Traveling With Kids: 6 Tips For Planning & Surviving
If there is ever a topic that fills me up with fiery fury, it is the topic of travel with children from those who wish people wouldn’t.
But there have been entire communities out there of traveling children-haters, with many going as far as posting angry videos online with crying children in the background, or while their seats are being kicked by the same, all the while rolling their eyes and making nasty comments to state that children should not travel, and their parents suck.
And the conversation has come up on whether or not airlines should introduce “child-free” or “families only” zones on planes.
I have been traveling with my children since I was cleared by my doctor to do so. Planes, trains, and cars – I never really worried much about traveling with my children unless the issue was cost or distance/time related. Plus, every child – and parent – is different. Some children are perfectly fine taking transatlantic flights, while others don’t deal well with the enclosed spaces on most forms of transportation.
When trying to figure out when is a good time to travel with your kid, it’s best to really go with what you already know about your child and yourself.
There is really no way around the nuisance of travel, with or without kids in tow, but you can prepare your child by talking to them about the process, the various steps involved, and proper etiquette. They are never really too young to start the conversation, and it’s never too soon to give them an opportunity to learn.
Real life experiences are the best teaching moments and regardless of what those who wish we stayed home say; traveling with your child is actually the best way to teach them how to do so.
You can also get really creative with how you travel. Here are some tips:
We took our first large trip (from NYC to Missoula, MT) when my boys were only 2, 3, and 10 years old. If you have small children, especially if you have more than one small child, road trips are by far the best way to bring travel and large families together. In the car kids are free to throw tantrums and be loud, but you can also take those moments to teach them patience and proper behavior without the judging eyes of other travelers.
So many people think that “traveling” means going to far, exotic places. Not at all. The trip to any new destination or place of discovery, no matter what distance counts as travel. And it doesn’t have to be expensive. So if you are only driving 2-3 hours to grandma’s house? That’s travel. We started with 2-3 hour road trips until eventually our kids were prepped for weeklong adventures.
And I don’t mean just the packing and organizing. I mean plan your trip, as much as you can, with your kids. I don’t necessarily plan as much as I go through the list of things that we can do while we are away. I take my kids on the visual journey and get them excited about the trip. I also talk to them about how long it’s going to take – with little kids you can just say it’s a long enough trip that you can take 2 naps for example. Also note, few flights offer snacks anymore. Pack extra snacks as well as activities, prepping for potential delays as well.
When traveling with kids you just can’t rely on itineraries and schedules. New experiences and crowds can be overwhelming for us all, especially kids. You have to give yourself room to be flexible and just go with the flow. When I travel with my kids we have things we want to do, but leave it to the day to determine what we will get to, depending on how everyone is feeling. It makes for a much for easy-going experience.
Talk to Other Parents
Talk to other families who have been there, or read family travel sites that help give you an idea of what to expect. Recently, I had a mom planning a trip through New Orleans with her kids discover on my site that there are actually tons of things to do in the area that are kid-friendly. She had no idea and was worried about how she would entertain her kids while they were there. It’s always good to connect with other parents, as they will be honest about everything, from cost to quality to things to do.
Not just with your child, but with yourself. That worse thing about being judged by other travelers is that it tends to make whatever the situation is, worse. I won’t say it’s easy, especially when people are so intolerant and insensitive, but I will say that they only way to “survive” travel with kids while surrounded by jerks is to be patient with the only people that matter: you and your children. Ignore the stares and remarks, and focus on your child and on making it better. No one else matters.
I am a believer that having children, big or small, should not hinder you from the joys of travel if you want them. It may start off a little rocky at first, it sure did for us, but in time your family will learn to go with the flow and enjoy all that beauty traveling together has to offer.