Let’s face it, most people don’t consider the “travelling” part of the journey to be the most exciting feature of their vacation. From strict security to cramped seats, and delayed flights, a day of travel can stress the most seasoned explorers – add children to the mix and you’re concocting a recipe for disaster.
According to the New York Times, unhappy children represent one of the most significant problems for airline patrons, which leaves dads in the difficult position of not only keeping their kids happy, but also avoiding the anger of other passengers. While you might not be able to avoid every meltdown, tantrum, or child-based concern, there are a number of helpful tips that can help you to streamline your travel experience, and get more out of your family vacation.
Prepping for The Journey
A successful journey with children starts long before you find your seat on a plane. Since a well-planned trip can be difficult enough to handle, it’s important that you don’t make yourself vulnerable to additional problems wherever possible. Make sure that you get to the terminal with plenty of time to spare, so that you don’t have to stress about finding a place to park, tracking down wherever you’re meant to be, and checking baggage.
For infants, booking non-stop flights is essential, but if your children are older, short layovers can provide the perfect option for them to stretch their legs and expel some pent-up energy.
1. Choose a Child-Friendly Airline
When flying with children, it’s worth noting that some carriers are better than others. Before you book tickets, compare available airlines, and look for those that are willing to offer family-friendly options. For instance, some companies, such as American Airlines and Virgin Atlantic, offer child-friendly amenities such as children’s programming, and kids’ menus. There are also certain airports that will provide “meet and assist” for fathers who need help managing all that baggage. If you inquire in advance, you’ll usually find that your airport is willing to offer priority to single parents too.
2. Don’t Pack More Than You Can Carry
While it can be tempting to shove as much entertainment, and emergency gear into your luggage as possible, when you’re travelling with children, you need to make sure you have a hand free to keep hold of them at all times. That means that everything you bring with you needs to be easily maneuverable, strapped to your body in some way, or store-able as you move through the airport. Try to find a happy medium between “minimalist”, and “survivalist”, and remember that it’s often more efficient to hire cribs at your destination than attempt to take one with you.
Getting to Your Destination
Once you’re actually on your flight, the name of the game is entertainment. A good tip is to plan your journey in fifteen-minute slots. In other words, if you’re expecting a four-hour flight, then you’re going to need about 16 activities planned for keeping your kids entertained. Remember that the activities don’t have to be complicated to be effective. For instance, bringing a pillow, and blanket with you can give your child a booster seat to look out of the window, or even an excuse to sleep away a couple of hours. What’s more, a surprise bag of treats from the dollar-store can give your child a new treat to unwrap, and enjoy every time they start to get bored or restless.
1. Remember to Supply Plenty of Food
For adults and children alike, everything seems worse when you’re hungry. Bringing along some of your kids’ favorite snacks can help bypass temper-tantrums caused by empty stomachs – particularly if your airline doesn’t offer children’s meals. Remember, while it’s important to encourage healthy eating habits, a travel experience isn’t the time to push the veggies – pack treats instead, and avoid adding another battle to an already stressful time.
2. Prepare for Motion Sickness
Nothing ruins a flight faster than uncontrollable motion sickness. Make sure your kids have a light snack before boarding the plane, and consider packing small snacks that will help to soothe their stomachs if a bout of turbulence sends them reaching for the sick bags. If your kids are prone to motion sickness, choosing seats above the wings for added stability can be a good choice, and you can also ask your doctor about medications to help reduce nausea.
3. Make the Most of Technology
There’s a reason why, as a society, we’re in love with technology. When travelling with kids, a tablet computer or a smartphone can offer some quick, and easy entertainment when you find yourself struggling to make alternatives work. Download some cartoons onto your tablet for your child to watch if the airline doesn’t offer television services, and let them play a few of their favorite games on your phone from time to time. What’s more, when your kids are busy with other things, your tech will provide some entertainment for you, too!
When You Arrive
Finally, once you’ve made it to your destination, the chances are that the majority of your worries will be over. However, you’ll still need to think about fighting off jetlag, and planning a memorable experience for you, and your children. Pack a backpack with sanitizer, baby wipes, and tissues, as well as any other essentials you might need for a day out, then consult your plan for the day.
1.Take Turns Making Decisions
It’s good to have some kind of a schedule when you’re on vacation – but your plans don’t have to be set in stone. If you’re planning on seeing specific attractions, try finding slots of time where you can ask your children what they want to do, or let them take charge for a little while. Something as simple as allowing your child to pick where you go for lunch, or where you stop to take a break can be enough to keep them happy for the entire vacation.
2. Remember to Make Memories
While you’re on vacation, another good way to keep the kids entertained is to put them in charge of making a holiday scrapbook or diary. Whether they’re taking photos from your smartphone or tablet, or you invest in some disposable cameras for the journey, giving your young ones an opportunity to document their experience will not only keep them entertained, but it’s also give you a perfect way to reminisce about your vacation when you get back home.
Make Your Next Family Vacation Stress-Free
Travelling with children can be a complicated experience, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be a nightmare. A little extra planning, some flexibility, and an understanding of what your children need to stay happy, and entertained can be all it takes to help you craft the vacation of a lifetime.