Must Know When Traveling with Kids
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AAA surveys suggest that family vacations are still a priority among Americans. In fact, there’s been an increase in people taking three vacations a year versus one or two. While road trips are still extremely popular, international destinations and cruises are also in demand. Any type of family travel — by car, train, plane, or cruise ship — takes preparation to ensure that the trip is as stress-free as possible for everyone. Courtesy of Traveling FAQ, here’s what every parent should know before heading out.
When it comes to packing, less is always more. Research the weather at your destination in advance, but always be prepared with layers in case of an abrupt change. Pack pieces that can be mixed and matched so that you can create more outfits with less clothing; Lonely Planet advises using packing cubes to keep things organized and compact. Store essentials (think passports, tickets, chargers, a bottle of water, prescriptions, etc.) in a small backpack and keep it with you at all times. If you’re flying, make sure you know the weight regulations for luggage and consider renting bulky baby gear instead of bringing your own.
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Prepare for Security
Having access to funds is important during time away from home, especially if you travel abroad to destinations like Rio de Janeiro or Puerto Vallarta. Always expect the unexpected, just to be safe, which is why you should be mindful about keeping your valuables and money secure. Your plan should include a low-cost way to receive funds from your origin country, which involves setting up an account with a money transfer service before leaving for your trip so you’ll have peace of mind. Using a service like Remitly ensures you’ll get funds fast and at a low fee; transfers to Brazil, for example, cost just $5.99, and you can complete the transaction from your phone.
Put Together Car Friendly Meals
The food options on the road are typically unhealthy, and while there’s nothing wrong with stopping for a burger every once in a while, fast food shouldn’t be the foundation of your family’s three squares. With that in mind, prepare healthy meals that are car-friendly such as wrap sandwiches, protein boxes, classic PB&J sandwiches, crackers and veggies with hummus, and fresh fruit. Remember to include plenty of water to keep everyone hydrated on the road.
Prepare for Flying
Navigating the airport and flying with kids can feel like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be as long as you stay organized. If possible, try to fly early in the day as these flights tend to be less crowded. Since cabin temperature can fluctuate, dress your kids in layers and opt for shoes that are easy to slip on and off — just don’t let them walk barefoot through the plane and in the lavatory. Wipe down the entertainment center, control buttons, and tray with antibacterial wipes before use. Make sure they have a couple of their favorite toys with them but don’t go overboard, as you’ll only have more things to carry around.
Keep Them Entertained
No matter what method of travel you choose, entertainment is key to keeping kids happy and engaged throughout the trip. Encourage them to write a travel journal that they can look back on for years to come. Let them use electronics in order to research the destination(s) you’re headed to, whether that means an app or an ebook. Older kids can find enjoyment in creating a road trip music list.
You can also put together a DIY activity travel pack with items such as inexpensive toys, window stickers, crayons and markers, coloring and activity books, cards, dice, and travel-friendly games. Also, consider investing in a kid-friendly camera so that they can practice taking photographs of things that interest them.
And just in case you find yourself stuck indoors if the weather turns bad, it might not hurt to take a look at TV sticks for streaming in your hotel room or vacation rental. These handy and portable devices will give you and your children access to a wide variety of movies and television shows, and they easily plug into TVs with an HDMI port. Before heading out, take some time to install some of your children’s favorite apps so they can jump right in as needed.
Lastly, if you’ll be spending a lot of time in the car (whether on the way to your destination or after you arrive), consider bringing a tablet along so your kids can occupy themselves via games or streaming movies or TV shows. Don’t forget a car charger, which ensures your device won’t die during a round of Angry Birds.
Organize Your Car
Even if you don’t have a large car, there are ways to keep it organized in an effort to prevent an argument or crabby kiddos. Use a shoe organizer attached to the headrest of the passenger seat to keep toys and books close and contained. Use a plastic organizer to keep your kids’ meals from spilling all over the car. Create a kit that includes essentials such as disposable dishes/utensils, napkins, wipes, etc., so that you don’t need to pull over to find everything.
There’s also no faster way to spoil a vacation than by illness or injury, so make sure you always have a family first-aid kit on-hand. Necessities include anti-nausea medications, antihistamines, ginger capsules or chews, bandages, antibiotic ointment, oral rehydration solution, pain, and fever relievers, hand sanitizer/wipes, bug spray, SPF, rubbing alcohol, and a thermometer.
Keep in mind that you may need to tweak the kit slightly based on your destination. Traveling can quickly become a major hassle if you don’t prepare — especially when you have kids. However, with careful planning and a good strategy, you and your entire family can make memories that will last a lifetime.
Last update: July 2022
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