5 reasons why cruising is the best way to plan an international vacation with kids
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
Traveling anywhere with children can feel like a daunting task. But the idea of planning and executing travel to a foreign country with little ones in tow can feel downright frightening for first-timers. As traveling parents, we’ve all been there. You want your children to immerse themselves in new cultures and gain the rewards of experiencing something new and exciting. However, the thought of arriving in a new country only to find that there is nothing on the menu for your picky toddler to eat has made you abort the mission a handful of times.
If this is your life’s story, then I’m here to tell you that there is a much easier and stress-free way to dip your toes into an enjoyable international travel experience with kids. Choose a cruise.
These are the five reasons I think cruising with kids is the best way to conquer international travel as a family.
For more cruise news, reviews and tips, sign up for TPG’s new cruise newsletter.
Cruises require minimal planning on your part
If you’ve ever desired an International trip that was essentially planned for you, then taking a cruise vacation is the perfect option. Cruise lines offer multiple international itineraries based on which port you’d like to cruise from and the type of destinations you’re interested in cruising to. You can visit the Caribbean, Europe, the South Pacific, Mediterranean and more.
These itineraries offer activities each day — both on board and at the ports of call. Just refer to the daily cruise planner that’s left in your cabin each evening to learn about the next day’s adventures. And, while you can usually explore the ports on your own (though that’s a bit different in these times of coronavirus), cruise lines offer pre-planned excursions that are stress-free.
The only coordination that you are in charge of is transportation to and from and cruise port (if you don’t purchase the cruise line’s air and transfer package). And, you’ll also have to determine which excursions in port interest you and your family the most.
Go the cruise route and you can plan an international trip in a matter of hours or days.
Cruises offer short and realistic itineraries
One of the hardest decisions when traveling halfway across the world is the length of stay. After hours spent on a flight, there is a constant struggle between the desire to stay in a destination long enough to make it worthwhile and a short enough trip that your children won’t grow bored or antsy from being away from home.
Again, cruise lines offer a wide variety of travel Itineraries ranging from as short as three days to as long as a couple of months spent at sea. In fact, I highly recommend a three-, four- or five- day itinerary for a first family cruise because it is the perfect amount of time to test the waters at international travel yet not feel cheated with your experience for the cost.
Based on your chosen itinerary, you can expect to visit as few as one and as many as three or four international destinations on one trip. Not only are you crossing off multiple destinations on your bucket list at one time with your children but you also have the option to tap out at any time. Explore or stay on the ship when and for as long you choose. Cruises offer incredible flexibility in that aspect.
Easily accessible travel documents
Prior to even planning your international getaway, one of the first things you have to conquer is securing all travel documents such as passports and visas for each member of the family. Cruising is an excellent option because minimal travel documents are required. U.S. citizens on closed-loop cruises (meaning leaving from and returning to an American port) must present a government-issued birth certificate or passport prior to boarding. (While passports are not required, we highly encourage you to bring yours anyway.)
Special incentives and activities for children
When you think of a cruise geared toward children, you may instantly think of Disney Cruise Lines. However, the reality is that most cruise lines are geared toward families of all ages and most offer special incentives and activities for children.
Kids cruise free specials
Various cruise lines offer kids cruise free specials on specific voyages. Ages vary but often children under the age of 12 are allowed to sail free per two qualified paid adults on a cruise ship (sharing the same cabin). While you may still be expected to cover taxes, gratuities, port fees and expenses, this deal alone can save you thousands of dollars in international travel costs.
Here are some current kids sail free offers:
- MSC Cruises: Kids 17 and under sail free on select cruises when sailing as the third/fourth guest
- Norwegian Cruise Line: Free cruise fares for third through eighth guest sharing a cabin with the first and second guest paying full fare
- Royal Caribbean: Free cruise fare for third guests and higher who are 12 years old or younger as of cruise departure date, booked in the same stateroom as the first two qualifying guests in a triple or quad-occupancy stateroom
Most cruise ships also offer kids clubs for children ranging from infant to teen at no additional cost. Parents are able to drop off their kids at the club for an educational and engaging experience with qualified staff members. Child care is also often readily available while ships are stopped at ports of call. So, if you have a kid or teenager who would prefer to stay and enjoy activities on board, adults can head out to explore on port days or date night with free child care.
Kids programming and activities
Aside from the kid’s club, cruise ships also do an amazing job providing programming and activities for all ages. Did you know that children could have an educational or cultural experience right on board? Cruises offer a ton of kid-approved behind-the-scenes activities.
Tour the cruise ship to learn how it all works, learn to make cultural foods like sushi, learn to decorate a cupcake, participate in PE at sea or simply strike up a conversation with staff about the country that they come from. There is a wealth of knowledge and opportunity to be explored on a cruise ship and it only amplifies your children’s international travel experiences.
In addition, if cultural immersion is important to your family’s international travel experience, be sure to book an immersive excursion during your port days. These activities can range from food to cultural heritage tours and beyond. Don’t be afraid to ask the staff for help choosing. Many are very knowledgeable about each port of call.
Cruising is perfect for multigen travel
What better way to commemorate your first international trip as a family than bringing the grandparents? One of the best aspects of cruising is the large variety of offerings for multiple generations. Cruises have something for everyone from the youngest to oldest passenger. It’s a guaranteed good time and the perfect opportunity for kids to bond with their grandparents. Not only is cruising more accessible than flying Internationally but it is also more cost-effective on the wallet.
Featured image courtesy of Royal Caribbean
Welcome to The Points Guy!
WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,650
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
- Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
- Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
- With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
- Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
- Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
- Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.