By Ann LoCicero
Whether you’ve trekked in Nepal, hitchhiked in South America, backpacked in Europe or traversed North America by road, children are likely to change your perspective on travel. Sleeping in the railway station because you didn’t consider the implications of a 2 am arrival time and no hotel room may, at age 20, lead to great memories. When traveling with kids, a night on the floor is more likely to be a nightmare. But that doesn’t mean you’re limited to caravanning on the beach round the bend until the tikes become teens.
Travel with kids is all about traveling smart. Selecting a family travel destination and deciding which hotel, resort or inn to book will impact the cost, often times significantly, but won’t ensure your trip with the kids is fun. Choosing family attractions and activities that are appropriate for the age of your children and at the same time enjoyable for the adults is just as important. Scheduling your itinerary to match their pace, from taking time out for a proper breakfast, lunch and dinner to alternating play time and sightseeing, will go a long way to avoiding a melt down.
Proper family travel planning will help alleviate the stress associated with travel for kids. And it isn’t just for those who refer to their holidays as vacations. Researching your travel destination thoroughly before you are comfortably seated on the plane will give you time to get the kids properly vaccinated. Yet travel health is not the only issue that requires consideration when vacationing with kids. Reserving train seats and booking entrance times to museums and attractions in advance will help you beat the queue and reduce long wait times. Understanding transport passes can save more than just a few cents; buying a pass on day one circumvents the need to study the fare schedule on days two, three, and four.
Food is likely to be a problem whether you travel to a neighboring state or half way round the world. Research your vacation destination’s culinary treats before you depart. Find out if your all-inclusive resort offers a children’s menu before you book and, if possible, introduce the kids to your foreign foods before you depart. Pack their favorite snacks in resealable bags and if you’re traveling to a remote destination, carry enough to keep them happy for the entire trip.
Long distance travel with kids can be a hair-raising experience; it can terrify even the bravest of souls. When traveling with an infant or toddler, planning your travel time to coincide with your child’s nap or sleep time will not only reduce the time you need to keep them occupied: It eliminates a cause of irritable little ones. Flying direct can cost more than connecting flights. Yet if a direct flight reduces your travel time by an hour or more it may make sense to pay the difference. Pack the car and your carry-on with the kids in mind. Include travel games and activities that will keep them occupied but won’t annoy your fellow passengers. Avoid sets with small pieces and don’t take everything out at once. And while you may want to include a book or magazine for yourself, keep them stowed away until you’ve played with the kids for an hour or two. For kids, a family vacation is a chance time to spend quality time with mom and dad.
So the next time you’re thinking about your summer vacation or weekend break with kids don’t let a fear of traveling with the little ones impact your choices. Travel smart and plan ahead. And leave others wondering, ‘Why would they take their children there?’
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Ann LoCicero has traveled with her 8-year-old daughter to destinations both on and off the beaten path. Not only does she believe that kids can travel, travel with kids is fun and it is a great opportunity to introduce children to the world beyond their backdoor.