Tips to Take the Stress Out of Traveling With Children
Travel offers a world of enrichment and education for children of all ages, but some parents may be worried that traveling with children, especially younger ones, will be too stressful. Thankfully, there are a few tips that can make your trips with the kids more fun and enjoyable for your entire family.
Pack Some Healthy Snacks
Drive-thrus and airports are filled with sugary, unhealthy snacks that can make your kids cranky. Be prepared with some healthy snacks you won’t mind letting them eat. If you’re traveling in a car, pack a cooler with food and drinks to help keep your little ones satisfied. Taking a flight instead? You may be surprised to know that you can still pack your own snacks for your kids. Just be sure to check TSA guidelines around food and liquids before you stash those goodies in your bag. Some items may need to be in your checked bag to clear through security. While healthy snacks are always best, sometimes children are inconsolable. Bring along some tried and true methods to keep them calm in a pinch such as a few M&Ms or a pack of gummy fruit snacks. This doesn’t make you a bad parent; it makes you a smart one. Small snacks are also a great thing to bring along to lunch and dinner when the food is taking longer than expected and the kids need something to tide them over.
Bring Supplies to Ease the Journey
Hotels and rentals don’t always have all you need to keep your kids comfortable and entertained. When you’re traveling, having a tablet or smartphone loaded with your kids’ favorite TV shows and movies can be a real lifesaver for your sanity. Pack a travel bag for each child filled with activities catered to the age and preferences of your child. Older children may enjoy an activity book, books, or even a map with the route highlighted to follow along and mark the progress. Younger children need something a little more hands-on and interactive to keep them occupied such as a magna doodle, water wow ink, or a scratch art doodle pad for mess-free coloring. Babies need something to keep them from getting bored too such as small toys, teethers, or a car seat mirror. It’s a good idea to bring activity bags/backpacks when you go out to eat as well to keep children occupied while they wait for their food as well as after they have finished. Try to find backpacks and bags with adjustable straps or clips to attach it to strollers in case the inevitable happens and you end up being the one carrying everything. You might find it worth your while to invest in a wagon before the trip, many of which fold up for easy assembly and storage.
Make Sleeping Plans
If you will be traveling with babies or young children, you know the importance of naps and bedtime routines. However, when you are away from home, this requires some adjustment. Try to stick to routines as much as possible including bathtime and reading before bed or bringing their go-to naptime blanket or stuffed animal. If possible, book a room with separate bedrooms, or divide the room by hanging a bed sheet so that the presence of mom and dad doesn’t keep them awake. However, it’s okay to break a few rules. This could mean letting your child snuggle in with you for the night or taking naps in the stroller, on the beach, or wherever the nap happens. Perhaps one parent could return to the room for nap time while the other enjoys some alone time or time with the older children. A portable or travel crib can make your life easier. Travel-friendly cribs break down easily and provide some extra space in situations where space is a major commodity, as Wayfair points out. Some cribs can even fit in your luggage, making them super easy to take on flights with kids. It may take a few days for your children to adjust to the new vacation routine, and the same applies when you return home. However, once you find the sweet spot, you’ll know.
Use Travel to Provide an Education
One of the perks of traveling with children is the endless opportunity for experience and education. Travel helps children learn to love new experiences and adapt to unexpected changes with ease. Children are also exposed to different cultures, dialects and languages, helping them to have a better appreciation for the vast world around them. Use your travel to enhance these experiences for your kids. Help them learn a new language or give them some objectives when exploring a new place. This is the perfect time to encourage them to try new things whether it be something simple like boogie boarding in the ocean or something more adventurous such as zip lining or riding an elephant. Before you depart, give your child some fun facts about the location you’ll be visiting to get them stoked to learn more during their trip. Older children might enjoy doing some research of their own to not only learn about the place they will be visiting, but bring some potential family activities to the table. If you’ll be traveling by car and have some time to spare, plan a few stops along the way at cool landmarks or historical sites. Turn it into a way to pass the time by asking children to write about or draw what they saw.
Outfit Your Kids for All Possibilities
Keeping your children happy and comfortable can help you all enjoy your travels more. Be prepared for any kind of weather or activity by packing for any possibility. Include some comfy, breathable clothes, and try to plan out outfits in layers in case of a sudden dip in temperatures. Bring some activewear along on all your journeys so you’ll be ready to go on that impromptu hike together. It’s smart to pack a few pairs of comfortable shoes for your children (and yourself as well), and don’t forget their hat. Let your kids help you pack to build their excitement about the trip. Be sure to bring along extra changes of clothes in case of an accident, as well as a trash bag to store soiled clothes and diapers. Bring the little things too such as sunglasses for when the cloudy day suddenly turns sunny, umbrellas for an unexpected rain shower, bug spray to prevent bites, and a first aid kit for bumps, bruises, and blisters.
Resist the Urge to Overload the Itinerary
Traveling to a new place means there are tons of things to do and little time to do it in. It might seem like a good idea in theory to fill the day with activity after activity to keep the children busy, but this can leave children feeling tired, cranky, and overwhelmed. Opt for an itinerary that includes one big activity or excursion with room for smaller, relaxing activities. Research kid-friendly places and activities ahead of time so you don’t waste time trying to decide what to do and see first. Keep in mind that an itinerary should be flexible to allow for impromptu fun and exploration. Plus, trying to shuffle the kids around to stick to time constraints turns a relaxing time into a stressful one. Take a page from your child’s book and try to go with the flow so that you can enjoy your time together rather than rushing from one place to another. If you’re a scheduler, make a basic outline with suggested activities, eating spots, and anything you absolutely must do before you return home.
Talk to Your Kids About Travel Safety
Traveling with children can be nerve-wracking if you’re constantly worried about them getting lost or running into danger. If your kids are old enough to understand, have a conversation with them about travel safety. Talk to them about interactions with strangers and what to be cautious of. If you have older children, let them know that it’s unsafe to post their location on social media and to be careful of interacting with others online. Finally, be sure your kids know what to do in the event of a travel emergency. Spend some time pointing out the appropriate adults to approach should they become separated from you such as a police officer, security guard, or a store employee. Point out a few spots that can be a meeting place just in case, and be sure to attach your contact information to your child’s backpack or belt loop. Store local emergency numbers and addresses in your phone, as well as a written note, should you need to seek help immediately.
Travel is an unparalleled experience for children and families. It’s a way to bring your family closer together and give your children more confidence, more life experience and more appreciation for their world. Don’t let yourself get too stressed, and don’t let your worries keep you from making a lifetime of memories on the road with your kids.
Written By Daniel Sherwin
Helen Smiths informative article on Parentslists