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Travel is never easy for parents with little children. So here are a few practical tips for traveling with kids.
Tips for traveling with kids
Plan a realistic Itinerary
Kids get tired. Tired kids will be cranky. This will reduce their chances of enjoying the vacation. Make a realistic schedule suitable for the age of your kid. If day 1 is going to be strenuous, make sure day 2 of the trip is easy and less taxing physically. I can confidently say from experience that having a jam packed itinerary will increase stress levels and make the vacation less enjoyable.
Allow some buffer time between two activities. Sometimes kids might want to spend a little longer enjoying the vacation spot and we as parents will be in a hurry to pack in as many activities as possible. As long as they are not derailing the plans for the entire day, try to have a flexible schedule. After all we take them on vacations to show them a good time. (Of course it is a fun trip for us too. No alarms waking us up at unholy hourse yipee…hate those….grrr.. )
When traveling as a group
When I was little, we once traveled with a bunch of other families to North India and day 1 was quite chaotic because some families wanted to spend more time at the museum while other families wanted to get it over with and go shopping. That night, my dad made all the adults come to one of our hotel rooms and collected the list of all the activities each family wanted to do. Then they made plans for the next 5 days of the trip. All the families went together for some activities but we broke up into separate groups for other activities and met only for dinner. All of us covered everything we wanted. So it was a lot of fun when we chatted about our activities on the way back in the train.
So even if you are taking a trip as a group, plan ahead and discuss the list of activities each family would want to engage in. You can also designate a meeting spot if a part of the group gets lost.
Contact details if a child is lost
No matter how careful parents are, children may get lost in the crowd. I remember my dad writing down his contact details and keeping a copy of that in our pockets so even if his kids get lost, someone can contact him using those details.
It is always a wise idea to teach your children your address and phone number as early as possible. We were made to memorize our address even when we were very little.
Activate roaming in your cell phones.
If you are traveling as a large family and are looking to cut down restaurant cost, book rooms that have a kitchenette if not a fully functional kitchen so you can make one or two meals per day. When our elderly travel abroad, they might not like outside food and having a small kitchen with a stove and microwave will make them enjoy their vacation better. When my daughter was little, she did not like to eat coarse food and since I had difficulty finding well mashed food, I took my electric rice cooker on my road trips and I could also store milk and dahi in the refrigerator.
Fun activities during the trip
Photography, Scrap-booking, Philately and Numismatics
Give your kid a camera (Disposable, water proof cameras for younger ones) and ask them to take pictures of sights that they like.
If they are old enough, get your kids a scrap book or journal so they can preserve memories of their vacation.
You can also encourage them to read about the city they are going to visit. Delegating the task of researching and planning the itinerary can get your children more involved and enthusiastic. Collect ticket stubs and maps of parks and zoos and they can be glued to the scrap book.
Thanks to Dora the explorer, even little kids can read maps now. Get yourself a snack or coffee when your little one is seriously studying the map. 😉
If you are traveling to a foreign country, and if you haven’t done this before, now is your time to get them started on philately (stamp collecting) and numismatics (coin collection). They can also collect other memorabilia like refrigerator magnets, key chains, post cards etc.
Who knows the coins they collect today might go out of circulation years later. In the picture below, you can see some coins that were used in Germany, France, Belgium, Netherlands and Greece before they started using Euro.
Car seat and strollers
Car seats and strollers are a must when traveling with little kids especially if you are going to visit huge parks that will involve a lot of walking.
Some parks have strollers that can be hired for the day.
Sterilizing feeding bottles
Carry a portable steam sterilizer if you use feeding bottles. Sterilizing tablets are available. But I preferred to use steam sterilizers.
Hotel room safety
Check the hotel windows and balcony doors to make sure your kid cannot open them.
If you book a suite, keep the knife and sharp items out of reach of your little kids.
Avoid opening the mini bar when your toddler is looking. You never know when the naughty toddler will decide to help himself to the juice 😈 in the mini bar. Of course telling him that the mini bar is off limits will never ever work.
