The worst travel advice for families

Worst travel advice - Don't talk to strangers . Here's Raffles ignoring that and making loads of new friends

Travel means different things to different people. When you’re flying solo, it may be for the chance to discover the world, or to discover yourself. And when you travel with kids, you might view it as a chance to bond or an opportunity to raise globally aware humans. No matter how or who you travel with, sometimes you do need a little advice. But that advice can be subjective … not to mention bordering on the ridiculous.

Sure, if you’re thinking about taking the kids for a vacay in a third world war zone where coup d’états occur fortnightly, trekking deep into Amazonian rainforest with nothing but a podcast and a sambo for company, pitching a tent in an uncleared landmine field, or climbing Mount Everest wearing flip flops and a unicorn onesie, then you should definitely listen to all of the advice. And the scarier and more OCD that advice is the better.

But if you’re planning on packing up the kids for a week in Fiji, embarking on a museum crawl around central Europe, or eating your way around Asia … not so much.

Though it has all been well-meant, much of the travel advice we’ve received since we started travelling with our kids has come from folks who’ve rarely travelled further than their local supermarket. And if we took on board every bit of it, we’d never leave our lounge room.

James Michener said, “If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.”

I’m with Jimbo. We’re all about truly experiencing the destinations we visit and though that does come with a low level of calculated risk, so does crossing the road.

Here’s a roundup of the worst travel advice we’ve ever received … and why we ignore it.

1.Don’t talk to strangers

Notwithstanding the fact that when you’re travelling everyone is a stranger, getting to know the locals is one of the highlights of any adventure. And when you’re travelling in a foreign land with kids everyone wants to say hi! In fact, half the time my curly haired cuties become the attraction.

Of course, you do need to keep your wits about you and be sensible about who you talk to. And it’s wise to avoid hanging out with unsavoury and suspicious types wherever you are – because Liam Neeson is not your dad. He will not find them and he will not kill them. But that’s OK, because in our experience the majority of people are kind.

IMG_6076 (1)

2. Don’t Leave the Resort

Wait, what? What the hell are you travelling for? You may as well book a hotel in your hometown because sitting in a hotel or lying around the resort pool is not experiencing a destination. Realistically if you are heading to a destination where you feel too nervous to leave the hotel and you’re taking kids along for the ride, you may want to rethink your travel plans. Otherwise hit up the hotel’s local staff, and the other guests, for tips on the best places to see, eat and explore and get out amongst it.

3. Stay on the outskirts of town to save money

This is the worst travel advice ever if you’re travelling with kids. Yes, you’ll save a few bucks. Yes, it’s quieter. But you’ll also waste half your day commuting back and forth to your hotel on often-expensive public transport … while carrying your tired and whiney kids whose otherwise perfectly healthy legs invariably give-up on them within 30 seconds of setting out.

If you really want to save a buck, stay closer to the town centre and stay one less day. You’ll pack in just as much in a shorter time and have a far more pleasant time doing it. Or better yet, swap the hotel for a more economical apartment stay (a far more practical option for families) where you can make reap savings with DIY meals.

Stay close to town unless you want tos pend the entire trip carrying your offspring

4. Splurge, you’re on holiday!

No. Don’t! Sure it would be a shame to miss out on a great travel experience to save a few bucks but you still need funds to feed the family once you return to home and reality. Instead of throwing financial caution to the wind, just think of how much quicker you’ll be able to save for your next holiday if you don’t go batshit crazy with the credit cards on this one?

5. Avoid crowded tourist traps

By all means hit the backstreets and discover the true spirit of the destinations you visit as it’s often where the treasure is found. But don’t diss or dismiss popular attractions. Yes, they’re crowded and expensive but there’s a reason for that. They’re frigging amazing!

Sure your time would be as well spent sculling a pint at a rowdy Dublin pub as it would taking a tour of the Guinness Factory. And unless you have a spare lifetime, you could probably bypass the hordes squinting at the Mona Lisa and check out some of the Louvre’s other equally worthy but far lonelier artworks. But for the love all things holy, why would anyone travel all the way to Paris and not check out the Eiffel Tower? It would be nothing short of travel madness.

