A life of travelling and exotic holidays doesn’t necessarily have to end when you have children in tow. Yes, it will be more difficult and challenging. But the experience doesn’t have to be traumatic. Use this opportunity to help your children fall in love with travelling and seeing the world. Here are some suggestions to help make family travels less stressful on you, your children, and fellow travellers.
Flying with children can seem intimidating. Nobody wants to be “those people” everyone hates; you know the ones, with screaming children and juggling bags, always holding up the lines. Often, bad behavior in children comes from stress and anxiety of the unknown. The key to avoiding this is preparation. Inform your children of what they are about to experience. Explain the process and get them excited.
Know the airline’s policies on child fares and luggage allowance. Strollers usually don’t count as a carry-on and can be checked in at the gate. Many airlines provide a “meet and assist” service to help with children. Take it slow. Give yourself plenty of time to go through the airport calmly, without having to rush or hold up lines. If you have two adults, let one focus on checking in, while the other wonders or rests with the kids. If possible, choose your flights around sleep times if you think your infant or toddler will sleep on the plane.
Pack little “plane bags” for preschoolers and school-aged children, with toys, activities, and snacks for the plane. Make the journey exciting and the flight something to anticipate. For older school-aged kids and teenagers, encourage them to draw or write a journal about the trip. Bring plenty of activities for the flight, but pack light enough so you won’t be carrying everything half-way through the trip. Overpack snacks. Try to pack savory snacks rather than too many sweets to avoid sugar rush (and crash) during the trip.
Hotels can be very exciting for little ones. They can also mess up bedtime routines. The whole family sleeping in one room can prove to be difficult. Renting a larger apartment or even an entire house may be more practical. Having the comforts of a full house helps put the children at ease and gives the whole family more space, as well as typically providing a kitchen which is great if you have picky eaters.
If you do go with a hotel, find something advertised as ‘kid friendly’. Many of these places offer cribs and parent-child suites. Also, kid-friendly hotels often provide activities and support services to help keep everyone entertained or fully relaxed. No matter where you’re staying, make sure you can check in as soon as you arrive. That may mean paying for an extra night or an early check-in. It is almost guaranteed everyone will be exhausted after the flight and will need some down time before doing any exploring.
When On Location.
Wherever you are going, try to get your children excited about the adventure. Do some research so that you know what to expect when you get there. Expose your children to the place beforehand through stories and videos. Try to avoid too much running around once you reach your destination. Children often find public transportation to be challenging, so factor that in if necessary. Better yet, stay in one place and make day-trips from there.
If you have babies or toddlers, make sure the places you want to visit are stroller friendly. If you have teenagers, engage them with activities such as researching the area or planning excursions. Give older children an iPad or disposable camera to take pictures. Enlist them to create a travelog with pictures and descriptions of the places you’ll see.
When considering activities, be sure to make plan – but don’t overplan. Leave plenty of room for resting and impromptu changes. If bringing infants or toddlers, be sure there is plenty of time for resting, feeding, and changing. Incorporate activities that will allow your toddlers and preschoolers to run around and burn off the extra energy that tends to build with excitement.
When travelling with older children, ask yourself what interests them and tailor your vacation around activities for everyone. Are your children interested in farming? Are they fascinated with the ocean depths? Would they prefer the excitement of downhill skiing to the quiet solitude of cross country? Don’t worry if you can’t please everyone in a single holiday. There’s always next year’s vacation to think about, too.
Travelling with children can easily be a nightmare. It can also be the makings for the most precious memories you and your children may ever share. Children of all ages like to be involved, so let them be a part of the planning and decision-making process. Travel at a comfortable pace for all involved – even if that means going ridiculously early in the morning, or lingering for a short nap poolside. Take your time, and enjoy the moment.