What’s It Really Like to Travel with Kids?

What is it really like to travel with kids? Imagine a vacation spent at the hotel pool and the rest of the time is spent in search of food. I think all-inclusive for a family vacation is a great option! And preferably, on the beach.

I’m keeping this in mind as I plan our next vacation. We are planning on going  to a destination we haven’t been. Knowing nothing about it does make me long for the comfort and security of an all-inclusive. However, it’s expensive and I’ve waited a little too long to book in the area we are planning to visit this summer. My preferred all-inclusive resorts are full! I’m also perusing Airbnb.


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A boat ride on the Vermilion River in 2016.

First, some safety tips

Before going on a vacation that involves water or even to the local pool during the summer, we purchased Stearns Puddle Jumpers for both kids (pictured in the top image). They are for children between 30 – 50 lbs. We also use the safest sunscreen we can find. Please be aware that spray-on sunscreens need to be applied heavily and reapplied often. If you can get your children to wear sunhats and rashguards, that will also be very helpful! Mine will occasionally and not usually while swimming. When mine won’t wear sunhats, I put sunscreen on their scalps.

And here is how to get your children passports (for US residents). This information applies to adults, as well.

Now, some history

Last year, we did a two day trip to Vermilion, Ohio. It’s on Lake Erie and has a nice, calm beach. My kids loved it. I loved that they loved it and also that they slept so well. Which was a far cry from this visit to Wisconsin and especially this one to see Thomas the Train. We stayed at a lovely B&B in Vermilion, which included breakfast at a nearby restaurant.

Vermilion is a quaint, walkable town that I’d visited before. While it was my first time actively enjoying the beach and spending the night, I did know what to expect. We could easily find food (our B&B rooms included kitchen access or a kitchen inside the room, too). Knowing the area had the benefit of me not feeling at all stressed.

A waterfall is pictured, going strong.

This gem is in Dublin, Ohio!

Current Challenges of vacation planning

I am living in a foreign country. Even small things are still a little stressful. We haven’t even been here 2 months and my Spanish isn’t very strong yet (it feels non-existent still). My skills are improving, but I’m not comfortable speaking much. I feel like I understand less. We are planning a trip to an area that is popular with Americans and other English speakers. While I will take advantage of all the immersive language practice available, it’s also one more thing to think about while on vacation. In addition, not all of the websites give me an English option.


This family needs an actual vacation. Yours probably does, too. We all know that vacation while parenting isn’t really a vacation at all, but we can do our best to set things up and to prepare as much as possible to have a better experience. Right now, I’m thinking that all-inclusive is the way to go. Or maybe an Airbnb with a kitchen (here is my Airbnb referral link – we both get a travel credit if you sign up using it).

And there are… complications

I haven’t figured out a workable situation for my dogs’ care yet. They traveled for three days across the continent only a couple months before our vacation. My husband doesn’t want to put them in a car again for multiple hours. While I was told there were plenty of places to board dogs here, the only one I currently know about is not like the US and I’m not sure I’m comfortable with the situation.

The lighthouse in Vermilion, Ohio.

Destination research

A specific resort was recommended to us by a person with children. My husband didn’t feel the need to do additional research. I do feel that need, of course! There are many activities to do in the area, but the ones that peaked my interest are swimming with dolphins and sea lions. Of course, because of my experiences with stingrays at Stingray City in Grand Cayman Island, I definitely needed to research the ethics of the experience.

I’ve learned that if the experience includes captive animals, skip it. Dolphins are kept hungry in order to force them to perform and that’s the nicest part of their experience. That means you get cute photo ops and a shitty, hollow experience that is supporting animal abuse. This post and this article have a lot of information on the subject (read it and come on back!) After you read those, you won’t ever want to support a “swim with a captive dolphin” event. I don’t. Ugh, sometimes I hate doing this kind of research. It makes me want to vomit.

Travel with Kids And those Silly Expectations of mine

Send me to a beach. Please. I haven’t seen the ocean since before I had children. That also means my children haven’t seen the ocean yet. I’ve missed it and I’m ready for them to experience it. They are (mostly) beyond the eating sand stage.

A little blonde girl stares at the lake. She faces away from the camera in What it's really like to travel with kids.

Travel with kids isn’t always easy. It isn’t always hard, either.

My expectations might be a little too high. I want to snorkel, swim, and have the kids go to sleep easily. The reality is unlikely to match my fantasy. We will have the same struggles as at home, just like we have the same (and some worse) struggles living in Mexico as we did in Ohio. Vacation is unlikely to be very relaxing for me. Maybe the Vacation Gods will smile on me and the kids will fall asleep by 8:30 every night and sleep until 8 am.

And if not? I’ll tell myself, “at least we’re near the ocean!”


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