by Kaeti Spanbauer
Leave with plenty of time
Whether you are traveling by plane, car, bus, or train, make sure to leave with plenty of time. It may take you a few minutes to figure out where you’re going and arrive on time, but packing a tribe of kids around will definitely take extra time. So, take things slow and plan to leave your home earlier than expected, this way you are relaxed and not rushing to pull off 5 pairs of shoes while hustling through security.
This one may go without saying, but plan ahead. If you are driving make sure you know what route you are taking, where the bathroom stops and rest areas are, (pack an extra charger if you are using GPS), and have a place to stay reserved in advance – even if you are camping.
For other modes of transportation like planes, trains, and buses, try to find what gate (or stop) you need to be at ahead of time. A great time to look up your gate is right before you start your drive. This way you will know where you are going while your kids are in a safe environment, and you won’t have to look it up when you get there and try to make sure your kids stay by you at the same time. If you can check in on your phone early for any part of your travel process, do it. This will save you some steps once you arrive at your mode of transportation.
Make Travel as Comfortable as Possible
Travel can be long for children, whether it’s 2 hours or 16! So, bring items to make the trip comfortable. Yummy snacks can help keep them fed between long spurts where there are no stops or restaurants. Bringing a favorite toy, movie, or book can help them stay entertained. And blankets and pillows (anything to make sleep easier) can provide more comfort in a tight space. If possible, spread your kids apart as much as possible in the car so they have room to stretch and layout. If on a plane bring some gum for your kids to chew on to help with the pressure in their ears. And if you have a newborn or small baby feed them right before you get on the plane to help them sleep. Granted even when you have made the trip as comfortable as possible, there are bound to be a few unpleasant parts. Know it’s normal, and you’re doing your best!
Trying not to overpack is easier said than done. Kids have a lot of routines, and sometimes we try to fit them all in the car or suitcase. This can leave less room in the car for your children to sit comfortably or less room in their suitcase so they can bring something they love back. Traveling will already disrupt your children’s routines, so pack only what’s necessary and try to leave room for a new experience.
Explain the Trip (If it’s not a surprise)
Before embarking on your family adventure, go over the travel plans and expectations with your kids. Prepare them for where they will be going, how they are going to get there, and any rules you want them to follow like holding your hand, not talking to strangers, etc. A new surrounding can be exciting and overwhelming, so having some preparation can be really beneficial. If your trip is a surprise, you can discuss travel specifics (car, plane, etc.) before you start your journey and expectations and rules for the trip once you arrive.
While traveling and at your destination, keep track of your kids. They are in a new environment that is full of wonder and may wander to look at something they have never seen before. Have your kids ever wandered in the grocery store? It can be scary as a parent to travel with kids as much as it is exciting. That is why it is so important to prepare our kids before we go. Make sure they know the rules you want to follow like:
- Don’t wander off, especially with someone you don’t know – even if they say they know mommy and daddy.
- Stay with your buddy. One of the best things you can do is pair your kids together with a partner. This way they are looking out for each other and are never alone. If possible, pair older kids with younger kids. Your older children can really help you take care of your littles and help keep track of where they are.
- Always stay with mom and dad. Let your kids know there will be much to see at your new destination and not to go look at anything without you. Have them tell you if they want to view something in particular first, and you will make sure they can see it, if it’s appropriate.
- Keep mom and dad’s contact information with you at all times! Make sure your kids have your contact information whether it’s written on the tags of their clothes, a bracelet, or their backpack. And even if it is memorized, make sure they have a written copy. In a stressful situation, it can be easy to forget even simple information. Teach them where to find it and how to use it. And if they by some small chance get lost, teach them what you want them to do in that situation (ex: stay put).
- Yell [this phrase] if someone you don’t know asks you to come with them. It may be very valuable to let your kids know a few self-defense moves and what to say and yell if a stranger tries to take them. Vacationing with kids can be very fun, but it’s important to prepare our kids in case of a dangerous situation. It’s better to prepare them than to leave them helpless. Just because you prepare your child does not mean the situation will happen, but now they know what to do.
Add and adjust any rules that you feel are appropriate. Another suggestion for keeping an eye on your kids is by dressing them in the same bright colored shirts so you can easily pick them out wherever they may be.
Through all the planning and preparation there may still be a few hiccups. It’s okay! Look at the positive, laugh, make a game of the struggle, etc. Sometimes the days we get rained on are the days we remember. Your family vacation is meant to be fun, so make sure to enjoy, take photos, and savor the memories. At the end of each day or even the end of the trip, ask everyone what they loved the most and what they are excited to do tomorrow. Keep the positivity and the excitement going!
If you have any other travel tips for vacationing with kids this summer leave them in the comments for other parents to see. Enjoy your trip this summer!