When I became a mother, one of the things I was most worried I’d have to sacrifice was travel. My husband and I share a passion for visiting new places and taking in new experiences, and I couldn’t see how that would be possible while carting around young children. I imagined us struggling through airports with too many suitcases, fighting with folding strollers and carting around car seats, taming toddler tantrums and hiding our faces from other travelers while our children melted down in their seats.
Thankfully, with a few tricks, we’ve been able to successfully navigate a handful of fun family vacations. Here are some tips that made it possible for my three-year-old to rack up as many stamps in her passport as I had by the time I was 30!
Give yourself extra time
There will be emergency stops, tantrums, meltdowns, shoes that take forever to take off and put back on and more obstacles than you can begin to prepare for ahead of time. Give yourself far more time than you need for everything from catching planes and trains to sightseeing. Trust me, you’ll need it.
Have a game plan
Make logistical decisions well ahead of time. Where on the plane is it best to sit? The back row or near the front? Should you book an extra seat? Should you bring a car seat? Plotting out the trip will take the guesswork out of the whole ordeal, and you’ll be able to foresee any major issues.
Be prepared for illness
Between exhaustion, new foods and new germs from sneezy travelers, there’s a good chance your little ones could come down with a bug while you’re away. If there are certain medicine flavors they tolerate that treat ailments they may be prone to, bring them. These remedies may not be easy to find while away from home.
Occupy their time
Bring lots of activities and treats just for the trip. The novelty of new things to do is guaranteed to keep a little one entertained for at least a few precious minutes! Even if you’re not a family who watches TV, bring the iPad, loaded with TV shows, movies and games the kids might not expect. Bring or purchase lots of snacks in the terminal. When all else fails, a treat will be good bribery to keep kids quiet and happy for a bit.
Be ready for messes
Bring along a sippy cup to avoid spills, a bib, more diapers and wipes than you think you’ll need, a change of clothes and a trash bag or two for diapers and discarded food. The less mess you have to deal with, the better. Travel can certainly be challenging and stressful for both parents and kids, but with a little patience, planning and extra savvy, it can be a great, memorable experience for everyone.