Travelling with kids
By: Natasha Archary
Ah November! The month where near-meltdowns become the norm and you hold it all together by the threads of sanity that are keeping you from snapping at annoying colleagues, co-workers, family & strangers. There’s no doubt that by this time of the year we could all do with a mini-break or a well deserved annual family holiday.
There’s a certain nostalgia in the need to reconnect with family over this time of the year, it could just be all those feel-good Christmas movies that play on repeat across all the TV channels. It’s also the time when schools close for the Summer and the best solution to keeping the kids entertained and parents calm is to pack up and take the family to the sunny shores that are beckoning.
Whatever the plans are – road trips or international destinations- any parent would agree that travelling with kids can be stressful, exhausting and scary. Disrupted routines, confined spaces, public tantrums and overstimulation can make travelling with little ones and teens seem dreadful.
As daunting as it can be, you can pull it off with relative ease and make it to the end of the vacation without pulling out your hair.
The most important note is to plan your trip well in advance. This will ensure that everyone has enough time to prepare – mentally – for the impending danger that lurks ahead. Jokes aside, have an itinerary that you will be following when you get to your holiday destination, down to the meals and restaurants you will be eating at to the daily activities planned.
Always have a backup plan in place for the venues that are crowd-pullers and leave some room for disappointment because chances are lines will be long, tensions high and patience at an all time low when venues, shows, equipment & rides are booked out for the day.
Take every family members needs into consideration when packing food, snacks and drinks for the trip. With older kids it may be a good idea to get them involved in the decisions. Avoid giving kids sweets on long trips. They don’t need all that extra sugar!
Pack enough for the trip with extra water bottles. It’s always a good idea to freeze water bottles the night before and keep a thermal flask if you need your coffee on the go.
What is it about kids and confined spaces? The tension will build along the journey especially on long car rides or flights.
The wrath of a bored toddler will be felt and heard for hours on end if you don’t provide them with some entertainment or engage them in a game. Pack their favourite cuddle toy, puzzles and books.
If the tablet, hand-held gaming device or cellphone will ensure an hour of calm don’t worry about winning mom-of-the-year awards on this one, it doesn’t make you a lazy parent, if anything it makes you a practical problem solver.
Kids who are 3 and up can be engaged in a game of “I-spy”, “sing-a-long” or other similar toddler fun. Older kids may enjoy “guess-the-artist” or “guess-the-next-lyrics” games. Of course this means you will have to survive hours of feeling trapped in an Idols wooden-mic episode. Have older siblings help keep the little ones entertained.
If you plan on making multiple stops along your road-trip then allow your kids a chance to get out, stretch their legs and run about for 20mins or so. Pack a ball or frisbee which will be a good way for them to use up that pent up energy during stops.
Kids take their cues from our attitude so remember to pack your sense of humour. When things seem to be heading south, calm down before losing your temper. Set realistic expectations with your children, yes it would be ideal to have your kids seated quietly in their seats for the duration of your trip but this isn’t an ideal world. Little ones are just that little, with small attention spans, an inquistive mind that needs to be occupied and little hands that need to be kept busy. Plug in your headphones if you need to drown out the bickering, screaming and tantrums and when you’re ready to face the music that is your life again, remember this too shall pass.
The holidays can be stressful in general but travelling with your family doesn’t have to be. Keep in mind that there are thousands of other families like yours on the roads, on flights and on vacation mode to keep things in perspective. You’re all in need of some R&R and you’re all tired and impatiently awaiting your break so don’t be so hard on yourself or the little ones and just live in the moment – enjoy these precious moments with your loved ones. If all else fails, you could always just have a stay-cation at home.