Whether you're traveling by plane, train, or automobile, the key to traveling with kids is to keep them comfortable and entertained, which in turn ensures a less stressful, dare we say enjoyable, travel experience for parents. Pick a destination that has something for every member of your family and don't over-program your days.
If relaxing is your goal, consider a cruise or a resort, where everything is at hand once you arrive. A travel advisor specializing in family travel can help you choose the vacation that's right for your family and if there's sightseeing in your plans, he or she can ensure that you plan days that everyone can enjoy.
If you're going abroad, you'll need to ensure that all vaccinations are up-to-date as soon as possible since some inoculations come in series or take time to kick in. Also, make sure any prescriptions are filled in advance and check with your primary care doctor to see if there are any additional medications recommended for your destination.
BUILD THE EXCITEMENT
Most importantly, begin building excitement around your vacation before you leave home. If you are heading to Paris, swap croissants for pancakes one morning and explain the different foods your family is trying. If you are heading to Disney World, review the theme parks with each kid and garner a sense of their interest in rides to help plan your itinerary while there.
Calendar countdowns are another fun way to get the whole family involved in the months leading up to your trip.
No matter your mode of transport, allowing extra time is essential; especially around peak holidays. Whether it's unexpected delays at the airport, lengthy security lines, or bumper-to-bumper traffic, you won't regret building a buffer into every phase of your journey. Ask your travel advisor to help you decide the right amount of time you will need for your means of transport, children's ages, and family size. And be sure to ask for your family to be seated together on your flights.
GET EVERYONE INVOLVED
If your children are old enough, allow them to carry their own bags, but keep all your travel documents and identification in one place with a designated holder. It's also a good idea to review screening procedures with kids in advance, assist them with removing electronic devices from their bags at airports and allow them to walk through the security ahead of you so you can keep an eye on them. Emphasize the need to stay together at all times.
Snacks are an important part of keeping children occupied and complaint-free. Have a mixture of classic and healthy snacks for the whole family; if they're old enough, let the kids help plan out and package the snack bags. Having water available is also a necessity for hydration and comfort.
Once you arrive, familiarize yourself and your children with the layout of the hotel, cruise ship, or resort; make it casual but interactive and fun to keep their interest. If your kids are younger, check around to ensure there are no small objects toddlers can get their hands on. Create a loose schedule for structuring your days; include wake-up times, free time, and daily activities but do not make your plans too rigid. Remember, vacations are supposed to be relaxing and fun!
Here are some helpful resources:
Wherever style of vacation you're planning, a travel advisor that specializes in family travel can help you avoid common mistakes and create a trip that caters to and delights everyone in the family.
By Jillian Dara, freelance journalist/editor