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Vacation Travel Tips for Parents with Young Kids


At first there was near silence except for the pervasive constant rumble of the jetliner’s pressurized cabin. I could see the other passengers but they were more in silhouette than fully formed human beings. It must have been 3am as we raced through the clouds back to the East coast from California. I glanced to my right discovering my wife fast asleep with my two young children who despite their deep rooted sibling rivalry found a way to coexist within the tight confines of coach class airline seats. Although barely awake myself, I managed to crack a smile at this blissful sight. We collectively survived our first week long family vacation in a state of happy exhaustion.

Without question, traveling with young children over an extended period of time requires planning. Especially if the vacation destination will be new for everyone involved. By default, children view parents as resident experts of the universe. Although kids possess the capacity to thrive when exposed to new experiences they still seek the security of Mom and Dad when dealing with the unknown.

As your children’s travel guides, parents need to be able to adapt. In other words, expect the unexpected. Packing extra patience along with a sense of humor should be a top priority on any trip with kids. Giggles defuse even the most stressful situations. Besides, a departure time may be delayed, but you’re still going to get to travel in the sky on an amazing flying machine.

Overall I learned a lot from my experience traveling with my own children. Below are some useful travel tips I’d like to share with you:

At the Airport

  • Explain the whole airport security process to the children including the removal of shoes, etc. Plan ahead in respect to carry on items. If managing more than one child, decide beforehand which parent will assist each child.
  • Provide healthy snacks to the children. Steer clear of giving candy to the kids prior to the flight. Besides being overpriced, the added sugar can heighten a child’s nervousness, irritability, and disrupt sleep routines. Kids as well as fellow passengers will appreciate a meltdown free flight.
  • Make sure, if time permits, to factor in a couple of bathroom breaks.
  • Bring activities such as small coloring books, etc. to kill time. An iPad or equivalent tablet device can offer a wealth of useful distraction.

On the Plane

  • Have the kids look for their seats.
  • Emphasize the importance of staying buckled in one’s seat.
  • If it’s your child’s first flight, reassure your kid by describing how taking off will feel ahead of time. Also be certain to provide details about the bumpy nature of turbulence during the flight.

Accommodations

  • Look for Hotels offering free Continental breakfasts. Taking the pressure off needing to find a restaurant each morning provides tremendous value as well as better time management.
  • Seek out local grocery stores in order to be able to stock up on a small supply of your children’s familiar snacks for day trips as well as for the hotel room.
  • Map out the are ahead of time. Local area maps provided by hotels can be useful of course, but having a foundation of knowledge will make life easier for the whole family.
  • Use GPS as an additional tool. Complete dependence on GPS will only lead to frustration. If you have access to trustworthy local directions, use them.

What vacation travel advice do you have for parents with young chldren?

  • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

    Excellent advice! Can I drop my boys off and YOU take them on the next “Family Vacation?” Please!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Bruce and um..no thanks. But the idea that parents should have the guaranteed option of drop-offs for vacations should be a given. Go forth and champion it, you’ve got my vote! :)

  • Cari_Gatto

    I would also add to have drinks ready for the kids for take off and landing so if their ears pop due to pressure change they can drink and swallow to relieve it.

    • Anonymous

      Great idea.  The ear popping sensation, especially for kids not used to air travel, can be a problem if not explained to them and quickly addressed when it happens.  

  • http://twitter.com/60secondparent Sixty Second Parent

    Great advice. A weird one I know, but another good tip is to explain the toilet and that it will be very noisy when it flushes. My almost 2 year old nearly jumped out of her skin when we where both crammed into the bathroom and I flushed. Her height put her head closer to the toilet and she got a real fright. Took me a long time to convince her to go back the second time (LONG haul flight)

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for commenting Sixty Second Parent.  You make an excellent observation about kids and loud mechanical noises.  Quite often for kids 3 and under, loud mechanical noises such as vacuum cleaners, electric razors, even the sound of the garbage truck outside can set off a chain reaction of fear within a child.  Thank you for pointing out the airplane toilet.  It’s certainly a jarring noise for anyone regardless of one’s age.  

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  • Concretin Nik

    Great tips! We “practiced” airport security using a doorway and a ruler for a scanning wand a few different days before our first airline flight, and we had gum ready for the ear pressure relief. TheBoy is an AWESOME traveler. We talked about what was ok, and NOT ok while on the plane (kicking the seat in front of you). Which was funny when he had a child sitting behind him one flight, and he turned around and asked them, rather firmly, “please stop kicking my seat.” (He’s 5.) We also made sure to have a card in his pocket that had my cell # on it, and explained who he should go to if he ever got separated.

    Preparation is key. Just realize that while traveling is old hat to you as an adult, it’s ALL completely new to the wee ones.

    • cutemonster

      Thanks for sharing Nik. Great idea about having the Cell # Card in the back pocket, etc. Couldn’t agree with you more about preparation including the unexpected. – Vincent