Vacation: What in the world should you pack… and many more tips and ideas!
If you are planning a summer vacation, whether you have small children or not, you need to have a plan. You will go out of your mind if you don’t set a schedule for packing and finalizing all the details. I have compiled a list of tips and tricks that I believe could help. From a small family to a family of 5 or even more.
These tips are just guidelines, you can tweak them to fit your needs. Vacationing should be as stress free as possible. But, who are we kidding with families everything has some stress involved.
9 Tips and Tricks for packing:
- Start rested- As difficult as it may be, try to finish all your packing and arrangements the day before your departure. This lets all of you take a deep breath before the trip begins. From our experience, much of what we’re tempted to chalk up to jet lag or an uncooperative airline agent stems from the stress of having been up half the night tending to last-minute details.
- Get excited- Talk about the trip and the destination with your child, and involve him/her in the planning. When she confronts the real thing, the familiarity will be reassuring to them. And you’ll be surprised at what they remember.
- Do it together- When packing, let your child help choose her outfits, but make sure you can mix, match, and layer her options. And accept that your space in the luggage will be what little is left over once your child’s every need has been met.
- Lighten your load- If you are a chronic overpacker, read Judith Gilford’s The Packing Book (Ten Speed Press, 1998). Then practice what you’ve learned by not packing the book.
- Stroll on- Strollers are truly handy-as restaurant seats, as nap venues, and especially as baggage carriers.
- Pack a portable potty- Unfamiliar bathrooms can seem pretty intimidating to a toddler who’s learning to use the potty, so carry an inflatable or portable potty seat and expect some setbacks.
- Make time for teddy- Often what little ones want most when they’re traveling is what they already know. Schedule a visit to a favorite fast-food restaurant or some quiet one-on-one time with a beloved stuffed animal.
- BYO diapers- Disposable diapers are available almost everywhere in the world, but they can be expensive. If you’re traveling internationally, pack up to an entire bag’s worth. Coming back, use the space for souvenirs.
- Rent right- Instead of transporting all of your baby items or having the grandparents buy their own, look for a local rental service.
6 great tips If you’re flying with kids:
- Don’t stop- Check with a travel agent so you can fly off-peak and avoid congested airports. Generally, off-peak times are Tuesday through Thursday, plus late at night, very early in the morning, and mid-morning.
- Sit smart- Travelers with babies and toddlers are often advised to sit in the plane’s bulkhead because it has extra room. We avoid it, though, because there’s no room under the seat for a carry-on bag, and we need easy access to our toys, snacks, drinks, and wipes during takeoff and landing.
- Say “I’m sorry.”- Apologize for any disturbances that your children may cause. Generally, it’s not a child’s actions that most irritate other travelers, but the parent’s indifference.
- Carry a toothbrush- No matter how short your flight is, be prepared for the unimaginable: Keep enough food, clothing, and diapers with you for a 48-hour delay.
- Play with her food- A few days before departing, call your airline to order a kid’s meal. So what if she doesn’t eat it? She’ll be distracted for a few valuable minutes, and you may enjoy it more than your own.
- Do it tomorrow- Driving a rental car from the airport into a strange city is a major source of travel stress because most people arrive tired and disoriented. Instead, arrange to pick up the car at a city location or at your hotel after you’ve had a good night’s sleep. (This can also save you money.) Don’t forget to request a carseat if you didn’t bring yours. And if you’re renting in a foreign country, find out in advance if the car has seat belts in the back. Without them, a carseat is useless.
Tips for getting to your destination-
- Know your way- Use online map services such as www.randmcnally.com to help plan your trip and to avoid questions like “Daddy, do you know where you’re going?”
- Pick perfect car toys Leave toys with little pieces at home-unless you want to practice your yoga by bending, turning, and reaching to the backseat floor every 10 minutes.
- Be shady- To keep the sun out of your child’s eyes, get some car window shades or hang a towel from the top of a rolled-up window. When you park, use the towel to cover your child’s seat so it won’t get so hot.
- Resist reading- If there’s any chance that your older child will get carsick, discourage him from reading. Instead, play games that require looking outside the window. “Count the American flags” is especially rewarding these days. Check www.momsminivan.com for game ideas.
