Parentability clients have been struggling with travelling with their children, whether it be local or not.
If you’ve been looking forward to a lack of restrictions but also leery because the idea of the logistics required to take advantage of that freedom feel really huge, this post is for you.
Travelling with kids!
Something you might not know about me is that while I was doing my undergrad I was a sitter, and I got to travel quite a bit with the families I babysat for. I continued to travel with families as an extra caregiver even after I got my degree and started doing early intervention because it was fun!
Early interventionists don’t make much money so I could rarely afford to travel on my own. I got a lot of experience travelling with kids before I had my own kids.
I picked up some strategies that I still use to this day with my own kids to make travel as stress-free as possible.
Stressed kids are not well-behaved kids…
And stressed parents aren’t relaxed parents!
If we’re going to spend all this money and time travelling, we want to enjoy it.
5 Tips for Managing Travel with Your Kids
1. Try to stick to your routine as closely as possible.
This may seem dumb, because you are travelling is to get a break from your routine. However, this is not how it works with children.
If you want a total break from routine and to be spontaneous, send your kids to grandma’s or hire a sitter for the week and take a childless vacation.
Children view new and different as danger.
During the vacation time, we need to keep some things consistent and predictable or else they’ll feel like they’re unsafe and that will stress them and that’s when we get the non-stop meltdowns.
Stick to the general flow of your day even when you aren’t at home.
When we are away we still follow our general routine of breakfast, everybody gets ready, we go do something in the morning, then lunch, after lunch is quiet time, and then we have free play, and then dinner, bathtime, and bed.
It’s not complicated.
There’s still TONNES of time in there for us to explore and enjoy ourselves, but that structure stays the same.
If possible, make that structure concrete for kids.
Use your visuals so that they can see what is happening and when!
Lets them know that there is a plan for the day, what to anticipate and when, and when they’re going to get a break.
2. Schedule breaks.
This can be the biggest mistakes parents can make when travelling with children.
I know if I hadn’t had the experiences I did travelling with children, most of whom had special needs, I would definitely have made this mistake myself…because travelling with my parents has always been a marathon.
When I travelled with my parents as a child it was up at the crack of dawn, see as much as you possibly can during the day, and get back into your hotel room as late as possible, then do it all again the next day.
Again, if you want to take a trip like that, do it without kids.
Kids need breaks.
Especially when they’re in an unfamiliar environment.
Plan for them, and don’t skip them.
Plan to hit a playground every couple of hours where they can run free.
Even in Disney this is important because more often than not they’re in a stroller or a carrier or holding your hand while you navigate crowds and stand in line ups.
They need a chance to move their bodies, or lay in the grass and stare at the clouds.
You should plan for a mid-afternoon break, whether that’s for a nap or just quiet time.
Most of the kids I’ve cared for and my own kids napped on vacation even if they’d long given up naps in their everyday life.
All that novelty is exhausting!
They need an hour or two to decompress.
Rather than trying to power through and then being taken off guard by a meltdown, plan for the breaks and take them.
3. Make sure they know when and how to access the BIG 3.
The Big 3: sleep, food, and elimination.
When will I be able to sleep and where?
When will I be able to eat and how can I access food when I’m hungry outside of meal times?
Where is the bathroom?
This applies to every destination.
When we have families come visit us, we make sure their kids know where the kid snacks are and that they can help themselvse.
When I travel with my kids I always bring a small cooler of snacks that we keep in our space so that my kids have free access to food when they need it.
I always define my kids’ sleeping space and I bring their lovies and any bedtime accesssories they need so they have those familiar elements, like their white noise machine.
My kids listen to guided meditations as they fall asleep so I bring a bluetooth speaker for them and I make sure the tracks are downloaded to my phone so even if we don’t have wifi they have their stories.
I show them where the bathroom is as soon as we get there.
The Big 3 are foundation level stressors.
If we feel any of them are threatened or brain thinks we’re going to die. Therefore, making sure those things are secure and available is really important.
4. Before you go, ask your kids what they are most excited about and try to do those things first.
When we go to our cottage my boys are always chomping at the bit to swim in the lake. I always make sure their life jackets are accessible in the car, so when we arrive I can throw them in them quickly. This allows for my husband and I to unpack the car while watching them play in the lake.
I know that’s all they’re thinking about the whole way there and if I tried to put that off when we got there it would just result in a meltdown.
We have friends that often come to our cottage and I know her little guy LOVES to fish. We make sure we’re ready to get him out fishing as quickly as possible after they get there so that he doesn’t have to wait because ALL he’s thinking about the whole way there is fishing.
There’s time to unpack and everything else later.
Ask your kids what they’re excited about, and then try to do that soon after you arrive or else they’re spending the whole trip thinking about that thing and being excited about that thing and…
Waiting is exhausting! It’s so hard!
Exhausted kids aren’t well-behaved kids.
5. If you’re visiting or travelling with other families, make sure to have some alone time built in.
Kids love spending time with their peers and their families but they need some down time when they can turn off.
Plan for Quiet time!
Quiet time is usually a great opportunity for going back to your room and chill out for a bit.
At our cottage my kids go watch a show on their tablets for an hour every day just for some alone time and we encourage our friends who are visiting to set their kids up in their room similarly; either to watch a show, listen to a podcast or an audiobook, or take a nap.
Again, being on and around people you know but whose habits aren’t familiar to you requires a lot of energy.
Plan for those breaks from your trip mates so that they can decompress for a bit.
If you can make thoe 5 things happen, you’ll have a much more relaxed, smooth trip experience and everybody will go home feeling like their needs were met and ready to return to life as we know it.
What do you think?
Have you considered these things before to help make your trip more relaxing for everyone? Do you have anything to add?
Let me know in the comments or come join us in the Parenting Posse to continue the discussion, I’d love to hear your thoughts and see if we can expand that list!