Your kid might not be familiar with the hotel’s bathroom faucet and could get scalded. So teach them to use the shower knobs and check temperature before getting into the bath tub / shower stall.
Don’t forget to check out the local attractions
Each place will have its own attractions and traditions. Travel is the best method to expose kids to a lot of different things. Try to include these as well in your itinerary.
Tips for flight travel with kids
Our kids might be cute and adorable for us. But others who are trapped inside an airplane with our kids might not share our opinion :-). With a little bit of planning, it is possible to make this flight journey an enjoyable one for everyone.
Before the flight
Travel is hard for the kids too
Understand that it is not easy for a toddler to travel. With this understanding, parents have to plan to make it as comfortable as possible for the child.
New place, new people, new sights and sounds can be overwhelming to a toddler.
One thing a parent has to learn is knowing what to pack and what to avoid having in the hand luggage. It is not easy to carry a sleeping child while pulling a heavy suitcase. Keep it simple and check-in as much as possible. Some parents do the mistake of over packing and then find it difficult to haul the things from one gate to another in case they have to take a connecting flight.
During the flight, sometimes parents keep opening and closing the overhead bin scaring folks that they might drop the suitcase on their head. Don’t be that parent. Separate the kids items into two categories – frequently used items (in a back pack kept under the seat in front of you) and less frequently used items (in a trolley bag placed in overhead cabin).
A small trolley bag that can be pulled by your little one can be a life saver. Pack your kid’s
- Spare dresses,
- Snack items
- Formula, feeding bottles
I also pack a backpack for my kid. This has her
- Favorite toy
- Water bottle
- Crayons and paper in a ziploc bag
- Few munchies
- Travel sized wet wipes and hand sanitizer.
During travel, the trolley bag goes in the overhead bin and the back pack with frequently used things go under the seat in front of her.
My little one thinks that the above mentioned items are useless and these are the things that should be packed in her bag 😕 . It was war when I had to remove some items. Yes my little baby chef has packed a cake baking tin 🙄 . And yes her baby is sleeping on a pillow covered in bed sheet. In her defense she says I cannot complain because she has packed a book for reading.
Talking to your toddler about travel plans and what they can expect will really get them prepared mentally. In uncertain situations, toddlers act up and it can be frustrating for both parents and toddlers. Talk to them while you both are packing the suitcase. Ask them if they have any questions so you can answer everything and get it over with. So much better than having to answer questions while you are filling up immigration forms or when you are at the check-in counter. Explain to them the activities you will be doing and what is expected out of them. Though we might not get 100% compliance, there will be marked increase in good behavior.
Well fed and rested kids are well behaved
A hungry and tired kid is going to be cranky. So plan meal and nap time according to your travel schedule so they will not be cranky from the time you leave home till the time you finish all the formalities. Also keep single serving sized snack boxes handy.
If you have more than one kid, don’t make them share a packet of snacks. Instead pack single serving amount of snack in a snack box or ziploc bags for each kid to avoid playing arbitrator.
Just because we are traveling, it does not mean that we have to eat only unhealthy snacks. With a little bit of creativity, we can include fruits and other healthy food even during travel. One homemade fruity and tasty snack is fruit leather.
Apps and Videos – Go for them
Download as many apps and videos as possible on your iPad and let them play. A few news apps that they have never played before will be a plesant surprise for the little ones and it will keep them engaged for a few minutes longer.
Advance check in
When traveling with kids, if your airline allows you to check in online, you can skip the long queue. Toddlers and queues don’t mix well. :-).
Coordinate and plan who will be in charge of the luggage and who will be in charge the kids at the airport.
During the flight
Pain in the ear
During take off and landing, most kids experience pain due to ear popping. Giving them water to sip or bottle to suck can help balance the ear pressure and make it slightly more comfortable. Ear pain can be excruciating so ignore the stares of other passengers and soothe your child. In case you forgot to pack ear plugs, ask the air hostess before the pilot switches on the fasten the seat belt sign just before descent.
