A Parent's Guide for Traveling with Children this Holiday Season
The holiday season is coming up and while taking a family vacation can be a wonderful experience, traveling with children can often be stressful and frustrating. I’ve done plenty of traveling with my kids, and over time, I’ve discovered some pretty helpful ways to make the experience a little less overwhelming. For all the parents anxiously deciding whether or not to hire a babysitter, here is my guide for parents traveling with children.
Always have snacks on hand
This is probably a no-brainer if you’ve ever traveled anywhere with children, but always keep a good supply of snacks on hand. These are often the last line of defense between easy traveling and an absolute nightmare. Bear in mind how you’re traveling, and for how long, and pack appropriate snacks that can be stored easily. Some of my favorite snacks to pack are dried fruit, nuts and granola bars, all of which can be kept for long periods of time without spoiling or getting smashed in your bags. Also, they are much healthier than chips, sugar-filled fruit snacks and candy.
Bring forms of entertainment
One of the main problems with traveling with children is trying to keep them entertained during the voyage, both on the plane and waiting at the gate. This is why the first few items I pack into their bags are different forms of entertainment. While I do include electronic gaming devices, I make sure to limit their usage hours during traveling.
However, books are definitely the main form of entertainment I bring for my kids. To sweeten the deal for extra-long flights, I sometimes take my kids to the bookstore and make them promise that if they behave themselves on the voyage, they are allowed to pick out one book each. As my children are natural bookworms, this seems to work well. If your children aren’t a huge fan of reading, you can always try bringing puzzles, board games or card games.
Avoid bringing excessive luggage
When going on a solo trip, bringing a few luxury items isn’t usually a huge issue. However, if you’re traveling with a child, or possibly more, having to keep track of their safety and comfort while simultaneously lugging your heavy bags around can be quite the challenge. Instead, be sure to not overpack and using your available space wisely.
I suggest writing a packing list well in advance because this helps you pack only the most necessary items. Bear in mind that you may end up having to carry your child at some point, not to mention all the luggage too! Don’t forget that you’ll be able to pick up the most essential items at your destination, such as toiletries.
Allow more time for everything
Just moving through the airport with children can be a long-winded process. Going from the check-in desk to security check to your assigned gate with your kids in tow can take some time, so be sure to plan on this taking longer than usual. For solo international voyages, I usually arrive two hours early. However, with children, I always add on another thirty minutes as a rule of thumb.
Similarly, boarding the plane can take longer if you’ve got kids and all their luggage. The same thinking applies to your actual vacation as well, as you have to consider the fact that your kids may get tired easily, particularly in hot weather. While you might not be able to see as many destinations as you would have alone, taking extra time when traveling with children can make for a more relaxed and stress-free vacation.
Be ready for things to go wrong
Regardless of how much we plan for these things, it’s likely something will still go wrong. This is just a fact of life, so it’s just helpful to have all the necessary things in place. Having travel insurance is a must when traveling with kids, and make sure you establish rules and plans in advance. Arranging a meet-up spot with your kids is always a good idea – the hotel reception is always a good choice because you can ask the receptionists to be aware of your plans.
Traveling with children can be a fun experience if it goes right. Using some of the tips I’ve listed above should improve your chances of it going well, but it’s also important not to get overwhelmed if they do go bad. Having some contingency plans in place is always a must, including things like knowing the local emergency services numbers. But most of all, don’t forget to enjoy yourselves!