By: Jane Moore
Traveling with your kids can be an incredibly rewarding— and sometimes overwhelming— adventure. The typical travel stressors— like delayed flights, flat tires or overbooked hotels— can become 10 times worse when you have to manage your children during these challenges.
However, a small crisis doesn’t have to be a vacation-ruining catastrophe. Getting ready to travel with your brood? Check out these stress-reducing ideas that could be the difference between exciting and exhausting.
Tip #1 Plan For Contingencies
You know that certain times of year and specific destinations have a greater risk for travel disruptions. You can reduce a great deal of stress if you start by simply accepting that these situations may delay your plans, but that doesn’t mean they have to derail them. For example, if you are flying during the holidays, you can expect to wait in line for security longer than usual. Be sure to get extra early so you don’t have to rush your kids through.
You can also sign up for TSA Precheck to make the process easier on everyone. Inclement weather can be a catalyst, too, even if you aren’t going anywhere snowy or cold. When flights are delayed, the risk of your luggage getting lost increases, so be sure your essentials— like car seats and strollers— go on the plane with you.
Tip #2 Let Your Kids Make Some Choices
When let your kids help make decisions about the destination, hotel or activities, they feel more invested in the vacation. Research shows that children can get more excited and more strongly anticipate the activities they weighed in on. This not only enhances their fun, but it means you can take steps to control behavior by warning them they might lose out on something fun if they misbehave.
Since they had a hand in planning the very thing that might get taken away, you have a greater chance of only needing to warn them once or twice. The consequence of bad behavior on vacation is more powerful to your child because he or she has more context about the adventure ahead.
Tip #3 Plan to Take a Break From Each Other
Sometimes you just need a night out with your spouse sans children, and there is nothing wrong with that. But planning ahead for a day or evening without the kids while you’re traveling means tracking down quality child care wherever you’re going. If you’re staying at a resort or hotel with childcare options, this takes some of the guesswork out of the equation, and typically these offerings provide extra activities so you know your kiddos are being taken care of and having fun.
Alternatively, you can also hire a reputable, verified babysitter with the click of your mouse. Be sure to use a website that conducts background checks and provides contact info for references. Try to conduct interviews and figure this out in advance so you’re not scrambling at the last minute.
Tip #4 Arm Yourself with Distractions
When you’re suddenly faced with the prospect of spending the night in an airport or your car is stuck at a standstill due to holiday traffic, the countdown on your kids’ attention span starts immediately. Having backup plans can help you keep them from becoming too bored or brazen during the unexpected delay.
An airport scavenger hunt is a great way to keep your kids active while burning through an hour or two. Be sure to stick with them and don’t let them wander too far unaccompanied. Bringing out a brand new toy in the car can buy you a good bit of time— especially if you let them open the packaging!
Traveling with kids is a fun and exciting adventure, but it can come with setbacks. It’s easy to let those little stressors pile up, turning what was an exciting idea into a strained situation. Trying out these four tips can help you make the right decisions at the right time, circumventing disaster with flexibility and laughter.