Traveling with Kids: Tips to Have a Drama-Free Vacation
Starting a family doesn't mean you have to give up your wanderlust, but it does require some special considerations. Traveling as a family means squeezing together in lots of small spaces, from airplanes to cars to hotel rooms. To keep everyone angst-free on the go, you need a plan. Here's where to start.
On a Plane
Flying alone can be a bit stressful, but taking a flight with kids is a whole different ball game. Not only do you have to keep your kids moving in a busy airport, but you're also responsible for keeping track of tickets, luggage, strollers and in-flight entertainment for the whole family.
Minimize stress by taking advantage of early boarding for families with small children and purchase tickets for your kids, even if they qualify as lap children. On all but the shortest of flights, flying with a squirming child in your lap is only uncomfortable for you both. Pack activities and snacks to keep kids content during the flight. If your child experiences pain from ear popping, follow KidsHealth's tips for easing ear pain during flights.
In the Car
Many parents prefer driving over flying. While it takes longer, driving offers more flexibility so parents can keep kids happy and avoid angry glares from fellow travelers. If you do opt for a family road trip, make sure you schedule more time than you need. Between bathroom breaks and snack stops, road tripping with kids can take longer than Google Maps suggests.
If you have time to spare, get kids involved in planning your road trip route. Picking out fun roadside destinations to stop at gives children something to look forward to during long stretches on the road. Roadside America is a great place to start. Print out paper maps of your route and highlight stops so kids can track progress along the journey.
Keep kids stocked with fun car activities, but avoid packing so much that the back seat turns into a disaster zone. Handheld games, coloring books, dolls and movies are good forms of in-car entertainment. Arm yourself with car games that you can play with the kids when they're bored of entertaining themselves. Even if a game of I Spy isn't that exciting for you, it leaves your kids with fond family memories to last a lifetime.
At the Hotel
Cramming a big family into a small hotel room is not a recipe for a good night's rest. But whether to save money or to keep an eye on little ones, many families are stuck squeezing the whole gang into one room when they stop for the night. To avoid nighttime discomfort, research hotels that offer connecting rooms or multi-room suites before you depart.
If you have one or two children, a larger room may not be necessary. However, it's still important to consider sleeping arrangements. Don't count on the hotel having a crib to lend you — even if there's a crib available, there's no guarantee it will be something you're comfortable putting your baby in. Instead, pack a travel crib that you can easily assemble in a corner of your hotel room.
Travel cribs are great for hotels because their compact size lets you put your baby to relax in a dark part of the room while you stay up. While there are blackout shades designed specifically to keep travel cribs dark, many parents have discovered these compact cribs fit perfectly into a hotel bathroom or walk-in closet, eliminating the need for an extra item in your luggage. If you buy a lightweight version with a carrying case, you can even take it through the airport with you to let your little one play or nap during long layovers.
When you keep your kids fed, rested and entertained during travel, you're less likely to experience meltdowns on the go. However, it's important to remember that travel disrupts kids' routines, and a little discontent is to be expected. Prepare as well as you can and remind yourself to stay patient throughout your travels. If you can make your first trip a good experience, your little ones will get better and better with each passing journey.
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