7 tips for travelling with kids
While travelling with kids might make more work for mum and dad - organising the porta-cot, packing kids’ food, affording family-sized accommodation and sourcing a place that both adults and children will enjoy – it’s also a time of vital family bonding. “It’s a wonderful thing – it’s a chance for some quality bonding between parents and children and between siblings,” says Justin Coulson, psychologist and father of four. Here are his tips for a memorable family holiday:
Let the kids help
Asking your children what they’d like from a holiday means everyone will have fun on their time away from home. “If it fits with the budget, let the children have a turn at choosing where you go,” says Justin. “Even plan it with the kids – what animals do they want to see, which theme parks do they want to visit? Have a look at a map, get some books out of the library and go through it together. If you’re having a family holiday, children should be involved in the planning.”
Babies prefer to stay close to home
If you’re the parent of a small infant, Justin says the most enjoyable holiday can often be the one that’s closest to home. “Babies love routine so, as a rule, young children don’t travel well,” he says, adding to leave the long-haul trip for a year or two’s time. “There are so many great places to see, so try and go somewhere a couple of hours away.”
Do your research beforehand
Do your homework before booking a trip away and ensure there’s something to please different age groups. Also remember that children don’t have as much stamina as grown-ups, so leave plenty of time to get around a new place, and don’t attempt to take in multiple museums or parks in one day.
Packing is key
If you’re heading off on a long journey, ask each child to pack a bag filled with their favourite things - drawing books, pencils, books to read and iPods with their own music – and keep them to hand. “Keep toys handy – don’t put them away in a suitcase,” advises Justin. When kids do get bored, asking for some quiet time isn’t unreasonable. “It’s OK to have half an hour off and ask them to close their eyes or quietly do some colouring in,” he adds.
Think about food and drink
Unhappy kids are hungry kids - and when you’re on the road you can’t always rely on finding a service station or eatery that serves up nutritious snacks. Instead, pack a bag of light snacks, such as fruit, water, rice crackers and muesli bars. Panic-buying fizzy drinks and chocolate from a corner shop to abate wailing kids will make matters worse, as the high sugar level will give them a short-term energy rush, but will end up making them feel more tetchy and irritable.
While toilet stops are a nuisance, health experts warn that dehydration is common in children holidaying in a different climate or on a long plane flight. “If you’re travelling on a plane, you’ve already got dehydration issues because of the dry air, and then parents often don’t give their children enough to drink because they don’t want them going to the toilet all of the time,” says Dr Steve Hambleton, federal vice president of the Australian Medical Association. He advises letting your kids sip water as much water as they want, rather than trying to go without.
Get an early start
As with most aspects of travelling with kids, organisation is key – so pack the car or your bags the night before and set off early. If you’re on the road by 9am, you may arrive at your destination or overnight stop by 4pm or 5pm, which is late enough for most children. Factoring in a nap-time for babies will make the journey more enjoyable. “It’s about picking the right time to travel – it’s best to have babies in the car when they want to sleep,” advises Justin. “If they’ve just woken up, they’ll be hot and cramped – not a good idea.”
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This article was originally written for our sister site kidspot.com.au by Joanna Bounds and has been adapted for kidspot.co.nz