Travelling with the kids is definitely an adventure. The inevitable long days, unplanned happenings, and unexpected mood changes are sure to cause family-travel anxiety. Make the most of your next family trip by keeping in mind these five important tips for keeping sane during (and ultimately enjoying) long travel days with children.
1. Make plans
Whether your long travel day will involve hours in the car, a multi-hour flight, or a busy activity itinerary, good planning is key. First and foremost, pack plenty of healthy snacks that are easy to eat while sitting in the car or on the plane. Sometimes a snack is all that’s needed to make a little one feel better, and healthy snacks will better allow you to avoid resorting to the unhealthy snacks kids will spot in every rest stop and café. Keep clean too. Always remember a pack of baby wipes for sticky hands, a change of clothes (or two), and first-aid basics like bandages and pain reliever. And of course, we always keep a few games in mind to distract our childlren before a tantrum begins. We use talking games like “I’m thinking of an animal…,” but you may want to bring along small games that your children can play during a meal or in the car.
2. Go with the flow
It can be hard to give up the consistency you’ve worked hard to maintain at home, but while travelling, it’s important to have some flexibility. If your child misses a nap, or if you change a parenting technique to keep the peace one day, try not to fret. Being on the road is different from being at home, and children can recognize that what happens while travelling is different from their home routine. If parents can relax, be patient, and go with the flow, the kids will probably relax, too.
3. The novelty of new
Long travel days aren’t usually fun for kids, but because all kids adore presents, these times can be made more exciting by introducing something new. We sometimes use these as incentives – rewards for coming along to a museum when they really wanted to just eat ice cream before lunch, for example. A new book, magazine, pack of markers, or even travel equipment like a kid-friendly camera or binoculars can brighten your child’s day and keep them occupied for hours.
4. Make it a team effort
Keeping kids happy and safe while travelling includes many responsibilities – escorting them to the bathroom, holding hands while crossing the street, helping them eat new foods, etc. – but one advantage of travelling as a family is the support you and your partner can receive from each other. Take turns so each of you can have a break. Use the help of other family members if possible. Let your older children help the younger ones. This might be a good opportunity for your older kids to teach their siblings safety rules. In short, don’t put all the pressure on yourself; find ways to share the responsibilities.
5. Get the kids involved
“Are we there yet?” are familiar words, usually from bored kids. Kids love being in control, so finding ways to get them involved in the day’s activities can help to lift their spirits and prevent crankiness. Getting the kids involved may mean giving them a say in some of the day’s itinerary, e.g. “Which one do you want to do first: have gelato or climb the belltower?” You can also take them to a local playground of their choosing, encourage them to take their own photos, or create a simple scavenger hunt of the places you’ll visit that day.
Kids also need to burn off their energy, so let your child have some wild outdoor time, especially before expecting them to sit still for a meal or in a car, train, or plane. Give them a few options for outdoor exercise, and let them choose how they want to run wild.
When I look back on the trips I’ve taken with my kids, I barely remember the 25-hour flight to Bali or the seven-hour car rides we’ve taken. With solid planning and a few tricks to keeping kids happy and occupied, you can make the most out of any long travel day and focus on the adventure.
G Adventures runs a wide range of departure dates and activities to that cater to families. We’re thrilled at the prospect of showing you and your children this wonderful planet of ours in a way you’ve never seen it — check out our small group Family trips here.