Crisis-Free Travel Tips for Families
We've all heard the horror stories, and some of us have lived them: the baby throwing a cup of orange juice on the gentleman in the white suit sitting in the next seat; the toddler who doesn't stop screaming throughout the six-hour plane flight because her ears won't pop; the kid who throws a fit in the security line because he refuses to put his Spiderman sneakers through the security scanner.
For many of us, holidays mean travel, and family vacations are meant to be fun, but traveling with children can be hectic for everyone involved. So, we've compiled some helpful suggestions to keep you and your little ones safe and happy while in motion.
Are We There Yet?
For flight delays and long car rides, it's essential to bring toys, books and electronics to keep the kids entertained. Even if you generally don’t let your kids play with your tablet or watch TV and DVDs, now’s the time to indulge them (if just to keep you sane). Right now (post-Thanksgiving, that is) retailers including Walmart and Toys R Us are having huge sales on toys and electronics. If you want to keep it lo-Fi, Crayola has good solutions for arts and crafts.
The airport can be an overwhelming place for children. Heck, these days it can be just as overwhelming for adults. If your kids are old enough to understand, make sure you explain what happens at the airport (especially if they haven't ever been), including security checks, baggage claims, waiting at the gate, etc., so they are mentally prepared for it.
During the takeoff and landing of a flight, pressure changes in the cabin can cause pain in our ear canals. Kids have a hard time “unpopping” their ears on airplanes, and can get anxious and upset when this happens. For older children, lollypops and gum are a good solution. Drinking lots of fluid (water is best) is also helpful because it increases swallowing. Keeping kids awake during takeoff and landing is also a good idea, as people swallow less while sleeping.
Mind Your Luggage
These days, airlines charge big bucks for extra bags. Try to limit yourself, and each additional family member, to just one carry on item. If you do need to check a bag or multiple bags, make sure you find out how much each extra bag costs before you book the flight. Some airlines allow one or more free checked bags, like JetBlue and Southwest. Check out Irv’s Luggage for sensible packing solutions.
Buy plenty of liquids, like bottled water and milk, before the flight. It can be hard to get the flight attendant's attention, you could be taxing on the runway for a long time, and a lot of airlines don't have milk on their airplanes. Also, while traveling and siteseeing, it’s easy to wrack up a lot of bills eating in restaurants and on-the-go. Pack portable snacks like nuts and berries, grapes, granola bars and fruit cups.
Websites like Groupon and LivingSocial offer deals based where you live, but you can also get deals for the cities you are planning on visiting, including special offers on dining and local attractions. We love Mamapedia, a website with local advice targeted to mothers and families.
Go All Inclusive
All inclusive resorts are a good way to control expenses, because everything is prepaid. Some companies even have deals where kids stay, play and eat for free. Meanwhile, you get some alone time while your little ones are being watched. Beaches offers age appropriate activities for teens and tweens like water sports, karaoke and video games, where they can interact with other kids.
It's important to have a plan, but, when traveling with children, take minute to stop and smell the roses. If you've been running around a lot, it's nice to stop and sit in a park for a while to slow things down. Also, everyday activities like picking out food at a local market or playing in a playground can make a foreign place feel more like home.