When should we be looking at hiring a car or using public transport?
It all depends.
How old are the kids? What country are you going to? Language? Your own driving ability? Roads?
Typically, parents with young kids may well want to rent a car- it’s so much easier to carry your stuff around, and you are free to move when you like. But you have to be a confident driver once you start looking at foreign countries.
We went to Morocco when our daughter was about 18 months. We rented a car and it worked out just fine But I do have some command of French, and I was used to driving in the Middle East, which was probably a good training ground. I’ll never forget driving over mountain passes with no barriers on the side, and having to make way for trucks etc coming around blind turns. Never mind the child seat we rented with the car – no proper straps, meaning that our daughter was often falling straight through.
In Mexico, we went by bus. It worked out great – my feeling was that if a country has a great bus system, use it. This applies as well to Turkey, Israel, Chile and many other countries in South America.
In India we had a car and driver – there was no way I was going to drive, and I was not prepared for our family of 5 to suffer on the buses. However, Indian trains are just fine and we used them and wouldn’t hesitate to do so again.
In South Africa driving is simple. I will always rent a car, as I wouldn’t want to trust the buses or the trains.
Age wise, there is no doubt that traveling with older kids should mean that using public transport is an easier decision to make.
My take – do your research, read forum and blogs on the web, ask around. It can mean a great or disastrous trip!
PS These days I am planning great family trips to destinations on five continents. If you’d like to see how I can help you, press here.