For most people, there is nothing as exciting as travel. It is the chance to go somewhere new, see amazing sights, and grow as a person. If you are traveling with children, you can still have that amazing time, but there may be some speed bumps along the way, especially if your children have never been away from home for an extended period of time. Here are our tips for preparing ahead for travel challenges with kids.
Whether you are going camping, taking a road trip to see the grandparents, or flying to an international destination, it is a wise idea for parents to take the time to prepare for any challenges that might develop when traveling with kids. From preventing homesickness and trying new things to keeping them safe during unpredictable circumstances, there is a lot to remember. To help, we have compiled some tips to make your trip as fun and easygoing as possible.
One of the largest challenges that you will face when traveling with kids is dealing with the almost inevitable feeling of homesickness that most children will experience. This will be an even bigger issue if your kids barely ever venture from home, even for sleepovers. A smart idea to help your kids feel as comfortable as possible is to include them in the travel plans, especially the packing process. Work with them to pack their own bags and allow them to bring a few items that provide them comfort, like a stuffed animal. All the while, remember to remain positive and avoid saying negative statements, such as, “I hope you’ll be okay when we’re away.”
Many kids will have a bigger issue with homesickness if they have a friend, family member, or pet that they are particularly close to at home. If you are leaving your dog or cat with a family member, one way to help your child not miss their pet is by bringing a picture of the pet or even making an arrangement to have a video conference at least once during the trip where they can see their furry friend in real-time and take a few moments to talk about their adventure. Before you leave, tell your child stories of how much fun the pet will be having while you are gone. It should help them feel better.
If your child has never really been out of the house, it’s a smart idea to practice leaving home, even if it is just for one night for a sleepover at a family member’s home. If even that is too daunting at first, consider just having them join a friend for dinner or a movie so they can experience that positive separation and you can pick them up before bedtime.
When you are on the actual trip, and your children begin to experience homesickness, consider taking the time to allow them to write a letter home. In it, they can express their feelings of missing home while describing some fun activities that they have enjoyed. If this is your first vacation away with the kids, consider going to a place where you already know someone, like a grandma or aunt. That way, they will have something familiar that they can hold on to and they should feel more comfortable.
Perhaps the most challenging part about traveling with children is keeping them safe while in an unfamiliar location. If you are going to a new place and engaging in potentially dangerous activities, then you will want to plan ahead to ensure you have everything you need to keep them safe. So, if you are planning to go out on a boat, make sure that they have life preservers and potentially have them take swimming lessons beforehand. If you are going camping and hiking, make sure to bring strong sunblock and proper shoes.
As parents, you will want to make some general plans and talk about safety before you leave for your trip. A smart idea is to equip your children with wearable tracking devices so you can find them if they are lost via a GPS app on your phone. It is also a smart idea to create informational cards that they keep on them at all times that list their name, your contact information, where you are staying, and any other data that could lead them back to safety.
Before the trip, think about any unexpected events that may happen during travel and prepare your children so they are not overly worried or create additional stress during the situation. For road trips that include unexpected vehicle breakdowns, you should get the car and your family off of the road and assure your children that it’s okay and that help is on the way. To prevent unexpected injuries while hiking, always bring a first aid kit and instruct your children to never venture off on their own.
While this family vacation is going to be a blast, kids will be kids, so there will be moments where some extra parenting will be required to ensure as stress-free a trip as possible. To start your time away on the right note, you will want to take precautions to avoid jet lag to avoid tired or overly crabby kids.
To thwart jet lag, a week or so before you leave, try moving their bedtime 15-20 minutes closer to the vacation time zone so they get a feel for it. When you leave, bring plenty of pillows and blankets so they can get some shut-eye on the plane. Make sure everyone in the family drinks plenty of fluids to stay hydrated and experience a smoother transition between time zones.
Whether it is from being overly tired or just uneasy about being in a new place doing new things, you will likely hear some whining at some point during the trip. Just remember that this is normal but you don’t have to let it get out of hand. Handle whining as you do at home by remaining calm and determining the source of the complaint so it can be resolved. Also, if they aren’t listening, you may need to discipline them, but you don’t want to forget to praise them when the time is right or they correct their behavior.
Our final challenge is ensuring that your kids eat healthy during the trip, even if doing so requires eating foods that they have never had before. When trying something new, verify that it doesn’t contain any allergens before explaining what ingredients are in the food, and then allow them to take small bites and go from there. In general, to ensure that kids eat healthy on vacation, provide smart snacking options like nuts, fruit, and vegetables. Also, supplement with multivitamins to provide any nutrients they are missing.
By going on vacation with your family, you are creating memories that will last forever. Use the tips above and ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip that you will never forget.
Have you faced any travel challenges with kids? Share your best tips in the comments below.