While vacations and staycations are always filled with wonderful family moments, getting there and back can often be a daunting task for parents. If you have never traveled with kids before, or want to make sure your trip goes smoothly, we have gathered some helpful tips for traveling with kids to make traveling as smooth as possible. After all, travel can be a fun experience that everyone can enjoy while creating memories that will last a lifetime.
Strategies for Overcoming Challenges When Traveling with Preschoolers
Check out some of our top family travel tips and strategies below to help you reduce stress when traveling with young children, especially preschoolers.
1. Prep Makes Perfect: How to Fly With a Toddler
Travel is an awesome way to introduce new sights, sounds, and things to your children, no matter what age. But, air travel with children can become a bit of an overwhelming ordeal due to unpredictable schedules, packing lists that never end, and cranky kids. These are some of the challenges you might face along your journey. Not to mention the challenge of flying with a baby or toddler that won’t sleep.
Here are some of our top tips for flying with preschoolers from when you arrive at the airport to when you land:
- Have an understanding that each flight will be different: Each time you fly, your children will be a little older than the last time. Don’t assume that what worked for them last time will work for them again. Think about what’s changed over the months and what they’re interested in to make a plan and feel prepared.
- Put extra thought into your carry-ons: You will want to bring along every little thing you can think of for your children’s carry-on, but still be able to fit it under the seat in front of you. Changes of clothes are a must, for your children and yourself. And it’s a good idea to throw them in a wet bag so you can keep dirty clothes contained if there’s an accident.
- Make the journey into a game: If you can, get a little creative and think about the flight as a game for your children, just as much as the destination. You can play red light, green light while waiting in the terminal, play I Spy on the plane, and make little things out of disposable cups or utensils.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help: Many flight attendants love working with children and toddlers and they won’t mind helping. You can ask them to watch over your child when you go to the bathroom.
2. Choose the Perfect Destination
With so many places to see, how can you just narrow it down to just one? Our biggest family travel tip for paring down your list is to go with your interests first and let the destination decision follow after.
Do you want to lie on the beach or would you rather go for a nature-packed adventure? Or visit a premier theme park like Disney World that all kids love? Once you can decide what you want to do on vacation, you can decide where the perfect destination will be from there.
3. Prepare for Time Zone Changes in Advance
Traveling through multiple time zones is bound to cause jet lag – for you and your preschoolers. The best way to deal with jet lag is to simply wait it out while your body adjusts. However, the first few days can be rough, especially among children. There are a few things you can do before your departure to help get your preschooler ready for a time zone change in advance.
Make sure that your children are used to sleeping in unfamiliar settings before you leave. You can also try and emulate the sleeping situation they will encounter once at your travel destination, like sharing a bed or a travel crib. This helps remove one obstacle to a good night’s rest once you get there.
In addition, be sure that the entire family gets plenty of sleep the night just before your departure.
4. Set Vacation Expectations
In many cases, children do much better in different situations when they know what is going to happen. Speak with your little ones about what they can expect during your travels. For example, you can talk about what they will experience on their flight, baggage check-in, hotel room and discuss onboard etiquette and airplane safety.
5. Plan Engaging Activities
When you travel you want everyone in your family to be engaged and having a fun time. The key to help keep preschoolers or school-aged children engaged during a family trip is to include them in the planning, in even just a small way. The more you allow and empower your children to pick and choose what they are interested in, the more engaged they will be.
6. Bring a First Aid Kit
Having a first aid kit on hand no matter where you go is always a good idea. After all, accidents can happen at any time and it’s always better to be safe than sorry! This is one of the top tips for traveling with kids that all parents should take into consideration.
7. Limit Screen Time
Getting your kids to get off their devices can prove to be a challenge during your trip. To combat this, it’s helpful to set down some rules about screen time on your vacation before you leave. Make sure that your kids understand how much time they are allowed to spend each day on their technological devices.
8. Packing Smart: Tips for Packing for a Family Trip
- Allow each child to carry a small backpack with them, to fill with toys or other items. Be sure they understand that they will need to carry it.
- Don’t forget to pack an extra change of clothes for each child, as accidents can happen in such small places like the plane and during the hustle and bustle of traveling.
- Have some wipes and hand sanitizer handy.
- Consider saving room (and weight) in your suitcase by packing fewer clothes and opting to do a little laundry during your trip.
- Bring along coloring or activity books in the space that you save in your suitcase. These can easily be left behind once they are used up.
Traveling with preschoolers can be a great way to expose your little ones to new experiences, people, places, and things. Hopefully you can apply some of these strategies to make your travels as seamless as possible so you can have a good time traveling with your loved ones and making memories that will stay with your little ones for the rest of their lives.