Posted on: August 01, 2013
Posted by: Paula Stenzel, Customer Experience & Social Media Manager, SilverBirch Hotels & Resorts
Planning a family vacation can start with a hard case of cold sweats! How long do we want to be travelling? How are we going to keep the kids busy? No one looks forward to long hours in a confined space with small children whether that space is a plane, train or automobile! Then there are the long layovers in airports! Oh the dread! I have known many people who have ruled out any vacations that include long car or plane rides, opting instead to have vacations closer to home until their children are older and more able to amuse themselves!
I thought my family would be different… “let’s take the kids on trips, let’s show them new things and have new experiences, it will be fun!” we said…
Our first trip with children was a trip that would take us on two plane rides with a long layover, and across the country! Travelling that distance with two boys under the age of 2 years! Some would have said we were crazy, and it felt like it at times. Luckily our boys at that age were very easy to travel with, and it probably helped that we took a red-eye flight. Yes, they slept almost the entire trip – SUCCESS!!! Well, so we thought. However all this trip did was lull us into a false sense of “we know how to travel with children, it’s easy! What was all the fuss about?” We found out on our next big trip.
Again, travelling with two small children, this time under the age of 5 years. Yup, again two flights and across country. Boy if we only knew how different the two trips would be! From our oldest son becoming very tired and screaming at the top of his lungs at his Father and he wanted his Mommy, to our youngest son waiting until we were descending for a landing to decide he needed to use the washroom and crying to let him go or he would have an accident. It was plane rides and layovers from you know where!
Needless to say we learned quite a few things on these trips and the ones that followed. We learned from our mistakes on what to do and what to bring on long trips, as well as researched travel blogs by parents, online and magazine articles, and books with tips and tricks on how to travel with children.
I have chosen the top 10 tips we have found over the last 10 years that have helped us have uneventful and very enjoyable trips with our boys.
1. Toys and Books. Bring them! New toys and books that they haven’t used before will help to keep them busy for longer periods of time. Ensure that the toys are ones that can be easily played with in seats, whether it is in a car, plane, train or boat. For children who can draw, print or write, encourage them to keep a travel journal so they can share their trip with other family members or friends when they get home, or just plain help them remember all of the cool things they will do and see on their trip. This works especially well when you are going somewhere farther away. The trick here is to not take out the toys and books until the children are starting to show signs of boredom, try to space out the activities to cover more time of your trip.
2. Technology, it is your friend. Whether you’ll be using those little screens in seat backs, or your own iPod, iPad, Tablet or handheld game systems, these items are a life saver. This even applies to children who normally may not be permitted to use technology. Load up apps that are age appropriate and upload digital copies of their favourite movies. Technology can be a game-changer for those long flights or layovers and can cut down on the weight of carrying more books and toys. Bring earphones for each family member to use that can be used with your technology or that of the transportation you are using. Even if your children are too young to keep earphones in their ears, watching something on the screen will occupy them.
3. If your child is old enough, let them bring their own carry on. Pull cases work best with younger children. They can pull the case themselves and this keeps them on the move. Or if they get tired it can become a game where they sit on the case while you pull them along. Remember smaller children will at some point get sick of carrying a backpack or other carrying case, so ensure it is small enough for you to carry along with your own luggage.
4. Bring snacks. Car rides and airline flights will not necessarily meet your child’s meals or snack needs. Bring their favourite snacks that are easy to carry and will stay fresh during your trip, and do not break customs laws. Try to avoid too many sweets or other foods that can make your child sick if your flight becomes turbulent. There is nothing worse than when your child gets sick and vomits on airline flights…. Trust me on this one!
5. Bring a change of clothes in your carryon. Pack each person’s carryon with at least new undergarments, new shirt and your necessary medications and toiletries, keeping in mind the carryon restriction for liquids. This will help you in case of an emergency spill, accident or the dreaded lost luggage scenario. For infants and toddlers, ensure you have enough diapers and change of clothes to last for at least 24 hours.
6. Don’t forget the wipes. Wipes such as the individual packets of Wet Ones with anti-bacterial cleansers are a life saver. Before you know it your child is touching something dirty and their hands are traveling towards their mouth. Not to mention that many times public washrooms are not the cleanest places. Plus, these work well for meal or snack clean-up for all family members.
7. Let them take their own pictures. Whether you give them their own travel camera (disposable, or a child friendly camera) or their own iPod, they will be excited to take their own pictures of their trip and the things they see as cool or interesting. My kids loved taking their own pictures of our recent cruise to the Caribbean and some of their shots were much better than those I captured.
8. Include your children in the planning. Once your children are older, and by older I mean old enough to have their own interests, include them in the planning. Talk to them about your trip, show them brochures, websites and even planning videos so they can see the activities, excursions, or entertainment that will be available and be sure to include some of their interests in your itinerary. The children will feel included, empowered and very important that they were able to help plan the family vacation.
9. Investigate the kids’ clubs/activities. Well run Kids’ clubs or activities can be excellent and give your children a real sense of their own vacation, let them meet new friends and interact with children their own age. Check review sites, talk to people you know who have gone to the same place, visit the club or activity area, ask questions and observe before you leave your child in someone else’s care. Better to be safe than sorry.
10. Be sure you have all of your required documentation at least 3 months in advance. Children’s passports are only valid for five years. Allow yourself enough time to renew them. This can usually be done in 4 weeks, but best to give yourself some breathing room to avoid any unforeseen problems. There are times when you may need to carry extra documentation, for instance if your child is adopted, you may need to carry their adoption papers; or if you are the only parent travelling, regardless of your marital status, you may be asked for proof of consent from the other parent for your child to travel, especially to another country.
There are many other tips you can find on the internet, in magazines, or in books. From planes, to camping, to cruising, these tips have helped make our family vacations successful. Until the next stage in our children’s development and our next trip, it is always an adventure!
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