Don't let the first few words of this article make you break into a cold sweat!! The level of anxiety that you may be feeling when planning a vacation with children can depend on many factors. Where you are going, the potential long flight or drive, limited food options along the way and the disrupted sleep patterns that may occur during this time you are there can all play a huge part.
Traveling with children may seem overwhelming but please do not avoid vacations because you will be taking them along. Yes, a romantic weekend will not be quite the same as it used to be but with a bit of thought given to appropriate destinations and accommodations, vacationing with children can be a great bonding experience for the entire family!!
So, in light of this, let's focus on the ways to manage the travel woes and still have an amazing time!!!
Here are a few tips and things to consider when traveling with children:
Plan Travel Times During Nap Times: If you have a lengthy trip, try to plan it when your little ones usually nap. At first the excitement will take over, but once they feel the vibration of the plane or car – it usually means lights out.
Surprise: Take NEW toys/activities your children they have never seen before on the plane or car ride. The excitement of a new toy or activity can go a long way!!!
* Have some family games ready for unexpected delays..."eye spy with my little eye", "alphabet game", "animal game" and even the "telephone game" can help pass the time.
Do your research: Depending on where you are staying, ask if a crib is available or bring a pack n' play with you if you have young children. If the pack n' play is new for your child I recommend spending some time with your child exploring and getting used to it before they have their first sleep/nap in it.
* If traveling internationally make sure your passports are valid. Be sure they are good for 3 months after the day of your arrival home. Some airlines will not let you board the plane if there is not enough extra time on your passport.
* It is a good idea to check to see if your child needs more than a passport to fly out of the country. A child sitting on a parent’s lap may also need a physical, paper ticket for international flights. Double check with the airline and/or your travel agent.
* Check with your doctor to see if any special vaccinations are needed for the place you are travelling to.
Keep it normal: Try and have the environment as similar as possible to their own bedroom. For instance bring their favorite blanket, toy, portable blackout window covers and even a white noise machine to help with any different noises that may be present on your vacation.
* Try to stick to your regular routine as much as possible during your time away. Missing a couple of naps may not be too bad, but having your child's sleep routine completely turned upside for the entire time you are away may be setting yourself up for a disaster when it comes time to getting them back on track when you return home. When your child is well rested, they will be much better at handling different situations during your vacation.
The Plane: When taking a plane with babies, walk around the plane periodically to soothe during the flight and to change the scenery for them. If you have a layover between flights, walk around as much as possible. Allow everyone to stretch their legs before getting on the next flight.
* Ask if you can have your stroller meet you at the gate rather than checking it all the way through to your final destination. This could be a BIG help if a nap is needed or you need to make your way through a HUGE airport very quickly. Having a “Mommy Clip” on the stroller is very helpful to keep your hands free.
* The EARS ….Have a bottle or something to eat handy during take-off and landing to prevent ear problems. Having them swallow something with help with the pressure in their ears.
Time Zones: When traveling across different time zones it is said that it takes one day of adjustment for every hour difference in the time zone. If you are traveling to a country 3 hours ahead, it will take 3 days for your child’s internal clocks to become accustomed to the new time. That may mean your child will be awake at a strange hour. Plan ahead for this instead of trying to fight it.
* Once you have reached your destination try to establish the new bedtime and mealtime. Yes...mealtimes as well. They are great cues to heIp re-establish the daily routine.
* Spend as much time outside as possible!!! It is challenging to get over a time difference and adjust your internal clock when you spend all your time inside. Spending time outside and picking up on the natural cues will help adjust everyone’s internal clock.
* Once you have returned from your vacation focus on gradually getting bedtime back to the hour they are used to. Try to be flexible with timing during the day to prevent them from getting overtired and skipping naps.
Enjoy your vacation!!!