Traveling with Kids Doesn’t Have to Drive You Insane
You haven’t lived until you’ve flown with an airsick toddler, or realized too late that the 10-day forecast for your family’s tropical vacation destination is rain – and you’re traveling with four kids. Here are some ideas that can help.
We’ll start with:
- Make lists days before your trip of everything you’re likely to need and where you’ll pack it. Is it a diaper bag item? A purse item? A suitcase item? Make sure nothing ends up in a checked bag that you might need on the flight. Keep your list with you on the trip.
- If flying outside the country, check with your health insurance company first. International coverage is not always included. If you or someone in your party requires overseas medical transportation, you’ll want to know you’re covered. Don’t have a plan? GET A PLAN
- Buy a few extra pacifiers and toss them in your carry-on. Nothing is more disheartening to a parent than trying to console a hysterical kid whose pacifier just fell in an airplane toilet.
- Have snacks handy. Think of things that travel well, offer some protein, or help sustain blood sugar. Apples, string cheese, cut-up veggies, and dried fruit are good ideas.
- Try to book a direct flight. One time on and one time off is easier on everyone, and if possible, book flights for times when your wee ones are more likely to nap. Avoid red-eye flights where it’s likely no one will get enough rest.
- Some airports are more kid-friendly than others. If you have options as to which airports you’ll use, do some research before booking. Read here to learn more.
- Ask for seats toward the back of the plane to avoid those endless treks to the bathroom.
- Tell your kids what to expect at the airport and on the plane. Demystify anything that might be scary and make sure they understand that their ears might hurt a little during takeoff and landing.
- Smile at your fellow passengers. A little goodwill now could have big payoffs later when your three-year-old is having a meltdown. Because face it, some people don’t particularly like kids – on airplanes anyway. Some courtesy extended toward the flight attendants is also in order.
- Know how you’ll keep your kids entertained. Whether it’s I Spy or a game pad, having a few tricks up your sleeve for keeping kids occupied will make everyone’s lives easier. It’s also smart in case you’re stuck in the hotel due to rain. Need a few ideas? Read here!
- Research in advance nearby children’s museums, indoor play spaces and movie theaters in case being outside once you’re at your destination is not an option.
The More Generic Family Getaway
Sometimes packing up the family car for a vacation with the kids can feel like planning for a zombie apocalypse. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Just as we suggested before flying, start a list early so you’ll have your bases covered, and create a calendar to go with it. Consider something like Google Calendar that everyone can access, including house- and dog-sitters.
- Keep reservation confirmations and contact information handy.
- Set up priorities for the trip and establish a budget, letting the kids help where they can.
- Keep your travel papers, list of medications and maps handy.
- Make sure you have your phone chargers and consider a vacation data plan for your phone.
- Pay bills ahead of time and tell your bank what you’re up to. Few things are more frustrating than being blocked from using your debit card because the bank sees your purchases as out of character for you.
- Check with your health insurance company and tell them how far you’ll be traveling. For surprisingly little money, you can purchase an emergency medical plan to cover everyone. In the event of an injury or illness; it can even airlift you home to your own doctors. Here’s more information.
A Thought Whether You’re Flying or Driving
Some families have found success by hiring a nanny (or manny in the case of males!) to help with the kids. The pros and cons are many.
- You’ll have someone to watch the kids so you and your spouse or partner can have down time.
- They’re an extra set of eyes and ears for when you’re stressed and preoccupied.
- They don’t have to come from a service. A “nanny” might be extended family or your kids’ regular babysitter. Be clear about your expectations upfront, however, to avoid misunderstandings or hurt feelings when you’re going out for the evening, and the nanny thinks she’s invited, too.
- There’s just more help – period.
- The cost. In some cases, people have paid for a nanny’s trip, expenses, and paid them for their work. For others, the trip is all that’s covered. It’s up to you and the nanny, but no matter how you work it, the costs can add up.
- Your nanny has to have the right documentation if you’re traveling outside the country.
- It’s one more person who could become sick or injured.
Here’s a parting thought that might help a lot. Your kids have no idea how stressful shepherding them through an airport or in and out of tourist attractions can be. But these times might one day be among their happiest memories, and you don’t want those memories marred because you lost your temper once too often. They won’t be small forever. Hanging on to your sense of humor while traveling with little ones can set you up for some of your happiest memories too.