Traveling With Kids Can Be Easier Than You Think
Whether you are planning a family vacation as a getaway, having the kids tag along for a work trip, or a last-minute trip to be with an ailing family member, traveling with kids can seem harder than climbing Mount Everest. As daunting as it may seem, with a few simple tips, you will be wondering why you don’t hit the road more often.
Start the Countdown
It may seem easier to keep your vacation plans under wraps until close to your departure day, but letting your kids in on the plans gives them time to wrap their head around what’s happening — especially if they aren’t seasoned travelers.
Mark the date on the family calendar and start a countdown on the fridge, or create a “how many sleeps” chart. Include things like the day to start packing and a list of what to bring and what not to bring. Maybe four days before departure they can choose the books they bring, choose their toys three days before, and leave day-to-day items like toiletries and medications for the day before.
Bust out the Map
Kids usually have no concept of distance or time. Showing them a map, whether it be a paper or digital one, will help them understand where they are going.
Setting landmarks they are familiar with or visit often will help them understand distance and time. Explaining to them they will be in the car or plane for the duration of three movies could also help delay the inevitable, “Are we there yet? How much longer?”
Research Your Destination
Research the place you’re traveling to. Have the kids choose an activity that interests them and add it to the itinerary. They will have something to look forward to, and something you can use as motivation if they need a little nudge to behave.
Plan Lots of Travel Distractions
There are lots of things you can bring along to keep the kids occupied alongside their DVDs or video games. Here are a few great, easy and inexpensive ideas:
Road bingo: There are many websites to print off road bingo templates. Playing together is a great way to take in your surroundings and enjoy every town you pass through along the way. Bring along small prizes for the first to win the bingo.
Velcro sticks: By adding Velcro circles to the end of popsicle sticks, your kids can build towers or make patterns without the worry of them falling apart as soon as you hit a bump, or turn a corner.
Activity cookie trays: With a simple cookie sheet, you can create a creative flat surface for your kids to play on. They can be dual purpose and have different activities on both sides, and in a pinch they can make a tray table to eat on. Anything from a magnet board, Lego station or coloring center can be created with a little prep work.
Don’t just grab a box of crackers and a case of juice boxes; try and keep your children’s diet as close to the norm as possible. Pack their lunch boxes as you would on a school day, or have a variety of portable foods in a small cooler if the trip will last longer than a few hours.
Keeping them within reach is also very important. You should also add a package of baby wipes to wipe dirty hands, clean messy faces, or wipe up marker that has gotten anywhere other than the coloring page. Also, have a few plastic bags on hand to collect garbage along the way — they can be tossed at pit stops.
Coordinate Your Hotel Accommodations
If you are traveling with a baby or toddler, check to see if your hotel has a crib you can use. Call ahead to clarify what style of crib they can supply; some hotels will say they can provide a crib, when in reality it is a play pen.
Be sure to inspect the crib before you place your child in it to sleep. Keep in mind these cribs are rolled around from room to room every night with multitudes of children in and out of them, jumping, rolling around and climbing on when they aren’t sleeping.
Planning to stop at a hotel with a pool or games room is a nice way to pass the time, and a great way to get out the energy that has been pent up all day in the car. Don’t forget about yourselves as well; remember to bring along quiet activities or games you and your spouse can play once the kids are asleep.
Hotels that include a breakfast buffet are also a must when traveling with kids. Stopping for three meals a day at restaurants can take a toll on your pocketbook, so opting for a hotel that provides one of the three meals can help keep the travel budget in check. You can also grab a few snacks from the buffet to take with you — muffins, fresh fruit or small milk cartons will help get you through until lunch on the road.
Take Photos and Keep a Journal
This can be a great activity for older children; having them keep a diary of their trip helps keep them engaged and feel involved. Spend time each night reviewing the day’s activities and talk about what they liked and disliked about the day.
Doing this can help you take caliber of where they are at; if you are trying to cram a ton of activities into your short time away and the kids feel rushed and tired, they aren’t going to have as much fun. Spend half a day swimming in the hotel pool or take a trip to the local market in search of treasure that represents the culture. It doesn’t have to be back-to-back museum or amusement park — remember, vacations need some relaxing time too.
Traveling with kids can be challenging, but it can also be a great way to reconnect and unwind as a family. Take everyone’s ages and interests into account and you will be in for an adventure to remember. Take lots of pictures to document your time, and include the one who is always behind the camera.
Try and keep mealtimes, naptimes and bedtimes as close to when they happen at home to avoid the afternoon child monster from showing its face. Have fun with your kids, go down the waterslide with them, put your phone down and ride the roller coaster. Vacations don’t happen every day, enjoy it while it lasts.