• Kids love routine and structure. Travel is anything but routine or structured, so it may present challenges to parents.
• Whoever said, “Life is all about the journey, not the destination,” didn’t have 3 screaming kids in the backseat or cheerios flying at their head while trying to drive to Grandma’s house.
All humor aside, there are some great tactics you can use to make your next trip as stress-free as possible:
1. Include your kids in research/planning. Thanks to technology, we can visit Sea World online, make a game plan for Disney in advance, and so much more. Get the kids involved in discussing attractions; previewing the magic; and most importantly, understanding that planning a trip takes time and energy. We learned a great tip before visiting Disney that could apply to many theme parks – go deep! That means that most people enter a theme park and work their way through from the entrance gates. If you do the reverse, take a tram all the way into the far end, and work your way back to the entrance, you’ll have shorter lines.
2. Step into your kids’ shoes before the trip. They may be nervous, excited, or both. Explain up front what to expect, even details you may take for granted. For example, “We’ll be flying for 3 hours, and we’ll need to use our inside voices for a very long time.”
3. Have a written itinerary, and share it with your family. Kids thrive on routine & structure. A written itinerary that explains the flights, hotels, some attractions you plan to visit, etc., is great for you, and for the kids to see a basic plan up front.
4. Simple is best with kids. As adults, we tend to cram as much into each day as possible. Our kids, very often, are thrilled with a game of Crazy 8’s and hot chocolate. Don’t be overzealous in planning a trip that will exhaust everyone on Day 1. Realize that it takes more time to travel with kids, so you may not have as rigorous an agenda every day, but you’ll be accomplishing so much more by just exploring together and enjoying simple pleasures you don’t have time to appreciate at home.
5. Give kids a vacation budget. This is one of my favorite tricks of the trade. Come up with a reasonable budget for the kids; present it in a fun/unique way; and you’ll be accomplishing a lot in the process. For example: preventing whining at every tourist kiosk, giving kids valuable money management skills, setting limits, sharing some control and responsibility at the same time.
6. What’s in your restaurant bag? One of my favorite posts was about keeping a “restaurant bag” in your car to keep kids occupied in restaurants with small toys, games, arts and crafts. A travel backpack is critical. The backpack part, because it’s easy to carry and leave you with two free hands. The contents: small, interesting toys and distractions to keep your kids busy in the car, on the plane, and in restaurants while you travel.
7. Keep a travel journal. Trips are delicious memories, and it’s so easy to forget the highlights. Get a notebook in advance, and let each family member write, draw, glue or tape mementos. It’s a great keepsake, and best to do while you’re on the trip while memories are fresh. Click here for more…
8. Give each kid a disposable camera. If your kids are young, or don’t own their own cameras yet, think about giving everyone a disposable camera. Write each kids’ name with a Sharpie, and let them record the trip through their eyes.
9. Add time to your clock. My husband loves to ask, “Do you know what determines when you arrive?” The kids presume speed, but he quickly corrects them, “It’s when you leave.” Bottom line – it takes time to travel with kids, and if you add extra time to leave each destination, you’ll reduce stress significantly.
10. Travel is a great break from technology. I’m a big offender of Blackberry obsession, but on trips, I do try to really limit e-mail and work distractions if at all possible. Add an “away message” to your e-mail and voice mail. Set the expectation that you’re inaccessible for the time you’re away. Emergencies aside, work can wait. If you need to check messages, try to do it in private, out of kids’ sight, so you’re not modeling an unhealthy obsession with work. Or, pick a time each day for check-in, and reserve the bulk of the day for family time.
Finally — Relish every moment. Travel is a treat, and kids should understand that. Be sure to relish the precious moments. Record them with photos and video, the travel journal, etc. Most of all, enjoy!
What tips can you share about traveling with kids? Add a comment to this post! I’d love to hear from YOU!