Dress up in layers
Flights can get cold or warm. Dress up in layers so you can control the temperature accordingly. If it is going to be a red eye flight, get them into their pajamas before you leave for the airport. No one will judge a toddler in pajamas. If they do, they are nasty so go ahead and give them a mean momma look. When she was still in diapers, my daughter wore soft cotton frocks that make it easier to change diapers and go to the restrooms. Stretch pants are easier than jeans.
My favorite Blanket
Children like routine and nothing can annoy a toddler more than being cooped up for hours in an aluminum tube with a whole bunch of tired and miserable strangers. Pack their favorite blanket and allow them to pick the stuffed toy that will be traveling with them. Yes the toy baby has to wear seat belt too for her own safety. (psst…. 😉 …. real reason is mommy does not like going on all fours searching for the toy that fell through the gap between two seats. …shudders remembering the sheepish smile she had on her face when the passengers behind her gave her some icy looks… 😥 )
Ask air hostess for help
We pay for the travel as well as for the help from the air hostess. Don’t hesitate because most of them will be willing to work with you to soothe your crying child. So go ahead and press that button. They will also get you hot water for mixing formula.
Put them in diapers
If a tiny aircraft is scary, then a miniature aircraft bathroom is much scarier for a child. If your kid has been potty trained only recently and there are chances for accidents happening, let them wear a diaper. This will make life easier for both parents and children.
Some parents prefer to have a transit where they can stretch their legs and some prefer to take one long flight and get it over with. I belong to the second group. Try both options and plan accordingly.
Tips for Road Trip with kids
Make sure your kid’s seat belt and care seat are securely fastened.
Pillows, pillows and more pillows. Cannot stress this enough. Use pillows on the sides of the car seat so they provide additional support for the sleeping child’s neck.
Use removable sun blocking screens to protect your kid’s skin.
If your baby is in a baby seat facing the rear of the car, add a mirror at the rear windscreen so you can keep an eye while driving.
If it is going to be long road trip, installing a DVD player in your car will keep the back seat travelers quieter and you and your spouse can enjoy some chit chat during the drive. Or be prepared to answer their “Are we there yet?” for million plus times.
Pack water and plenty of snacks not necessarily candy that is high in sugar. If your kid is a picky eater, pack peanut butter and Jelly sandwiches in snack boxes or lunch bags so each kid gets a box / bag.
Plan rest stops so they can stretch their legs and run around a bit. Be flexible and let them enjoy the drive too. A lot of fun memories can be created not only at the vacation spots but also during the drive to the destination.
I love to start driving early and gain some distance when the kids are still sleepy, when traffic is lighter and the sun is not beating down on us. But some like to take it easy and relax. It is more of a personal choice.
Pack a bag with their favorite blanky, toy, entertainment, wipes, tissues etc and keep it on the floor in the back seat so you don’t have to pull over to get them from the trunk frequently.
Take lots of pictures. They are young only once, so enjoy every moment!
Travel check list
1. sleep wear
2. Outside wear
3. Under garments
4. Swim wear, towel and plastic bag for wet clothes
5. Jackets, sweaters, gloves
2. flip flops
4. Hand sanitizer
5. Baby Wipes
7. Tooth paste and brush
8. Lip balm
9. Diaper cream
1. Caps / hats
2. Sun glasses
4. Ziploc bags
First Aid kit and medicines
1. Prescribed Medicines
2. Allergy medicines
3. First Aid kits
4. Ear plugs
1. favorite toy
2. sketch books, pencils and crayons
3. Bed time story book
Pack them in serving sized bags
Camera, Memory cards
Laptop, Ipad, Ipod, head phones
3. Important contact details
5. Travel insurance documents
6. Foreign currency
7. Address of the hotel and driving directions from airport to hotel
8. Map and GPS.