Does the thought of traveling long distances with your children elicit feelings of stress and worry? It’s no surprise – the preparation can be overwhelming, the travel itself may be stressful, and once you’ve arrived at your destination, it’s only a matter of time before you have to do it all over again. Holiday travel with kids can be even more challenging.
No one knows this any better than Johnson & Johnson employee and parent, Mike Wasden. A father of three young boys, Mike and his wife, Norah, have traveled extensively with their children from Iowa to Africa.
Mike and Norah have long distance trips down to a science, but getting there wasn’t easy. He understands the hesitation many parents have about traveling long distances with their kids. Much of discovering what works for his family was a result of trial and error.
With the holidays quickly approaching, you may be considering – and fearing – a trip or two with your family. Mike shares some of his family’s tried-and-true tips to successfully navigating the logistics of travel with kids.
Before You Leave
1. Preparation is key. Preparing for a trip may take a week or so, and readjusting and unpacking from the trip once you return may take another week. Allott yourself a reasonable amount of time to prepare you’ll be more likely to have a smoother, more enjoyable journey.
2. Set expectations for yourself and your kids. Talk your children through the experience, procedures and ground rules before you leave. If your children know what to expect, it’s less likely that they’ll act out in fear or confusion for what’s going on around them. Most importantly, expect hiccups and delays. They’re part of the process.
3. Sleep. Try to get as much sleep as you can leading up to your trip. If you’re traveling during hours when your children are normally sleeping, putting them in PJs and trying to keep a regular bedtime routine may help.
While You’re En Route
4. Take bathroom breaks often. Take every opportunity to let your child use the bathroom, especially before settling in for a lengthy plane or car ride. A little turbulence or highway traffic could be enough to create a dicey situation, so try to mitigate that risk whenever possible.
5. Get out of your seat. Your kids will respond well to being able to stretch their legs through part of the journey. If traveling by plane, go for plenty of walks up and down the aisle. If you’re traveling by car, make a point to stop for meals rather than try to eat en route, even if you’ve packed your own food.
6. Bring snacks. Packstaples you know your children like, but also bring along some new, novel treats. Make sure to bring or ask for a cup with a straw and lid to avoid a mess.
7. Clean as you go. Messes are a given when you’re traveling with kids, so be sure to keep plastic bags and moist towels handy for easily taking care of garbage and spills as they happen.
8. Choose toys wisely. If toys are too small, they get lost; if they’re too big, they’ll take up too much space. Stock up on inexpensive and new activities before your trip so that you’re able to provide your kids with something different every few hours. The activities don’t have to be extravagant – pipe cleaners work really well for keeping fingers and imaginations busy!
9. Ask your kids to carry their own bag. Use suitcases with wheels or backpacks where you can, and ask your children to be responsible for their own. Older kids likely won’t mind, and the younger ones will actually enjoy it!
And finally, Mike recommends that as much as you can, enjoy the journey. Remember that travel is only temporary. Don’t worry yourself with when (not if) your child is crying, being loud or acting out in public. Most people will understand.
Don’t forget why you’ve decided to embark on this journey with your children. The memories you’re about to make and the magic you’ll experience as you watch your children take in new sights and sounds around them will make the stress of travel completely worthwhile.
What are some of your tried and true tips for travel with kids?