Vacationing With Kids is Difficult
“I’m Not Hiring Any Babysitters.” - Carl Fredricksen (The Incredibles, 2004)
The first thing you should realize is that it’s going to be difficult. You will have a large amount of luggage. And material with you. – Possibly so much that you will need to rent a trailer for your bags alone. You will have a small child or children that will demand your attention for trivial things like “not wanting to play hide and seek anymore” – making the planning of any itinerary more difficult. You’ll go on road trips, which always take longer than conventional flights, especially if you factor in the amount of gas you’re going to consume as well as the amount of bathroom/snack/toy breaks you will need to make. I hope that’s not discouraging, it just means you should be ready for a lot of extra work and pain in your vacation planning process.
Here are some tips to help out with making the experience more manageable:
Go Early in the Morning or Late at Night
I didn’t start off doing it, but at some point, I realized that the best way to get through an airport with kids is to be there when it opens. It’s usually serene. That window of time between the opening and when the business traveler shows up for his flight can give you a lot more breathing room. You can walk around without people staring at you… and if they do stare, you can just tell them “sorry, I’m with my kids.” It’s no big deal (plus it feels good to be able to finally say that).
Another time preferred for traveling is late at night. You’ll have fewer lines, but more importantly, your children will be exhausted. They’ll sleep, which means you won’t have to worry about avoiding loud noises or making sure they aren’t roaming around the airport with strangers (although security will still offer you that opportunity if you don’t do it yourself.)
I couldn’t count how many times I was stuck in a situation where I would just give up on getting food and begin to get hungry. This was usually when we were traveling during the day, so I thought it wouldn’t be a big deal to take lunch money for me +1 – WRONG! Not only was it a pain to keep track of who had how much money, but if you’re trying to keep your children focused and in a certain place, it’s better to not have them running off to McDonald’s every time they’re hungry. There are just too many opportunities for them to get distracted by the colorful lights and noises of an airport or restaurant.
On our next trip, we will be taking food wherever possible. Even if we have to go out of our way by stopping at a grocery store along the way, it will be better than forcing us to deal with my toddler’s whining over his empty stomach.
Keep the Itinerary Flexible (Even if You Can Keep Your Children on Target)
Keep in mind that you might not get everything done on your itinerary. The reason for this is that there will be times when your child doesn’t want to do something anymore, or they’ll only stay still for so long before they start playing with the nearest stranger’s phone/tablet/watch / etc… which might cause them to make a scene (even if their intention was innocent.) If you have a flexible itinerary, it’s easy to just move on and do something else.
Go When Everyone Else Is Gone
If you’re able to schedule your vacation times around the slowest times of any business or destination, then you will likely have an easier time with all travel situations – flights, lines, waiting rooms, gates…
Pack Some Entertainment
Don’t just bring one toy, but make sure to have a variety of options for kids. It’s no good having just one thing if it becomes broken or lost. Also, don’t go overboard by bringing board games (take only 1), coloring books, and crayons, as well as other stuff that requires a lot of preparation. Pack something that you can whip out and use on the go (like a deck of cards, coloring books + crayons).
I hope this helps! I know it’s not much in the sense of travel hacks, but just trust me when I say having an early night and a good breakfast are the most important things for surviving a vacation with kids. I’ve learned many lessons on my travels thanks to my children and I hope they help you on your travels as well!