By Lindsay Nash, former family tour specialist at BikeTours.com.
Fresh off a 4-night bike tour with her husband and 2-year-son, Lindsay gives us some tips on traveling with kids by bike. And be sure to check out the video of their family adventure, posted just below.
My packing list for my recent bicycle tour with my family looked something like this:
- “My Truck is Stuck” book
- Wet wipes
Look strange? Welcome to a world with a 2-year-old. My husband and I are fervent travelers. Our son was born in Korea. In his first year alone, he traveled to the United States, Canada, and Ireland. Whether he likes it or not, he’s a gypsy child, and we couldn’t feel more blessed.
Bike tours are our newest love. Realizing the beauty of active vacations, we’ve jumped on ship bike and brought our little man with us. We get all kinds of different reactions: “Good luck with that,” they say, with raised eyebrows. “Wow, amazing!” But whatever your friends think, bike tours are possible with your children.
Not just possible, but the perfect vacation for a child. The adventure, the active nature, and the new sights around every corner are perfect for a child’s sense of exploration and adventure.
One of my favorite articles about taking a road trip in America says, “Children are natural-born Buddhists—fervent in their devotion to the here and now. Whatever the next roadside attraction might be, it lacks the deeply persuasive allure of the present one. And besides, once let out of the car, a kid will want to stay out.” Well, it’s the same way with a bike.
Your child will love the moments they are on the bike. They’ll also love every moment off it. So, here are a few tips to help you plan your next bicycle tour with your children, and to help keep everybody happy.
- Be flexible. If you have children, this is a trait you most likely already have. There is nothing like having a child around to make sure your day, vacation, fill-in-the-blank does not go as planned. Want to sleep late? Welcome to 5 a.m. Want to eat at that nice Italian restaurant? Kids aren’t allowed. You’re a parent—you know these things already. When you’re choosing a bike tour, be sure to choose one that has flexibility. An easy out on any given day if needed. One with easy transfers, and options on how far you can cycle on each day. (Boat and bike tours are excellent for this!)
- Consider the gear. You’ll need appropriate bikes for everyone. For our two-year-old, we had both a bike trailer behind one bike and a baby seat on another bike. This gave him options during some of the longer cycling days for a change of scenery. For younger children, the bike trailer is preferable. There is space for their toys, a few books, and it’s very comfortable for a nap. When you’re looking to book a tour, be sure that the operator can provide the rental gear and bikes you need. Also, don’t forget helmets. Children must wear helmets no matter where you are in the world.
- Stop frequently. We quickly realized how slow we were going to move on our recent bike tour the moment we took off and realized our son’s book just fell out of the bike trailer. Again. With children on tour with you, be prepared to stop a lot. This, to me, is one of the best advantages of bringing children along. Not only will they help you see things you would never have seen racing by, they enjoy the smallest diversions: water fountains in city parks, ice cream stops at the corner market. Children truly do help you stop and smell the roses.
- Pack snacks. We’re not big on giving our two-year-old lots of sweets. However, every rule needs an exception. We packed plenty of fun food and candy for our son for the time spent cycling. It kept him happy as a little bumblebee to sit back there and lick his lollipop, all the while singing his ABCs. Don’t forget to pack treats for the family to keep everyone happy along the ride.
- Change your expectations. You’re not going to set a world record for pace if you’re biking with your family. You’re only as fast as your youngest child. Keep that in mind when it takes you double the time to get from Point A to Point B. But as I mentioned before, you’ll experience a totally different side of bicycle touring.
- Be a kid. To understand your child, be a child. Jump in a river. Stare at bugs. Wave at trains. Sing a song while riding (our son learned to count to 10 in Spanish at one point). Plan your overnights in fun towns with entertainment options. Let out your free spirit, abandon your responsibilities (that’s what BikeTours.com is for!), and just have fun. Your family will thank you.
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