- Bring bags- In case your child does get sick, keep plastic bags at the ready. Gallon-size ones are best and can serve a dozen useful purposes. Bring a spare set of clothing for your child. And don’t make the big mistake-as we did once-of not bringing an extra set for yourself.
- Pop in a video- Keep the peace on long road trips by renting a portable VCR. A good source: www.drivinsane.com. Or try books on tape.
- Don’t “make time”- Trying to shave minutes or hours off the average time it takes to get to a destination isn’t only dangerous-with kids, it’s an exercise in frustration.
- Go for the neon- Dress your kids in bright clothing. Pin a card listing their local and home addresses inside their clothes. And if you plan to hike, learn to identify their shoe prints, in case they get lost. This will also prove invaluable at home when you try to figure out who tracked dirt on the living-room rug.
- Cruise where the kids are- When choosing a cruise-ship itinerary, remember that most kids want to be with other kids. You’ll find them on shorter, three- or four-day trips, especially in the Caribbean and during school holidays. Lines that excel at these itineraries include Carnival Disney, and Royal Caribbean.
- Remember their shots- Well before you leave for a foreign destination, talk to your pediatrician about getting your child any necessary vaccinations, particularly if you’re heading to an area with a high risk of disease. If you run into a medical problem abroad, a valuable resource is the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers, which publishes a directory of English-speaking doctors who will treat members. Membership is free (716-754-4883).
- Sleep light- It can take several days for children to adapt to a new time zone. So accept that for a day or two you may be reading Green Eggs and Ham at 4 a.m.
- Tuck away the memories- Don’t be too quick to rule out experiences that you think your child is too young to remember. What they might be absorbing as you carry her through New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art or pedal her through the back roads of Holland is difficult even for a parent to determine with any certainty. But it is quite possible that she is forming impressions, however buried they may become, that will play a role in making her the unique individual she will always be.
- Slow Down- Plan for a slower pace than you might usually attempt if solo or as a couple. Be realistic about what you can see and do with kids in tow. Don’t try to cram too much into your itinerary. The less you feel you have to see, the more enjoyable and stress-free for everyone.
For the most part, the pace of the trip should be set to what your youngest child can handle. Build into your agenda time for stops along the way for bathroom breaks, snack breaks, and nap time. If you can avoid cranky children it will make for a much easier experience.
Borrow an idea from the airlines- Purchase or borrow a portable TV/DVD player that mounts on the back of the seat in front. Rent a bunch of DVDs or borrow them from your local library for free.
Take Frequent Breaks– Preferably every two hours. Expecting young kids to sit still longer than that is unrealistic. Find interesting picnic spots, historical monuments, public parks or a playground. Let the kids run around and burn off some energy.
Safety– Pack plenty of water, a first-aid kit, and a flashlight in case you break down at night. Call to make sure your road assistance plan is up-to-date and charge your phone beforehand.
Have your vehicle completely checked out by your mechanic- Oil changes, brake checks, light checks are important to the vehicle’s safe operation. Also, double check the installation of all car seats to ensure they are properly set up for maximum protection.
Determine Your Preferences-
Sit down with your whole family and discuss your ideas and interests. Memorable trips are those where each member of the family gets to experience something they love. Talk about budgets, expectations, and how you can work with the dollars available to plan an exciting family trip.
Travel experts have found that the most successful family vacations are those that involve both parents and children in choosing destinations and planning for their trip. Through these conversations, you will learn more about each others needs and find destinations and activities to suit the whole family.
Be Flexible on Vacation-
Avoiding holiday periods and traveling off-season can yield big savings on flights and accommodation. Even if your kids are in school, consider traveling just outside of major school holiday periods.
Give yourself the best chance to capture a cheap flight. Leaving a few days or even weeks before or after your ideal date could mean the difference of hundreds of dollars. Think about using airfare sales to help determine your family’s vacation destination and time of departure rather than the other way around.
Pack the bare minimum because you can always buy it there. Roll clothes and stuff socks and underwear inside shoes. Wear your heaviest clothes on the flight. Encourage kids to choose and pack their own clothes to minimize complaints and to teach travel skills.
Select versatile and comfortable clothes and color-coordinated separates so if something gets dirty you only have to change part of the outfit. And pack bags with what is needed first on the top — a change of clothes for dinner, pajamas, or what is needed during the day including a change of clothes in case of accidents.
