I thought I'd put down a few lessons or tips we've learned along the way. Things that we found make travelling with kids easier or better or more fun. I'll add to this list as I discover them...
1) have treats on hand for longer bus rides or for activities the adults might enjoy but the kids wouldn't. (But be careful to not overload on sweets.. I did that a few times.. and paid the price when the sugar crash came).
2) have treats/snacks for hikes or walks (my kids love to run but hate to walk 10 meters is seems!).. treats/snacks worked great as a motivation for our kids.. though they would try to convince us that we should stop and have the treat only a few minutes into the walk or hike.
3) bring or buy comfort foods along the way, foods that will remind them of home. For us, having peanut butter on hand helped when our youngest didn't want to eat anything off the menu and green apples (his favourite) for the other.. did wonders.
4) when possible find a pension/hostel/hotel with kitchen facilities of some sort - letting the kids just have a bowl of cereal in the morning does wonders or fixing a simple pasta meal makes it feel more homey.
(you'll note the food theme..)
5) if travelling for a long time.. renting a house or apartment or staying put for a few weeks helps to create a bit more of a home life environment, both adults and kids enjoy the break from the travels.
6) give the kids a bit of the local currency to spend on treats or crafts.. makes the shopping at markets more interesting for them.
7) let the kids in on the planning, decisions (as much as reasonable).. give them notice of what is coming up or what the next part of the travels will be. Get their input on what they would like to do.. Sean got pretty good at planning a day out for us.
8) factor in some flex days incase everyone just feels a bit tired or cranky and you can have a chill day instead of forcing an outing that no one really feels like doing anyways.
9) create some routines within all the travelling. For us, it was bed time routine we tried to keep - reading a book to the kids before bed along with their favourite blanket/stuffy for snuggling into sleep. (it amazes me that the kids are so resilient when it comes to sleeping in strange places night after night!).
10) in the beginning of our travels I was so eager for this to be a great educational experience for the kids, I was boring them with my attempts to explain everything or share the significance of things we were seeing.. I gave that up and just let the kids enjoy the experience and not worry so much about how much they were getting out of it. Maybe that's not the right way to go with that, but I found we all had a lot more fun and it reduced my frustration anyways!
11) bring a map and chart your travels with the kids.. it helps them to get a sense of where they've been and where they are going. In the beginning it didn't seem like much but after a few months.. the kids really enjoyed looking at the map and seeing where they've been and they would also point at an interesting section of the map and say "can we go there?"
12) have a notebook and pens handy for the kids to draw, doodle, give an outlet for their creative energies - it's a great activity while waiting at restaurants, between bus waits, quite time at hotel rooms, and allowing the adults to relax a bit after a meal. It was easy to find replacement notebooks and pens in almost every little town.