There is probably nothing that stresses parents like an impending long travel with kids. If it is the mom who is travelling alone with the kids, without the dad or other family members, it is cause for even more stress. There are the safety and hygiene-related concerns, practical issues of carting around both children and luggage and of course, the dreaded temper tantrums. Maybe it is the feeling of being away from the familiarity of home and the sudden changes in routine that transforms the best-behaved toddler (they do exist!) into a mini-Hulk.
However, travel does not have to be stressful. What’s more, it can be fun to be on a vacation with your little darling/darlings. Of course, the situation varies depending on the age of the child, the mode of transport, and several extraneous factors. But whether you are travelling with an infant or toddler or an older child, by road, rail or flight, these tips can help you travel like a Zen master!
- Packing always leads to a catch-22 kind of situation, where if you pack light, you could miss out on something important. On the other hand, anticipating exigencies and packing too much could lead to an unnecessarily heavy baggage. So make smart choices! Make sure you carry essentials like medicines, diapers, wipes, woollens (if required based on the weather). If you are staying at a hotel with laundry facility or with friends or family, avoid carrying too many clothes.
- Pack in advance and do not get forget phones, chargers, wallet, tickets, ID proof, passport (if required), and other documents. Write down the phone numbers of the hotel and family members and keep it safe, in case you misplace your phone or it stops working.
- Get the child involved. If your child is older than three, explain the travel plans to her and ask her to pack her own little backpack. This gets the child excited and looking forward to the trip.
- Packing toys or crayons, based on the interests of your child, will help keep the child occupied during travel. For instance, a toy car with doors that open and close can engage a car crazy toddler for a couple of hours. If you are driving, plan the route in such a way that there are a couple of convenient breaks. Snack breaks are a must since travel leads to a mysterious increase in appetites!
- If you are travelling with an infant, do not hesitate to ask for help. Whether it is help with the baggage or a private corner to breastfeed the child, people generally help out. Of course in airports, you get convenient baby care rooms and warm water for formula. If you are travelling by road, plenty of garbage disposal bags, couple of sterilised bottles, and a flask of hot water will ease your mind. A stroller for toddlers or baby carrier for infants that can be fastened to your body will help keep the child safe and near you without the strain of always carrying him. If your child is not used to them, it is a good idea to get him in it for a few days at home before the travel.
- If you are too stressed about safety of your toddler, investing in a child tracking GPS device like this or this is a good option. If your child is older, teach her what she should do if she loses sight of you and get her to memorise your phone number.
At the destination
- With all the planning, do not forget to enjoy the vacation! If it is convenient, opt for child-friendly hotels or homestays based on word of mouth or online reviews. Staying at a place that offers breakfast is preferable, since energetic sight-seeing can be started with a full stomach and you don’t have to waste time looking for a breakfast joint with hungry children.
- It will not be possible for your children to have home cooked meals on time when you are at a new place. As long as they are getting enough water, and are eating hygienic food, you could try and forget about a balanced and healthy diet for a few days.
- Make sure the child is wearing comfortable shoes, sunscreen (in warm places), and jacket with hood (in cold places).
- With older children, involve them in the plans for the day and try to incorporate their suggestions. Encourage them to maintain a journal and let them take photographs, so they understand the concept of making memories.
- Toddlers and even older children might throw tantrums when they are tired or sleepy. Take it in your stride and ignore the disapproving glances, if any. Even adults have their off days and children who do not have the emotional growth to express their frustration verbally, are entitled to create a scene occasionally.
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