Pick a Kid Friendly Location – Stay in a safe and central area that’s close to local attractions, food outlets, the beach, the park, and all preferably within walking distance. This will save you time, money, and your kids from getting bored.
One of the great features of the Booking.com website is you search by Family Hotels.
Duration of your trip-
Stay More Than 1 Night – Many hotels provide their best deals when you stay over more than one night.
Stay over Sunday – Many hotels receive Friday and Saturday night bookings from leisure travelers and Monday-Friday bookings from their business travelers, so there can be a void on Sunday nights.
Other helpful hotel tips-
Check for Family Deals – Always ask about discounted rates, free meals for children, and an upgrade at check in – they can only say no.
A Pool and games room – Kids love both of these options. Does the pool have any special features (like a slide or waterfalls)?
Make Sure it Has a Lift – Carrying strollers, toys, and luggage up several flights of stairs is NO FUN!
What’s the room configuration? – For a family of four two double beds is required or a portacot. If you have a baby make sure this is available, and for free.
Coupons and Discounts – Check out the brochure shelf in the lobby and any tourist literature in your room for ways to shave a few bucks off the price of your family vacation.
Enroll in a Loyalty Program – Many hotel chains are now offering free loyalty programs with incentives like earning free rooms after multiple stays. If you travel often and stay at the same chain, or one of its participating partners, you may save on future family vacations.
Check the Dining Options – Does the hotel restaurant and room service have a kids’ menu?
TV Channels – Does the hotel offer several family-oriented cable stations, like Disney, Nickelodeon, AMC, Discovery and Lifetime? Is there a movie library with kids’ movies?
Bathtub? – You’ll want to be sure that your room will include a bathtub. It’s very difficult to give a child a bath in a shower stall.
Laundry – For longer vacations, check to see whether the hotel has coin operated machines for hotel guests.
Consider a Cruise or All-Inclusive Resort-
With activities to appeal to every generation, food choices to suit all ages, and itineraries that can be full-on or you just sit around and do nothing, a cruise or a resort can eliminate daily decision making that can cause conflict. Look for Kids Eat Free, Stay Free, and Play Free deals.
Consider Apartment Rental-
Most big-city hotel rooms were not built for families with young kids. They usually have no refrigerator or microwave, floor space is at a premium, and neighbors can hear every tantrum. But with an apartment you get more space, thicker walls, a kitchen, a washing machine, and separate bedrooms.
These extra facilities on a long stay can make your trip so much more enjoyable.
Do a Test Run-
If this is going to be your first serious trip as a family, consider starting with a shorter trip such as a weekend away or even just a day trip to the zoo as a trial run. This will help you figure out packing choices, daily routines, how fast you can move around, and how you all get along and interact together.
Set a Budget-
Travel with kids does not have to be expensive. Decide on a comfortable budget that works for your family and include items such as souvenirs, entertainment, and a few unexpected activities. Once again involve your kids to make sure they feel comfortable with your travel plans.
Hot Tip: Every now and then blow your daily budget. We go away to experience things and create lifelong memories. Don’t limit yourself to just traveling for the sake of traveling. Go splurge on a famous restaurant, see a big concert, attend a mega sporting event, go on a safari, jump out of a plane, do something incredible.
Build in Some Private Time or “apart” time
No matter who you are, everyone needs a break from each other at some point. While the goal of your trip is to create shared memories, it is also important to remember that children need time to burn off energy and enjoy the company of kids their own age.
Likewise, us parents need quiet periods for rest and some adult company as well. Keep this in mind and be a little flexible on your trip, as children’s moods and interests can change constantly. If you and your children find something you’d rather do, be spontaneous and go with the flow.
Bring a Few Comforts from Home
Allow your children to bring along a few home comforts such as a stuffed toy, reading books, or a portable music player. Activity packs can be a lifesaver on a plane and car rides. Make one with items such as coloring pencils and books, card games, board games, hand held electronic games, puzzles etc.
Capture Your Memories-
Consider giving your child a journal and a cheap digital camera. Pictures can be put into a scrapbook after you return, providing a lasting keepsake of your wonderful experiences together.
If your children are writing a journal, encourage them to draw and list things they see, eat and experience. And how about buying a cheap postcard from each destination and help them to note a memory on the back, or they can create a large collage to place on their bedroom wall once home.
