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How To Choose a Destination When Traveling Abroad With Kids

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Last Updated on June 5, 2024 by Leslie Stroud

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Where to next? Planning your next family trip can be overwhelming at times. Not only do you have to figure out where you’re going, but you also have to plan what and where to eat, what to pack, and possibly most important of all, what will keep the kids interested and engaged during your travels. I won’t lie; it’s a lot!

I wish I could say there’s a special trick to picking destinations or that after visiting nearly 50 countries as a family, we have a secret formula. We don’t. We are often planning travel based on recommendations we hear or even something we see on social media! While there is no magical formula to picking the perfect new place to visit, there are plenty of things to consider in family travel planning.

Choosing the right destination requires careful consideration to ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip for everyone. Here are some of the factors you need to consider:

1. Safety

Do your research on the safety and political stability of potential destinations. Political unrest, protests and riots can really put a damper on travel. Check travel advisories, such as the US Department of State, and opt for destinations with a reputation of being safe, family-friendly, and having easily accessible healthcare facilities. Low crime rates, clean drinking water, and reliable transportation systems are key factors to look for as well.

Kids love European Christmas Markets

2. Age-Appropriate Activities

Look for places that offer a variety of age-appropriate activities and attractions. Younger children may enjoy destinations with theme parks, zoos, and interactive museums, while older children may prefer destinations with outdoor adventures, historical sites, or cultural experiences. Ensure that there are enough activities to keep everyone entertained and engaged.

Fun family holiday at Torre De Gomariz in Braga

3. Family-Friendly Accommodations

Our favorite family-friendly destinations include hotels with spacious rooms, cribs or extra beds, on-site facilities like swimming pool or playgrounds, and some even offer room child-proofing. Accessible and clean public restrooms, stroller-friendly sidewalks, and family-friendly dining options can also significantly enhance your experience. We also recommend researching the availability of childcare services or kids’ clubs if you need some adult-only time during the trip.

4. Weather

Checking the clouds at the Top Of Europe

It’s always worthwhile to check the typical seasonal weather at any destination you are considering. Extreme temperatures, heavy rainfall, or high humidity levels can affect your family’s comfort and enjoyment on your trip. Find a destination with a climate that suits your preferences and where outdoor activities are possible during your visit. It pays to be mindful of peak tourist seasons, as they can result in crowded attractions and higher prices. If you’d rather visit a destination when it is less busy, consider shoulder seasons when there are fewer crowds but weather conditions are still favorable.

5. Distance and Travel Duration

Up for another adventure!

Long-haul flights or jam-packed travel itineraries may not be suitable for younger children or those who have difficulty with extended periods of travel. See my post on hot tips for buying international flights for your family. Consider destinations that are easily accessible with shorter flight times, direct flights, or manageable layovers. Minimizing travel fatigue will allow your family to make the most of your time at the destination.

6. Cultural Sensitivity and Familiarity

Choosing what to eat for lunch can be tricky with kids. Make sure there are options your kids will like.

When traveling abroad, cultural differences may vary significantly from your home country. This may affect how you are expected to dress, what you may eat, and how you interact with locals while visiting a destination. Research and consider destinations where the local culture is open and welcoming to families. Familiarize yourself with local customs and traditions to ensure that your family can navigate and respect cultural norms. It’s easy to Google some simple cultural norms and basic words (if visiting a country with a new language), such as please, hello, and thank you. You may find it best to choose destinations for your family that offer a balance of novelty and familiarity, providing a mix of new experiences and a sense of comfort for your children.

7. Budget

Some countries or cities may be more budget-friendly than others, both in terms of accommodations and dining options. Consider the cost of attractions, transportation, and any additional expenses, such as visas or travel insurance. I like to do some basic research and make a simple budget of everything we expect to pay for, then add on 20-30% for unexpected costs. If this is breaking the bank, keep researching. You can find something better or wait a bit longer to take this vacation.

Colorful houses in Bergen, Norway. We felt like we were in the movie Frozen!

