By Alison Cupp Relyea
Vacations are wonderful, right? In theory, yes, but with small children, travel can also be exhausting and emotionally draining. The change from your everyday routine means more planning ahead to ensure a smooth trip. Being prepared can make an enormous difference in your family’s experience.
No matter where you are going and whether you are driving or flying, remember that traveling as a family is about having fun and spending quality time together. Making the extra effort before you leave will lead to a more relaxing vacation. Here are some of our favorite travel tips from experienced parents.
- Bring first aid supplies. Scrapes and bruises happen, particularly in summer months, and being prepared for them will save time and tears.
- No matter what size your child’s soothing toy or baby blanket is, be sure to bring it. Families who think the child will be fine without a security item often learn the hard way never to leave it behind.
- Pack snacks that take a long time to eat. This will keep your child occupied while killing time.
- Bring along your child’s favorite activities, such as crayons or books. A little extra packing can mean a busy, happy child.
- Don’t forget to pack a set of travel laundry bags on your hand luggage for wet clothes! Accidents happen, especially if you are in the middle of potty training!
- Always carry a baby blanket, no matter how hot it is outside; airports usually have strong air conditioning.
- Arrive early. Getting through the airport with young children takes more time, with extra bathroom stops and more for you to manage at check-in and security. Leave plenty of extra time.
- Some airlines recently changed their stroller rules and no longer allow passengers to bring strollers through to be gate-checked. If you aren’t prepared for this, it can create a stressful and disorganized trip. Call your airline to confirm your travel expectations, such as stroller use, a carseat on the plane or a bulkhead seat.
- Introduce your child to the flight attendants and your seat neighbors. This will help your child feel more comfortable and others are generally happier to help and more forgiving of disruption if they feel a personal connection to your family.
- Be sure to avoid rush hour or weekend traffic.
- Think about your child’s routines and travel during the hours when your child tends to feel best. Some children will nap when traveling, but some get overstimulated and traveling when tired can make things worse.
- Fill up on gas, use the bathroom and eat a meal before getting in the car to try to maximize your travel time.
- Take advantage of the flexibility. If your child needs a break from the car, find a local spot to get out for a walk and break up the trip.
We hope these tips are helpful as you prepare for your next trip, whether it is this summer or in the more distant future. Thinking through the details in advance will mean you can focus on what matters most when you arrive at your destination: Family and fun!