I learned the hard way that traveling with kids isn’t the same “just with kids.” In the same way we adults prepare for a trip, our kids also need some preparation. While the age of your kids will determine their needs, here are some ideas to involve your kids in travel planning, manage expectations, and enjoy a smooth vacation!
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7 Tips to Make Traveling With Kids a Breeze
Traveling with kids has tremendous benefits, but it can often feel less like a vacation and more like work. Luckily, there are a few steps you can take to ensure that your trip is meaningful, memorable, and somewhat stress-free.
As humans, we often thrive on routine. A trip upends that routine and the comfort it brings. Regardless of age – but especially with the little ones – explain what your days will look like compared to their regular life. Will breakfast be in the vacation rental or out at a restaurant? What will nap time and bedtime look like? Show them photos of where you will be staying.
Involve Them In Some Decisions
When traveling with kids, try to involve them in the planning process. Give them choices on what they would like to do. Letting them help make some decisions gives them ownership over the trip. A recent example in my house went like this: “We need to take a shuttle or the metro from the airport to the train station. Here are the pros and cons of both, the cost is the same. How do you want to do it?”
Involving kids in the planning lets them feel like they are part of the process and teaches them that a lot goes into a family vacation. This should (hopefully) cut down on complaining while executing the plan and give them a greater sense of gratitude for the trip.
Visit Your Local Library
The same way we adults pour over guide books and blog posts on our destination, we can bring resources home from the library for the kids to look at. This will help them anticipate what they will see and do while there. It will help explain any cultural differences and open the conversation to these essential issues ahead of time. When kids have prior knowledge of a place, they will be more interested when they are in that place.
Your kids may find something of interest in the book that wasn’t on the original itinerary that you can add – which then involves them in decision making and gives them ownership of the trip. And, as parents, we always want to tap into those interests and see what doors start to open!
Watch Travel Shows
Like books, travel shows are a great way to learn and build anticipation of your destination and something to do as a family. Many great resources are available, from National Geographic shows to Rick Steeves and PBS Kids shows like Let’s Go Luna! Watching as a family creates the opportunity for parents to explain any cultural differences and figure out what kids find interesting. Recently in my family, we eliminated an excursion we had on the “maybe” list after watching a Rick Steeves segment about it.
Give Them Something To Do
If you’re traveling with kids to a national park, the Junior Ranger program is an excellent way for them to stay engaged and focused. You can easily mimic this program on other vacations by preparing a scavenger hunt for your kids to do while there. Use the visitor sites ahead of time to prepare questions for which they can find the answers. You can give your kids a small notebook or journal they can write the answers in. You can also have them take photos along the way.
If you have a camera that your child can use to take their own photos, use it! They stay focused and engaged. Later they can show you the pictures and explain why they took them. Once again, this gives them ownership and some control of the situation.
Bonus tip: Reward the completion of the scavenger hunt with souvenir money!
Speaking of Money…
Have the souvenir/ money discussion ahead of time. When kids know how much they have to spend (your money or their own), it cuts down on begging for everything they see. It’s also a great life lesson as it teaches them to think about their purchase and, once they spend it, it’s gone.
Send a Postcard
Who doesn’t love receiving a postcard? Take some stamps and the addresses for grandparents or friends and encourage your kids to send postcards. If your child is too small to write, have them dictate to you. Don’t get in the way – what they write as their impression of the trip is always priceless!
Bonus Tip: Write the addresses ahead of time on mailing labels so you can just stick them on the card and mail.
Do you have a helpful tip for traveling with kids? Share your ideas with us in our Local Anchor Facebook group.