Traveling with your children in tow might seem daunting, but with a little planning, you can ensure an enjoyable family holiday for everyone.
When planning your trip
- Realize that children require a slower pace, so resist the urge to pack everything into one trip. Also know that children sometimes need time away from traveling, so a day or two indoors during your trip might work wonders at keeping the trip stress-free.
- For a low-cost family holiday, why not consider a home swap? If you swap homes with another family, you’ll get a child-friendly house, toys for them to play with and lots of information on what to do as well as where to find health care in the area. Check out homelink.org or matchinghouses.com (house swaps for families with special needs).
- If you want to organize supervised childcare at your destination, check that they are not just dumped in front of a TV. Ask how many children are cared for, what activities they will be doing and if they’re divided into groups according to age. Even if all seems OK from home, check their facilities when you arrive to make sure that everything is satisfactory.
- If you’re traveling outside the States, see your doctor a minimum of two months before leaving. Anyone over the age of 18 months might require vaccinations for certain countries. Make a note of everyone’s blood group in case medical care is required during your trip.
- Make sure you have the required documentation for traveling with children, especially if they’re adopted. Many countries require proof of consent from the other parent if you’re traveling without them, and you usually have to carry the adoption papers for any adopted children.
- Keep the children busy with a few projects before you leave. Holiday-related projects help prepare the child for the travels to come and can educate them on your destination. Try looking at the history of the place as well as its wildlife and plant species. You could even watch a movie about the place or try making dishes popular there.
- Check the airline’s policy on carrying liquids onto the plane. Nappy cream, baby drinks and foods might be subject to a 100 ml maximum. Instead, take dry formula with you, as you’ll be able to get boiling water on board. Decant lotions and potions into smaller containers.
During your trip
- If you’re going to have a lot of luggage, it makes sense to send large items like prams and suitcases via a baggage delivery service. It does cost a bit extra, but it will mean a far less stressful flight. If you’re going to use one of these services, make sure you book well in advance. Use firstluggage.com or carrymyluggage.com for a quote.
- To keep track of your children, you might want to invest in a child monitor. It works as follows: You carry a tracking device and the child wears something similar to a watch. When the distance between you and the child is greater than what you have defined as safe, or if the watch-like apparatus is removed, an alarm goes off. Also, once the alarm has sounded, you can activate a beeper on the child’s bracelet to help you track them down. These devices are especially useful in crowded places like malls and airports.
- Attitudes toward breastfeeding in public are different around the world, so if you’re nursing your baby, do some research before you travel. If you’re not sure or uncomfortable, try finding an upmarket hotel restroom or a women’s clothing shop.
- Make use of your airline’s online check-in facility if they have one. You’ll be able to choose your ideal seats and avoid queueing.
- Dehydration is common when you travel by air, so make sure you get the children to drink regularly. Flying can also cause earaches, especially in small children and infants. To prevent them, massage their ears from behind and pull on their earlobes every so often. If your child is older, sucking on candy can help ease discomfort — especially during takeoff and landing.
- If you’re traveling by bus or rail, take advantage of any family deals they might be offering. You’ll probably need identification and photographs to get a family travel card, but it’s worth the effort for the money it saves.
- If you’re traveling by car, children’s car seats are a must. For maximum flexibility, choose a universal model that will work for several different cars.
When you get there
- Check if your room is safe for children. If anything is unsafe, ask for a change of room.
- List all possible activities and give each person a chance to choose one according to the weather.