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If you are considering your family’s first tropical family vacation, with kids, then here are some tips for you. Even if you are an experienced traveler considerations for a tropical family vacation when you are adventuring are VERY different when you have kids. By this we mean traveling to different sights, and not staying in resorts or all-inclusives or taking a cruise – are all family holidays, but not a family adventure holiday.
Traveling to a tropical climate for kids can be particularly taxing when the weather is hot and humid. These are a few tips and ideas to keep your kids happy and healthy on your tropical family vacation.
If you are not confident, you might organize your accommodation and daily activities with a tour operator prior to departure. We look for local tour operators who are able to work with us and our needs, as well as providing specific information (or better still anecdotes) about things to do with children.
This post may contain affiliate links, from which we would earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you. More info in my disclaimer.
1. Kids need downtime, playtime, or just time when they are on the go. So go slow!
For us, this is the Golden Rule, especially when on a tropical family vacation. If you incorporate it into your trip, you will hopefully minimize the amount of time with grumpy kids.
This includes – pool time or time in playgrounds but interestingly (in our opinion) doesn’t include doing tours. Even if they are a fun tour, like chocolate making or zip lining, these activities are still stimulating and tiring to children.
Another way of saying this is “Don’t plan too much”! Make sure you know what you MUST see and be prepared to compromise on the rest. (These are the trip pillars referred to here in our post How To Plan A Family Holiday.
Spending time at a local playground might not be the same as that world famous museum/church/art gallery you wanted to see – but it is a very memorable and legitimate travel experience.
2. Having a pool is essential.
We basically have one rule about our hotels when we are traveling anywhere remotely hot. That it has a swimming pool. There, built into the hotel, you have the thing that is going to make the kids feel like they are on holiday!!! Air conditioning is also pretty important, but just to keep everyone in a decent humor.
3. Bring back the siesta.
When traveling in hot countries the heat is likely to frazzle everyone’s nerves, but particularly young ones. Plan your days around a siesta, or hotel time to relax during the midday heat (about 11 to 3). This means we plan to get up very early to do some activities, come back for pool time and then a rest, and then back out onto the streets for dinner during the warm tropical evenings.
4. Parents need some me time too.
Having lots of quality family time while on holidays is a wonderful reason to travel with the kiddos. It can also put a lot of pressure on everyone as living each out of everyone’s pockets for days on end is a change of routine. Parents, plan for one parent to watch the kids while the other goes out for a massage or that special museum that frankly, is going to be a nightmare with the kids. Some hotels will also organize babysitting if you are looking for a special dinner.
5. Pack a bag full of snacks.
At home our diet is full of fresh organic produce, and mostly home-made snacks; but when we are flying internationally – most of that goes out the window! (And that is OK!)m Pack enough snacks to get you through 24- 48 hours of travel. Cookies in little bags, popped popcorn, potato crisps (chips) nuts and more… Make sure you have enough if the kids don’t like a meal. Know that airport food is expensive. If you travel with a picky eater, then take more than just 48 hours’ worth.
6. Pack an activity bag for your tropical family vacation.
Planning what you are going to do in down times is vital. You can read our tips for 21 Awesome Activities to go Screen Free on flights. While that post was written for flights, most of these suggestions will also work while in hotel rooms or the grounds of a hotel.
7. Organize an airport pickup for when you arrive in the country.
Depending on your style of travel this one might be a no-brainer. However, if you are independent minded, still get your airport pickup organized so that when you arrive in-country you can just get out of the airport and to your hotel as easily and efficiently as possible.
8. Take a short local bus ride.
If you are on a tight budget you might be taking local buses between towns. For us, having long, hot rides on local buses with unhappy kids is something that we avoid and we prefer to organize private transfers in air-conditioned cars and with car seats.
BUT – while you are in a town, ask the locals how to get from point A to point B by local bus. The experience will always be eye opening.
9. Taste some local food.
No one wants their kids to get sick. But – why cart them on a foreign holiday when they are going to eat resort style food or stick to pizza and chips? You are in a foreign country, look for recommended local-style restaurants, do checks for hygiene, look at reviews, and if it looks clean then encourage your kids to eat some of the local food.
Hygiene and how the food is prepared is an especial considering on tropical family vacation because of the climate and the rate at which food will spoil Be careful, not paranoid.
10. Pack light!
I always see photos of kids on Instagram carrying their own backpacks. Hasn’t happened for us yet! While it is a work in progress for us, the lighter you pack, you won’t regret it.
You can always buy what you need when you get to nearly every country. Kids spilled something on their t-shirt over lunch? Then buying a new t-shirt as a souvenir can be a memorable opportunity! While having an activity bag is useful, limit new toys – which can get bought or played with along the way. (As long as they are not too big!)
These are some of our favorite and they double as tools to keep your kids entertained on a long flight.
11. Use every experience as a learning experience.
Driver doesn’t turn up? Power goes out and there is no air-con on your tropical family vacation and it is hot and humid? Use it as a learning experience for yourselves and your kids about different countries. This is another way of saying, of saying, ‘be open minded” and try to consider how things are in other cultures. Or ask the locals. It is likely you will learn lots of interesting stuff.
12. Know that things will go wrong – and that is OK.
When you are a 20 something backpacker on a round the world trip and you miss your flight, you chalk it up to adventure and an uncomfortable night in the airport. When traveling with kids, it feels like the stakes are MUCH higher.
Imagine missing your flight and having two whining kids? It makes this Mumma’s blood pressure rise just THINKING about it. Knowing that something might happen is just a practical approach to reducing stress when it does. Tropical climates for kids can be especially tiring. So any way to minimize the stress of traveling is a positive. When you are mentally prepared something might go wrong, you are less stressed when it does.
13. Learn some words of the local language
Not only will hello, please and thank you from your kids in the local language bring wide smiles and genuine delight; it will also begin to educate your children around language and what it means to communicate differently.
14. Get the kids involved.
This one is age dependent. Get out the map; show the kids what you will be doing. If you want to get them involved then talk about some of the things that you might do and see. HOWEVER, I would urge caution on this one because (our kids at least) can get very fixated on one activity and if for some reason you can’t do the activity/ something changes you will end up with some disappointed kids on your hands.
For example, our daughter saw horse riding in Fiji in the Lonely Planet and spent the first 16 days of the trip asking when we were going to do it!
We do however love to get them involved in learning about the destination ahead of time with either books or travel guides. Check out some of our favorites below.
15. What kind of memories do you want?
In this day and age it is easy to want to do as much as possible, and get some great pictures while you are at it. Check out our Instagram feed here.
Some days we do feel the pressure to get all the ‘right’ photos. At that point it is useful to ask ourselves, what memories do we want out of the holiday? Do we want picture perfect photos, but knowing that they were taken on a full and packed holiday? This is true for all our family holidays and not just our tropical family vacations.
Our current mantra is looking for love, connection and fun while away as a family. Other families mantras could be learning, ticking off bucket lists, or working as a team. You know your own family and what you would aim for!
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