There’s no two ways about it: travel with children can be daunting. No matter their age, children add complexity into what could already be considered a complicated process of getting from point A to point B. Here are four tips to make your travel plans more enjoyable:
1. Know their schedule
Whether you’re traveling with toddlers or teens, a cranky kid will make everyone around him cranky too. If your toddler sleeps well in a car seat, then strapping him into a car or airplane seat just before naptime or bedtime will lull him to sleep and you can travel in peace. If your tween daughter can’t seem to get out of bed before noon, then catching a red-eye with her will register on the Richter scale of high-stress activities. Set your family up for success by traveling at the time of day that will yield the best results.
2. Anticipate boredom
Even if you’re boarding a plane for Disneyland, your 5 year-old will need some new stimulation 20 minutes into the flight. Stash away some surprises that you can dole out when the newness of travel wears off and boredom sets in. For the little ones, a bag full of dollar store toys and treats will get some major mileage if rationed one new toy or treat every 20 minutes. For the older ones, surprise them with some new tunes on their MP3 players and a book or magazine that will keep their attention. In the case of siblings, if you’re traveling with another adult (the other parent, a grandparent or friend), seating the kids apart from one another and next to a caring adult can turn a long trip into a great bonding opportunity.
3. Prepare, prepare, prepare
Work with your travel agent to plan ahead: know the activities at your destination or along your route that will interest your family; and make advance arrangements wherever necessary for transportation, hotel stays, special activities or dining. Pack appropriately for the weather and the planned activities. As incredibly unlikely as it may be for you, try to have the car packed the day before you leave, and anticipate traffic and potty stops.
4. Be flexible
Do your best to prepare and plan ahead; and then let it go. If you think traveling with a cranky kid can be challenging, imagine traveling with a stressed-out and over-anxious grown up. While you can and should plan ahead, avoid setting unrealistic expectations for the perfect family vacation. Allow for spontaneity; and when plans and schedules fail (and they will), roll with it. Miss your connecting flight? Relax - your travel agent is here for you. Is it unseasonably cold during your beach vacation? Check out the indoor activities nearby, or buy a souvenir jacket.
With the right mix of planning and flexibility, your travel time with kids can be a truly enjoyable and bonding experience. Make the most of it and create fun memories together!