My kids are big now. Bigger than me. Young people with minds and opinions of their own. I think it’s time to ask them, honestly, what they hated about travel and travelling for 6 full years as a digital nomad family. There must be something, surely? All those long hours on planes, vomit-inducing bus rides, dodgy food, and cheap guest houses, what did they really hate? We have many posts on travel with kids, teens, and as a family. We have one on the problems of travelling with kids too. This our first post on what the kids didn’t enjoy, and it’s honest.
We travelled full-time from 2013 until COVID grounded us. The kids were just 6 and 8 years old when they left home. They visited 50 or so countries, most of them many times. We were backpacker-type travellers, rather than slow travellers, but we did put in some long stints in London, Romania and Vietnam. We actually rented homes in all of those places, using them as bases more than full-time residences. Most of the time we stayed in hotels, some expensive, some budget. The boys were homeschooled, or “worldschooled” throughout these years and for a few years prior to departure. I am a travel blogger. Blogging is very lucrative if you know how. Our first year of travel was ultra-budget as we tried to stretch our saving as long as possible. Once the blog took off we got more wealthy year by year, but we were never luxury travellers, we like to spend our money on the things we love to do and that usually means trekking, skiing, or a scuba trip. We rarely splurge on fancy hotels.
Travel With Kids
After interviewing and probing my kids extensively, it seems that, if anything, this is what kids hate about travel. The top 10 things they dislike are below.
- Dirty accommodation
- Being hot
- Having to look around for accommodation – lack of certainty
- Bad wi-fi
- Bad food
- Bad bathrooms
- Long journeys but only if there were multiple connections – stress.
- Minibusses or vehicles causing car-sickness
- Dirty trains, buses, and planes
- Shared bathrooms in cheaper hotels and hostels
If you read the more in-depth Q&As below, they explain this more. I thought I’d let them tell you what they really don’t like about travel. You’ll notice that one has no major objections at all, the other is more picky. A lot of how kids cope with travel comes down to personality.
When we first hit the road with small kids and backpacks there was a trend amongst bloggers to interview kids or publish posts written by kids. A child’s eye perspective on travel. My kids would never give a coherent answer to anything. So this post on why they enjoy travel was the closest we ever got until they were much older and started helping me to run this site. My elder son, D, has his own author page, my younger son, Boo, helped write a few. He’s just coming to the age that D was when he started writing alongside me.
Today I thought we’d revisit those days of child’s eye view travel, let’s find out what the kids really thought about growing up on the road. It’s interesting that some of these answers directly contradict the answer they gave when they were younger and I think their early memories have become blurred over time. Boo (14) answers first, D (16) answers second. You can see that Boo still really just wants to give the shortest answer possible.
Was there anything you hated about travelling?
I disliked the shoddy hotels and motels we sometimes stayed in particularly if there was no internet or the connection was garbage. Sometimes the temperature was way too hot or way too cold but I like cold, sometimes. Getting to places was tedious if we had to take loads of buses and trains. I also hated the process of finding hotels on foot but we only did that a few times.
No, there were a few minor dislikes and discomfort from some situations but I never hated anything while traveling. An example of a minor dislike or discomfort would be if we were to stay in a low-quality hotel or be served bad food.
What’s your one favourite memory from the full-time travel lifestyle?
I always love trying new food, trying unique and exciting local cuisines is my favourite activity. I love doing fun stuff like going to Everest Base Camp, but eating is what I love most.
Do you think you missed out by not being around other kids or not going to school?
No, I did not.
No. Occasionally I would wonder what it would be like but I would always come to the realisation that I preferred travel. I did go to school when I was little but I don’t remember it.
What’s your favourite destination?
What’s your worst memory from travelling?
The horrible toilets in Tibet
Nothing sticks out.
Do you think you’ll continue to travel once you’re old enough to go without your parents?
Yes I would probably go back to Romania to see what’s changed and also Vietnam for the same reason
Most likely, I doubt I will ever really give up travelling completely.
Did you ever crave a stable family home and your own bedroom?
Sometimes when we were staying in cruddy hotels or walking. I hate any kind of physical exertion. But I am really proud of myself for getting to Everest Base Camp and back.
Not really. It could be uncomfortable sometimes but in the end, it never really mattered to me. I got my own bedroom when I was 14 and that was about the right time.
If we go trekking again, would you want to go?
Depends where, how far, how dangerous, the quality of the road/path.
Yes, I love trekking and would always be up for it.
Is there anywhere you’d still like to go?
Yes, I’d like to go to Mexico for tacos, Belgium again for waffles, France again for crepes, and somewhere with really good sticky rice.
Wherever the food is good. There are no real destinations I want to go in particular, I always sort of went with the flow.
Where do you want to live?
I don’t really mind, probably in Britain or Romania. I don’t like being too hot, and I like skiing.
Having a permanent base has never really been something I thought seriously about, as I always expect that we will eventually start traveling again. If I had to choose one place to be it would most likely be somewhere in Europe. The continent has a large amount of different cultures, good foods, and a great climate.
Did you kids hate long flights, bus rides, train rides, and the actual getting around of travel?
It depends on the quality. Trains were normally fine. I didn’t like some of the sleeper trains in India but I didn’t hate them. I only hate minibusses if they’re shabby and make me car-sick.
