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Being a parent transforms your life in a lot of ways, but it doesn’t mean you have to stop traveling or can’t travel with your children.
We first took our son on a 6-hour road trip when he was 7 months old and on a plane when he was 2. Both vacations went much easier than I expected, and I wouldn’t hesitate to repeat the experience with my second baby (which means taking 2 kids on board). I’ve met a lot of parents traveling with kids, including very young babies, and getting along just fine. And their secret is very simple: planning ahead. Leave plenty of time before your trip to plan and prepare snacks, games, and activities that will keep the kids happy and occupied and make your family trip go smoothly. Here are some kids.lv tips for traveling with kids of every age.
You are the one setting the mood
The way kids behave (or misbehave) on a trip depends on your own state of mind.Keep calm and don’t stress about things that might go wrong, and you’ll be in better control of the situation.
Don’t forget the wipes!
You may not think of baby wipes as a necessity when kids don’t wear diapers anymore. But they always come in very handy (for parents, too!) on a trip. No matter how old the kids are, a pack of wet wipes works wonders when you need to clean dirty hands, faces or clothes without going to a washroom. Tiny bottles of hand sanitizers are also useful.
Pack some basic medical supplies
Don’t get caught without them! I once made this mistake myself. After taking our first, very calm and uneventful trip, we neglected to bring any medical supplies on our second family outing.. My son was then a little over 1 and didn’t talk yet, but he did burst out crying because of stomach pain while we were stuck in the car at a border crossing. . There were no stores immediately around and we had to wait another hour until we had a chance to buy him a remedy. Luckily everything ended up fine, but I still remember that terrible feeling of seeing him suffering and being helpless. So, every time you travel with the kids, pack the essentials (like a thermometer, a pain reliever, simple bandages, something to clean cuts and scrapes, and an anti-allergy remedy) just in case.
Think about where you could change your baby, and what would make a good changing table (you may have to improvise). Airports and supermarkets have special areas for that, but it helps to have a portable alternative too. Bring several disposable underpads, that you can place on the backseat of the car. If you’re flying, talk to a flight attendant about the most suitable changing surface on the plane (some planes have built-in changing tables, although they’re tiny; on others they might offer you an empty passenger seat).
Bring snacks and water
Kids who get upset when they’re hungry or thirsty can be the worst travel companions. If you don’t breastfeed, prepare enough formula for your newborn or infant to get you through the trip, plus several extra portions for those unexpected delays. For babies or toddlers who eat solids, have enough food and water, plus some easily consumable treats (fruit or vegetable pieces, cheese sticks, etc) that will keep them satisfied and occupied.You’re allowed to board the plane with reasonable amount of baby food and bottles (be sure you’re aware of how much food/how many bottles you’re allowed to bring on board).
Don’t make big plans right away
Leave some time for you and your child to adjust to new surroundings and return to natural sleeping/eating routines (their routines and rhythms can get interrupted up when you travel). Plan on a relaxed schedule at first, and make sure everybody gets their rest.
Don’t rush things
Give the kids, and yourself, plenty of time to explore the new surroundings (for example, walk around to explore the airport or train station). Remember, even if you’ve been there before together, your toddler still sees this as completely new environment. On a long distance car trip try to stop every few hours to let the kids run around and play, and let you stretch your legs. Nearby parks, playgrounds or highway rest stops are the best places to rest and relax, but you can encourage the kids to run and stretch nearly anywhere, as long as it’s safe and you’re supervising them (we used to pretend we were little airplanes flying over a sidewalk).
Gather all the information you need
Check in advance whether the airport has a playroom, or where playgrounds are located along your route. You need to know, “Where can they can run and play?” “Where can we buy food?” “Where’s the nearest washroom?”
Keep your toddler occupied
Some seasoned travellers advise changing activities every 10-15 minutes. I didn’t follow this rule strictly, but keep as many small, different, engagingl activities handy as possible. Small toys, puzzles, crayons and coloring books - they’re all easy to carry and can keep the kids busy and relaxed.
Get the Apps
Travelling is time to stretch the rules slightly, so for now, forget about tablets or phones being a less-than-desirable activity and preload a mobile device with age-appropriate apps. If you run out of other activities and ideas, an electronic game can be a trip saver!
Let your children take part in packing
Get your child involved in the packing process. Let your kids help pick which clothes, toys or stuffed animals they want to take. But be sure you supervise the process, or you might discover a backpack or suitcase full of nothing but favorite toys.
Raise your child’s interest about the trip
Discuss your destination, places you’ll visit, what you’ll do there, the itinerary itself. Are you flying on a large or small plane? How does the plane take off and land? What is the flight route? Why do people have to switch off their devices at certain times? Does your child like trains? Read about train travel before you leave, or see if you can visit a train museum when you arrive. Find something your child would love to do and keep him excited about it.
Let the kids take part in planning your itinerary
Not sure where to go? Ask your kids where they’d like to travel -- they’lll be thrilled to see their opinion is important.
Don’t expect your older kids to sit calmly and act like adults. Have them bring books, activities and projects that will keep them occupied, even a a game you can play together. Kids older than 3 do have longer attention spans, but they still need your help in finding ideas and fun thing to do.
Even with all your preparations, it’s OK to be a little nervous about travelling with a child. Talk to other parents about the positives and negatives of their own family trips. You’ll see that most things go smoothly and that nearly every problem can be resolved on the go. With that in mind, you’ll feel more relaxed and excited when your own trip is ready to go.