5 reasons why cruising is the best way to plan an international vacation with kids

Nov 8, 2020

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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.

Author Sierra Redmond and her family aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise. (Photo courtesy of the author)

These are the five reasons I think cruising with kids is the best way to conquer international travel as a family.

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In This Post


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.

An example of a Mediterranean itinerary departing from Civitavecchia (Rome). (Screenshot courtesy of Royal Caribbean)

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.

Related: The 9 craziest attractions you’ll find on a cruise ship

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.

Even short cruises can include multiple interesting port calls. (Screenshot courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line)

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.

Related: The ultimate guide to Norwegian Cruise Line

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.)

Related: Everything you need to know about getting your child’s passport

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

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.

Related: 17 tips for sailing on the Disney Cruise Line

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
Royal Caribbean
The author’s son loves the cruise lifestyle! (Photo courtesy of the author)

Kids clubs

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.

Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas Adventure Ocean
Adventure Ocean, a free play space aboard Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas. (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean)

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

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