If you’ve been backpacking before, you’ll likely agree that backpacking abroad can be one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences you ever have. But what happens if you have children?
Many parents who have been backpacking with their children describe it as the best quality family time possible, without the distractions of screens and toys, surrounded by nature. A chance to bring your family together on the back-to-basics of life and travelling.
Although it can seem like a daunting challenge, only reserved for the bravest of parents, it can also be the most rewarding. Discovering places with your kids you never thought you would, will give you all valuable lessons and family memories.
We did a little research from a few well-travelled families, to give you some insight on how to introduce your little adventurers to the joys of a family backpacking holiday.
Remember when you were a child and you used to set up camp in your bedroom with your friends? Liz from
Say Yes blog often goes backpacking with her husband and young family and says that one of the most exciting parts for kids is setting up camp…
“Setting up camp is the most fun part of camping for kids. Let them help with the tent, the sleeping bags, their belongings and getting the stove set up. They’ll get so excited to see their sleeping bag, favourite stuffed animal and flashlight all laid out next to yours.”
World Travel Family is a professional travel blogger and home educating mum, after several years of travelling with her family she has some great practical tips on backpacks and accommodation. Here she talks about toys, what stays and what gets stuffed in the backpack…
“Obviously they need the special bear but most of the toys my children have packed never see daylight. They’ve had a lot more fun with cheap toys we’ve bought as needed. Bangkok station gave us two 10 Baht plastic dinosaurs that kept them amused for hours on the train. One morning they each bought a $2 fake Bakugan because it was what the local kids were playing with and they wanted to join in. Once they had their $2 worth of fun, we were happy to let them go.”
Benefits of backpacking vs a typical family holiday?
- Spending quality time with your kids. All holidays give quality family time, but backpacking can give you a unique opportunity to bond as you enjoy new experiences together away from the TV and every day distractions.
- Speaking to people from other countries, trying new foods and discovering new environments together. Kids will have the chance to find out about different cultures and ways of living, that you wouldn’t normally experience if staying in one place on holiday.
- With a backpacking trip that is focussed around your children you can find yourself visiting places and enjoying activities you would usually have bypassed.
- The outdoor classroom. What better way to learn about culture, navigation, wildlife and people, than actually experiencing it first-hand?
- Backpacking can be a very cost effective way of seeing incredible parts of the world.
Other considerations and preparation
- Think about what vaccinations you will need. Your kids will need to be up to date with all the standard vaccinations and can potentially need more depending on what part of the world you are going to. Check with your GP to see whether vaccinations such as ‘Yellow Fever’ are needed. Certain malaria medication is also not suitable for children so be sure to double check this.
- Plan accommodation ahead. With younger children you will need to book accommodation in advance. Some hostels or guest houses are 18+ so having the assurance of an advanced booking in suitable accommodation can save you trouble later on.
- If you’re travelling with tents, practice sleeping outside in your tents before you leave.
- Have a well-stocked first aid kit at hand. Plasters and bandages for falls and scrapes are invaluable but sun screen is also extremely important.
- Make sure they have suitable clothing. Comfortable shoes to walk in and a sun hat are a top priority but also long sleeved items to protect against mosquitoes. A good quality comfortable backpack can make a big difference.
- Don’t give your child too much to carry. Make sure their backpack is a manageable weight, fits properly and accept that later in the day you might be carrying it yourself! Ask them to choose only a couple of toys to take with them, remember you can easily buy small toys as you travel.
Before we go we’ll leave the final word to David from
My Little Nomads who is a big advocate of backpacking with children. He explains how travelling with children gives you an advantage from when he travelled before kids:
“You see another side of local life. You’re accepted in. You share something with the locals that other travellers don’t. Even the most jaded and shady taxi driver or tout will let his guard down when he sees your kids. He’ll talk about his own children and where he lives and how last year his whole family took the train up North, into the mountains, to a little village where his mom still lives.”