Happy Trails: Travel Tips for Parents© Copyright BabyClassroom
Remember when a weekend getaway meant one small suitcase and a couple of days to relax and unwind? Traveling with kids might mean the end of "packing light," but it doesn't have to mean the end of happy travels. We surveyed parents who love to travel and compiled their tips for making sure family vacations are fun for the whole family!
Enjoy the Journey
If you're traveling to Australia or Hawaii, you're going to have to get on an airplane, but if your destination is a bit closer to home, you've got options. Some families prefer the relative speed of air travel, while others find the family car or a spacious train more accommodating.
Planes: Except for the occasional explosive diaper, air travel with infants can be a breeze, but once your little one becomes mobile, the cramped quarters can prove challenging. While many airlines allow families with young children to board early, savvy travelers know it's best to minimize the time kids spend onboard. If possible, have one parent board early with the baggage while the other lets the kids expend a little more energy in the boarding area.
Trains: If your child is into toy trains, why not turn your next vacation into an Amtrak adventure? The train allows more freedom of movement than a car or airplane, although walking the aisles can be a bit tricky for unsteady little legs. Some trains have tables for snacking and playing, and the view can prove more entertaining than TV.
Automobiles: If you hate lugging suitcases, carseats and diaper bags through crowded airports and train stations, packing everything into your car can be an appealing alternative. Plan for frequent stops to stretch small legs and dole out the snacks and toys at well-timed intervals to keep kids from getting bored.
Your Bag of Tricks
Whether by air, rail or highway, nearly all the parents we surveyed recommend a well-stocked "bag of tricks" to keep kids entertained during transit. Include a few new items (or toys your little one hasn't played with recently!) as well as old favorites. Put most of the travel toys away when you arrive at your destination so they'll be "new again" for the trip home.
Here are some easy-to-pack travel bag favorites:
- Activity Toys: Small toys with moving parts and buttons to push will entertain a child who can't get up and move around.
- Board and Bath Books: Let your little one look at (and chew on!) books after you grow tired of reading them.
- Balloons: You can blow up a balloon at a rest stop or in the airport, then pop it and toss it before you get back in the car or on the plane. (Watch your baby carefully to avoid choking hazards.)
- Drawing Paper, Coloring Books and Crayons
- Tape Player with Headphones: Bring music and books on tape for some soothing, solo entertainment.
- Cameras: If you have a toddler or preschooler, purchase a disposable camera and let her snap away. You might be surprised by her unique, artistic perspective.
- Healthy Snacks: Stave off hunger and irritability with healthy, non-perishable snacks like cereal bars, dried fruit, whole grain crackers, and water. Include a few treats you might not normally serve to make the trip special.
- A Favorite Friend: Don't forget a familiar stuffed animal or doll for your child to cuddle.
The Family Plan
Let toddlers and preschoolers help plan and prepare for a trip to foster enthusiasm and make them feel more involved. Even small children can pack some of their own toys and clothes or choose between two or three age-appropriate activities. Familiarize them with your destination and travel in general by sharing pictures, books and DVDs before you leave. ( Baby Road Trip Beach is one of our favorites!)
Redefining "Packing Light"
You're never going to be able to "pack light" when traveling with kids, but there are ways to minimize bulk. If you're visiting friends or relatives, ask them to stock up on diapers, wipes, and kid-friendly snacks. Find out if you can rent or borrow a carseat at your destination, and think about what items you can easily purchase once you arrive.
Accommodations with kitchen facilities can alleviate a lot of stress for families with young children. Whether you rent a house, choose a hotel with in-room kitchenette, or stay at a family-friendly hostel, a kitchen gives you 24-hour access to the foods you know your kids will eat and a little more control over your food budget. For a real splurge, consider an all-inclusive resort with unlimited access to treats of all kinds.
Embrace Your Routines
Try to maintain your baby's naptime, mealtime and bedtime routines as much as possible while staying flexible enough to enjoy your vacation. If your baby will nap in a stroller or a sling, plan a stroll on the beach while she naps. Some parents take turns staying in with a napping baby while the other parent gets an hour to swim, shop, work out, or explore on their own. If your bedtime routine includes books or DVDs, bring along a few favorites to make your little one feel at home.
We at Baby Classroom wish you the happiest of travels! It's not always easy to travel with your kids, but the memories you share and the bonds you strengthen are sure to last a lifetime!
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