Long For
Tremors of Psychitude: One Little Trick to Find Purpose and Motivation
Create the Habits of Being Lean, in 7 Years
Walled-in: Life Without Facebook
The 7 Habits of Calmness
The Four Habits that Form Habits
Advice to My Kids
My 10 Essential Email Habits
The Daily Checklist
Sticking to a Habit: The Definitive Guide
The Meditation Diet: How I Lost 60+ lbs. by Savoring
The Power of Habit Investments
Discomfort Zone: How to Master the Universe
The Most Successful Techniques for Rising Early
Do Less: A Short Guide
How to Savor Life
What We Lack in a Hyperconnected World
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12 Rules to Live By
The New Rules of Fitness for 2013
52 Changes for 2013
The Unprocrastination Month, and the Relaunch of the Sea Change Program
Essential Zen Habits of 2012
The Other Person is Never the Problem
The Do Plan, or Why We Know But Don’t Do
28 Brilliant Tips for Living Life
The Clutter-free Holiday Guide
The Little Trick to Make Any Moment Better
Tim Ferriss vs. Leo Babauta Showdown: On Whether Goals Suck
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The Buy-Nothing Holiday Survival Guide
Challenge: Buy Nothing Until 2013
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Shaken By Life’s Beauty, Shaken
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15 Great Excuses Not to Form the Fitness Habit
How to Make Health Insurance a Bad Bet
Why the Fitness Habit is More Important Than the Plan
The Willingness to Think Differently
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A Vegan Tour of NYC