It’s pretty inevitable that on any family trip one of your kids will have a meltdown. Keep in mind that they are just little humans living the experience at its fullest sensory possible. But there are ways to minimize the number of emotional overloads your kids may feel; by reading over this guide to Stress-Free travel and choosing what works for your family.
Don’t wait until the meltdowns happen to find a fix. Check out these smart tips to keep you, and your littles, on their “A” game.
I remember that time we had the girls in Haiti. We were visiting an elementary school where the non-profit we were working with was building. When the bell for recess rang about 150 kids ages 4-10 (ie with no inhibitions!) swarmed around the girls. Us adults, we weren’t the hot commodity, the “PETIT BLANC” (little white) were. Next thing I know Ellia is freaking out as 300 hands are reaching for her hair and her arms, pulling her in every which direction. I had to hoist her out of there and out of the reach of the prying little hands. I felt like a bouncer! Now, this may be a pretty unique scenario, and maybe not one you will encounter, but had I had some forethought I am sure she would’ve handled the situation with a little calmer, had I just remembered to NAP HER that day.
Naps and Bedtimes
Kids love structure. Yes, it is fun to adventure and hit up every excursion possible, but if your kids are used to napping or having some “quiet time” at some point in the day if you can avoid it, DON’T take that away from them.
Believe me, everyone will be in a better mood if they are rested and full of good energy. This means sticking to your kids’ regular sleep schedules (naps and bedtime) as much as possible.
Indulge a little
While travelling you are going to run into tempting situations, such as snacks on the plane, or a dessert with supper. Stick to your kids eating habits, but offering them a treat could be a highlight of that part of the trip. Remember: they are on vacation too, let them enjoy some of it.
Pack Healthy Snacks
Do you have a long day planned? Pack snacks with sustenance and plenty of water. Whenever you see your kids need a little pick-me-up, offer them something healthy to eat before they go crazy.
Adults get HANGRY (hungry + angry) all the time. Well, guess what, so do kids. Their bodies burn a lot of energy just trying to keep up with you while you are walking around town, so keep them fuelled.
Have Some “Normal” Food As Back-up
If your kid is not an adventurous eater, and you are travelling somewhere where you are unsure if they will enjoy the food, it could be smart to have a little something they find “normal” as a plan-b. This way, if you are out to dinner and your child is completely disgusted by what is served to them, you can feed them the “back-up food” without them ruining your entire tables meal and night out. But honestly, push your child to try new foods, it’s all part of the travel experience.
FOR HEALTHY TRAVELS
Bring The Basics
When travelling anywhere, near or far, we always make sure to have the basic meds that we may need, saving us a trip to the pharmacy. In our bathroom bag, we carry pain reliever (Children’s Tylenol), muscle relaxant rub (Tiger Balm), Bandaids (the girls love these princess ones), and triple antibiotic ointment.
Also pretty much every bag we carry has a mini bottle of hand sanitizer somewhere in it.
Don’t Be Afraid To Ask
If someone is not feeling well, don’t hesitate to ask a local where a good medical facility is. This could be anyone, the hotel front desk, a cab driver, or the person sitting next to you at the bus stop.
Most areas will have a good medical facility close by, where they can check whoever isn’t feeling well and can recommend how to proceed.
Depending on where you are, if you know exactly what is wrong and how to fix it, some countries don’t require prescriptions for basic meds, such as pills to kill parasites. And more often than not, in those same countries, the meds are cheap.
ON THE PLANE
Keep the kids entertained
We fly with a bag full of entertainment goodies for the kids. The contents usually involve small toys, activity books, headphones, iPads, and something new (a toy or book they have never seen). These goodies and surprises will buy you some time. If your kids have a good enough attention span to watch an in-flight movie, let them. Again, indulge a little, allow a little more “screen time” than usual, because you are trapped on a plane, with hundreds of other people, and you don’t want YOUR kid to be the one that everyone on the flight complains about.
Bring a Sippy Cup/Water Bottle
Have an empty sippy cup or water bottle in your carry on. That way once you have gone through the security check you can fill it at a water fountain. Kids get thirsty, a lot, and the wait until plane service can be long, so be prepared.
When booking flights, be aware of the connections
If you can, take the least amount of connections possible. If there is a direct flight that is not that much more expensive than I would recommend it. The extra money spent on shorter travel time is worth your sanity.
If you can’t avoid connections, make sure to take the ones with ample time between the flights, so everyone has a chance to stretch out their legs, run off some excess energy, and have a bathroom break. No one wants to be racing to their next gate while dragging a kid behind them!
Minimize The Carry-Ons
We’re bad at this one! If you can, bring the least amount of carry-ons possible. You already have a kid (or worse, kids) to schlep around the airport, it’s easier to do that without 6 carry-on bags.
Odds are your kid is going to take off running in the airport, and if you have a pile of bags without, it makes for a very awkward situation. Imagine: “Sir, do you mind watching my bags as I wrangle my kids?”
Also, when getting off the plane you don’t want to run the chance of forgetting one of your bags, it’s contents could be valuable (like your camera gear, or the only teddy your kid uses at bedtime). It’s much easier to remember three bags than six.
ON THE ROAD
Know Where You’re Going
For longer drives with kids, you want to plan ahead, to steer clear of such things like city centres at rush hours, or roads with construction or severe delays. Being stuck in gridlock is tense for anyone, add to that the short attention span of a child and what was supposed to be fun drive may turn into a lengthy nightmare.
Those little bodies need to move, and sitting, strapped in a car seat is no fun. Plan your trip with ample time to take breaks. If you can, make those stops at fun spots. Think parks, fields to run in, or even attractions like a children’s museum. Also make sure that your break spots have accessible toilets, killing two birds with one stone…fun and a potty break.
Same as in flights, an entertained kid is a happy kid. Have snacks, water, toys, music, and audiobooks on hand. Anticipate what your kid will need and be prepared. Helpful tip, baby wipes are always handy!
If you want easy, book an All-Inclusive
Take out many travel stresses by booking an all-inclusive vacation. You won’t have to drive anywhere since everything is right there. You won’t have to carry money around since most of them have the meals and drinks included in your plan. Most all-inclusive have restaurants for everyone’s food style. And if you want, you won’t have to have your kids in tow all day long since many of them have great kids’ clubs to entertain your little ones while you lounge by the pool!
Pick A Kid Friendly Hotel
A hotel with a kids’ club or babysitting services are gold. Do your research and find a place where the whole family can have fun.
Some hotels may not be branded as “Adult Only” but they will leave you feeling like you, and your kids, are in the wrong location. Read reviews and check your hotel’s website to make sure that this is a place where it is ok to have little ones, that sometimes make noise and may disrupt other guests!
Choose Your Room Location
If your kids are especially little, try to get a room closest to your main attraction. If you are planning on spending a lot of time at the pool, then get a room near there, removing you the pain of having to walk across the whole grounds 4 times a day.
If your hotel has a bar on-site, you may want to be a ways away from it. People on vacation tend to party, and get loud, the last thing you need is some drunk yelling and waking up your kid in the middle of the night.
Most likely, not all of these tips will apply to your next trip, you may not be doing the all-inclusive thing or a long road-trip, but pick and choose what applies. With this bag of tricks, you are sure to remove some tense travel moments from your family trip, giving you less little-kid-meltdowns and more stress-free, fun time.
And keep in mind, kids are kids, and no matter where you are, they may pull their embarrassing stunts out. Like that time both my girls were rolling around on the shop floor, beating each other up.