If the idea of taking a trip with children gives you trepidation, you are not alone. Whether you’re readying the family for a coast-to-coast road trip, a trans-Atlantic flight, or just a weekend getaway, traveling with kids is going to present some challenges.
The purpose of this article is to share some tried and true tips for travelling with children, so your family’s journey turns out to be everything you are hoping for. Ready to discover how to travel with children? Read on.
Traveling With Kids: What’s the Best Age?
The first step in considering how to travel with kids is determining whether your kids are the right age to accompany you on a trip. The answer is going to depend on several factors, including your reasons for traveling, how much you want your kids to get out of the experience, and, frankly, your tolerance level for toddler tantrums on one end of the age spectrum sulky teenage angst on the other.
Traveling with Babies and Very Young Children
Most parents hesitate to travel with babies, especially very young ones. Not only are the first few months of parenthood stressful — most new parents live in a state of sleep deprivation and overwhelm — but you’re going to be worried about the baby being exposed to germs while traveling. Babies who are crawling and walking toddlers, while certainly heartier, bring their own challenges. You’ll have to watch them carefully, in case they wander off, and deal with the inevitable fallout — including meltdowns and tantrums — from being off schedule and overstimulated. That’s not to say that traveling with babies and toddlers can’t still be rewarding and fun for both the child and you. Just make sure you are prepared to go with the flow, even if your child isn’t always ready to flow along with you.
Elementary School Age Kids
Most kids aged five to 10 years old love traveling with their parents. They are primed for adventure and excited to see and experience new things. Generally, kids at this age can settle in for at least a few hours at a time with self-entertaining items like books and games and are good at expressing their needs as well as their preferences. Try to include them in trip planning. Young kids love to explore and this is a great age to start building an appreciation of different places and cultures.
Tweens and Teens
Kids 11 years old and up are really able to appreciate new experiences, but that doesn’t mean they will always share their excitement. Kids aged 11 to 13 can have one foot in childhood and another in adolescence, so expect this tween stage of life to be readily apparent while traveling. One minute they’ll want to hold your hand as you explore ancient ruins or examine the masterworks at an art gallery, and the next moment they will want to wander off on their own.
Your teens will want to spend at least some of their vacation seeking out experiences on their own, so don’t be surprised if they cherish their time away from the family as much or more than their time in your company. Try to maintain a balance and let them seek out other travelers their own age and explore some pre-vetted (and safe) spots on their own.
The Benefits of Traveling With Children
Traveling with children — even young ones who might not remember your trips — has immeasurable benefits. Not only are you exposing them to experiences that will help them grow and develop with an appreciation of life outside their immediate spheres, but you are also helping them learn to adapt to new sights, sounds, and situations.
Traveling with young kids may, at times, seem more like work than a vacation, but most parents will agree that the time they spend exploring the world with their children is worth it. Taking your kids along on life’s adventures ensures that they will develop the ability to appreciate the beauty in the unfamiliar. And there are few gifts you can give them more incredible than that.
6 Essential Tips for Traveling With Kids
While traveling with kids is certainly worthwhile, that doesn’t mean it is going to be easy. You’re going to want to spend as much time as possible having fun, creating meaningful family memories, and relaxing away from the stresses of your daily life. These six tips for traveling with kids will go a long way in making your journeys with children enjoyable.
1. Pre-Book Everything
Our first family travel tip is to pre-book everything that you can. Pre-booking your planes, trains, rental cars, hotels, and excursions, will not only save you time, but you will avoid missing out on that great sightseeing opportunity or getting stuck somewhere with less-than-desirable accommodations.
Pre-booking also keeps you from having on the fly arguments about where to go and what to do. Traveling by majority rule is rarely a good idea, especially if one contingency of kids wants to go hiking while another wants to go swimming. Sit everyone down during the planning stages to discuss all of the activities options and try to make a plan that keeps everyone entertained and happy. Set expectations and print out an agenda so everyone who is old enough to follow the itinerary can see what’s planned.
2. Pre-Pack Everything
One of the most useful tips for traveling with children is to pre-pack everything. Along with clothes, entertainment, and snacks, you need to make sure you can easily get your hands on:
- Any documentation that is needed for international travel. Know the rules for where you are going and whether your kids need their own sets of identification, including passports, birth certificates, and proof of immunizations.
- A secure car seat. Don’t assume one will be available at each destination.
- Diapers, pull-ups, wipes, and extra outfits. Take more of these items than you think you will need. Make sure you have enough for the duration of your flight, train trip, or car ride. In fact, make sure you have too much (because you will never have too much).
- The right chargers and adapters for your electronics. This applies to entertainment devices as well as any appliances your kids might need (like your teenager’s straightening iron).
- Toys and books. This includes some old favorites — that teddy bear for comfort — and some new items to distribute when you need to distract a cranky kid.
3. Pre-Download Everything
Make sure you have all the books, podcases, movies, TV shows, and games your kids will need to stay occupied during travel times pre-downloaded on their devices. Don’t count on having the necessary bandwidth or a suitable wi-fi connection to enable you to download or stream anything on your journey.
4. Give Yourself Plenty of Time
Traveling with kids means everything is going to take longer than you anticipate. Double or even triple the time it takes you to do pretty much everything when traveling alone.
5. Factor in Free Play Time
While you might be tempted to schedule every minute of every day, your kids are going to need some breaks from structured travel and, frankly, so are you. Look for hotels that have playgrounds and pools or stop at parks along your way.
6. Stock Up on Memories
You might be tempted to buy a lot of souvenirs so the kids can have mementos of the trip, but the bottom line is today’s souvenir will become tomorrow’s throw-away junk. Don’t waste money on a lot of stuff that will only take up luggage space. Instead, encourage your kids to take lots of photos and keep a travel journal.
Tricks and Tips for Flying With Kids
Taking children on airplanes — especially younger kids — has its own set of challenges. Consider the following of our best travel tips with kids on planes.
- Befriend the flight attendants. You will need one or more of the flight attendants as an ally sometime during the flight. It could be because your child throws a tantrum or the contents of a juice box ends up in a puddle at your feet or any one of a number of different reasons. The bottom line is that a flight attendant can be a great source of help!
- Board early. Airlines offer this convenience to parents traveling with small children for a reason. If you’ve ever missed the early boarding option and gotten stuck in the jetway with 200 of your fellow passengers as you balance a toddler on your hip while holding onto a stroller while trying to kick your rolling carry-on bag down the slow-moving line, you understand why boarding anytime but early is not an option.
- Bring plenty of snacks. Flights get delayed. Sometimes they get delayed while you are already trapped on the plane with no way out. These are the times your children will be hungrier than they have ever been in their lives.
- Prepare for the inevitable ear popping. As planes descend into approach altitude, little ears tend to pop. Sucking on a bottle or chewing gum is supposed to help, but screaming could ensure anyway. There’s really nothing to be done except being emotionally prepared to comfort a child and weather the storm.
Ease Your Travel With An Au Pair
Traveling with kids can be the adventure of a lifetime. It can also be full of challenges. Sometimes even the best tips to travel with kids can’t hold a candle to having another parent figure help out.
Finding an Au Pair can give you the freedom to travel with the entire family stress-free. Instead of worrying about how to travel with young children, you can concern yourself about where to go as you look forward to the fun you will have with your family. Find out how Go Au Pair can help today.