Traveling with kids is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, you get to bond with your family, discover new places, and create wonderful, lifelong memories. On the other, all the small stresses of traveling — long journeys, queues, chaotic public spaces — are magnified tenfold when you’re trying to make sure a child isn’t lost, hurt, bored, or throwing a tantrum.
You can’t stop these things from happening, of course, but you can make sure that you are prepared to deal with them quickly when they do. Here are some of our favorite tips for keeping your family holiday stress-free and running smoothly.
Traveling is hungry work. You usually end up traveling during mealtimes, meaning you either end up starving at the end of the day or you give in and buy unhealthy snacks. Anything that is easily portable works here: PB&Js, crackers and veggies with hummus, wrap sandwiches, and protein boxes are all great options. Relying on car-friendly meals such as pasta salad, granola bars, and fruit cups will keep the fast-food stops to the absolute bare minimum.
Kids get bored really easily, and nothing is more boring for a restless kid than a long car ride. Even in airplanes and trains, the novelty tends to wear off very quickly, leaving you to find a way to keep them happy. You have several options here:
- Film, TV, reading, and gaming apps that you can load onto a tablet they can keep for the duration of the journey. Geeks with Juniors has an extensive list of great apps for traveling with kids of all ages.
- Travel-sized versions of popular board games.
- A DIY activity bag.
- Paper and pen games — simple, but classic!
A mix of several of these is ideal. That way, the whole family can play together, but everyone can also retreat to their own activities when they want to.
Don’t Get Lost
Before you enter any crowded, chaotic place — such as an airport, theme park, beach, or busy attraction — establish a meeting point in case anyone in the family gets separated. Make it something obvious so that your child can easily describe it to someone if they are lost.
Dress up your children up in bright colors and attach helium balloons to their wrists to make them easily spottable in a crowd. Older kids should have their mobile phones on them at all times, and kids of all ages should have a physical copy of your phone number in case they need to ask to use a landline or someone else’s mobile.
Include Them in the Planning
This is incredibly important and often gets skipped over when parents are trying to keep their kids happy on holiday. When picking out an itinerary, ask your kids what they would like to do and what they are interested in — they will be so much more excited about visiting the places if they are a part of the planning process.
Another way to help kids feel included is to allow them to pack and carry their own bags. Check out the best suitcases for kids according to Travel + Leisure, and take the opportunity to teach them the invaluable life skill that is efficient packing. When traveling with a kid, you don’t have the same spontaneity you had were 20 years old and going on a road trip. Instead, you have the joy of teaching your kids about new places and bringing your family together over shared experiences. Planning is crucial for this — the more you think ahead, the more you’ll be able to relax and genuinely enjoy your holiday.