Traveling is stressful, especially when traveling with restless little ones.
Whether you’re planning to drive for a couple of hours or fly across the country, we have a few tips to make travel with your kids a breeze.
It doesn’t have to be an overwhelming experience.
These tips will help you avoid some of the more common pitfalls of traveling with kids so you can make your vacation memorable for all the right reasons.
But first, just in case you’re wondering …
What Makes Travel with Your Kids So Difficult?
Is it really that difficult?
Kids can be restless, loud, and messy at times, which can make it challenging during travel aboard an airplane.
You also have to consider how the fast-paced environment of the airport, intense security, and changes in cabin pressure as you ascend and descend, can be scary for children.
So, yes, traveling with kids isn’t always easy.
Okay, so what can you do as a parent to make travel with your kids easier?
Let’s take a look.
1. Take Advantage of Layovers
Travel days are challenging, even for the most accomplished traveler. Long lines, flight delays, acclimatizing, changes in weather and food – these all add up to stress and strain for the entire family. The top tip is to fly early. The first flights of the day almost always depart on time. In addition, the majority of travelers are a bit sleepy and simply want to rest, including your kids.
As tempting as it may be to just fly nonstop to “get there” already, this is an error. By breaking up the flight you do extend your travel time, but the value of having time off the plane to walk the terminals and decompress can make life much easier on everyone.
In addition, day flights are often best. Many parents find that arriving at a destination nearing bedtime can be the easiest on the children. Since so few people sleep well on planes, the option of a red-eye really doesn’t relate well to the real world. Especially when children are in the mix.
2. Schedule Some Free Time to Relax and Explore
It can be incredibly helpful to have some activities, or at the least ideas for activities, planned for your trip. However too much planning simply leads to stress. Even for well-traveled children, each trip is an entity onto its own and over planning can lead to unhappiness on an epic level.
It is important to plan for down time. It can become almost addicting to try to check things off on your list of things to see and do. Experienced travelers know that often the magic is in the serendipity. By taking an occasional half-day to simply wander, you will find the kids relishing in a couple of hours in the park or playing in the fountain with local children.
Even younger children can enjoy exploring ancient buildings and “adult” sights, as long as their sense of adventure and energy level are also accommodated. Another excellent tip is to spend more time in fewer locations. With less packing and unpacking and fewer travel days the entire family will be more relaxed and likely to enjoy their vacation.
3. Pack on the Light Side
Pack light. Pack light. Pack light.
Many parents make the mistake of overpacking. The reality is, by packing lightweight, quick-drying clothes, it is easier to do a bit of hand washing as you go.
It is important to note, the world has become a small place. You can find wet wipes in a random small town in Cambodia. Toothpaste and band aids are found everywhere. And your kids will undoubtedly be more interested in joining local children racing through the square than spending time with toys from home.
As for luggage, one big tip for busy parents is to use a small, day-pack backpack rather than hand luggage as your carry on. Whether on the plane or wandering a busy street, it is helpful to have your hands free.
4. Choose an apartment
Rather than rent a hotel room, consider renting an apartment. The joy and education in “living local” can make a huge impact on your children’s view of the world. And having a kitchen, even if small, can make life immeasurably easier for busy parents.
You might be wondering if this is a reasonable cost option. The fact of the matter is, renting an apartment is often a good deal less than the cost of a hotel room. When you consider the additional benefit of being able to prepare some meals at home, breakfast at the very least, the savings can truly add up. The education of seeing how others live — Priceless.
If you do decide on a hotel, be sure to arrange lodgings that include breakfast. Morning is chaotic in any situation and the ability to get the family off to a good start in the morning without needing to leave your accommodations cannot be overstated.
5. Keep calm
Blood pressures can spike when travelers see children enter their flight. Images of temper tantrums and seat-kicking add to the worry. To keep yourself, and your fellow passengers’ sanity intact, there are a few tried and true methods.
Here’s the deal. Make friends. Of course you love your children, but know not everyone else might. As you pray that the kids behave this time around, chat up the passengers around you. It is a proven fact that people are less judgmental of those they feel they know.
It might seem crazy but some parents pre-package treat bags filled with a few sweets and a note apologizing in advance if there are occasional child meltdowns.
The bottom line is to keep calm yourself. Your children will feed off of your energy. By presenting the travel as just another aspect of day to day life — an adventure even – it can aid in good feelings all around.
Traveling with your kids is an educational and wonderful opportunity. By teaching children about the world firsthand, they will become far better global citizens. In spite of the potential challenges it is well worth it to be assured that your kids will have an expanded world view. Just make sure to keep the seat back-kicking to a minimum.