Make travelling with children fun by knowing the top problems and how to solve them.
Travelling with teenagers or young children is fun if you prepare yourself physically and mentally. What does this mean? Simply put, try to think like them, expect their reactions and solve the problem before it happens.
Let’s skip the part about the real trip planning. You probably read about planning a dream vacation already. Instead, let us focus on some problems that affect children when travelling that can stress you out. Don’t despair because there are simple ways to reduce your stress.
Here are some of those problems and solutions:
Problem #1: Boredom. “Are we there yet?”
Boarding a plane, sailing on a cruise or taking a road trip is all part of the deal before you actually arrive at your destination. Adults know there will be a lot of time spent waiting but children have little patience and just can’t wait. You want to avoid tantrums and an embarrassing scene and they want something to do.
Solution: Bring Entertainment.
For the younger children, make sure that you have a bag handy with little toys, games and books that will keep them amused. Sometimes it is good to have each child carry a small backpack with their own stuff to give them a sense of responsibility. Improvise games related to your trip to add a learning aspect to the trip. Encourage the children to entertain each other.
For older kids and most specially teenagers, a personal handheld gaming device such as a Sony PSP or Nintendo DS can keep them occupied. The same goes with their portable music devices such as iPods, MP3’s and cd players. As these items are expensive, make each child responsible for one item and they can swap with each other to use them. If you have decided that your trip will be “technology free,” books, travel games and puzzles will also do the job.
Problem #2: Hunger. “What time do we eat?”
Kids have lots of energy and big appetites. It is not uncommon for them to ask for a snack right after a meal. It makes you wonder where all the food goes. If you are in line for pre-boarding or driving on the highway, stopping to eat is not a welcome distraction.
Solution: Provide Food.
Feed your children a light meal before leaving your home. Pre-cook the meal a day before (or order take-out food) to free up your time. Don’t stuff them full or you might have to deal with another problem! Just make sure they are not hungry. Remember to pack small snacks in separate containers for each child. Keep them handy to whip out at a moment’s notice and do pack some for yourself too.
Problem #3: Call of Nature. “I need to go!”
Yikes! This is one stop that can happen at the most inconvenient time during a trip. Imagine having to undress a small child zipped up in a snowsuit. Or you feel stressed out by the running taxi meter while someone has rushed to the toilet. Banning putting everyone in diapers, what else can you do?
Solution: Schedule Frequent Washroom Stops.
Set given times for washroom/toilet stops and let everyone know. Give everyone enough time to make that last washroom stop before leaving your house. Another place to remind them to do their business is at the waiting lounge restroom before you board the plane or cruise ship. On a road trip, announce the rest stops ahead to get them ready. (Also go easy on the liquid drinks).
Create a buddy system for the older children and teenagers when using a public toilet and go with the little ones yourself. Dress the younger ones in clothes that are easy to pull on and off. Change the baby's diaper before boarding to avoid embarassing smells and unecessary tears. Some airports are very child friendly and have special amenities for them.
Problem #4: Wrong Clothes. “I have nothing to wear!”
It’s great to give children some responsibility and allowing them to pack their own clothes can be one of them. However, you can arrive at your hotel to find out they left their bathing suit behind or only brought casual clothes for your cousin’s wedding. Before you tear your hair out, there is a simpler answer than packing everything yourself.
Solution: Follow a packing list.
If you allow your kids to do their own packing, make a list of what and how many items they should bring. You can put this on a white board so they can quickly refer to it and tick off what they packed. Bring clothing the children can be active in without you worrying about stains and rips. You want to avoid the extra cost and wasting time to shop for the forgotten hair accessory or matching tie.
For the tweens and teenagers, do a verbal rundown or physical check of their packing before closing the luggage. For younger kids, gather the clothes yourself but ask them to put it in the luggage. Call it early training but they do enjoy helping out.
Problem #5: Tiredness. “I don’t want to walk anymore.”
Some parents think that including a lot of activities will make the children happy and they shuttle the children from one attraction to the next. But sometimes this is just too tiring. Smaller kids are lucky to have strollers where they can settle down for a rest or nap. The older children will just sulk and drag their feet or refuse to walk. Most certainly, all of them will whine and complain.
Choose activities that you can all enjoy as a family. If you are staying at a hotel, choose one with a swimming pool or better yet a water park. Adults and teenagers alike enjoy this. If you are doing sightseeing, tell everyone what to expect for that day. Plan activities that are suitable to the children’s ages and physical abilities. Take short rest stops on benches or on the grass. Do take time to relax and enjoy.
If you want to have some grown-up time, check if your hotel offers babysitting. If you are comfortable leaving your children for a short time with a sitter, have a dinner date with your spouse in the hotel restaurant.
Some of these solutions will need a bit of tweaking to suit your family’s specific needs and individual personalities. Communication and helping one another have a good time is key to reducing stress.