Keep Meal Costs Down- 6 tips
Food costs can eat up a large portion of the family travel budget.
- Go out for Breakfast or Lunch – Try and avoid dinner as restaurants raise prices. OR, have brunch instead of 3 meals a day. Many restaurants offer lunch specials where items on the dinner menu are offered for a fraction of the cost you’d pay for the same meal in the evening. And we find that breakfast and lunch is easier with young kids as they are tired by dinner time.
- Eat Away from the Tourist Streets – Just go one street or one block over and it will usually be cheaper and more authentic. Eat where the LOCALS eat. Also, eat at the popular street carts, usually the most authentic and cheapest meal.
- Self-Cater Where You Can– On long stays, we make self-contained accommodation with kitchen facilities a priority. Stay in places with a refrigerator so you can store breakfast foods, snacks, and bottled water. Purchasing your own supplies from the grocery store can save you big bucks.
- One meal for two kids– Our kids are young enough to share one kid’s meal so on most occasions we only buy one. You can always buy another if they’re still hungry but you can’t send one back!
- Free Breakfasts– When booking a hotel look for one with breakfast included. Also, have picnics, barbeque’s, and house parties. This saves precious money.
- Take Your Own Food- Always take your own snacks on flights, buses and road trips where practical. Long road trips or flights can leave kids feeling cranky and hungry. Pack plenty of snacks for yourselves and your children. Do not assume that you will be able to stop and buy snacks along the way as airports especially can be expensive and have a limited selection of healthy options.
Do the Free Stuff for vacation-
Many things to see and enjoy are absolutely free. See a street fair, concert, or cultural event. Catch a magnificent sunset, take a walk or bike ride, play in the park, swim at the beach or lake, climb a mountain.
- Use the Free Days – Attend museums and tourist sites on FREE DAYS or when they are discounted. Most museums have special discount times or free nights. Before you go anywhere, make sure you look on their website or facebook page to find out if they offer free visiting hours or family discounts.
Finding accommodation when you arrive without booking ahead can be challenging with children in tow. It’s definitely worth pre-booking at least your first couple of nights, even if you want to be flexible on your travels: this will allow you to look for other places in a more leisurely way.
After a long flight or car journey, the last thing your family will feel like is hunting around for somewhere to stay and something to eat. Make reservations and map out your first day or two in advance to make the trip smoother.
Sleep Whilst Traveling-
When taking a long flight, train, or bus journey, try and plan it so you are traveling at night. That way, you don’t have to pay for a night’s accommodation.
Learn a New Skill Together-
We believe life is “all about the memories”. By doing something new together, your children will be impressed with your sense of adventure and curiosity. Learn to kayak, snorkel, surf, a cooking class or spot wildlife in nature. Maybe go snow skiing, fishing or roller blading.
Find something that’s new to all of you and share the joy of learning together.
Expect the Unexpected-
Attitude is everything- no matter how much you plan and prepare, things can and will go wrong. Just go with the flow and everything will work out great. Travel is not always easy and traveling with kids can be tough. So just treat your trip like one big adventure and any mishaps simply become small obstacles for you to overcome.
Plan for occurrences such as air travel delays, illness, and homesickness. If unforeseen events happen, stay positive. Your children will learn important life lessons from watching you on this trip.
You Were a Kid Once-
Try and put yourself in your kid’s shoes. Remember what you were like as a small child, or teenager, and how you liked to travel and be treated and the things you enjoyed doing.
Silly tips you already know but a reminder doesn’t hurt-
Shed the excess you won’t need it. Pack light and pack with intention. You’re staying a few days, not a few months.
Book the Rental Car Early It can take a few days of hunting on different sites, but try to book a month out and get a great deal.
Bring $40 in One Dollar Bills- Whether it’s the skycap, the rental car shuttle driver or the bellhop at the hotel, it pays to have a few extra bucks in hand to take care of those that are taking care of you. Be remembered for your generosity, not your nuisance.
Buy Snacks Before The Airport. This can save you a few bucks at the airport while you wait to board the flight.
