Now that the kids are out of school and summer is in full swing, you might be thinking about vacation travel plans. Whether you’re hitting the road over the river and through the woods to see relatives or taking to the air, traveling with kids always brings extra challenges.
As much fun as it is to experience new adventures through the eyes of your children, stress and strain can put a damper on things both for you and your little ones. But planning ahead and taking a little time to prepare can help everyone focus on creating happy memories instead of losing their composure. Let’s look at some of the top travel trips from parenting and travel experts.
Strategies for Mastering the Open Road
Road trips are a rite of passage for kids growing up in America. Before you get on the road and the inevitable question comes from the backseat, “are we there yet?” keep these road tripping parenting tips in mind:
1. Drive at Night
This is especially helpful if your kids are under 2. Keeping a baby or even a toddler entertained for more than a couple hours in the car is tough in the best of circumstances. It will make for a much more peaceful experience if they sleep much of the way.
2. Keep the Driver Alert
While it’s good to have happy and sleeping kids, keeping the driver happy and awake is even more important. If you’re going to be driving at night, it’s essential the driver(s) be well rested. There’s nothing wrong with pulling over to sleep for a bit before continuing on your journey. Coffee can be your best friend, but sometimes you just need some shut-eye.
3. Pack Healthy and Non-Messy Snacks
Avoid fast-food drive-throughs by packing healthy, homemade snacks. For example, savvy travelers suggest packing:
It can be very tempting to eat poorly on road trips. But this can easily lead to meltdowns (for both kids and adults), so do yourself a favor and eat well.
4. Map Out Your Pit Stops
Do a little research about your route and mark local, healthy food options, kid-friendly rest areas, and fun roadside attractions. Also look for beautiful places to picnic, including state parks, lakes, and waterfalls. It’s most important to let your kids burn off some energy. The more they run around outside of the car, the more likely they will be to sleep in the car.
5. Spoil Kids a Little
Giving your kids treats they don’t normally get is a good way to make a road trip more pleasant. Feel free to relax the rules a tad, after all you’re all on vacation and effort should be rewarded. Lunch at their favorite restaurant or letting them pick out some candy or a snack at a gas station can be a great incentive for a complaint-free couple hours of driving.
Strategies for Stress-Free Air Travel
When it comes to flying with kids, you’re most likely to have a stress-free experience if you keep some basic travel tips in mind. Here are 5 stress-reducing strategies from experienced flight attendants, who also happen to be parents:
1. Fly as Early in the Day as Possible
This is your best bet for avoiding delays at takeoff and landing. Also, early flights tend to be less crowded and everyone is tired, so they’re more likely to nap on the flight (kids included).
2. Pack Just Enough
Parents often overpack in an attempt to keep their kids happy forgetting that they will have to carry everything through the airport. Try to bring only the essentials. When kids are small, you may be able to get away with using a carrier and leaving the big, awkward stroller at home. If getting through the airport without a stroller is unthinkable, however, considering borrowing a smaller, umbrella-type stroller from a friend for the flight.
3. Seat Kids Away from the Aisle
This one is a safety concern. Little fingers can end up getting pinched by beverage carts or luggage rolling up and down the aisle. The easiest way to keep those tiny hands out of harm’s way is by seating your little one next to the window (most kids love to look out the window to see the planes) or in the middle seat.
4. Pack Surprises
Keep a few surprises tucked away for when you really need a distraction. Something new always has attention-grabbing power. This way, if your child gets restless or fussy during a long flight, you can whip out, for instance, a new story book or coloring book with a new set of crayons. The activity books with “invisible ink” are especially good because children love revealing the surprises and the ink doesn’t stain.
5. Prepare for Air Pressure Changes
Little ears can be especially sensitive to cabin air pressure changes. Swallowing helps. So make sure to grab water after you go through security and have something ready for your child to chew on (e.g., gum (if they’re old enough), fruit snacks, raw veggies, crackers, etc.) during takeoffs and landings. The worst time for this is about 30 minutes before landing, so offer drinks and snacks around this time.
Traveling with kids can be a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be overly complicated or hard. All it takes is a bit of pre-planning to make your next road trip or flight a happy experience for the whole family. Both kids and parents deserve to have fun while traveling, so set your intention for an amazing adventure this summer!
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