Summer is finally here! Another seemingly endless Boston winter is behind us, and our thoughts are quickly turning to days full of sunshine, ice cream, and vacations spent with family and friends. When you have young children, a vacation can seem like a daunting adventure. Travel can be frustrating for all ages, and everyone needs time to feel comfortable in a new environment and, potentially, a new time zone. Vacationing with young children, despite its challenges, can be incredibly rewarding and can lead to wonderful memories and experiences for both children and adults that last a lifetime.
This summer, before packing your bags and hitting the road with your kids, there are some things you may want to consider to increase your chances of having a smooth and safe journey.
- Go! First and foremost, do not let the fact that you have young children – even infants – keep you from traveling to family or simply for pure enjoyment. If I have learned anything in all of my years working with kids, it is that they can easily surprise you. While you may be stressed out about planning and travel arrangements, children often embrace the change and love the excitement of it all.
- Time, Time, Time: Be sure to give yourself extra time when traveling with children. Get to the airport with plenty of time to spare. If you are going on a road trip, plan extra time for bathroom breaks, snacks and meals, and free play rest stops. Feeling rushed will only add to your stress level and the stress level of your child.
- Kid-Friendly Accommodations: Be sure to book hotels that are kid-friendly. Do your research to ensure that the hotel has the right amenities for entertaining children. These might include a pool, game room, restaurants with kids’ menus, etc. It may also be worthwhile to stay in a condo or apartment that has a kitchen. Such places may, in fact, be cheaper than hotels and you could save additional money by staying in for your meals. It is always nice to have a refrigerator to keep milk, formula, etc. cool and at the ready.
- Ask for Help: You would be surprised at how helpful flight attendants, concierges, etc. are when you ask for help. Many airlines now have kids’ toys on the plane which can come in handy during potential meltdowns.
- Bring a Stroller: Even if your child is an older toddler and can walk well on their own, it is helpful to have a stroller to navigate large airports or simply to get around a city. Children tire easily, and they also can run off quickly. A stroller helps you keep some sense of control as you are going from one place to another in transit.
- Pack Wisely: This goes without saying, but be sure to bring extra diapers, formula, and a change of clothes, especially when you are on a plane or in a car. Research the climate of where you are going and bring rain gear, boots, hats, sunscreen as needed. Even though you can buy these necessities at most places, you will save money if you put extra thought into what you pack for your child. Also, don’t forget special blankets, toys, games, and devices that will make the trip go by faster.
- Play Spaces: Nowadays, many airports and train stations have children’s play areas. If you have time between connections, ask the information desk if there are such areas and seek them out. They can be great ways to kill time and allow children to get out some energy. Be sure to bring and use hand sanitizer because these spaces can also be full of germs.
- Advance Check-In: Be sure to check in for flights ahead of time online when possible. This process checks off one thing you would need to do once you arrive at the airport.
- Travel Around Naptime: Try to travel around naptime whenever possible. Your journey will go much more smoothly if part of it happens while a child is sleeping. Also, a well-rested child will be a happier child.
- Be Prepared: Travel with headphones, especially on airplanes, because many airlines now offer free Wi-Fi and television. But, of course, be mindful of how much screen time your child gets on any given trip.
- Talk: Be sure to speak to your kids about the upcoming trip. Get them excited to go and all the things that you will do and see. Talk to them in detail about the schedule and what will happen and when. Many children like schedules and like to know and understand what is going on around them.
- Involve Your Child: An excellent way to get your child excited about a trip and in the right frame of mind is to engage them in the planning process. Let them help with the packing – even let them bring their backpack with their personal belongings. Also, ask them what activities they would like to do once on the trip. This makes them feel involved and empowered.
- Enjoy: Above all, try to remain calm throughout all aspects of the journey and vacation itself. Be patient with your child; know that new settings take the time to get comfortable. If you are relaxed, chances are your child will be as well.
Good luck and make many happy vacation memories. This summer season does not last long, so have fun and get the most out of any quality vacation time you have with your children.
About the Author:
Gladys Ruiz is the Director of Little Children Schoolhouse in Brookline, MA. After more than ten years working in Early Childhood Education, Gladys opened the Little Children Schoolhouse to provide a nurturing, loving environment—an extension of her student’s home and family life—in Brookline. Pre-K, Preschool and Daycare programs for toddlers and infants include extra activities, such as weekly music, yoga, cooking, science activities, and field trips. Both full day and part-time enrollment are available.