Ahh, family travel. Quality time spent together, your days filled with laughter and love. It’s all about creating beautiful memories that will be cherished forever.
Ya, right. That’s the Hallmark version of the story.
The true story, on the other hand, also includes projectile vomiting interrupted by fits of kicking and screaming. Those adorable, well-behaved children of yours can quickly turn into creatures from the dark side when you take them on a long trip.
The good news is that family travel doesn’t have to be a nightmare - it just takes a little extra planning and effort. Here are some ways to combat three of the most common challenges families face when travelling with kids.
Whether you’re on a road trip, a cruise or a flight, motion sickness can strike without warning — and kids tend to be especially susceptible. Bumpy roads, turbulent skies and sea swells can generally trigger motion sickness. If it happens, have the child focus on a steady horizon, if possible. It’s the motion, after all, that is causing the queasiness, and focusing on a landmark that is not moving helps. Fresh air is helpful, too. If you’re in the car, roll down the window; if you’re on a boat, try to get up and out into the open air.
To prevent it all together, leave the kids at home. NO, I’m just kidding! consider a small dose of Gravol to ease the tummy flutters. Gravol can cause sleepiness, too, which might be a good thing!
Kids get tired, over-excited, and then they crash. Sometimes they succumb to total meltdowns. You’ve seen it, I’m sure, in line at the grocery store, in the gift shop at the airport … those poor parents trying desperately to quiet the screaming kid flopping around on the floor in a full-blown tantrum.
Step one, remain calm — most people around you have experienced this themselves at one time or another. Step two, try to figure out what the “real” issue is … is it hunger? Is it way past nap time? Is it boredom? The meltdown likely isn’t happening because you wouldn’t buy him or her a lollipop. Try to keep kids distracted with snacks and activities to help the time pass. Empathy can go a long way, too. Validating their frustrations by saying something like, “You’re not used to being in the car for this long. Me either, sometimes I get bored and cranky, too.”
Getting to a destination can be challenging for kids. They get tired and cranky, but worse they get bored! Kids often have difficulty computing time. A 20-minute wait is nothing for us, but it can seem like all day to a little one. The best way to avoid the inevitable nagging question, “Are we there yet?” is to keep them preoccupied and give them measurements of time they can understand, like, “We’ll be there in the same amount of time it takes to watch one episode of Dora.” That makes more sense to a 5 year old than saying “We’ll be there in a half hour.”
For older kids, plug ‘em in! Distracting kids with a movie or game on a handheld is great. When that doesn’t work, try to include them in the act of travelling — make a map for them in advance so they can track the progress. Or let them help plan certain parts of the trip, like rest stops. Kids are curious, so keeping them in the loop may help combat their natural impatience.
What are some of your tips to happy, calm travel with kids? Share with us below!