Family travel typically creates some of a child’s most treasured memories. But for parents and kids alike, getting ready for vacation can be stressful. Plus, many obstacles come up during travel, particularly when you’re flying or driving long distances. But there are ways to make travel more fun for everyone — here’s how.
Keep Everyone Connected
Making sure kids (and spouses) are entertained on long trips is challenging. But one way to lessen the stress is by adding car WiFi to your packing list. With a hotspot in the car, your kids can use their tablets to stream music and videos plus play games. In short, a WiFi connection covers all your entertainment during the drive, whether it’s your teen wanting to video chat with friends or your younger child watching preschool cartoons.
Before you head out, consider updating your data plan, or look for a service provider that can ensure you won’t hit too many dead zones during your trip. Verizon, for instance, provides coverage for roughly 98 percent of the United States, which means your kids will be able to stream whatever they want regardless of your destination.
Give Kids Important Jobs
Although parents often make the major decisions about where and when to vacation, that doesn’t mean kids can’t get involved. Letting them pick activities and delegating tasks to your children can help them feel more invested in the trip. After all, as Penn State explains, kids like feeling that they have control and choices —even when it comes to fun things like family time.
You can designate one child as the snack monitor—they can oversee the cooler and pass out snacks. Kids may also enjoy planning snack menus—popcorn, berries, dried fruit, nuts, string cheese, and hard-boiled eggs make excellent—and healthy— road trip food says Eating Well.
Older kids can be navigators with either paper maps or smart devices, and you can also have teens research potential vacation spots or book travel.
Put Essentials in Everyone’s Luggage
Whether you’re flying or driving, a missing (or inaccessible) bag can spell disaster. When you fly, losing one suitcase can mean one person is without clothing or other vital supplies. In a car, it’s downright inconvenient to dig around for the basics on the side of the road.
Make sure each person in your family has a change of clothing, toiletries, and any necessary items somewhere accessible. When flying, aim to divvy up clothing and other items among your luggage. Even better, pack everyone’s basics in their carry-on. Just make sure to read up on the TSA rules before heading to the airport—limits apply for personal care products and even foods.
Make Sure to Prep for Emergencies
Along with packing a first aid kit and extra diapers, there are other emergency items you should have while traveling. If you’re traveling internationally, you will always need to keep everyone’s passports and visa documents with you.
But even when you’re taking a road trip, you should plan for every eventuality. Bringing your children’s identification and health insurance documents along is a smart idea. When boarding a plane, infants need some form of ID, too, such as a birth certificate or passport. Make sure your ID matches your child’s documents and consider carrying a certified letter from their other parent if you’re traveling solo, says the US Embassy.
Stick to Your Regular Schedule
Sticking to your children’s regular schedule can keep them from feeling overwhelmed while traveling. No one wants to wake up at 3 AM for a flight, but it’s especially tough for children to function without enough sleep.
Schedule flights and departure times for your kids’ natural wakeful periods (unless you’re sure your infant will nap anywhere) and plan for frequent downtime, too. With international travel, be patient with the transition to a new time zone and choose activities that will help kids get energy out at the appropriate times of the day.
Of course, avoid overscheduling, too. Aim for a single “big” activity per day with plenty of time for relaxing. It is, after all, a vacation. Even sensory play opportunities like playing in the sand at the beach or pouring water in the bathtub can be relaxing for children, especially the younger set. Make time for leisure for both you and your children and you will all feel happier and rejuvenated.
Traveling as a family can be a highlight of your kids’ childhoods. But approaching your adventures with an open mind and a few smart strategies will make the difference between a fun trip and one that’s filled with stress. Prepare accordingly, and have fun!
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