Many parents believe that children are the ultimate anti-travel, but traveling with kids of any age can be a low-stress (and even enjoyable!) experience. If it’s done right, at least.
Children, by nature, are curious little explorers, so traveling is right up their alley. A fantastic and fun trip will also leave long-lasting memories and possibly even ignite a passion for travel, exploration, and discovery.
So what can you do to ensure that you won’t be pulling your hair out the next time you and your five-year-old hop on a plane?
Fortunately, parents all around the world have mapped out dos and don’ts for traveling with kids. The tips below have been put together by Hayley Spurway and Ross McGovern of Rough Guides.
Give them a camera
Giving toddlers their own (robust, child-friendly) camera encourages them to observe their surroundings and focus on what interests them. You might be surprised at the results from their knee-high view. Amongst pictures of feet and wheels, my three-year-old has shot flowers, animals, helicopters, boats, rocks and rabbit poo.
Thanks to toddler-friendly apps, there’s no need to cram a toy box into your hand luggage when traveling by plane. By all means take a book and a magic scribbler (crayons just get lost down the side of seats), but the most compact form of entertainment is a device loaded with apps and games.
Use public transport
Most toddlers love the novelty of traveling by train, bus and boat, so ditch the hire car and use public transport where possible. In Switzerland, my two-year-old would repeat the names of the metro stops as they were announced – provoking ripples of laughter and making him even more excited about boarding the train each day.
Don’t let the children pack their own rucksacks
We once went on a trip with our eight-year-old, who complained incessantly that her backpack was too heavy. The reason why? She’d brought along her entire collection of fossils “just in case”. Do let the children have input but remember to edit this heavily before departure.
Resist the temptation to keep them going on a long journey by feeding them sweets. Pack a mixture of savoury snacks like cheese cubes, breadsticks, fruit and bagels – anything to avoid arriving in a strange city with children in the middle of a sugar rush.
Encourage them to keep a travel journal
Get your kids drawing and listing things they’ve seen and interesting foods they’ve tried. Who knows, this might also encourage them to try different foods. Collecting postcards from places you visit and asking them to write themselves a message on the back means they can reach adulthood with a library of memories all their own.
Remember the medicine
It should already be on your traveling list, but having kids along means carrying a small first aid kit is all the more vital: plasters, antihistamines and sachets of painkilling syrup can save a lot of stress later on. Antimalarials are also available in liquid form.
You can find even more kid-friendly travel tips to make your life a little easier in the original Rough Guides article. Safe travels!