It’s never easy to travel with kids of any age, but here are some simple tips to make any trip a little easier.
Keep calm and plug it in
Usually, we, as parents, try to limit the time our kids use electronics, but let me say this loud and clear: These rules do not apply on vacation. When you’re on a family trip and it requires seemingly endless hours of traveling from point A to point B by plane, car or train, the sanest way to spend that time with your kids is to take along electronics.
In the “good ol’ days” our parents weren’t so lucky. They had to endure the incessant fighting, yelling and nagging, and frequently threatened “to stop the car,” or “turn the car around.” That was a vacation full of dread, not fun. Today, we don’t have to suffer like that as parents—well, maybe a little bit. If it means listening to Frozen 10 times, because your kids just can’t “let it go,” or deciphering your teenagers’ Neanderthal grunts as answers to questions, because they’re hypnotized by a smartphone game, then that’s okay—life will go back to normal after the vacation.
Depending on the ages of your kids and how many you have with you, it’s important to have the trip planned out to the smallest detail. There is a difference between kid-tolerant and kid-friendly; therefore, don’t assume that every hotel and restaurant is excited about your kids as you are. Remember, this is your vacation too. If you can find a hotel that “enjoys” families and offers extras, such as free cribs, high chairs, breakfast included, “kids eat free,” family-friendly pools, even free shuttles to popular destinations, then book a room at the inn. Also, word from the wise when traveling with little ones: Get a hotel close to your destination, like an amusement park or the beach, even if it costs slightly more. It’s such a convenience when they’re tired and cranky and desperate for a nap, or simply need to call it a day a little earlier than usual.
Just what the doctor ordered
I know we often think of vacation as a time to splurge on anything and everything on a menu. In my humble opinion, vacation is the worst time for this. Get the most of your vacation with healthy meals and load up on plenty of sensible snacks, in order to prevent the impulse of buying feedbags worth of chips or trough-sized soft drinks. There’s nothing like breaking the mood of a vacation with the moans and groans of stomach pains, and dad certainly won’t be too happy when he has to make a late-night run to the pharmacy because someone in the family binged on copious amounts of junk food.
Keep in mind, too, that a few first aid items can save your trip. Some bandaids, first aid cream, Tylenol, Tums and Benadryl in a small plastic baggy will do the trick when moments of feeling under the weather come out of the blue.
Kids need moments to release their pent-up energy. We always plan playtime into whatever we do. Before we head out on a long trip, we always make sure that our two little ones have at least one hour of some sort of physical exercise. We make them walk around at the airport, find playgrounds during road trips, let them splash around in hotel swimming pools, and have them do little exercises in their airplane seats. However, this doesn’t depend on the age of your child. Kids of any age need exercise, and it’s important to incorporate this into your day.
Each child, no matter the age, should be designated to one parent, who assumes responsibility for their whereabouts at all times. My husband and I neglected to do this once, and we paid the price for it. Both of us focused on our daughter, who was having an endearing screaming session at the top of her lungs, and that time allowed our son to escape without us noticing. We ran around frantically looking for him for almost 15 minutes on a busy beach full of tourists. Luckily, a nice man saw the direction he ran and found him for us; he had gone hundreds of feet away. It was the most terrifying moment of my life. Now, we never go anywhere without deciding on who is responsible for which child. I have also heard of a “kid-finder,” the same thing you use for lost keys. You attach the alarm to the child’s wrist, and you, the parent, carry the remote. If at any time the child goes out of sight, you simply push the button on the remote and an alarm on your child sounds loudly, helping you to find the little rascal and relieving you from a panic attack. I think such an alarm would be really fun to put on your teenager—just saying, that’s all.
Get your beauty sleep
You would think this was a no-brainer, but getting enough sleep can make the difference between a great vacation with your kids, or a vacation that you would rather not remember. If our vacation is longer than a few days, we always make sure that one of the days is a rest day and simply take it easy. So, shut off the television, make the room cool, turn off the lights and put the troupe down for a good night’s slumber. I actually love traveling with small kids, because they give us an excuse to go back to the hotel and take an afternoon cat nap.
Remember, family vacations will be one of your child’s fondest memories. Plus, it’s socially acceptable now to take them with you all over the world. However, a little planing and knowledge goes a long way, and it’ll ensure that a holiday is great for the family—parents included.