The mere thought of boarding an airplane with a young child -- or two -- strikes fear and anxiety into the hearts of parents everywhere. The perceived stress of air travel with potentially apoplectic children at 30,000 feet does not invoke a happy and stress-free mental picture.
In spite of this fact, many families are steeling themselves for what they may anticipate to be a potentially stressful jaunt from Point A to Point B. The song of the south and the promise of sunshine to ease away the winter blues is just too hard to resist. With March Break around the corner moms and dads, tickets in hand, are anxious to find ways of traveling with their children with the least amount of stress possible.
Like any parent worth their salt, I too have fretted and stressed about the prospect of vacationing with young children in tow. In my case, my youngest are toddler twin boys, so one can understand the fear that a meltdown of double proportions may bring.
Having just returned from Orlando, Florida, after visiting with my kids, I can attest to the fact that travel with children can be done. Beyond maintaining a steely resolve, there are some more practical tactics that parents can employ to assure a good time.
Here are my top five tips for traveling with kids:
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1) Be Flexible -- As much as you may want to try to stick to a schedule, it may very well not be realistic, so be prepared to go with the flow in a manner of speaking, in order to have the best time with your family. This means that if you need to let your kids stay up later, or skip a nap or two, that's okay. It also means the rules that are maintained at home e.g. food choices and bedtimes may be set aside for the sake of a good time.
2) Be Prepared - For anything. For a rainy day, or for a sunny afternoon. For the former, have plans to visit indoor locales in your city of choice so that your time away isn't wasted. For the latter, sunstroke and/or a nasty sunburn has ruined many a family vacation, so make sure to slather the SPF protection on you and your kids before you head out for your day at the theme park or beach.
3) Have a Plan -- In this day and age of Google, there's ample opportunity to research your destination well before you get on the plane. Plan and map out your course of action for each day of your vacation, using such tools as Google Maps and Google Streetview to get a feel for where you'll be going with the kids. Include them in your planning so that they feel prepared and excited about your vacation. By the time you actually arrive, they'll be pumped and ready to explore their vacation locale.
4) Travel Light -- For many reasons, you will want to keep your luggage as light as possible when venturing on your family vacation. If you're like me, shopping at the outlet malls and brining back great deals is a much anticipated part of travel, so that's one of the many reasons to take it easy on the packing. Think through what you and your kids will be doing on each day (see tip #3)
5) Wear Comfortable Shoes! Regardless of where you're heading, nothing is more aggravating than a good time cut short due to aching feet. If you're beach-bound, bring both sandals or flip-flops as well as closed-toe rubber-soled shoes. Ditto for days at the theme parks and various sites. Dealing with aching feet and frayed nerves (especially those of the younger set) can really put a damper on your holiday fun.