Worst Travel Advice - Avoid the tourist traps. Raffles at the Eiffel Tower

6. Don’t eat the street food

Oops! I must have missed that memo because generally the first thing Raffles and I do when we arrive in a new country is hit up the nearest street vendor! And we haven’t died a slow, painful death once. To avoid this happening in the future I will continue to take precautions like avoiding tap water, raw foods and  give stalls with dubious hygiene standards a wide berth, but some of the most incredible and memorable food I have ever eaten has been on the street.

Indeed, I consider eating from local street vendors an integral part of travel because it fast tracks my understanding of a country’s cultural identity. Though there are no guarantees that you’re not going to end up with a bad belly, the trick to selecting street food mostly comes down to common sense. If you choose a clean stall where basic hygiene practices are being implemented, the locals are lining up and the food turnover is high, then its most likely going to be fresh and fabulous!

E.coli, salmonella, listeria and typhoid don’t follow the class system and you are as likely to meet them in a sit-down restaurant where you can’t see the kitchen, the hygiene standards, or the produce you’re about to eat before it’s prepared.

Sticky Rice thingys on the streets of Japan

7. Wait until the kids are older before you take them travelling.

This one is the one we hear most often and it is the worst piece of travel advice in the history of travel advice. I’d go as far as saying it is a pile of undiluted bullshit. At the age of seven, Raffles is at 20 countries and counting. And four-year old Sugarpuff is nipping at his converse clad heels at 17.

No, they don’t remember all of them. But everything that they’re exposed to is being filed away in their glorious growing brains. Yes, they slowed us down. But this has only made us stop and smell the roses. Yes, there are things we have to skip. But we’re seeing other things we may have missed through their unjaded eyes. No, we don’t get to enjoy boozy bar crawls. But this just means we get to see the sunrise without a raging hangover. No, it hasn’t always been easy. But still we keep doing it over and over again.

Exposing our young kids to other places and faces is teaching them to be empathetic, globally aware humans with respect for all people, places and ideals. What’s the risk in that?

What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

23 Comments on The worst travel advice for families

  1. hugzillablog
    January 4, 2016 at 7:57 am (9 years ago)

    Love it! I particularly LOLd at the “don’t leave the resort” tip because I have actually witnessed someone very earnestly giving that very same advice. All I could think was “Why not just go to the Gold Coast then?”

      January 8, 2016 at 3:33 pm (9 years ago)

      Some people should just holiday at home. Just not this people 😉

  2. Bronnie - Maid In Australia
    January 4, 2016 at 10:35 am (9 years ago)

    LOVE this post. Have also heard this well-meaning advice and it’s just so silly. Why waste time and money travelling if you could be anywhere? Meeting the locals, tasting the food, seeing all the things is the whole point ESPECIALLY with kids. And I’m with you with staying near the action and apartments where possible. Such a time and sanity saver (and I believe you actually end up saving money in the end, as you’re not commuting and having to pay for transport and factor in extra time). Kids also love the downtime, and being able to have some simple sandwiches, soup or pasta or whatever comfort food they like after all that exotic food occasionally. And more money saved! Love the pics too.

      January 8, 2016 at 9:16 pm (9 years ago)

      If only my kids would eat a simple sambo, I’d save a fortune LOL

  3. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella
    January 4, 2016 at 7:30 pm (9 years ago)

    Haha awesome post Aleney!! I am very careful who I take my advice from. Like I don’t take food advice from people who are picky eaters and I definitely don’t take travel advice from people that don’t travel. Although sometimes it works to go against their advice! 😛

      January 8, 2016 at 9:09 pm (9 years ago)

      Hehe. It certainly does Lorraine

  4. Sally@Toddlers on Tour
    January 8, 2016 at 7:43 pm (9 years ago)

    All great advice Aleney.
    Whilst our young man doesn’t remember all our travels he does know that a holiday means fun family times. We love a good resort but also love using public tramsport,trying local foods, talking to the locals to help discover those hidden gems as well as the main tourist attractions that we visit. With all this though we keep an eye on our budget (which is one of the reason we only travel a couple of times a year). I can think of nothing worse than coming home to a huge credit card debt – what a way to ruin a holiday.

