Remember the days when going on a trip was almost as easy as getting out of bed, grabbing your bag and running out the door? Well, those were pre-kid days. Travelling with children is perhaps the most difficult challenge a parent could undertake if they have not prepared. It requires forward planning, a dedication to organization and a lot of luck. If you are beginning your planning phase for your trip, these quick tips will hopefully make things run a little smoother.
Always be prepared for the "grey space"
The grey space refers to all those moments spent waiting at the airport, standing in lines or waiting for transport. No matter how prompt parents think things are going to be; “Grey space” always shows up to make an appearance. There will always be grey space and parents should have something prepared just in case. It could be dipping out to enjoy a quick treat from a vending machine, having a colouring book on hand or giving your children a few minutes of play time on a portable gaming system from Nintendo. Having a few tricks up the sleeve can be a vacation lifesaver.
Organize, organize and organize everything again
Even on the shortest trips, organization is the key to successful travels, especially when children enter the equation. Anything that parents or their children could ever possibly need should be within reach and easily found - everything from tissues to headphones. When it comes to organizational packing, let one parent take charge. If one parent packs, they know where everything is. If two parents pack, no one will know where anything can be found; why create opportunities for argument?
Pack a Nintendo 3DS XL or Nintendo 2DS
Don't hand over your pricey smart phone or tablet only for it to be returned covered in sticky finger prints; instead pick up the powerful New Nintendo 3DS XL or a more affordable Nintendo 2DS, which offers the same games as the New Nintendo 3DS XL but gives parents a 2D option for their kids. Not only are these handheld gaming devices built to play the latest games, including The Legend of Zelda, Pokémon, and Mario Kart 7 (which the Nintendo 2DS comes equipped with), but they can do almost everything a tablet can in a sturdier package. Kids will have access to purchase thousands of games as well as the Internet and apps like YouTube and Netflix. Like a tablet, access can also be restricted through extensive parental controls. Parents can control which games and apps children use while also setting a limit on how long they can play for before they need a break. With extra protection inside and out, it will survive most accidental punishment; which has always been the benefit of Nintendo's handheld systems.
Another convenient feature about the New Nintendo 3DS XL and Nintendo 2DS is “Download Play”. Many multiplayer games are Download Play compatible; Download Play is a feature that allows units to share one Game Card for multiplayer gameplay, or send and receive game demos, cutting your costs on multiplayer games if you have more than one child.
Finally, the Nintendo eShop also allows for digital purchases, downloads and free demos over the built in WiFi. So if the kids get bored of the games they brought with them or parents want to keep their mind active with Brain Age: Concentration Training, new entertainment is just a few clicks away.
Have their favourite snacks on hand
Travel is stressful enough without having to enforce the usual dietary restrictions on your child. It's a vacation; it should be fun and allowing children treats that they normally don't get is part of that. With that said, you still need to maintain a fine balance. Too much sugar and caffeine can make things worse, so parents need to know how much their children can handle without getting out of hand. Chewy treats like gum and gummies are also a must during the takeoff and landing of planes; they helps with ear popping.
Let the kids in on the plan
Whether you are going to Limerick or Lima, Barcelona or Beijing, involve children of all ages in the holiday planning process. Talk to them about the destination before packing them up and taking them. For parents that are unsure where to go, give them a few choices. Use pictures for younger children and encourage older children to do a little research on their own for ideas on where to go and what to do. Make the children feel like they are helping plan the family vacation, and that they aren’t just coming along for the ride. By having children lend their opinion, there is certain to be a lot less fuss and whining when it comes time to leave, plus you are building their confidence.
Toss in some kid-friendly activities
For parents who are already dead set on a destination and didn't include the kids in the planning process, make sure there are some attractions that the kids will enjoy. The MOMA may be more educational, but you are likely going to get some pushback when they start to get bored. Activities don’t have to be over the top like Disneyland; they can be something as simple as a stop at a playground, ice cream at the park or a Gondola ride. A little kid-friendly spontaneity can go a long way towards a child's good mood.
Be realistic about your schedule
You may be confident in your ability to squeeze in two tours, a museum and visit to a city's most beloved attraction all in one day, but no matter how many tricks and treats you feed into a child, their energy and their good mood will eventually give out. Always do the most interesting (or the attraction you paid for in advance) first then be flexible from there. It may be worth splurging a little more for a better hotel room, as you will be in there more frequently with kids than adults would be on their own. If they get too worn, many hotels have a list of trusted baby sitters that will watch the kids while the parents head out.
Go for airlines with open seating, and then make a beeline towards other families.
Not only will your kids have potential playmates to entertain them on the flight, but parents will have others to commiserate with if everything goes terribly wrong. Crying kids can be a boon to the other passengers. People that immediately tense upon seeing children on an airplane will have the chance to catch a seat far, far away from the cluster of families.
Make an uncomfortable space more personal.
Whether it is an airplane seat, train car or a hotel room, most children won't do well with unfamiliar spaces. For a more pleasant time, bring things that will transform an unfamiliar space into a more familiar one. Many parents often bring car seats on planes because their child is more comfortable in one. An unfamiliar place can also be spruced up with blankets, pillows, toys and stuffed animals. It may take some time to pack and unpack, but for most kids the benefits are worth it.
Be prepared for picky eaters
Some kids will eat anything, but not every parent is so lucky. Parents should hope for the best, but should always be prepared for the worst. Keep a little something they like, such as peanut butter, tucked away in a suitcase, or at very least know where to buy it. Don't let your child know you have it and aim for restaurants with at least vaguely familiar foods. With any luck, kids will get used to eating what is in front of them if parents start with tasty food. Use any of their familiar food brought from home only as a very last resort.
Fight junior jet lag
There are several schools of thought when it comes to fighting jet lag in children, but the most effective is sunlight. As with adults, the best remedy for jet lag is lots and lots of sunlight. Get up early and enjoy the sun, return at midday for a decidedly short nap and kids should be ready to sleep when the sun goes down. In order to avoid crankiness, keep the blood sugar in check and the day's activities interesting until everyone is fully adjusted.
Praise and reward adaptability
It isn’t hard to scold your children when they misbehave, but positive reinforcement upon their successes goes a long way while travelling with children. If your child doesn't fuss at bedtime – reward them. Maybe they try a new food when they are normally a picky eater – let them pick a dessert.
No matter what parenting style you use at home, travel is different and rewards are always excellent motivation for children no matter what age they are.