Best Travel Lessons Learned from our Visits to 26 Countries with Toddlers

Canary Islands, Spain

There are SO many wonderful parts about traveling with kids – as you can read throughout my site. We obviously love it – we have taken them to 26 countries, some of which multiple times. But similar to traveling without kids, travel plans don’t always go as planned. Things can go wrong, and it is important to be mentally prepared that this is the case.

This post focuses on when things didn’t go the way we anticipated – and how we still managed to have fun and learn a lesson for next time. The key to traveling is having a positive and open mindset – so that when these challenges occur, you can calmly think through the best response, and maybe even apply knowledge from the mistakes we made.

Here are our biggest travel lessons learned from our trips, examples of when it happened, and how we rebounded and learned.

Family Travel Lessons Learned

Travel Lesson #1: Toddler Carsickness

Our Mistake Our kids, unfortunately, both have terrible car sickness. Anything longer than a 30-minute drive is a high-risk situation. When we were in Dubrovnik, Croatia (driving on a day trip to Bosnia), we were completely ill-prepared. We frantically had to pull to a convenience store to get what we needed, and there was not much we could do for my husband’s clothes, which were also victims of the vomit.
Set Expectation We accept that our kids get car sick. They have thrown up globally, in cities ranging from Positano to Bethlehem. We have to adjust how we travel because of this and be more prepared to manage it. 
Lesson Learned for Next Time
  • We generally limit road trips, but when we are in the car, we implement standard habits.
  • Our Kids Car Sickness Triggers:
    • Eating sugar or dairy right before the car ride makes the nausea worse
    • Staring at a tablet in the car ride makes the nausea worse
  • What helps?
    • Ginger cookies and plain crackers help to settle the stomach. 
  • Our car-sickness kit includes:
    • Vomit/trash bags
    • Paper towels
    • Wipes
    • Hand sanitiser
    • Extra change of clothes 
  • How to dress kids in the car?
    • I started putting their waterproof playground suits, along with a waterproof bib, on them before a long drive, so that if they vomit, it is easy to wipe down and does not smell as much as their clothes. 


Travel Lesson #2: Baby Allergic Reaction

Our Mistake When visiting Hvar, Croatia, our daughter (9-months-old) had an allergic reaction to something we ate at a restaurant. I was not keeping track of what we fed her (#SecondChild), and was not certain of what the allergy could have been a response to. We frantically went to the Old Town pharmacy, and fortunately, saw a helpful pharmacist/on-call doctor who gave us the necessary medicine for her.
Set Expectation While traveling and eating at new restaurants, there is always a chance of an allergic reaction. And more generally, always a chance they can get sick anywhere – so we need to be prepared.
Lesson Learned for Next Time
  • Taking a first-aid kit is essential. 
  • Our first-aid includes, at minimum, travel-sized portions of:
    • Thermometer
    • Children’s allergy medicine
    • Children’s Tylenol
    • Band-aids
    • Neosporin
  • We have chatted with physicians about when it is appropriate to give such young kids these medicines. 
  • Upon planning the trip, try to identify at least one pharmacy or understand how the healthcare would work in an emergency – just for your own confidence in an emergency.


Travel Lesson #3: Overpacking

Our Mistake When we traveled to Greece, overpacking for the trip was one of our biggest mistakes. I brought too many clothes, too many bottles, too many activities for the kids (that they didn’t even use), and we ended up lugging around heavy luggage, in addition to our young kids, through multiple cities. 
Set Expectation Traveling with kids requires as many hands as possible; reducing the amount of luggage keeps airport and city transit much simpler. Your hands will already be full.
Lesson Learned for Next Time It took us a few trips to refine our packing check-list for our carry-on and check-in suitcases. I wrote out our exact steps in the the blog post, Guide to Flying with Tots.

Travel Lesson #4: Rain and Weather Challenges

Our Mistake One evening in Paris, my husband had to work. I found a great restaurant on Google, and decided to make the trek with my toddler and baby. When we arrived at the restaurant, our stroller didn’t fit through the door. I left with the kids and started walking. Along the way, a rain storm began. The children and I were absolutely miserable. A waitress from a bar motioned for us to hurry inside. They helped me with the stroller and kindly sat us at a table, where I ordered pizza for the kids. 

