Family travel might sound like a light and fun idea, and you will probably have some good quality time together indeed. But you have to be aware it won’t all be chill and play. Children on board can be really difficult to tame. However, with excellent and timely organisation and an overload of patience, you will eventually insure a safe and pleasant family travel time. Start planning early on and follow these tips, to save yourself some elevated stress levels:
1. The Detailed Planning Stage
Even if you are in an adventurous mood, and feel like going on a spontaneous road trip, taking the kids with you changes the game completely. Careful research and scheduling well ahead of your journey is essential. In the best case scenario, you would do this at least a month before the trip. Decide on the route you’ll be taking, and allow for more time than what would normally take you. Travelling with children will be slower, as unexpected stops might occur. And also, if you’re planning on visiting more places, be realistic, as the time you need for each visit might even double when you’re with the little ones. Check for suitable stops on the way, and schedule your breaks as well.
Packing with the children
Under no circumstance do not let your children pack their own bags alone. You can do it together, and make it fun, and consider what they would like to take along, but don’t let them do it alone. You’ll never know what you’ll end up with.
Hint: for the sake of your fellow travellers’ and your own sanity, don’t take any noise-making toys (you’ll thank me for that later).
Follow the weather forecast for your destination for at least a week before your journey, and pack clothes accordingly. Prepare some healthy snacks and fruit for the journey. But still, little amounts of junk food won’t hurt, and will make the children happy on the way. Don’t forget to take some essential medicine like paracetamol. Stock on bug repellent as well. And take it from me, you can never have enough baby wipes with you.
2. The Booking Stage
Part of the thorough planning process is the booking of accommodation and/or tickets in case you’re travelling via train, bus, or plane. When you choоse your hotel, check if it is “family-friendly” and if it has enough facilities and services for children. Also, definitely research for family discounts to save on the cost of the whole journey. Even if you plan your vacation to be more flexible, make reservations at the hotels at least for the first couple of days. This way you’ll have a greater chance to prolong your stay if you wish so.
A cheaper option
There is a cost-savvy and quite comfortable type of accommodation you can take advantage of- swapping houses. You can try a few websites like Homelink and find another family, local to the area you want to visit, who will be en route your neighbourhood. You’ll pay nothing, and you will spend your vacation in the comfort of another family house. No annoying hotel personnel, no crowds of other tourists. Of course, this would mean you’ll have to prepare your own home for the other family. Put away anything you’d like to keep to yourself, maybe even hide away your valuables (just to be on the safe side). And also, you can even hire a cleaning company, and leave the house clean and tidy to ensure your guests’ stay will be pleasant. It will still be a much cheaper option than paying for a hotel.
In case you’re flying with the kids, book a priority boarding and take advantage of it. It’s true, this way you’ll spend more time in the confined space of the plane. But on the other hand, you’ll have enough time to settle with the children, and they will feel more at ease by the time the other passengers board as well. A good rule of thumb when it comes to flying long distances, is to book a night flight when the kids’ regiment predisposes them to sleep.
3. Let The Fun Begin Early On.
Don’t rely solely on your kids’ favourite toys to keep them distracted during the journey. Prepare some fun games you can play together in the car. Bring on a lot of crayons and paper. You can ask younger kids to draw their impressions of the trip, instead of keeping a travel journal. Encourage older children to write about their experiences throughout the journey. Think of giving the little ones a cheaper camera. They will be quite happy at the opportunity to make their own digital memories, and will keep away from your quality and expensive equipment. Pack some children’s books, music and download a few child-friendly smartphone apps. Explore the places you’ll visit with maps and history facts.
Children can get irritated quite easily when they’re on the road. The trick is to let your own inner child out, and have fun together. Turn the travel into one big and enjoyable game both for you and the kids.