Be Grateful- Traveling with children isn’t easy. There are fights over beds, electronics and pool toys. There are encounters with waiters, flight attendants and other travelers. Choose to stick out because of your grateful attitude, not your entitled one. Things won’t always go your way, the weather won’t always be perfect and your accommodations won’t always be ideal. But choose gratefulness instead of bitterness. People notice. And, you will all be happier, which matters most anyway.
Put Your Phone Away– Time away needs to be exactly that. Time away. From Facebook, work email, scheduling craziness, Twitter, endless text conversations… the list goes on. This one is hard for me. I try and get the best picture for Instagram, not just the memory. Chances are pretty good that your world won’t fall apart if you leave your phone behind for a few hours at a time.
Dress with the Airport in Mind The dreaded security line with multiple young kids. Wear slip on shoes (with socks, that floor is nasty) and leave the belt in the bag. If you’re leaving cold and headed to warmer weather, wear light layers that you can shed easily when you arrive.
Soak It Up No vacation will perfectly satisfy you, but work to be engaged and present during your short trip. These trips, whether they’re across the world or simply down the road, are opportunities to forge deep meaning into your families. The bills, the work and the chaos will be there for you when you return.
Bring Cards, Books, Even Homework for Flights and Layovers. Especially on the plane. It’s not simply another place to go to watch Netflix or play Crossy Road. Books, playing cards, even homework can do the trick.
Find a Song- play it every single time you’re in the rental car. Windows down, laughing, singing. Music is part-magic, part-mystery. There’s no doubt in my mind that every time your kids hear this particular song, they’ll think of this specific vacation.
10 tips for taking the stress out of family travel-
- Involve the kids. Your ideal vacation may not be what your children have in mind. It’s a good idea to get the kids’ input at the very start of the planning process so they will have a stake in making things go right. Above all, make sure everyone is on board with the destination. European opera houses? Wait for your 50th anniversary!
- Do your homework. The better your grasp on where you are going and what you want to do there, the more enjoyable the experience will be. You don’t need an itinerary carved in stone, but you really must have an outline. The Web is a great place to get up-to-date information, as are travel guidebooks. If you work with a travel professional, pick his or her brain; a good agent may have a better idea of what you want than you do.
- Build in some downtime- Flexibility is the key when traveling with kids. Everyone will have a better time if each has a chance to do his own thing, whether it’s reading a book or hitting the beach. “Alone time” is greatly underrated in family travel planning, as is “grown-up time,” so take advantage of a kids-only movie night to share a special dinner with your special someone.
- Watch your budget It’s easy to overspend while on vacation, but by keeping an eye out for incentives, discounts and other special deals, you can have a great time for less. Let your travel professional know of any special events or celebrations you want to include to make your trip more special.
- Book smarter.-Traveling in the off-season (or the almost off-season) can help rein in those costs and keep the crowds down. (If you make your escape during school time, remember to get a homework pack for the kids.) Also ask your travel pro to keep an eye out for family-friendly specials, which often are not advertised to the general public. These “agent-only” specials cross my desk many times a week.
- Lose the crowd- If you vacation at a busy time, look for ways to avoid the worst of the crowds. Here’s a trick: Go left when you enter a national park, museum or other crowded venue — most people will go right. And go deep — most visitors stop at the first thing they see. This strategy also works very well in the grocery store!
- Honor your elders- Older folks like the chance to be kids, too, so why not see if Grandmom or Grandpop wants to tag along, or even foot part of the bill. It is a fantastic opportunity for children to connect with an older generation and learn a little about times gone by. Reality check: This year’s college freshmen do not recall a U.S. president before Bill Clinton.
- Reap your reward- If you are traveling with your kids, you might as well seek out reward programs that fit your family’s lifestyle. No sense in accumulating points to buy business class airfare when what you want are free sodas, a souvenir T-shirt and a chance to meet Cinderella. For example, Disney has a flexible rewards credit card, the Disney Rewards Visa Card from Chase, which provides interest-free financing when you book your Disney vacation or cruise with the card, as well as all kinds of benefits to families planning a Disney vacation. You can earn rewards on everyday spending that are good toward theme park tickets, hotel stays, Disney DVDs, merchandise and other special discounts and perks that you can use while on your vacation. If you have kids and a Disney vacation is on the horizon, this is the credit card for you.