No, flights can be a bit uncomfortable on budget airlines, but it’s good when they have movies. I don’t like dirty planes or dirty trains and buses. And when people throw up out of the windows or into bags it’s pretty gross. There was that bus in Nepal where everyone except us threw up, I was asleep most of the way though.
What did you not like about budget hotels?
I just hate anything dirty, with bugs, shared toilets and showers, and worst of all, bad internet. I hate it if it’s too hot too. And I hate camping. Never take me camping.
There were only a few dodgy ones but some of the tea houses when we were trekking were really dirty and I remember once there was somewhere with damp and mold, but I can’t remember a specific hotel that was moldy. There was one in Lhasa that was really bad, we had to get them to come and change the sheets and sweep the floor. I didn’t hate it, this is still just a minor dislike for me.
Did you hate long waits at airports?
Only if there was no food or no wifi.
No, not at all. Airports are usually fun.
I was really surprised that they both mentioned dirt, shabbiness, and shared bathrooms as things they didn’t like about travel. I always believed that neither of them was picky as I’m the family clean-freak. Two of our very favourite places to stay in the world, Back Home Kuala Lumpur, and Mile Map Bangkok, have shared bathrooms. They always look forward to going to them. I’m not hugely fond of shared bathrooms, for sure, they’re inconvenient, but those two are spotlessly clean, pleasant places. It’s actually very rare for us to use accommodation with shared wash or toilet facilities.
Countries and cities where we’ve experienced dirty rooms and transportation include India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Egypt, Thailand (rarely, in more remote places), Australia (an AirBnb on The Gold Coast), Tibet (one hotel of 7), Bhutan (one, some were extreme luxury), Bali, and Guatemala. Of course, a lot depends on how much you choose to pay. Buses and trains have been filthy in India, Nepal, Cambodia, Egypt, and Laos. In some countries you just expect a certain level of grime, others, a dirty room is a rare event and down to bad management. Generally, around the world, things are improving constantly. Travel with kids has made us spend a lot more on hotels than we normally would.
Dirt, yes, we’ve seen a lot of dirt. It’s hard to avoid in some countries and the trekking lodges in Nepal that Boo mentions are usually extremely basic. I’m working on a post about bad accommodation, bathrooms, and suchlike, It will most likely come out next.
It’s interesting that they both mention bad hotels and being too hot. I asked them if they could remember any particular hotels that were bad, they couldn’t. It’s weird because I can’t think of any that were particularly bad, but they both have that memory. I’m fully with them on being too hot and I hated finding hotels on foot too. This is how we did it on our first RTW as a young couple, we tried it with the kids and it was hell. We stopped doing it just a few months in, but they both remember it strongly.
Travel With Kids and Wi-Fi
Bad wi-fi is worse than no wi-fi and we would never, ever, book a hotel without in-room wi-fi. We ended up in one in Malaysia recently and it was a horrible hole of a place. No wi-fi is just a deal breaker for us, unless our desire to go somewhere is stronger than our connectivity needs.
Most hotels, restaurants, coffee shops and cafes have wi-fi so in the early years we didn’t bother buying local SIM cards. As the kids got older and we started using our smart phones more, a set of SIM cards became the first thing to buy on arrival in a country. We rarely travel without buying a local SIM now.
Countries with terrible wi-fi have included India, Sri Lanka, Nepal (although it’s got much better recently) Cambodia, and Laos. The best wi-fi we’ve seen has been in Vietnam and Romania. Don’t forget cruise ships, you’ll really struggle to get a signal in the middle of the Atlantic and it will probably cost you a fortune. Trekking in Nepal we had some connectivity, which was a bonus, but not enough for me to work or for the kids to use happily.
Wrap-Up On Successful Travel With Kids
You can see that the boys are very different people. Boo is much harder to please and likes his comforts and security far more than D. There’s a very strong display of nature over nurture with my two boys. They are united by their love of food, which is good, they try everything and like most cuisines. D particularly liked trying civet, jellyfish, and frog when we were staying with the Iban tribe in Borneo. He loved that trip, again, it involved trekking. Boo wouldn’t have coped with the bathrooms there nor sleeping in the jungle. Everything was pretty clean, just rustic. In Bhutan there was trekking and camping, again, I took D, not Boo. Also, D likes scuba diving, Boo doesn’t want to learn. They are so different.
More Information on Travel With Kids
We have a huge volume of information on travel with kids on our website. See if what you need is in our ticker, below. From flying, to food, to trekking, to education, socialisation and parenting. We have dedicated “with kids” posts for many destinations and travel styles too.
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The Key to Travel with Kids
When you travel with your kids you just have to know them. You quickly figure out what you can get away with and what you can’t. Everyone is different, and kids have just as much right to their likes and dislikes as we adults. You just have to honour that. You can’t expect, nor force, your kids to like the same things, destinations, and styles of travel as their parents. Unless, of course, you do as we do sometimes, and bribe them. So no, the kids really didn’t hate much about travel. Did you think they would?
Sunday 14th of February 2021
Another inspiring post to get back out there when we can!
Alyson for World Travel Family
Sunday 14th of February 2021
Thank you Emma. I really hope it's this year. I'm not doing well cooped up.