It was not the food I was targeting – but now when I look back, I remember my kids giggling in my arms as they fought over who sat on me and ate their pizza and the kindness of the waitress who saw me through a window and told me to come in (even though I looked like a high maintenance disaster).

Set Expectation Similar to if you live in your own city, weather changes and can disrupt plans. When traveling with kids, it is important to plan ahead.
Lesson Learned for Next Time
  • Always check the weather forecast when leaving the room, and take an umbrella/rain jacket according to the forecast.
  • Roaming around with young kids in a new city, around a key mealtime, is not the time to be adventurous. It is better to call ahead for restaurant availability and determine if your stroller will fit in the door, and if they have baby chairs. Had I done this, I would not have even gotten stuck in the rain.


Travel Lesson #5: Family Reunions and Managing Tantrums 

Our Mistake We are used to traveling with our kids, just our little unit. I was SO excited to take the kids to Lahore, Pakistan to meet my entire extended family (no exaggeration, about 100 people). Turns out, our kids were overwhelmed at the number of new faces and their personalities absolutely deteriorated with lots of tears and tantrums.

In the moment, to make the most of our social events, we decided to let the kids have screen time on their tablets and eat sugar – which is usually reserved for restaurants or airplanes. We thought it would calm them down, but it made them even more de-regulated and ruder to all the relatives around them. 

Set Expectation When meeting a large group of new faces, kids will naturally feel overwhelmed. It is important to keep them regulated with things we know calm them down. 
Lesson Learned for Next Time During a tantrum, we cannot give in – no matter the pressure of dozens of relatives watching you.

Things that calm down our kids in the short-term, but deregulate their personalities includes screen time and sugar. I should have stayed firm on our ‘limited sugar-intake’ rather than let them have more than they are used to. We also know that once we turn tablets on, which is usually an airplane or restaurant activity, they become zombies. These “quick fixes” did not help them to be friendlier or more settled after we took them away.

Things that calm our kids down include:

  • Picture books
  • Buckle boards
  • Sticker books

Activity for toddlers to bond with relatives: On our last day, they bonded with my cousins because we were outdoors at a farm, and they ran around together (compared to sitting in a living room or restaurant), played with animals, rode the slide/swings, and played ball.

The kids love all these things so much, and they were so happy people were doing these favorite activities with them, that it was the most comfortable they were the whole trip. Next time, when the kids are getting introduced to a large group at once, I will try to plan an outdoor session or an opportunity for them to really play with the relatives – so that they bond more quickly. 

Travel Lesson #6: Train Challenges

Our Mistake On our train ride from London to Oxford (both cities in the United Kingdom), I got off the train with our two toddlers and a lot of loose gear, while my husband got stuck on the train with our double stroller. It felt like a chaotic scene from a movie as I watched my husband (and more importantly, the stroller to confine the kids and our gear) depart away. I had a 2-year-old and 1-year-old by myself at a new train station, with so many loose articles of clothing and diaper bag gear (without a proper diaper bag). 
Set Expectation We were so used to international trains (where they allow longer times for the doors to close), we forgot how quickly doors close on domestic trains. This is a similar trend on trains across Europe.
Lesson Learned for Next Time Maybe it’s PTSD, but now on domestic trains, almost 2 stops before our stop, my husband goes to get our stroller and gear set up, while I am in charge of the two kids – so that we can get out of the train as fast as possible.

We also try to keep any loose gear contained within a few smaller bags that we need on the train, so that it is quicker to wrap up.


All in all, despite these hiccups, I do not regret a single one of these trips. Even though traveling with kids comes with nuances and challenges, we have gotten to make memories in these cities that will last me a lifetime. But I don’t want to sugarcoat it – travel mistakes will happen. You live and you learn – and keep seeing the world!

Positano, Italy
Lahore, Pakistan

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