Do it immediately-
As soon as you arrive (unless someone in the family is overly cranky or tired), set up your room to make it as close to home as possible. Put the baby in the playpen or hotel crib with a pile of toys and occupy an older kid with a coloring book. Or have your partner take the older sibling out to get the lay of the land while you unpack. Settling in will help you remain organized (and sane) throughout your stay.
Designate a baby-changing station-
Bring a box of wipes, lay out a changing pad and stack a bunch of diapers in one area. That way, you won’t need to chase down the diaper bag when that first big poop occurs.
Create a play space…
Stash toys and books on a low shelf or in a drawer, or keep all the playthings in one corner. Creating a place for your baby to play will make the room feel homey and keep it from looking like a disaster area.
Even if your room doesn’t have a kitchen or bar area, establish a spot where you’ll keep bottles, dishes, baby food, snacks, formula and dish soap. Sometimes the bathroom is best if it has the only sink in the room.
Your baby needs her naps, but you don’t want to spend your whole vacation watching her snooze. Follow these strategies for squeezing in that daytime sleep:
Some moms advise bringing the lightest, most compact umbrella stroller on vacation to save room, but I always pack a stroller that reclines completely to make stroller slumber easier.
Wear that baby
If your baby doesn’t sleep well in a stroller, try a front carrier (like the BabyBjorn) or baby backpack. If you’ve never used one at home but think it might be convenient on vacation, try it out a few times before you leave. Not all babies will like it, and it might be too hard on your back.
Try taking leisurely drives to check out the area while your baby naps in the car seat. And on some trips, you can coordinate drive time between destinations with sleep time.
If your tot isn’t an in-transit sleeper, don’t be afraid to schedule naps back in the room. While it’s a different vacation rhythm than you’re probably used to, an a.m. break and midday siesta can be relaxing for you, too. Just consider your baby’s napping style when booking accommodations; if you’ll need to return to the room often, a hotel near the beach may be a better bet than a spot farther away, even if it’s a bit pricier. If you can, book a room with a balcony or patio so the parent “on duty” can enjoy the outdoors, too.
One of the most worrisome things about traveling with a baby is getting your little one to sleep in a new place.
Getting enough Z’s-
- Do some trial runs- If you’re bringing a portable travel bed, have your baby sleep in it for a few nights before you leave. That way, it will feel like a familiar, comfy spot to go night-night on vacation.
- Give it a few days- While it can be tempting to throw in the blankie and drive home in the middle of a sleepless vacation night with an inconsolable baby, I implore you to power through. Eventually, babies will adjust to their new surroundings and schedule, and sleep. If you can survive a couple of nights, I am (almost) willing to promise happy vacation days ahead.
- Book the right room(s)- If bedding down in the same room means no one will get any sleep, consider booking a suite or connecting rooms. A suite may offer the convenience of a kitchen area, but connecting rooms may afford more space at a cheaper price.
- Stick to the routine- If your baby’s bedtime ritual at home includes a bath, lullabies and a bottle, do the same on vacation to make up for the change in location.
- Get adjusted- Instead of expecting your infant to shift her internal clock and adjust to a new time zone, shift your day: Stay up later or get up earlier than usual by a few hours.
Sampling local cuisine and splurging on restaurant meals are vacation pleasures I refuse to give up. Dining with babies can be done.
Breakfast in Bed
Because our times to swim, hike, shop or visit an aquarium are limited by morning and afternoon naps, it makes sense for the entire family to eat something quick in the hotel room. So we pack plenty of ready-made breakfast foods like mini-bagels, cereal bars and fruit (bananas, apples).
If your baby drinks formula, it helps to pack more than you think you’ll need. To save space, empty powdered formula into zipper-lock plastic bags. Or order heavy staples like diapers and formula—even baby shampoo—from a site such as diapers.com or Babiestravellite.com that will ship to your destination (and since you won’t have to carry the formula, consider splurging on the ready-to-feed type).
Nurse wherever you feel comfortable
You can breastfeed anywhere you are legally allowed to be.
Bend the rules on Vacation
To enjoy dinners out, you may have to encourage what you would normally consider bad behavior. Putting on some Sesame Street for them allows you to actually taste the food we’re shelling out big bucks for.