Safest Destinations To Travel Internationally With Kids

Safety is always a big concern for parents. While the safety of a destination can vary over time, here are some destinations generally considered safe for family travel:

  • Iceland: Not only is Iceland graced with dramatic landscapes and beautiful volcanoes, but it also offers a safe environment to its visitors. It has low crime rates and excellent healthcare facilities. We’ve visited this beautiful country multiple times, hiked a number of volcanoes, seen boiling lava in real life, and gone to a geothermal park where you can boil eggs in hot water!
  • Switzerland: When we visited, we were delighted by Switzerland’s famous ski resorts and hiking trails, overlooking its picturesque landscapes and clean cities. Public transportation isn’t a problem; we used trains to jump into different places in Switzerland, and it’s always been flawless. Our kids loved Swiss trains!
  • Canada: Being the world’s second-largest country by total area, safety, and security are still a priority in Canada. Niagara Falls and Banff are some of the top family destinations. Canadians are also well-known for being friendly people!
  • Australia: With its friendly locals, beautiful beaches, and cute koalas, Australia is a popular choice for family travel. It has a well-developed tourism infrastructure and high safety standards.
  • Japan: Loved for its anime, cherry blossoms, and Mt. Fuji, Japan is also known for its cleanliness and efficient public transportation.
  • Denmark: One of the happiest nations, Denmark consistently ranks highly in safety indexes. It features family-oriented attractions like Tivoli Gardens, Legoland, and child-friendly museums.
  • Netherlands: Known for its bike-friendly culture, beautiful tulip fields, and charming cities like Amsterdam, Netherlands is a popular destination for European travel.
Azores, Portugal with kids

Most Difficult Things About Traveling Internationally With Kids

Knowing the challenges you might face while traveling with kids can help you prepare and stay calm when an unexpected event happens.

  1. Jetlag – Adjusting to different time zones can be challenging for adults and even more difficult for children. Their sleep schedules can be disrupted, leading to fatigue and crankiness. It may take a few days for everyone to adjust to the new time zone fully. To ease jetlag, we give our kids melatonin. Check out my tips for dealing with jet lag and kids.
  2. Long flights – International flights can be lengthy, especially if traveling long distances. Keeping children entertained and occupied during the flight can be a struggle. They may get restless, bored, or uncomfortable, making the journey more challenging for everyone. I usually bring our children a busy board, books, and tablets to help them stay busy.
  3. Language barriers – Communicating in a foreign country where you don’t speak the local language can be daunting, especially when trying to meet your children’s needs. Simple tasks like ordering food, asking for directions, or seeking medical assistance can become more complicated. It’s helpful to have a few basic phrases or a translation app to overcome this barrier.
  4. Medical care – Depending on your destination, access to medical care and medication may differ from what you’re accustomed to. It’s important to research healthcare facilities, take necessary precautions, and pack any required medications or medical supplies. Having the basics like children’s pain relievers, children’s allergy medicine, and bandages can come in handy. Travel insurance can be a good idea as well.
  5. Logistics and planning – When planning your daily activities, we have found it beneficial to build in daily activities and breaks that cater to children’s interests and energy levels. Involve them in planning to boost more excitement! And don’t underestimate the power of a quick break at your hotel or a stop at a playground.
We love train travel in Europe with kids

What To Pack For Your First International Trip With Kids

Packing can be the most overwhelming part of your preparation when traveling with kids! Here’s a list to help you:

  1. Travel documents: Passports for everyone traveling, visas if required, identification cards, and any other necessary travel documents.
  2. Clothing: Pack a sufficient amount of clothing for each child, considering the climate and activities at your destination. Include comfortable outfits, underwear, socks, pajamas, and outerwear. Don’t forget your swimwear if you’ll be near the water. Check out our favorite bag! And a couple of extra outfits or a plan to do a load of laundry mid-trip never hurt.
  3. Toiletries: Bring toiletries such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, soap, and any other personal care items your children use. Consider travel-sized options or transfer your regular toiletries into travel containers to save space.
  4. Medications and first aid: Pack any necessary prescription medications, over-the-counter medications (e.g., pain relievers, fever reducers), and a basic first aid kit. Include band-aids, antiseptic ointment, a thermometer, and any specific medications your children might need.
  5. Snacks and drinks: Carry a variety of snacks that your children enjoy, especially for long flights or road trips. You may even want to pack snacks in your checked bag to have on-hand in your hotel room. Bring refillable water bottles to stay hydrated throughout the journey.
  6. Travel accessories: Consider bringing a lightweight stroller or carrier, especially if your child is too young to walk long distances. A baby monitor can be useful if you’re staying in accommodations with separate rooms. Don’t forget travel adapters for charging devices.
  7. Comfort items: Pack any comfort items your children rely on, such as a favorite stuffed animal, blanket, or pacifier, to help them feel secure and at ease during the journey.
  8. Travel insurance: Consider purchasing travel insurance that covers medical emergencies, trip cancellations, and lost luggage. Ensure that it includes coverage for your children as well.
  9. Travel snacks and meals: If you anticipate difficulty finding suitable food for your children at your destination, pack some non-perishable snacks or even pre-packaged meals.
  10. Miscellaneous items: Don’t forget essentials like sunscreen, insect repellent, a lightweight umbrella, a travel-sized laundry detergent, a travel pillow or blanket, and any specific items your children might need, such as bottles or pacifiers.
Heading home from Brazil

