Family travel is a wonderful bonding opportunity and a minefield for conflicts, and brings to mind both happy memories and nightmares. In spite of its many pleasures, travel can be stressful, especially with children. Use the following tips to reduce the hassle and increase the fun of family travel:
Family travel requires more planning and preparation. Although it might seem easier to simply take care of all the details yourself, it pays to involve children in the process. From choosing and researching a family travel destination, to packing their own luggage and coping with problems that pop up along the way, involvement is a great way to emphasize personal responsibility and build self-esteem in young travelers.
Seek out attractions and activities with appeal to everyone.
Join forces to create a destination wish list that gives everyone a taste of their favorites, from dining to diversions. Ask for help with Internet research…computer savvy kids love to scour the Web. Establish a family travel budget and give each child a travel allowance to reduce constant pleas for souvenirs and snacks.
Buy each child their own age-appropriate luggage.
Choose kid luggage that is pulled easily or worn as a hands-free backpack. Be sure you can juggle their bag and your own in the event of a mid-travel meltdown. Pack at least two changes of clothing in a carry-on bag. Accidents and travel go hand-to-hand, especially with infants and toddlers.
Create comfort and fun kits for long hours in transit.
Add healthy, non-messy snacks for each child and yourself. Purchase bottles of water or juice after clearing security, before boarding the airplane. Provide individual MP3 players, a portable DVD player or electronic games to combat roadway or airborne boredom. Bring along favorite must have toys and security blankets, just in case.
Discuss and practice clearing airport security ahead of time.
Take the uncertainty out of the process and avoid misbehavior. Check and re-check carry-on bags to ensure there are no tools or toys that could be mistaken for weapons. Take medications and medical records for chronic illnesses and a current photograph of all young travelers in carry-on luggage. Grandparents and friends also need the protection of a valid Power of Attorney and medical insurance validation for children under their care.
Stay alert at your destination.
Child-proof hotel rooms for toddlers. Check out companions they meet and the activities they participate in at hotel and cruise ship camps. Know when, where and what teens are up to. Check rooms and baggage. Yes…snoop! Don’t take any chances with current travel security and stringent drug laws. Be safe, not sorry, and protect your teen from him/herself.
Invest in a combination, FAA-approved car seat /stroller.
You would never hold an unrestrained infant or toddler child in an automobile. Holding a baby in an airline (especially for take-off and landing) is dangerous. If a sudden stop occurs or the flight encounters unexpected severe turbulence, it is almost impossible to keep a firm grip on a baby in arms.
Stay flexible and calm. Children take their lead from you. If you are visibly upset and stressing out, they will meltdown and add more to your stress. When Murphy’s Law ears its ugly head, be prepared with a Plan B and even a Plan C.