Sure, a romantic dinner would normally be at 8 p.m., but by dining out at 5:30, you’ll likely have an empty restaurant, room to park your stroller, and a short wait for your food. Alternatively, if your newborn loves to sleep in her car seat, make later reservations and then feed her a bottle or nurse her while you wait for your appetizers. Hopefully, she’ll be out for the rest of the meal.
Now, go enjoy! Toss out all your old ideas about what a vacation should be and embrace the new craziness that is traveling with a baby. Laugh at the fact that you’re at the local playground by 6 a.m. and in bed for the night at 8 p.m. Consider all the gear and baby-lugging as great vacation exercise. And then savor going back home to “regular” life that much more.
Review Tips for the whole shebang-
- Make an Out-The-Door list- Leaving for the airport — as your holiday starts — is one of the most stressful times of any trip. Have a list of things you need to grab as you’re leaving your home. I don’t mean a list of things you need to take (i.e. 2 pairs of pants, 3 t-shirts ). I mean a list of things you’ll need to physically grab. It should be a last minute checklist of all the little (and big) things you’ll need as you are going out the door. There will be the bags of course, the money belt, some water in the fridge for the airport, some snacks on the counter and sweaters for the plane. Plus all the indispensables you’ll want to double-check one last time before heading to the airport: passports, credit cards, cash. There’s a lot to remember — so have a list for it!
- Put enough in your carry-on bags for the first day or 2 of your trip. This is good advice for anyone but especially when traveling with kids. If your bags are lost you don’t want to be hunting for diapers or a pair of shorts immediately after your arrival in a new city or country.
- Count your suitcases, backpacks, handbags and keep the number in your head. This is simple and maybe painfully obvious, but it sure helps. You hop in a taxi, “bag count — 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 — yep they’re all here”. Easy. (Bigger families may want to conduct a kid count as well.)
- Use a small digital camera The fantastic shots you think you’ll get of the Grand Canyon, or Taj Mahal or Great Wall of China will be left and forgotten. The really great photos that you’ll love and savor for years to come will be the up-close and intimate shots of your kids and your family. And the key to getting great family photos is to take a lot of them. A ton of them! And the way you do that is to take a small camera, have it with you all the time and take pictures as quickly and discreetly as possible. You might insist, I’ll do all that, but with a bigger better camera. But you probably won’t.
- Practicalities of Travel
- Don’t fear — airport security. Security checkpoints force parents to be lean and efficient with their packing. Take what you need but don’t take what is unnecessary. Security can also be a good reason not to take stuff on the plane that you don’t want your kid to have (i.e. your kid’s new water gun). And insisting that you keep all your little bottles and creams in a Ziploc bag — what a great idea!
- Don’t line up early for trains and airplanes or anything where you have a reserved seat. If you’re one of those people who like to maximize their time on the airplane, by all means, board early, get that seat warm, burn through all your snacks before anyone else has even boarded. How great! You’ll have enough time on the plane without artificially extending it.
- One parent in charge. Don’t share the burden of any one duty while traveling. Packing for example. One person packs and knows where everything is. Two people pack and no one really knows where anything is. Same with hotels. One person plans them, arranges them, and books them. Do you have that confirmation email or do I? Na-Uh!
- Get online storage for photos. Besides losing the kids, my photos are what I’m most concerned with losing. Forget your bag on the train platform and there goes your camera — and your photos. You can get free online storage at Adrive (50GB) or SkyDrive (25GB). (You will need a laptop, of course, to upload your photos.) Upload your pictures every night or two and then when you take your camera out on that fishing trip you’re not worried about dropping your camera and losing the last 2 weeks of photos.
- Hire a car and driver. If you’re traveling in an inexpensive or developing country consider getting a driver instead of driving yourself. Prices are usually reasonable and they’ll know the ways and customs of the road better than you will. (Tip: have the address of your destination for longer distance trips. When you start your trip the driver will inevitably say, “Oh yes, I know where that is”, which translates to “I’ll ask for directions when we get there”. An address, instead of just a name, will help speed the process.)
Beat jet lag- stay up late the first night. Get outside and do something active. Long walks are good. Parks and playgrounds are great. Kids are usually so excited by their new environment you can get away with doing a lot that at home might not work. One caveat: most people forget — or don’t realize — that meal times can be way off as well in a new time zone. If your child usually eats a big breakfast and lunch but a small dinner at home. This can translate into no appetite at breakfast or lunch and then ravenous hunger at 7pm and midnight. Have a good array of healthful snacks in your hotel room on the first night.
