As summer vacation plans are in sight, now is a good time to maximize tips and tricks for traveling with children, which can add anxiety and stress to an experience that is meant to be relaxing and bonding. Fortunately, helpful tips for preparing and planning can help calm some of the pressure.
Check to see if there are any shots you and your family need before traveling. Determine what paperwork is required and do your research to be sure you are acquainted with rules and customs.
Pack at least one week ahead, so if there are any everyday items you forgot to put in your suitcases, you will be reminded as you use them throughout the week. Remember to pack the essentials and do not over pack. Baby essentials include wipes, bottles and enough diapers to get through at least a few days. Your diaper bag counts as a carry-on bag, so pack it wisely. Bring plastic bags for dirty diapers and clothes and take with you familiar items that will provide comfort in unfamiliar environments. If you have lightweight versions of big items like strollers or car seats, bring them along as well.
Entertainment during travel
Puzzles, Legos and books can help provide entertainment on drives and flights. If electronics are used, download the games and videos before the trip because Wi-Fi access is not guaranteed and waiting can be frustrating. Get new toys to be used for the first time during the trip to keep the children interested and entertained.
Tips for flying
Feeding a baby during takeoff and landing may help their ears adjust. Keep routines as consistent as possible; put children in their pajamas if they are going to sleep on the flight. Bring a change of clothes for everyone and bring activities for the children. And did you know that booking flights 53 days ahead or flying on a Tuesday or Wednesday can save money? Flights that leave between 6 p.m. and midnight are most cost efficient. Some international flights offer baby bassinets, but they need to be reserved in advance. To save time, check in online.
Hotels vs. rental homes
Most hotels offer room service and some have babysitting and housekeeping available. However, vacation rentals can be more economical for families because guests prepare the meals, and they may be desirable because they eliminate the concern about noise that could bother others.
Check with the airport about the specific amount of baby milk and food allowed through the security points. Pack snacks for travel as hungry children are cranky children and that can make travel difficult for you and others around you. If possible, bring your own food for the trip. In addition to saving money, there is the security of having food should you not be able to stop and get snacks. Access to food can be unpredictable and eating schedules may be off.
Schedule down time
Keep the family feeling refreshed and excited to explore by scheduling time to unwind. Overtired children often get cranky and are unmotivated, so it is important to schedule breaks. Young children cannot sit still for long periods of time so give them opportunities to run around and exert energy.
It is impossible for everything to go exactly as intended. Plans will fall through, children will get cranky and unexpected events will occur. Try to remain calm during these uncontrollable situations and leave room for changes. Travel can leave children with lifelong memories. When issues pop up, remember that the experience is irreplaceable.
Graziella Simonetti is a parent educator for EAC Network’s Long Island Parenting Institute and works as an early childhood social worker for the New York City Department of Education. She holds an advanced certificate in parent education from Adelphi University and is a NYSPEP credentialed parenting educator. Simonetti is a former kindergarten teacher.