Did you used to love traveling but find that it’s not so much fun now you have kids? That the trips you used to find relaxing and exciting have suddenly become stressful and hard work with the kids in tow?
Let’s face it, the moment you find out you’re pregnant the carefree travel you once cherished vanishes changes forever.
The adjustment can be daunting and many parents simply stay home.
After spending years on the road with my daughter I learnt how to make traveling with kids fun by trial and error. I can’t promise that you won’t have to deal with any tantrums, spilled drinks or badly timed toilet trips when you travel with kids but if you follow these tips it should inject some of the pleasure back into travel for you, as well as making it more fun for your kids.
10 Tips for Happy Traveling with Kids
1. Watch their diet
It’s easy to relax your standards while on holiday but this can have disastrous consequences. Fast food is convenient while traveling, yet we all know high levels of sugar and kids don’t mix… especially in the back seat of a car on a long journey. Try to keep to types of food they like and handle well to avoid upset tummies.
2. Keep to normal routines
This is especially important with babies and preschoolers. Travel while they sleep and eat when they usually eat. It doesn’t take long for an angelic toddler to turn into a monster child if they are hungry.
When traveling over 1,000 kilometers with a baby, we used to depart just as she fell asleep in the evening, stop half way to feed her, then continue on, arriving just as she woke up, and taking turns to nap the next day.
Long plane journeys are best taken overnight too.
3. Give them holiday money
The cost of traveling with kids can escalate when they demand souvenirs at every stop. From the age of about five, I have given my daughter holiday money before we left home. With a little direction in the early years, she learnt two things: firstly not to spend it all at once and secondly, there wasn’t any more.
It might sound harsh but holiday shopping is a breeze these days. The amount she gets has gone up with age, but the principle has stayed the same.
4. Take toys with you
Don’t forget the old favorites… especially the ‘blankie’ which I suggest cutting in two and hiding one half in your own luggage in case of loss. For long car journeys try wrapping a few cheap toys to bring out when times are getting tough.
In the back seat of the car, I suggest giving each child their own pencil case and plenty of paper.
5. Have plenty of beach and pool time
We all know kids can spend hours in the pool or at the beach so, when traveling with kids, try not to schedule every minute and make time for water activities. Don’t forget sunscreen, long sleeved T-shirts or rash tops and hats.
6. Break up long journeys
Traveling long distance by car? The length of time kids can manage cooped up in the back seat differs for each child but I can promise you it does improve the older they get. Do a bit of research online, find a few cool playgrounds on your route and plan ahead so you can stop at them.
As little as 15 minutes running around outside can make the world of difference when you continue on your journey.
7. Set electronic ground rules
Is the iPod, the iPad, the DS, the DVD player or a smart phone the flavor of the month in your house?
Whichever one your kids are glued to, make decisions ahead how much is too much. Are you comfortable with unlimited electronics in the car but prefer they’re turned off once you reach your travel destination? Are you better of with a time restriction each day? If so, how are you going to police it? Are teens permitted to text their friends without restriction or is this best left to a certain time of day?
Collaborative ground rules work better than imposed ones and, like me, you might be pleasantly surprised by your kids’ input.
8. Talk to teachers and limit homework
If you travel during term time chat to teachers and try to either reduce homework or tailor it to your travels. Many teachers see the benefit in a daily diary, photo journal, or even a travel report and slide show your child can share with the class when they return.
9. Traveling is half the fun
Getting to your destination doesn’t have to be challenging. In fact, changing your mode of transport to something a little less ordinary can elicit squeals of delight from the youngsters. Think London underground, horse and buggy, car ferry, camel or steam train. Even a bus journey can do the trick!
10. Spend time in your holiday accommodation
Remember the excitement of being in new surroundings when you were a kid? Your little ones are likely to be just as enthralled with elevators, gyms, games rooms, jumping pillows or new kitchens. Give them time to explore, or play hide and seek with them when you first arrive in your new travel accommodation.
Traveling with kids can be challenging at the best of times but with a little forethought and pre-planning the rewards far outweigh the difficulties.
Seeing the world through young eyes heightens the experience and creates lasting memories everyone in your family will treasure. And yes, sometimes, it’s actually fun for all of you too.
This is a guest post by Sarah Pye
Sarah Pye is the author of a number of useful resources: Kids Welcome to Queensland guidebook, Travel with Kids blog and the Kids Welcome online directory. It includes reviews of over 2,000 activities, attractions, tours, events, places to stay, places to eat, playgrounds and beaches in Australia, travel tips and great travel games.