Spring Break is here and many families are headed on vacation. Traveling with children doesn’t have to be a nightmare and families shouldn’t put it off until “the kids are older.” Seeing the world is some of the best education parents can give their children. With a few simple tricks traveling with children can be both painless and transform the entire experience into enriched family time creating memories that will last a lifetime.
Here are Shine’s top 10 travel tips:
1. Bring open-ended activities to keep your kids busy on the plane. We love simple items like aluminum foil and pipe cleaners to make sculptures, homemade play dough (link to our recipe) and/or a notebook with stickers, colored pencils, markers or crayons for coloring
2. Books, Books, Books. Your children’s favorite books can keep them busy for hours. We love Scholastic Book Club books because they are paperback and light, easy to travel with and inexpensive in case they get ruined or lost. Before you travel, read some books about where it is your going. For example, Miroslav Slasek’s This Is is a series of beautifully illustrated site-specific books on Paris, London, Rome, and more. Read these at bedtime before your vacation to get the kids excited. When you arrive and begin sightseeing your children will have a frame of reference for what they’re seeing.
3. There is a time and place for videos and games and airplanes are it! Whether or not you approve of TV/media time at home, traveling is the perfect time to loosen up your rules. Videos can keep children engaged for hours and help to keep them calm not just en route but also in hotel rooms. And if you usually don’t allow them to play games, traveling is the perfect time to reconsider…make them a reward for good travel behavior!
4. Bring a travel journal. For older children, creating a travel journal is a wonderful keepsake. We like to make our own by purchasing an unlined journal or notebook and filing it randomly with: envelopes for treasures, pages for photos to be added later, occasional pages of lined or graph paper and pages with journal entry starters, like. “I learned a new word” “The best/worst parts,” “I’m homesick for,” etc. Have your children glue in brochures, local newspapers, magazines, and receipts but also have them draw pictures of things they have seen. This one of a kind journal will be meaningful for life.
For those with less time or inclination, you can easily buy travel journals for children. Just Google it. But either way, don’t forget a glue stick, some scotch tape, paper clips or mini-stapler, colored pencils and a sharpener.
5. Give children their own cameras! We think inexpensive digitals are best because children can reflect on their days at the end of each one. They also love the chance to take pictures and you might be surprised how artful a vacation looks from the perspective of a child.
6. Bring something new as a surprise! We all know how excited children get over something new they haven’t played with yet. Once they’re settled on the plane, bust it out. They’ll be so happy and so busy you will have a chance to settle in and down yourself.
7. Try to book a flight that coincides with naptime or nighttime. This is especially the case with very young kids. If you can spend part of the flight with them asleep you (and everyone else on the plane) will be much more relaxed.
8. Carry the essentials with you at all times. Hand sanitizer (we prefer the stuff with alcohol for travels), lollipops (for bribing), wet wipes (for all the times you need to wash their hands or faces but can’t), Band-Aids (because sometimes that’s all you need to calm down a toddler after a spill), sunscreen (because inevitably you’ll be stuck outside at some point), a snack bar (because getting hungry can lead to getting grumpy), and what ever pills you need for yourself (from aspirin to Valium).
9. Do your homework. The days of figuring it out when you get there are over. Sorry. It is better to know exactly what you are getting into before you go anywhere with children. From kid menus to hotel amenities to babysitting services to family-friendly activities, it is crucial you have a good sense of what to expect and what you have planned before you leave. It cuts down on a lot of stress and makes the whole experience enjoyable for everyone.
10. JUST DO IT! It can seem daunting, but giving children a chance to see your home state, country or the world is the best gift you can give. Traveling opens children’s minds and exposes them to diversity, understanding and acceptance. By letting the world change them you are giving them an opportunity to change the world and shine…
By Aaron Goldschmidt, Founder & Director, Shine