Family vacations can create long-lasting memories and fun learning experiences for parents and children alike. But traveling with children can sometimes be a test of preparedness -- and of patience.
Planning in advance for kids should definitely include more than getting everything packed. Take a trip to a dollar store and buy a collection of small toys, including travel games and things that you know the kids will like (avoid fighting by making sure you buy separate things for each child), then wrap each of them up individually. Once you're on the plane or in the car, tell the kids that if they're good they can have one every hour (make sure you have enough for the entire duration of the trip!), this not only gives them an incentive to behave, but it also gives them something to look forward to on a regular basis while in transit, which helps prevent boredom (wrapping everything up drags it out a bit longer, and makes it feel more special).
While you're shopping, pick up a few extras just in case, including travel games that you can pull out if everyone get bored and fidgety - avoiding boredom is the key to ensuring everyone gets there happy.
While on the road, you should also plan regular breaks to give everyone a chance to stretch. If you're on a plane, get up every hour and take the kids for a walk up and down the aisles, this not only helps with circulation but it also breaks up the flight and offers a different view than the back of an airplane chair. If you're in a car, plan a little extra time and stop every hour or two for the same reason - if possible, map out your route in advance and look for interesting stops along the way, it not only breaks up the trip but it also allows you to experience more than what you would have seen from the highway (and invariably gives you more of a flavour of your destination than what the standard tourist stops would offer) - if you're on the road for more than a few hours, stopping in local towns and supermarkets also gives you a way of buying snacks (but try to avoid buying too many drinks for the car, unless you want to stop at the side of the road every ten minutes).
Most of all, ensure that your itinerary includes something for everyone. Try to plan for at least one major stop for just the kids - an amusement park or other attraction geared towards kids does two things: it gives them something to look forward to while they're visiting grown-up tourist attractions, and also gives them something that they know is just for them (and often becomes the highlight of their trip). If your schedule doesn't allow for an extra stop, be sure to check for children's activities at the places you're visiting. If you make a point of looking, you can almost always find enough activities to make every outing special and memorable for the whole family.
Flying with your children can be either a great family adventure or a miserable and disappointing experience for the whole family. Of course, preparation is key to avoid a miserable and disappointing holiday with your children. To help you free your trip from misery, here are some important steps that you can take when flying with children.
1. Before you leave :
• Traveling and flying with children is more stressful when more people are around. If possible, book your flights for less-crowded and off-peak travel times.
• Make sure that you have plenty of entertainment for your flight, including snacks and drinks and children’s activities. Pack activities such as activity/coloring books, playing cards, travel-sized board games, and CD players.
• Get your child ready for the trip. Tell him or her how to behave and what to expect at the airport and while on the plane.
• Decide what type of clothing (preferably loose and comfortable), but allow them to choose their favorites and to pack a special toy. In a carry-on bag, pack some hard candies and gum, hand wipes, tissues, books, paper, markers in a small, tightly sealed plastic bag and perhaps a surprise toy for each child.
2. In the airport :
• Allot extra time for airport transactions. Remember, everything takes longer when traveling with children.
• Make sure that you give your child some basic safety rules, such as what he or she should do in case you become separated.
• Since kids are impatient by nature, give your child some “airport allowance.” Visiting different shops or stopping by a snack stall can keep children busy for extended periods.
• Even if a child tether is not appealing to you, consider using one while you are in the airport. Remember, checking in and claiming your luggage can be distracting at times and you cannot avoid situations that you may have to let go of your kid’s hand.
3. On the Plane :
• Take-offs and landings can be very uncomfortable for children and painful for their little ears. This is one reason why flying with children can be very difficult. To avoid this, take ear filters with you. Ear filters shield the eardrums from rapidly changing air pressure. You may also ask your child to swallow or drink beverages, chew gum, or eat hard candy to keep him or her comfortable during take-off or landing.
• To maximize entertainment value while flying with your children, bring your child’s toys out one at a time, and remember to put away the first toy before introducing the next.
• Give your child the seat beside the window and he or she will surely find the view fascinating.
• Remember that not all passengers understand the joy of children. To prevent your child from making noise, keep him or her entertained. You may also choose to sit in the back of the plane, where engine noise can muffle your child’s piping voice.
Safety Note When Flying with Children.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) strongly imposes a policy that smaller children must sit in a Child Restraint System (CRS) or a child’s car booster or seat. Here are the weight guidelines regarding safety seats for children:
• A rear-facing car seat must be used for babies weighing less than 20 lbs.
• A forward-facing car booster must be used for children weighing 20–40 lbs.
• The airplane seat belt must be used for children weighing more than 40 lbs.
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