We love to travel as a family! We were on our first family flight when my son was just 2 weeks old, having adopted him from out of state. Holding my precious new infant close to my body on an airplane was a surreal experience that I will never forget. We have since flown with him across the country (from NY to CA) and for multiple 10 hour car rides. We recently purchased an RV and looking forward to all the fun adventures awaiting us this season. Traveling can feel very expansive -the new scenery, experiences and all the learning that comes along the way. At the same time, traveling with children comes with its own set of challenges that can bring stress levels sky high. It requires lots of preparation, organization and an extra dose of grace. So let’s jump right in with some tips for making traveling with children as easeful as possible.
- Simplify the Itinerary.– Consider the developmental stage and age of your child(ren) when planning your trip and make modifications as needed. While a guided sightseeing tour or dinner cruise sound lovely to us, children have difficulty regulating their bodies and emotions for long periods of time and long structured activities may not be the best fit. Choose shorter excursions that have opportunities for breaks and time away as needed. Self-guided and self-paced is almost always the better choice when it comes to children. You can still visit that special monument or museum, but being realistic with what your child can handle will manage everyone’s expectations. This is not the time to push your children out of their comfort zone, all the changes associated with travel already require them to be constantly adapting. Remember it’s all new and exciting for them!
- Schedule Some Down Time- Often times when we travel we want to do ‘all the things’ so the trip seems “successful” to us. That said, time zone changes, lengthy time on the road without physical activity and jet lag can impact children much more than adults. Prepare to slow down and set aside some extra space for quiet time/napping or free play so everyone feels recharged and prepared for the next structured fun activity.
- Snacks! Overestimate the amount of snacks you will need. When we fly, each person gets their own gallon sized ziplock bag of snacks that we put in the seat back pocket for the duration of the flight. It has worked really well. Similarly, when road tripping we always pack lunches and cold snacks in a large cooler bag along with all the usual snacks. As a whole, we don’t offer lots of sugary or processed snacks so our bodies stay as hydrated and strong as possible. Some snack suggestions include: nuts or trail mix, small boxes of raisins, dates and apricots, chickpea or lentil pasta, cut up cucumbers, sweet peppers, olives, grapes, mango, avocado with hemp seeds, whole fruit such as bananas, apples and clementines, and small bags of cookies, crackers, chips, pretzels, natural fruit snacks, applesauce pouches and lollipops if on an airplane ride.
- Travel Games and Toys- Before an especially long trip I will often purchase a few new travel toys and activities that can be introduced periodically over the course of the trip. For more general trips I will pack a special travel bag of activities and games and allow my son to choose some of his own items to pack along so he has ownership and feels included. There are a variety of items to choose from, but some of our favorites include:
- Melissa and Doug Water Wow
- Toy cars/ trains and Car/Track Tape
- Activity Tins from Mudpuppy
- Magnetic Create a Scene
- Coloring and Activity Books
- Wikki Sticks
- Playdoh and small items to push in (for younger children)
- Cupcake liners with pompoms and tools (for younger children)
- Stickers/Crayons and sketch pad
- hole punch shapes and post it notes
- Dover little books
- Locks and keys
- dry erase markers & board
- Color in map for the license plate game and license plate bingo
- Family friendly audiobooks and podcasts
- Toniebox or Yoto player
- Involve your child in the planning.– Obviously the big decisions will be made by the adults, but as much as possible share the planning process with your child. Show them a map of where you will be traveling. Look at websites for hotels, campgrounds, or special attractions you will be visiting together. Use YouTube as a tool to show them what to expect. This both helps prepare your child by making the abstract seem much more real, while also getting them excited for what’s to come. Don’t worry about “spoiling the surprise” for them. Most children require some amount of mental preparation as the whole experience is new and can be overwhelming. If your child will be flying for the first time, borrow books from the library about airplanes and airports. There are a few excellent videos on YouTube that show exactly what the inside of the plane looks like. As they process all of this new information, lots of questions will arise, sparking great conversations.
- Don’t Forget Comfort Items- Whatever age, make sure to pack up familiar and comforting items from home. Little touches like a favorite stuffed animal, night light, pillow case, books, or small toys can help your child acclimate faster to their new surroundings. While you’re at it, consider extra comfy travel clothing and blankets to make everyone feel more at ease.
Happy Travels- have fun making memories!!
Peace to All, Life to All, Love to All- Sat Nam
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