Planning a vacation with small children? Scared? You should be. It can be…well, it can be a lot of things, to say the least…messy, tiring, annoying, crazy, apocalyptic, chaotic, you name it. But it can also be fun and exciting and the best vacation ever if you’re prepared for the obstacles and ready for the adventure. I’ve been traveling with my kids since they were babies. In fact, our first overseas flight took place when my younger son was only 7 months old! The secret is to be patient and try to bring out the kid in yourself while you’re at it. As a mom who travels regularly with 2 boys who are now 8 and almost 10, here’s some tips for your next vacation with the little rascals.
• Snacks and water – always have these with you. ALWAYS.
• Pack accordingly – make a list before you pack so you don’t forget specific essentials for your child like medications, special footwear, glasses, etc. Include your kids in this process, let them take part.
• Schedule and routine – keep your kids on a regular eating and sleeping schedule. It really helps to eat your meals at the same time every day and to go to bed and wake up at around the same time. This way you can plan all your activities accordingly and not waste any time.
• Plan – it’s best to have a plan set out ahead of time if not for the entire trip, then at least a day in advance. Spontaneity does not always work out well with kids around.
• Research – research your destination ahead of time and check out the kid-friendly stuff. Make sure you incorporate kid activities at least every other day, like a theme park or arcade.
• Toys, games, books – make sure your kids pack a couple of their favorite toys and books to keep them entertained when you can’t. It’s easier when you have more than one child because they tend to keep each other company and need less of your attention (except when you’re doing something really important – that’s when they’ll suddenly need your absolute attention for no apparent reason other than to simply distract you – kids have a radar for this I swear).
• Patience and understanding – obviously. They’re kids. They’re curious, they have no fear, and they think they can do everything. Let them. I mean, as long as it’s safe. Let them discover the world, let them get dirty, let them explore.
• Relax – this is very important. If you’re going to worry the whole time about your kids getting hurt, lost, or anything else, you’re just not going to enjoy your vacation. Of course, watch them and make sure they’re safe. But don’t overdo it. Trust your kids and their judgment, depending on their age and maturity level. If you’re relaxed, they will be too.
• Talk to your children – about everything. Explain the dangers and make sure they understand. If you’re at the beach, calmly agree with them on the boundaries of the water depth or area where they can play. If you’re in the woods, make sure they understand how easily they can get lost. If it’s a road trip, explain the importance of proper car etiquette when you’re driving. Don’t turn it into a threat, make it a friendly agreement that simply must be respected.
• Make sure they know your cell phone number by heart – just in case.
• Try to make everything educational – Google the history and tell it to your kids. They’re little sponges just soaking up information and they will remember what you tell them far better than you will. Explain everything. Answer their questions. Have throat lozenges handy for this because you will lose your voice. (Go back to patience and understanding at some point).
• Find other parents with kids – teaming up with other parents is a great way to keep your kids occupied while making some new friends for yourself. Parents understand parents, kids understand kids. It’s a win-win.
• Activities – think up fun activities for them like gathering seashells or flowers. Anything that will keep them active and interested. When you’re in the car or indoors, help them think of fun games along the way. Anything that will keep them from being bored.
• Be a kid with them – engage in their activities. You were once a child yourself and you’re never too old to be a child again.
• Baby wipes – the age of your children doesn’t matter with this one. Baby wipes are a parent’s best friend. Have them with you always, in the car, in your bag, always, to wipe hands, face, and anything else that gets gross.
• Spare clothes – always have a spare outfit with you for each child. This is pretty self-explanatory.
• Take turns – if both parents are traveling, take turns watching them. One parent can nap on the beach while the other is in the water with them. Be a team.
• Stay positive and enjoy it! – Focus on the important stuff, which in this case is a positive experience. Live in the moment with your kids and try new things with them.
Those are the basics, aside from make sure your passports are valid and always have enough money with you. And don’t forget – they’re going to grow up fast so enjoy it while you can and make memories you can hold on to forever.
If you can think of any other important tips for traveling with the kids, let me know!