As you can see from my blog we travel with the kids. A lot. They go everywhere we go, whether they like it or not.
Many friends and acquaintances are amazed. After telling one friend about a recent trip she said, “Oooo! You are so brave to do all that traveling with the boys!” I hadn’t thought of it in terms of being brave. Sure, I was nervous about going by myself to Scotland with the boys, but that was because I was outnumbered. But going to another country is just what a family vacation is here in Europe.
And since we seem to be going somewhere every other weekend, I’ve developed some tips and tricks to make traveling with the kids easy and as pain-free as possible. You shouldn’t let having kids stop you from going out and seeing the world!
Here are 8 Things I’ve Learned About Traveling with Kids:
Always have something for them to do when they get bored. Because they will get bored. It doesn’t matter if you are going to Disneyland or Grandma’s House, boredom is going to happen, esp on the airplane, in the car, or on the train. You can bring a book, or one of those awesome travel games, or a toy or whatever, as long as they have something that will keep their attention and let them play quietly. You will enjoy yourself more and so will the people around you.
Stay in an apartment. This is an especially convenient and typically cheaper option if you are staying somewhere for a week or more. We have a place that we usually rent via Vacation Rentals By Owner (www.VRBO.com) on Long Beach Island, New Jersey. On Holiday Lettings (www.holidaylettings.co.uk) we rented a great apartment for our week-long stay in Scotland. My friend Pat stayed all over Europe and America in some really, really posh places using AirBnB. Plus it gives you the chance to have a meal in when the kids are too exhausted to behave in a restaurant. And if you have picky breakfast eaters, you can go out and pick up exactly what they like and have a nice slow morning before charging out to conquer the city.
Remember to snack. Kids get hungry. Often. If the chance to stop at a cafe or ice cream parlor presents itself then stop. However, I always go out with a little something in my bag because there isn’t always a cafe or shop close by where you can buy something. It can be easy like a cereal bar, or a container of goldfish crackers (a solid plastic container so they don’t end up being goldfish powder), or some sliced apples in my purse for the boys. Sometimes I have all three!
Prepare to go slow. Kids just can’t move as fast as we can. Especially when it’s urgent. Their legs are short. Their wills to move it to catch the last tour of the day for the interiors of Prague Castle are limited. Plan accordingly. If it’s really important to you do it right away in the day. The practice some Zen breathing.
Don’t expect them to get how awesome it is. We went to Pisa to see the Leaning Tower. I thought it was the most awesome thing ever. I got to see one of the iconic buildings of our time! I was totally geeking out! The boys, however, were unimpressed. I begged them to understand how cool this was, but they remained unmoved. What they were truly impressed by was the number of pizza restaurants on each street.
Let them pick some activities for the trip. This gives them some control over a trip that is usually all about what Mom and Dad want to do. They get to plan it out themselves. It also gives them something to be excited about and it is a handy thing to encourage them to think about when they are bored.
Don’t push through meal times. This kind of goes with Having Snacks, but it’s even more important. I know that the kids and I can be having the best time in the world and then as lunch approaches and our blood sugar starts to drop we start sniping at each other for the stupidest of reasons. (How can your shoe be untied again??) Thanks to Tina Fey this is now known as being “Hangry” – experiencing irrational anger because you are hungry. And not only does stopping for a meal provide much needed energy, it is a nice sit down break for everyone. Just say no to being Hangry!
Accept that things aren’t going to go as planned. It always happens on every vacation. We went to Hadrian’s Wall and it misted on us and rained a bit. But we just put on our rain jackets and headed out. I also remember one time we had planned to go to the dinosaur museum and found it closed for renovation, so instead we happened upon a park with the most amazing carousel (the Europeans love their carousels). There are always other things around to do and sometimes they are even better than what you had planned.
This is certainly not all there is to traveling with kids. But it basically boils down to: be prepared; eat often; be Zen. So get out there and travel! Go see things!