Summer means vacation and vacation time once you become a family means ……Traveling with children.
Traveling with children can present challenges, but some forethought in planning is important. To help you get prepared here are some tips and ideas to reduce the stress and make the trip more enjoyable for the whole family.
Infant to One Year
Plan for breaks–a rest stop break or a playground – let them toddle or be carried around for a few minutes before climbing back in the car.
Pack the fun into the trip– music, mobiles, bubbles and books are good activities.
Pre-measure formula into bottles and carry a room temperature bottle of water to mix on the go.
Be prepared for a mess – snacks, diapers, spit-up, etc. – small trash bag, wipes, hand sanitizer (for the adults), spare water, tissues, bibs and a blanket.
If you are traveling by plane, a car seat can double as a feeding chair or nap location once you have arrived. Be sure to reserve a crib at your hotel or make sure one is available from a rental center if you are visiting friends or family.
With this age group its important to be well-prepared but do not overload yourself. Once you get to your destination, there are probably many “essentials” that can be purchased locally.
Toddlers from 12 to 18 months
Many of the Infant travel tips also apply with this age group.
Use “links” to keep toys within your child’s reach and off the floor!
Even in the cool weather, crack a window for fresh air. Stale air makes everyone grumpy. Try removing heavy jackets and shoes for comfort.
Plan for the fun to include music, books, stuffed animal, play mirror and foam shapes that will “stick” to the car seat. In an airplane or a car headphones for music can be used by resting on your child’s shoulders instead of over their ears to hear the music.
Have some active playtime just before leaving and plan for frequent stops. In an airplane let children walk down the aisle when appropriate. Bulkhead seats are roomier and worth the effort to try and reserve for your trip with younger ones.
Airports can be busy places. Checking your luggage at the curb or getting help with your luggage is not a luxury in this situation. Focusing on your little one’s needs without hauling our own luggage is paramount.
Twos and Threes
Many of the First Steps travel tips apply here.
Play window games – find the silos, trucks or red lights can help the time pass more easily.
Attach a mirror to the front passenger visor so you can see and interact with your youngster without having to turn around.
Buckle up a toy bin right next to the children so they can help themselves – books, ,stuffed animals and puppets.
Have your child help you pack a picnic lunch or snack and then serve it to everyone.
A blanket can make a quick play space in any lobby or airport or in the car.
Preschool to Pre-K
“ I Spy” a red car, a white truck and other objects you can see while traveling.
A laptop desk for drawing with paper and crayons can be used at this age.
Car-Ride Checklist–make a picture itinerary of landmarks you will see along the way.
Car Bingo is another activity that keeps this age group happily engaged in the sights.
Play “I’m thinking of an animal.” Provide age-appropriate hints to help your child guess a particular animal.
When visiting attractions and places with older children, try the ‘trade-off’ method –some activities for adults, balanced with activities for the children to encourage cooperation and so that everyone on the trip has an enjoyable time.
Older children might like having their own (disposable) camera and “vacation diary” to record their own memories.
In most cases, keeping your trip as simple as possible with the younger set along will greatly help in reducing the potential for problems. Remember that children have shorter attention spans and get fatigued more quickly. Complicated trips requiring lots of traveling, jam-packed itineraries or too many visits to more adult-oriented attractions can end up spoiling everyone’s good time.