Have a plan for the day- It doesn’t need to be cast in stone – stay flexible and easy going — but you should walk out the hotel door in the morning with a plan of where you’re going, what subway or bus you’re taking, what attractions do you have planned for the day?
Check the website of the attraction just before your visit- It’s amazing how often museums will have closed for renovations, changed their schedule, or have a visiting show in place of its usual exhibits. Sometimes these changes can be nothing more than a nuisance. Other times they can ruin your plans for the day. Checking the website in the days before your visit eliminates most of this uncertainty.
Ask your hotel concierge for suggestions- Depending on the style of hotel asking at the front desk will often get you the owner or management who might have a monetary interest in directing you towards a certain establishment or tour group. A concierge usually has no connections at all and just give good advice.
Don’t do too much BUT don’t do too little either- I think the biggest mistake parents traveling with kids make is doing too little not too much. Get out there. Enjoy. Experience. Wear the kids out and get them tired.
Things to Pack- Essentials:
- A swim shirt. These make applying sun lotion so much easier. The back, shoulders and face burn the easiest and this takes 2 of those 3 out of play. But they’re not useful just on hot sunny days. If you’re swimming slightly out of the summer season — or even at a temperate swimming pool — they help keep some heat in and delay those chattering teeth for a little longer.
- A great baby carrier or backpack. These are life savers in airports, train stations, cobblestone streets and hotels without elevators. Strollers are something to consider but if you have a little baby with you, a good carrier is close to a necessity.
- A fabric high chair. These wrap around pretty much any type or size of chair and hold the baby in place so they can sit at the table.
- A flashlight and a nightlight. Street lighting might not be as consistent as in your hometown and you’ll probably have a few nights returning to your hotel down a quiet road or path. A torch or flashlight can come in very handy. And a nightlight for the bathroom: Hotel rooms are unfamiliar and finding a bathroom in the middle of the night can be tricky. If your child — or even you — have to turn on a light it makes it much more likely they’ll have trouble getting back to sleep. A stumble over an unfamiliar ledge in a dark bathroom could make for a midnight visit to the hospital — or at least a lot of tears. A nightlight (with plug adapter if necessary) can solve these problems.
- First Aid Tape— aka surgical tape. This stuff is great. Adhesive tape that is so much easier to apply than a band aid and actually sticks to fingers, toes, and the places kids really get cuts.
Most things you do won’t make any difference.
The top 5 that might:
- Know the fire escapes. A good practice at any time but especially in foreign countries where the exits and escape routes might not be as well marked.
- Drill your kids on swimming pool safety. When staying in a hotel with a swimming pool remind your young kids that they don’t go in the pool without telling mom or dad. Make it the first thing you do after you put down your bags in the room.
- Get the necessary vaccines and get them early. Check with the CDC or NHS and get the relevant vaccines and anti-malarial medicines well before departure — some vaccines can require multiple visits and can take a few months to get the entire series of shots. Many adults haven’t had their booster shots, so get those as well. There’s nothing worse than getting a deep cut in place far from a hospital and then having to worry about whether your Tetanus booster is up to date.
- Fly longer distances and avoid the highways. Flying is the safest mode of transport. There can be many reasons to drive instead of fly but don’t ever not fly and choose car or bus for safety reasons alone.
- Act out scary scenarios. If you’re concerned about your child being lost in a busy market, then act out the scene and what they should do. If you tell a kid what to do when they’re lost, they’ll probably forget it. If you act out what they should do they’re much more likely to remember it. (There’s a reason employers do fire evacuation drills — they work!)
Final word for vacation-
No matter how much planning you could possibly do there will always be incidentals. Do not stress about the things that will inevitably happen. These things are out of your control. Just know that there is no way you could possibly plan for every situation. You are only human! Just enjoy your vacation. Because, at the end of the day this is your vacation too.
Enjoy the vacation you planned so well. Your family will thank you for all of the hard work you put in for them.
I hope this helped out a bit. I know I learned a lot in my research.
Thank you for reading. I hope I didn’t bore you to much. Have a wonderful vacation week. 🙂
Allie’s Mommy 😛