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Traveling with kids can be… well… a challenge, but with a little planning, can also bring tremendous joy and lasting memories.
Traveling with kids can be fun (really!). Whether for the first time or the tenth, it can be also be daunting, but you can make it more meaningful and enjoyable for both you and your kids. Children start to remember their vacations at around 5 to 6 years. Although we may not recall every detail of our childhood, for many, family vacations hold a special place in our hearts. And while your kids won’t remember everything, still those moments become a part of who they are.
Whether it’s the Great American Roadtrip or a destination resort you’re heading to, here are some tips to keep you both sane during your journey.
Have a Budget
The best way to travel with kids is to start with a budget. Some people think traveling with their children must be expensive — but it doesn’t have to be a runaway train. Stick to your budget by adopting certain habits. For example, if you want to make your vacation more affordable, consider eating in. Eating out is one of the easiest ways to rack up your expenses while traveling. If you’re camping, carry your own food from your local market and use your savings for special treats like coffee at local cafes and ice cream. It’s also worth mentioning to choose your destinations wisely, as different communities can vary widely in the cost of accommodations, entertainment and food.
Booking Your Flight
For many parents, flying with kids can be frustrating or even embarrassing. The first step is planning (notice a pattern?); for instance, before booking your flight, consider the seats and flight schedule. Ensure that your young ones sit together and the flight schedule is consistent with their routine. Be cautious about red-eye flights; they leave late at night and arrive early in the morning. These flights are painful for most adults, but especially for kids. Be mindful of the flight schedule; the last thing you want to do is bring cranky toddlers on a red-eye. If you have no other choice than to fly overnight, plan to make some adjustments. Eat before the flight so you can relax and worry about one less thing. Ensure that your young ones are comfortable and ideally, tired come boarding time.
Make a list of all essential items, so you don’t leave some behind. A key tenet when traveling with children is to be organized. Don’t leave anything to chance; plan ahead. You’re not just packing for yourself; it’s not only throwing toiletries and a few clothes in a suitcase and getting your passport. When you have toddlers, you have to think about the whole family; you have to pack essential items like travel-size children’s toothpaste, wet wipes, diapers, and baby formula. Make a list and check off every essential item you pack. If your children are older, you can buy them children’s travel bags with wheels to carry their items like their favorite toys. Involve your kids in the process of selecting clothes and packing their bags.
Choose the Best Travel Destinations
To have an awesome trip, do some research on the best travel destinations for young families. Think about what your family enjoys; for instance, if you are into water sports, you could visit a destination with a beach or waterfall. If you want to learn about culture, take your family to places where they will get a glimpse of the old and modern world. You can also explore places with warmer climates or go on a trip inspired by nature. Whatever your destination, seek out the best spots, especially those reviewed favorably by parents of young ones.
Explain to Your Kids
It’s important to introduce your youngsters to the trip, especially if this is their first time. When children are uncomfortable, they can’t be expected to enjoy the trip. Go over what to expect and new things they may encounter; this will help them understand the journey at each point. Tell them what to expect at the airport, plane, and destination. Top Mom is a helpful resource for kid gear that can make your life a little easier.
A Word on Etiquette
Of course, when travelling with children, it’s important to be considerate of those around you. However, don’t feel as though you need to please every nearby passenger beyond common courtesy. Some people simply don’t like being around children, and that’s really their problem, not yours. And often, there are circumstances at play beyond issues of ‘good behavior’. For instance, if your toddlers are cranky, it doesn’t mean that they are doing it on purpose. They might be hungry or their ears may hurt from cabin pressure changes, or they might have a fever (having some children’s pain reliever/fever reducer on hand is a good idea!).
Bond as a Family
Make the trip better by bonding; give your kids various responsibilities. One of the best ways is to assign duties like reading maps, which gives them a sense of self-worth and confidence. It also helps them to make quick decisions and you know where they are and what they are doing at all times.
Apart from deciding when to travel with kids, you also have to consider their safety. Always keep track of your youngsters no matter where you are. Be wary of small distractions; one second, you look away, and the next second, your daughter may be causing chaos in a nearby shop. If you’re traveling with your spouse or partner, you could assign parent duties or have your older kids watch the younger ones. Of course, never let your kids do certain things by themselves that may pose a risk, such as starting a campfire or wondering off unattended. You may also want to have a travel children’s toilet seat, which can be safer and easier during travel.
It’s important to bring a car seat — you don’t drive with your kids without a car seat at home; this also applies when you travel. If you plan to hire or rent a car but don’t know where to get a car seat, make your trip easy by bringing your own. Most car rentals provide car seats, but you should confirm before your trip.
When you think about why you want to travel with kids, it’s all about showing them new experiences and learning about different cultures. But also think about the journey itself; bring entertainment gadgets to keep them busy — this reduces the boredom and makes the trip more fun. Of course, video games and movies on a tablet or smartphone can keep them entertained for hours, but old-fashion word games and stories, and even the classic alphabet game are fun pastimes that everyone can participate in.
Bring a Camera
This may come as a surprise in the age of smartphones, but a camera can be a wonderfully engaging and creative tool for children. You don’t have to give your kids a fancy camera; a simple and durable one will do. Having a camera separate from a phone is both technologically interesting and also keeps them focused on the task of creating pictures, without all the other distractions on a phone. If they are too young, let them help you use your own camera or the camera on your phone.
The act of taking pictures helps youngsters take notice of and focus on their surroundings. They might even capture a masterpiece! They can see the lovely landscape, architecture, and crowds with fresh eyes.
Traveling with kids can be a bit chaotic, even if you’re used to it. Yet, it can be incredibly fun and memorable as you see the excitement on their faces. That said, a little advance planning will go a long way toward ensuring a great trip for everyone.
You may also enjoy reading Family Time: 6 Tips for Creating & Maintaining Strong Family Bonds by Nora Mark