      January 8, 2016 at 9:14 pm (9 years ago)

      Thanks Sally. Travel has to be sustainable 🙂

  5. Kirsty @ My Home Truths
    January 8, 2016 at 10:12 pm (9 years ago)

    We have kids with special needs and the worst bit of advice we ever received was not to even try to travel with them. I’m glad we ignored it. We’ve been to NZ, US, Haiti, Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Mexico with them. And we are planning on more travels in the future. There is no right time to travel but you need to give it a go anyway. There really can never be any regrets when it comes to seeing the world and experiencing it with your kids.

      January 9, 2016 at 9:40 pm (9 years ago)

      You are so right KIrsty. There’s not such thing as “the right time” – people need to learn to live in the moment before time escapes them altogether and it is too late to experience anything with their kids.

  6. Brooke of Passport Couture
    January 9, 2016 at 4:54 am (9 years ago)

    Very honest and important tips for families and individuals! I agree with each one and although I don’t have kids, #7 has been suggested to me by many people. My own parents took me camping and on a plane when I was a toddler and younger! Going with kids when they’re younger makes them good travelers and they’ll appreciate it no matter what age.

      January 9, 2016 at 9:43 pm (9 years ago)

      Thanks Brooke. I think that even the really little ones just appreciate the time together. My littlest (she’s 4) often says things like “do you remember when you tickled me in Japan?” I tickle her so often that really don’t remember that exact occasion but she does, and it makes her think of our time in Japan fondly. It’s about connection as much as experiences. 🙂

  7. Nicole
    January 9, 2016 at 5:41 am (9 years ago)

    Absolutely love this post! The most often one I hear is your last one, wait until your kids are older. If you wait then soon enough they won’t be at home to travel with. You only have them with you for a while so make the most of it travelling and exploring new places. Great list.

      January 9, 2016 at 9:41 pm (9 years ago)

      Thanks NIcole. I couldn’t agree more. Make the most of now. 🙂

  8. Melinda
    January 9, 2016 at 7:06 pm (9 years ago)

    Have had all the above advice given to us plus some and it takes herculean strength for me not to headbutt such people. Usually said people have their children on a lead cleverly disguised as a teddy bear backpack so i cut them some slack.

      January 12, 2016 at 6:32 am (9 years ago)

      Hehe. I praise you for your restraint! 😉

  9. Mr Eatsworld
    January 11, 2016 at 3:08 pm (9 years ago)

    Who’s that handsome looking guy in the Led Zeppelin t-shirt?

      January 12, 2016 at 6:32 am (9 years ago)

      Looks like a rockstar 😉

  10. travelingchristie
    January 14, 2016 at 7:33 am (9 years ago)

    Oh love this, we have traveled with our since they were tiny as a result they are passionate confident travellers, wanderlust is one of the best gifts you can give you kids x

  11. Lydia C. Lee
    January 22, 2016 at 8:54 am (8 years ago)

    Don’t leave the resort???? Weird. I actually always tell people to go with the kids when they are young (because they cost a sqillion bucks when they’re older.) We used to be able to fit in a family suite but now have to get min 2 rooms, because we’re 4 adults and 1 child, adult being over 12 in hotel/airline talk….:(

  12. Krista O'Reilly-Davi-Digui
    July 5, 2016 at 11:23 am (8 years ago)

    Looking back I cannot believe I took my first born, at just 7 months, to West Afrca, France and England! While eating street is so much fun I DID have a horrible experience in West Africa. Super sick for days. I definitely think staying in the heart of the action is most fun, if noisier.

  13. Amanda
    March 9, 2017 at 1:16 pm (7 years ago)

    Don’t talk to strangers
    Yeah, ok. I’ll be sure to do that…..
    Some of these “tips” must be given by people who have not travelled at all.

  14. Emma MacDonald
    June 16, 2018 at 5:18 pm (6 years ago)

    Great post. I often hear the “leave the kids at home” but none of my family would take all four.
    As we don’t get to go on holiday as much as we like, we do splurge and spend every penny and struggle a bit when we get home, but I think it’s worth it.


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Hey, I’m Aleney! A mum, award-winning travel writer, magazine editor and gallivanting glutton. He’s Raff, the “boy” in boyeatsworld, and a fearless foodie, adventurer and eco-warrior. Along with his all-singing, all-dancing, all-adventurous sister, Sugarpuff, we’re exploring the world’s colour, culture and cuisine on a food safari for the junior set.

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