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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

5 Tips For Traveling with Kids

I don't have kids, so I'm definitely not an expert in traveling with them, but that doesn't mean I haven't traveled with them. Luckily, I could check out and do my own thing, but as a parent, you already know that it can be difficult to make everyone happy. You can do your best to make your trip as enjoyable as possible for all involved, it just may take a bit more planning.

Here are 5 ways to travel well with children, and not declare you're never taking another family vacation as long as you live.

Here are 5 ways to travel well with children, and not declare you're never taking another family vacation as long as you live.

1. Choose a travel goal

It's not always the destination you go to, but what you do there and what you want to accomplish. Talk to everyone and find out what they want out of vacation. Maybe they want to try all the new foods or see a bunch of museums or learn all the history. Find that one goal that everyone can agree on and plan your trip around that.  

2. Include kids in the planning

Nobody's going to be happy if you plan a whole trip without asking for feedback. Everyone has their own wants and needs. Make the planning more fun and the idea of vacation exciting by getting everyone's input. What are a couple things they can't miss? Fit in as many as you can, so everyone is happy and has something to look forward to on the trip.

3. Manage expectations

What happens on the plane? What happens on the train? Howl long will we have to sit in the car? How many souvenirs can we buy? Honestly, these are not the times when you want to just wing it and hope for the best. There's nothing worse than a meltdown because you won't buy them another churro or pair of Mickey ears. If you're going somewhere expensive, like Disney, consider buying affordable souvenirs ahead of time that you pack and can dole out throughout your trip. If that seems unmanageable, then let your kid(s) know the limits. Perhaps they can purchase one souvenir per day or can only spend a certain amount overall. 

4. Plan downtime

As an adult, I need downtime. Without it, I can get cranky, or even sick. Your kids are no different. They probably aren't go-go-go all day at home, so don't try to pack in a billion things each day. Yes, you're on vacation, and yes, you may not get back for a long time (if ever), but you can't expect them to feel any different on vacation than at home. If they normally get a nap, then plan one. If they go to bed at a certain time, it may behoove you to stick as close to that as possible. 

Nobody wants to try to have a good time with a child who's having a full-blown meltdown. I see these families at theme parks all the time. You can't expect your 4 year old to last from 6am-11pm and not be crabby. It doesn't matter how much fun you're having, they are tired. Also, just think: if you go back to your hotel/Airbnb for them to nap, that gives you some quiet time as well. Maybe it's a time for you to just chill or get some time in with your partner or for one of you to go have a little me time. I also use this time to do laundry and check emails or play a game on my phone.  

5. Bring extras

Let's face it. There are a lot of points in a trip that can be super boring: sitting at the gate at the airport, sitting on the plane, standing in line, waiting for food, walking 45x more than you usually do. Bring things to keep your kids occupied. I'm talking games, even if they're just on your phone or tablet. I'm also talking about snacks. As a snacker myself, my purse always has some goodies in it. I can get hangry and mean when I'm hungry. Nobody wants to be around that. Hit the ground running by taking a quick trip to the grocery store when you arrive. Grab some easy snacks, and possibly some fixings for breakfasts or lunch while you're at it. Also, bring a variety of snacks on the plane. If they don't eat them, you have them for other times. 

One of my favorite games to travel with is Fluxx. There are a ton of different versions and it's a game of ever-changing rules, so no two games are the same. I also find that kids pick this up much quicker than adults, which makes it perfect for families.

Need ideas for snacks that are good to bring along? Here are some of my go-to foods:
  • Granola bars
  • Nuts or trail mix
  • Banana bread
  • Carrot sticks
  • Grapes
  • Roasted chickpeas
  • Chocolate covered blueberries
  • Meat sticks - I'm a huge fan of the Vermont Smoke & Cure, specifically the beef and pork sticks
  • Mini muffins
  • Salami and cheese
These are all things that are filling, but aren't too heavy or salty or sweet. You can bring a little bit of everything or 2-3 of your favorites. Goldfish crackers are also a great standby, as well as Wheat Thins with or without a cheese or meat option.

Aside from snacks, I find that a notebook and pen + crayons or colored pencils can also go a long way. Or even an old-fashioned puzzle book. And stickers! These are good for all ages. Maybe get them a cheap camera to chronicle their trip their way. It will give them something to focus on. And if you're bringing an electronic of any kind, don't forget extra batteries or a battery back-up.

So, those are my top 5 ways to make your whole family excited by taking a trip instead of dreading it. I'd love to hear about some of your tips, too. What things have made your trips with kids (of any age) more bearable?

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