Travel

Children and travel: How to travel with kids without going crazy

Author: Canadian Living

Travel

Children and travel: How to travel with kids without going crazy

Keeping it in the family
Until you're a parent, you cannot possibly appreciate how much is involved in getting every member of the family ready to get out the door each morning, let alone for a family vacation. Family vacations take a lot of planning and preparation. I know this from experience. I also know that it's worth it, because family vacations can provide some of the best memories of your life. Following are tips and advice to help you make your next family vacation memorable, more stress free, and above all, fun.

Involve the kids
Get the kids on board by involving them in the planning. Their specific role will depend on their age and your patience, but it could be colouring a map of the route, reading books or watching movies about the destination, helping to find a hotel within a budget, and planning which attractions to visit. They can also participate in the packing. Even small children can choose a favourite toy and book to pop in their suitcase (although it doesn't hurt for you to pop a few extras in your suitcase, especially if you suspect that your child has made a choice he or she will later regret).

Keep them busy
Books, toys, stickers, educational games, portable DVD and game players, books on tape, and music CDs to sing along with can all make a huge difference to how happy your child is while en route. You could ever put together an activity bag for each child, perhaps keeping it as a surprise for when they get into the car or onto the plane. Once you're at your destination, find a way for them to blow off some steam by playing active games or going for a walk on the beach. Physical activity is a great stress reliever for the whole family. (Try seat-bound yoga stretches in cars and planes!)

Carry extras
Extra moistened wipes, extra changes of clothes, extra snacks (buy extra drinks once you're through airport security if you're flying, because security rules restrict the amount of liquids you can bring in carry-on luggage), extra toys and books, and extra bottle or pacifiers. Expect that extra plastic, recloseable freezer bags will become your new best friend.

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Excerpted from Travel Best Bets: An Insider's Guide to Taking the Best Trips Ever, copyright 2008 by Claire Newell. Excerpted with permission from Whitecap Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced except with permission in writing from the publisher.
Make lists – and check them twice
Okay, so you may be able to "grab and go" for yourself at the last minute, but don't try this with kids. You may not mind if you forget your favourite toothbrush, but if you forget theirs, you'll never hear the end of it. With apologies to Santa for stealing his strategy, make a list for each child and check it twice. Then have the children collect everything on their own list (if practical), and check off the items with you. That way you'll have a better shot at nice, instead of naughty.

Adapt your schedule to theirs
You may be used to planning a trip based on how long you're willing to sit in a car, or what time of day you prefer to fly. Welcome to a brave new world! To reduce the likelihood of toddler and small child temper explosions, travel on their schedule instead; specifically, their sleep schedule. A long flight or car journey will be so much easier if you can do it while they're sleeping – usually overnight. You'll have to factor in the fact that you'll be arriving at the destination exhausted, while the kids will be refreshed and ready to go, but it may be your best option for a quiet flight or drive. Plan for plenty of bathroom breaks or diaper changes, too.

Know when to fold 'em
Vacations BC (before children) may have involved art galleries, sculpture museums, and historic monuments. Vacations AC (you get the idea) can involve those only in small doses, unless you're looking for an active rebellion. Vacations will be happier for everyone involved if they're geared to activities that your children will enjoy and can fully participate in, and if they include some "downtime" for the children when they can play independently or read.

Don't forget parent stress relievers
And no, I don't mean tranquilizers. Recognize that you need adult time on your vacation, too. If it's practical, plan on taking advantage of children's programs and babysitting at resorts and hotels and on cruises. Perhaps arrange with your partner to give each other a couple hours of "alone" time when you need it most. Pack individual sachets of bubble bath just for you once everyone's tucked into bed.

Think healthy
Everyone's going to be in a better mood if you can moderate sugar intake, keep kids and adults well hydrated (despite the resulting bathroom breaks!) and avoid hunger pangs. Smaller meals or snacks eaten at frequent intervals can work really well. You may have to restrict fruit and veggies if you're flying internationally, but otherwise, snack-size portions are a fantastic idea for journeys, as are crackers, cheese, and basically anything that's not packed with sugar. Save sugary snacks for an occasional treat when nerves are on the ropes. (Don't forget something for yourself!)

Emergencies 'r us
Go through your medical supplies at home, and think about what you'd do if your child said they had a headache, stuffy nose, or tummy ache, if they fell down and hurt themselves, or if they started running a fever. Whatever you need in response to common childhood ailments, bring it along. While you may be able to find supplies at your destination, it will be less than convenient, and possibly not even an option, to run out to the nearest drugstore in the middle of the night.

Travel best bets
A friend's sister gave her five-year-old son his own disposable camera when they took a driving vacation through the Rocky Mountains. It gave him a lot of pleasure to be in charge of his own photos, and she said that although he didn't take the most traditional photos, some of them were downright artistic!

Want to know where the best washrooms are (or even where ANY washrooms are) at your sightseeing destinations? Check them ahead of time at www.thebathroomdiaries.com. And for best results, always carry your own toilet paper and hand sanitizer gel, just in case.

Read more:
Travel facts and checklist: Are you ready for your trip?
March Break ideas: Things to do with kids on March Break
7 reasons to visit Maui

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Excerpted from Travel Best Bets: An Insider's Guide to Taking the Best Trips Ever, copyright 2008 by Claire Newell. Excerpted with permission from Whitecap Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced except with permission in writing from the publisher.
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Children and travel: How to travel with kids without going crazy

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