Traveling with children of any age can be a major challenge, especially if you are doing a long haul trip and crossing a border or two. But with some careful planning and some strategic sanity saving maneuvers, you and your children can get to the other side complete with nerves intact. Traveling with toddlers is a bit like beetroot in the blender without the lid on – but it doesn’t have to be a completely painful process and you will survive without having to hit to the booze or tranquilizers. Here are some of the top 10 tips for traveling with children from the pros, who have been there, done that and are washing the car with the t-shirt.
1. Travelling Companions
If you are traveling with another family with kids of the same age, you are in luck. Not only will you have someone to commiserate with, or to feed you wine surreptitiously decanted into a water flask, both parties will have equal needs for their families. Road trip bathroom stops won’t set off rolling eyes from other traveling companions who are on holiday without small children. Pick your traveling companions well, and the rest of the journey will be a breeze.
If you are traveling to a foreign country or even just going on a road trip, make sure that you pack in a mini medical kit with all sorts of day to day necessities you may not be able to find when you reach your destination. Things like plasters, disinfectant, hand sanitizer, children’s chewable panado, children’s cough syrup, adults headache tablets, children’s cold and flu syrup, insect bite cream – something to soothe itch from mosquitoes and that kind of thing, plenty of high factor sun lotion, disposable wipes, after sun lotion and throat lozenges.
Obviously, if your child is allergic to something or has asthma, be sure to take more than enough of the prescribed dose and a letter or prescription from your doctor in case you may need to get more.
Kids need to drink plenty of fluids while traveling – dehydrated kids are grumpy ones and it may not always be about food, especially on a long haul flight. Some parents don’t let their kids drink too much water as they don’t want them going to the toilet every 5 minutes. But face it, a toddler or young child is going to do that initially anyway – want to go to the bathroom all the time – it’s the nature of the beast and the novelty will wear off.
4. Get to the Airport Early
If you are flying to your destination, make sure that you are there way ahead of time. Kids get unsettled easily when they are rushed and they pick up on their parents’ anxiety as well, which will just make things worse. Book in well ahead of time and take the time to have breakfast and settle in before boarding. Many airlines have dedicated play areas for kids to enjoy, which will help them get rid of some of their energy before or while waiting for a long flight.
This is a controversial one and although many people may think it is actually okay to get a mild sedative for their child, stop and think how much it is for your child and how much it is for yourself. Kids are cool – all of them – including special needs kids, they actually don’t have any irrational fears, it is us as parents who are projecting our issues onto them. Sedation is a serious issue and should only be considered as a last resort under the care of a highly experienced physician.
The age old art of distraction, timed perfectly and requiring no special skills - you can effectively entertain and distract a child from running all over the plane or screaming all the way to your destination. Pack a goodie bag with loads of toys, books, crayons, cards and that kind of thing. If they are really out of sorts, have a small media player on hand and play them stories with earphones. They will really chill out with a soothing voice reading a story should do the trick.
A routine is obviously easier to keep while on a road trip holiday and less on a flying one, but if you make some moves to keep it together, it could save you a lot of headaches. Keep mealtimes at the same time every day and when you get to your destination, keep bath and bedtime on the clock as well. Exhausted kids are miserable, and it’s not fair on them or you.
8. Washing Hands
Diarrhea is a very much unwanted traveling companion. Make sure that your child is washing their hands after every bathroom visit at every rest stop area and if the facilities are less than desirable, make sure you have disposable baby wipes or hand sanitizer handy before they pop those fingers back into their mouths.
9. Motion Sickness
Some kids really do suffer from bad bouts of motion sickness, and in a stuffy plane or car on the road, it can make your child feel terrible. Check with your doctor beforehand about getting your kids something appropriate just for them that you can give them to prevent motion sickness. It may just be a case of needing to stop along the road, open a window to get some fresh air on their faces or putting a fan on their faces on the airplane. Never buy over the counter medication for motion sickness, it may not be suitable for kids and you may be doing them harm.
10. Regular Road Trip Stops
If your kids are getting uncomfortable in the car, are moaning and miserable, it may be necessary to make extra stops along the way towards the end of your journey. They can stretch their legs, grab a cool drink and get some fresh air, perhaps even a stop for lunch will help.