For quite sometime now, I have been answering a lot of questions like “When did I first start traveling with kids?” .
“What is the right age to take your baby with you?”
“How difficult is it to travel with your kid?”
“Is it advisable to travel with a baby? Isn’t it better to just wait a while till the child grows up?”
My baby is now 10 years old and since the time she was born, all my vacations have always included her. We never stopped traveling and if anything, we traveled more after she was born. Her first trip was on her first birthday and her first international one was when she was one and half years old. With our crazy corporate lives, we definitely felt the need to take a vacation every now and then. And a baby definitely was not going to stop us. So the madam trudged along with us on every long weekend and long holiday.
There are several advantages of getting your child to travel with you. Enumerating some from my own experience –
- Your child is trained to adjust to any possible situation or place. Small hotel rooms, not-so-clean loos, waiting when traveling – no longer really become a task.
- The learning that travel gives your child is something that a book cannot really impart. It is different when you have seen the Taj Mahal versus when you just read about it.
- It opens up your child’s mind to new thoughts and beliefs. They learn to be more tolerant.
- It definitely helps you bond with your child better. Together, you create memories for life.
It has been over 10 years of traveling with kids and with those experiences, I have a few tips that I share with all the mommies who have these questions. Here are my 10 tips for traveling with kids.
1) Picking your destination
The one thing that has always been a consideration since my princess came into our lives is our choice of destination. We try to pick destinations that can be fun for both of us. My belief is that every destination does have something for adults as well as kids, a little research is all it takes to uncover that. When she was a toddler, we deliberately went for some family destinations that had animal farms, theme parks or some fun activity centered around kids. Interestingly, these destinations also, brought out the child within us, making our journey even more colorful and fun.
My suggestion to parents who are just starting to travel out with their child is to start out slow. Pick a destination that is a little relaxing. Once you have done a few trips with your little one, you will be a lot more confident about picking up the pace and experimenting. If you are feeling restricted right now, trust me, it is not that bad. Besides, it is only a matter of time before they grow up and the choice of destination ceases to matter. I know as I have reached that phase. 🙂
2) Researching your journey
This is where I had the maximum questions when planning my travel with kids. Questions on what kind of food, accessibility to various places at my destination, availability of baby rooms, ease of use of prams etc were some common ones. Unfortunately for me, I did not have an easy time finding answers to these questions. However today, the young mommies have it much easier, thanks to forums and websites like BabyChakra. I happen to stumble upon this website and was amazed with the wealth of information available on traveling with kids – from what to carry to specific advice on travel to various destinations with kids. What made it even more useful was that it was not static but an interactive medium with programs like the MomStar where you could get your query answered by other mommies and experts.
I know that I would have definitely used it for researching my journey, specially if my daughter was still a toddler. It would have made life so much more easier. Nonetheless, a research about the destination will help you plan your trip with the children better – be it the things you pack, the food you would be eating to the climate you would be encountering.
3) Finalizing an itinerary
A fine balance between hopping to destinations and relaxing between them has to be achieved. Be cognizant of the fact that one cannot cover it all in a single day. Spread your plan to allow some rest time for the kids. Do not try to do it all by rushing them around as you will just end up with a cranky child and a tired self. If it means missing a few things, be it so. Remember, it is not the number of things that you do during your trip that counts, but how you have done it, that matters. At the end of it all, you really want pleasant memories for a lifetime.
4) Booking for the travel
When you have a toddler, you can afford to do some travel during off-peak seasons. However, with a school-going child, your family holidays get restricted to the holiday season. One of the ways I battle it is to figure out her holiday dates early on and book in advance. When you do so, you can avail of some good deals on flights and hotels. Last minute booking often means higher rates and sometimes, non-availability.
When traveling with kids, make sure you specify your special needs up-front. For flights, you can avail of some bassinet seats that can help your child sleep through comfortably. When booking hotels, remember to request for a baby bed or an additional bed. I have always opted for a separate bed for the simple reason that it is not just my daughter who needs her sleep after a long day of traveling, but us, adults too. Some hotels offer the same as a complimentary deal while a few charge you a minimal amount for it.
5) Packing for traveling with kids
Your luggage definitely increases when you are traveling with kids. I used to find myself being frenzied about the endless things that I felt I needed for the baby. Chalking out a list is what always helped.
This is another area where I missed out on forums like BabyChakra. Halfway through my packing, I would have doubts on things like “What if I ran out of diapers?” or “What if I needed that baby cream?”. The best way to settle those queries is to get advice from a mommy who has done it already. It quells all fears and with an app like BabyChakra, I could have done it on the go. Interaction on such forums always gives you some useful suggestions. For example – instead of carrying a bulky sterilization kit for the baby bottles, you can opt for sterilization tablets that dissolve in warm water and help do the same job.
6) Food essentials
It is important to stock up some nutritious snacks when traveling with kids. They do tend to get hungry every few hours and it is not always that you will find a restaurant or a local store at that point. I would recommend that you carry only short snacks and encourage the child, especially if he or she is a little older, to have a meal along with you during your travel. This is a great way to get them to sample the local food. It is an experience that makes them more adaptable to travel.
Encourage a heavy breakfast before you leave for the day. It will ensure that they are well energized for the day ahead. To be on a safer side, opt for bottled water for the kids. Encourage them to drink a lot of water during the trip.
7) Entertainment Unlimited
Kids are restless and easily bored. Waiting is a game that they are not used to. Make it pleasant for them. Ensure you pack in their favorite toys and games. Download their favorite videos – they definitely work like a charm when they are distressed or upset. Engage in a few word games with the older kids. Believe me, this is not a task but an excellent way to bond with them.
8) Stocking up the medicines
With a child, I recommend that you carry all the important general medicines. I generally stock up for fever, cold, cough and gastric indigestion. Motion sickness too, is another possible ailment that you need to be prepared for. Along with these medicines, I also, recommend packing some band-aids, antiseptic lotion and some bandages. Insect repellents and sunscreen lotions are a must for kids when traveling.
Ensure that the child is vaccinated as per his/her schedule. If there are any additional vaccines specified for a travel to a country, make sure that those are given to the child a few days well before the trip. This will help them recover from the mild fever before you set out for that holiday.
9) Preparing a child for a trip
Getting your child ready for a trip is quite essential. If you are planning to fly out, you can get your baby’s sleep timing adjusted to that schedule a few days earlier. During a landing and take-off, if the child is awake, get them to drink or suck on something so that they can battle the difference in the air-pressure. If you are off on a road trip, getting the child strapped in and used to a car seat is a must.
Once a child is older – say around 5 years, start involving the child in your travel. Stories are a great way to get them engaged. With my daughter, I look for interesting stories from her text books and story books, related to the destination and encourage her to read those. It makes it so much more interesting for her when she visits these destinations as she is able to appreciate them much better.
Travel journals is another interesting way to get them to stay involved and create memories for life. I encouraged my daughter to collect and stick all her entrance tickets to various attractions in Europe in a scrap book. Take a look –
This way you are ensuring that it is not just you, but your child too, that develops an interest in traveling. That itself, is half your burden gone.
10) Letting go of the norms
Finally, let go of your norms and discipline during the trip. Do not insist on the same routine that you follow at home – such as – timings for their food or their bio break. Stop worrying and tackle their needs as they come along. After all, it is a holiday for both of you.
There may not be enough money that you could leave for your child but the best gift that you can give them is the experience of traveling around the world. I know that I would not have had half the fun that I did had I not traveled with my daughter. So go on and book your next holiday with your little ones. It sure is fun!