As soon as you saw that first sonogram you knew that one day you would go on adventures together. You will never regret time spent with your kids, so let’s take a closer look at how to limit the stress and maximize the fun while traveling with your children.
Manage your Expectations
There are many aspects of your plans that will play a role in your success when traveling with kids.
Acknowledge your kids’ limitations and manage your expectations accordingly to ensure a successful trip together. The age of your kids and the length of the trip will be something to keep in mind in this process.
Expect the unexpected. As clichéd as that statement is, it can be helpful to accept that the trip won’t be perfect. Kids get sick, plans get delayed, kids get moody, and toddlers have toilet-training accidents. Life happens, even when you’re on a wonderful trip together.
Communicate the Plans
Talking about the plans with your kids, even while you’re still in the planning stage, is helpful. They will start to understand what to expect (depending on their age) and what’s coming next. Give your kids a say in the plans, this is a shared adventure after all.
Encourage independence from older children. Will they need to help with packing? Will they have special tasks to help along the way? Let them know their role in the success of your trip together.
Factor in Margin
Allow for some wriggle room in your plans.
Avoid planning each detail down to the nearest hour. Allowing things to take longer will give you space to be spontaneous, take a break, let your toddler stretch their legs, follow a couple of rabbit holes and make some special memories along the way.
It will also limit the stress that comes with tight timelines and travel plans. When you do experience a hiccup on the journey, you’ll know that there is space in your plan to absorb the time lost and you’ll relax.
- Snacks, snacks and some more snacks! This is crucial for successful trips; a hungry toddler does not make for a happy travel companion. Avoid messy, wet foods and stick to dry goods that are easily cleaned up and can be enjoyed independently.
- Keep an accessible bag, separate from your luggage that contains a change of clothes, emergency snacks, and a few favorite toys and books. You don’t want to have to unpack your luggage when your toddler pours a juice-box all over himself.
- Entertainment: music, audiobooks and car game suggestions are some ideas.
- The right gear: take a reliable stroller if you’re traveling with a toddler. A toddler carrier for longer walks on rough terrain can be wonderful if you’re happy to wear your little one. A travel potty can be a wonderful investment for toddlers and pre-schoolers who are toilet training. Whatever gear you take, it needs to be durable.
- Research the weather and pack accordingly.
- Motion sickness meds could be a game-changer for kids (and adults) who suffer. It won’t hurt to take some along.
- Your sense of humor – this one is crucial when traveling with kids, in fact travel (and parenting in general) is not recommended without it.
Also, many experienced travelers recommend having a check list. Of course, toddler gear is always changing but it can be very helpful to have a reference list so you don’t forget things and can pack more efficiently.
Be willing to change the plans. Replace your detailed itinerary with a “suggestions” or “wish list.” You might discover that you’re more tired than expected when you arrive at your destination. Allow yourself the freedom to take it easy for a while before you jump into activities or outings with your kids.
Your traveling plans are probably going to impact your toddler’s routine. Do what you can to encourage nap times and regular mealtimes but don’t let it stress you out.
Don’t forget the car seats. Also, if you are going to be in large crowds, be sure your toddler understands they have to be close to you. Talk through what they should do if they lose sight of you. Reminding them of “stranger danger” is a must. Dressing your kids in their brightest clothes can help you spot them in a busy environment.
Capture your Memories
Thankfully, modern technology has made capturing memories quick and easy. Encourage your children to do the same – travel journals and cameras can be a wonderful way to encourage older children to record their memories to treasure for years to come.
Don’t Give Up
No experience is wasted. The key to successful traveling with kids is to understand that it is a process that will need tweaking and adjusting with each trip.
When things go wrong, identify the lessons you can take away from them and look forward to trying again next time. Having this attitude will be a great way for your kids to realize that things don’t have to be perfect. Life is full of unexpected interruptions (hello, blowout diapers), and most of the time we can learn through the process. Often the biggest “disasters” become the funniest stories to share.
Try to make regular travel plans so that your kids can get used to taking trips, making memories and enjoying adventures together. They don’t need to be elaborate to be memorable. Traveling together can become a special part of your family culture. The memories will be so worth it!