What To Avoid When Traveling Abroad With Kids

Here are some of the essential things you should avoid to ensure a smoother and safer experience for your family while traveling abroad:

  • Overpacking – Avoid bringing too many unnecessary items that can weigh you down and make it difficult to manage your luggage, especially when you have to keep an eye on your children. Pack strategically and prioritize essential items.
  • Ignoring safety precautions: Don’t overlook basic safety precautions while traveling. Keep a close eye on your children at all times, especially in crowded places. Teach them about stranger danger and establish rules for staying together. Stay informed about travel safety advisories issued by your government or relevant authorities. And don’t forget to pack childproofing supplies if you need them for your hotel or ask your hotel if they offer childproofing services for the room.
  • Overbooking activities: Avoid overbooking your itinerary with too many activities, as it can lead to fatigue and crankiness in both children and adults. Schedule downtime and allow for flexibility in your schedule to accommodate the needs and preferences of your family.
  • Neglecting local customs and etiquette: It’s important to respect the local customs and cultural norms of the country you’re visiting. Research and familiarize yourself with the local etiquette, dress code, and appropriate behavior. Teach your children about respectful behavior and engage in cultural exchanges with sensitivity and an open mind.
  • Overlooking travel insurance: Travel insurance is important for any trip, including those with kids. Don’t skip travel insurance, as it can provide coverage for medical emergencies, trip cancellations, lost luggage, and other unexpected incidents. Ensure that the policy covers your children as well. Believe me – we’ve been there, and travel insurance has saved us from headaches, heartache, and wallet ache more than once!
Each destination has a story to tell. We loved acting out the Sound of Music in Austria!

Tips For a Smooth Travel Abroad With Kids

Kids can be unpredictable, even at home! Don’t expect this to change when you travel. Here are some practical tips I always keep in mind:

  • Plan ahead: Research your destination thoroughly and plan your itinerary in advance. Identify child-friendly attractions, accommodations, and restaurants suitable for your family. Consider the climate, local customs, and any specific requirements for traveling with children.
  • Pack wisely: Pack essential items while keeping in mind the needs of your children. Include clothing suitable for the destination’s climate, comfortable shoes, necessary medications, toiletries, and any comfort items your children rely on. In your day bag, it’s worth having on hand quick and easy snacks, entertainment options like books or small toys/games, and travel-friendly essentials like wet wipes, hand sanitizer, and a first aid kit.
  • Maintain a routine: Try to maintain some semblance of your children’s routine, especially regarding meals and sleep. This can help them adjust to new time zones and prevent excessive fatigue or disruption. On the same note, be prepared to break routine when needed! You don’t want to miss out on memories just due to routines.
  • Embrace flexibility: While having an itinerary is important, be prepared for unexpected changes and allow for flexibility. Kids may have different needs and interests, so be open to adjusting your plans accordingly. Embrace spontaneous moments and opportunities for exploration.

Use these tips to choose the destinations that best fit your family’s needs and travel desires. Wherever your destination may be, there are memories to be made, and that’s what matters most! Happy traveling!



Plan your next international trip and get some budget-friendly tickets from Expedia, Booking.com, Skyscanner, or Kiwi.com.

Find great deals on family-friendly hotels from Expedia, or Vrbo, (we also love Tripadvisor and Hotels.com).

Discover the world through exciting activities from GetYourGuide, Airbnb Experiences, or Viator.

Need to rent a car? Visit Rentalcars.com.

Get insured while traveling with World Nomads.

Want to have a photo shoot while on vacation? Book a professional photographer from flytographer.

Capture your best travel memories abroad as we do with a GroPro, Sony camera, or our favorite drones: DJI FPV, Air, and Mini

Check out your travel necessities from a comprehensive list of all the 7Wayfinders Travel Must-Haves. Click Here!

Additional Reading

Essential Travel Tips for Visiting New Zealand With Kids

The Perfect 5-Day Itinerary With Kids In São Miguel Island, Azores, Portugal

10 Tips For Surviving Jet Lag When Traveling With Kids

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