12 Travel Tips for Parents
Sure, you could ship them off to camp or to visit their grandparents, but traveling with children can be a lot of fun. Honestly! If you choose your itinerary wisely, come prepared, and stay flexible, it might even feel like a vacation.
Don’t let bargains tempt you into booking flights or scheduling long drives for times that will completely upend your kids’ routine. Avoid layovers whenever possible, stay away from red eyes, and align little ones’ nap times with periods when your travel is safely underway.
Be a sucker
Avoid painful ear aches – and subsequent screamfests – during takeoff and landing by suppling older kids with gum and babies with a pacifier, bottle, or breast.
Feed the beasts
Ideal road snacks are filling, easy to eat, and won’t make a mess. Avocados, for example, are magic! Just slice one down the middle (yes, plastic knives will do), pop out the pit, hand kiddie a spoon and lunch is served.
Cover your ears
Big soft headphones like these are a good investment. They are comfy, they drown out distracting and/or loud noises, and they keep junior pretty busy with whatever the activity is – playing with your phone, iPad, or seatback entertainment system.
Keep them busy
Nothing beats an iPad. Kids too young to choose their own apps will appreciate you downloading a few like Draw Along, Peekaboo Barn, Awesome Eats, Endless Alpabet, or anything from Toca Boca, Duck Duck Moose, or Tiny Hands. Surprise young ones with new reusable sticker pads by Melissa & Doug for an easily transported, cheap, low-tech alternative.
On the Road
Some kids are too old for naps but too prone to car sickness to watch a screen or look at a book. This calls for books on tape that appeal to the whole family, maybe something by Roald Dahl or an installment of The Chronicles of Narnia.
Sleeping it off
If your luggage allows, save precious space for lightweight sleeping bags. The bit of home will be welcome in a foreign room, plus you’re assured of the cleanliness of your dear ones’ sleeping environment.
Be upfront with the front desk
Request cribs, trundle beds, and any other gear you’d like to borrow from your hotel when you make your reservation to be sure it’s available. On arrival, ask to have the minibar locked up to avoid surprise charges and circumvent a discussion of why $5 M&Ms are not for us.
Resealable plastic bags are a must. They keep things clean and organized in your luggage. They’ll let you snag restaurant leftovers for between meal snacks. At the beach they’ll protect your phone and money from inevitable falls into the sand and contain wet swimsuits. You get the idea.
Get picky eaters to push their boundaries when exploring a new city by trying ethnic restaurants that offer different variations on familiar favorites fried chicken, pizza, pasta, and sandwiches.
Taking for granted that you’ve wisely selected a family friendly destination in the first place, the key to success is reasonable expectations. Plan on just one sightseeing achievement per day, leaving ample time for play and sleep.
Activate their brains
Read up on your destination and show them your route on a map. Give them your old camera to take pictures. The more they learn and create, the more memories they’ll make.