This blog post was updated on August 2, 2019.
Whether you’re embarking on a transatlantic voyage or skipping town for a long weekend, if you plan to travel with kids, your trip can be as rewarding as it is aggravating. To make your next family vacation more of the former and less of the latter, consider these five sanity-saving moves.
Involve kids in the planning process.
Young travelers who are involved in the trip planning process often feel more ownership of the experience (whether they are able to verbalize it or not). Depending on their ages and interest levels, you can engage kids in planning the itinerary, booking airline tickets, selecting a place to stay, choosing day tours, and researching activities and restaurants. Older kids can even be in charge of planning the itinerary for an entire day.
The more input they have on the front end, the more in control they will feel during the trip itself (even when they are not).
Talk about expectations before you leave.
Make sure your young travelers know what to expect in terms of the length of flights and train rides, your accommodations, the amount of walking involved, food options, and other situations that could potentially be challenging for them. If they know what to expect upfront, they are more likely to have fewer questions along the way (including the dreaded “Are we there yet?”). Another part of the “expectations” talk can be your expectations of the kids during the trip. This is a great opportunity to answer each other’s questions and gain a better understanding of how the trip is going to go.
Pack lots of activities (and snacks, lots of snacks).
This is another opportunity to work together with your young travelers to identify activities that will help them pass the time during long flights and train rides. Splurge on a new coloring book and set of nice markers, a few new apps, and some movies. This investment will pay dividends in the middle of an eight-hour flight. Along with activities, be sure to pack lots of snacks (more than you think you will need) of both the salty and sweet varieties.
Let the kids make decisions along the way.
There are lots of moments while traveling when we have to make choices about which museum to go to, which train to take, where to eat, etc. Whenever possible, let your young travelers make the final choice (after you vet all the options and come up with 2 choices you could live with, of course!). Again, control (or at least the illusion of it) can be a force for good when you’re planning to travel with kids.
Schedule in time for rest and relaxation.
It can be tempting to pack itineraries full in an attempt to squeeze every last experience into your trip, however, this can spell disaster when you want to travel with kids. Be sure to schedule in downtime so young travelers have a chance to rest each day. If they still have the energy to burn, another great option is to bring them to a playground or open space to run around and have fun for a while. Well-rested, relaxed kids make the happiest travelers.
Do you have any sanity-saving tips for others planning to travel with kids? Let us know in the comments section.
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