10 Useful Tips for Traveling with Young Children
Traveling with young children can be a very rewarding, yet very stressful, experience for parents and the child. Exposing children at a young age to the vast diversity that this world has to offer is bound to have only useful effects on their development. However, young children add on stress to the trip. Here are some tips that I have found to be useful in creating a more pleasant experience for all when traveling with a young child.
1-Take it Slow.
When traveling you may have a list of what you want to do and experience, but in reality when you are traveling with a young child they are in charge. I learned this very quickly when I began my travels with my four year old (then much younger).
On our first trip to Disney World we wanted to see everything! My daughter wanted to see all the characters she knew from the movies and ride all the rides that featured her favorite movies. We quickly learned, though, that this was not going to happen. With many tears and temper tantrums it quickly became apparent that she would need frequent breaks and without a doubt a nap sometime during the day.
When planning a trip with a young child make sure that you are planning in time for your child to rest, whether this be an actual nap or just some quiet time. It will do wonders for your child and make the trip much more enjoyable for them and yourself.
2-Consider your child when booking a hotel/resort
When booking a hotel or resort be sure to explore what kid friendly/family friendly activities and amenities are available. Many hotels offer playgrounds, pools, arcades, and different activities throughout the day that are great for families. Keeping in mind that small children need rest time and breaks finding a hotel or resort that offers many family friendly amenities and activities gives you a great option to spend the day at the hotel if needed.
When traveling to Disney we always choose one of the more kid friendly hotels, such as the All Star Movies Resort, that has many features the kids will love! My daughter and her cousin loved the dalmatian statues in particular!
3- Invest in a GPS tracking device or monkey leash.
Small children love to run off. You can talk until you’re blue in the face, telling them to stay with you, to do this or that. But in reality when they see something that excites them or when they’re just running off of that energy tank that never seems to deplete chances are they will take off.
One of the scariest feelings is looking around and not seeing your child beside you. I have had this experience on more than one occasion. The most notable one was having my young niece take off in the middle of a universal studios park. Leaving a show she decided to join another family and walk off with them. Park security was involved and eventually she was found. A GPS tracking device or monkey leash could have prevented this and is something that I always use for my daughter. There are many options for GPS devices that can be placed on their wrist, ankle, or backpack that will allow you to monitor your child’s whereabouts and some that notify you when your child goes out of a designated range.
Monkey leashes are also a great option. There are many different options available and you can allow your child to pick their favorite animal, character, etc. and get them excited about wearing it, all while being able to keep better tabs on your child in crowded situations.
4-Don’t Overpack, Shop When You Get There
Kids need a lot of items. Depending on age you may need diapers, wipes, pacifiers, baby food, bottles, and so on. I used to pack everything! Doing so results in unneeded luggage fees and extra baggage to carry around. When packing for your trip pack what you will need for the trip and maybe a day or two after arrival so you don’t have to rush right out after landing. However, the majority of what you will need for your child will be easily obtainable at a grocery or convenience store at your destination. Take advantage of this, save room in your baggage, and decrease fees you will pay to an airline. Also, remember when you get to your destination not to over buy-buy only what you need for the duration of the trip to prevent having extra items for the return trip.
5-Bring a stroller-even if the child is a little older
My daughter is four and is able to walk a reasonable amount of distance. However, she will inevitably become tired at some point and, believe me, carrying a 50 pound child around is not my idea of a fun vacation!
Fold up strollers are lightweight and easy to carry. It is a bit of a hassle to carry them on and off of `public transportation, but when your child gets tired they are more than handy. They also double as a grocery cart so to speak when your child is not sitting in them, giving you a place to put shopping bags and souvenirs. I highly recommend at least bringing a fold up stroller for any trip with young children.
6-Bring your car seat if you are renting a car
The daily fees for adding on a car seat to a rental car can be quite ridiculous and unnecessary. Rental car agencies vary in their pricing but charge up to $15 a day to rent a car seat. In the long run this adds up and adds another expense to your list. It can be a bit of a hassle to bring a car seat through baggage checks and another item to carry, but when you are traveling on a budget bringing your own car seat is definitely an option to consider.
7-Make sure you have entertainment for long drives, flights, and waits.
A long flight, drive, or wait time to get into a location/attraction without some source of entertainment for a small child can be disastrous. I would recommend always bringing along something that they enjoy, whether it be a book, a toy, or some sort of electronic. I have found that bringing along a tablet makes the long waits and travel times much more bearable for both myself and my daughter.
8-Plan your flights/driving time- Bedtime is best
Every trip I take I try to plan arrival and departure around nap time or bedtime. Overnight flights or drives always seem to work the best. It almost guarantees my daughter will sleep and and prevents the restlessness associated with long travel times. Overnight flights work especially well for me because I can sleep as well and avoid taking away time after arrival at the destination for sleep.
9-Leave plenty of time
It is undeniable that simply having a small child with you will increase the amount of time it takes to do essentially everything. You never know what may come up-another trip to the bathroom, a spilled drink, temper tantrums, and so on. Although we hope these things don’t happen, plan time for them in case they do. Arrive to events/activities early. Give yourself plenty of time at the airport before departure time. Decrease your stress by avoiding the rush with a small child. It is better to be early than late!
10-Prepare the child for the trip
This part is fun. Get your child excited. One of the best parts of pre-trip planning for me is telling my daughter all the exciting things we will be doing and hearing her ask every morning “Are we going today?”
Explain to your child where you are going. Tell them how you are getting there. Tell them what you are going to be doing when you get there. Prepare them for long drives or plane rides. The more excited they are the more excited you will be and I have found that when she is excited the days go much smoother.