Thinking about taking a trip with your kids? Any parent knows traveling with the little ones can sometimes be a harrowing experience, but it can go smoothly and be lots of fun if you plan ahead. On NBC’s “Today” show, consumer correspondent Janice Lieberman shares some tips from the editors of Child magazine to help ease the journey. Here's more on those helpful hints:
Planning ahead is the most important rule for a successful family vacation. It may take time and effort, but putting in that effort early on can result in a rewarding and special trip. By planning ahead you maximize your enjoyment, minimize discomfort and get the most out of your travel dollars.
Here are some important tips to help you travel sanely with kids:
- Get your kids involved in the trip decision making process. Present them with options. Show them maps and photos of where you're going and what you'll be doing each day. Depending on their age, give them disposable cameras, travel journals and a budget to spend on souvenirs of their choice.
- Wrap inexpensive toys to add entertainment value for your child. Try small travel games, coloring books, stickers, books, or toy vehicles and dole them out at hourly intervals.
- For older children, bring a book on tape for everyone's listening enjoyment. In the car, balance solitary activities (everyone listening to their own iPod) with kooky car games like name that tune, guessing games, travel bingo, and so forth.
- Pack snacks. Tryindividual packages of crackers, cereal, juice boxes, string cheese, raisins, water and anything else your child likes. Few airlines serve meals, and your child may get hungry more often than you expect.
- The more organized you are, the calmer you (and your kids) will be, especially at a busy airport. Make sure you've got travel documents, organize your luggage and carry-on bags and have more than enough baby supplies and diversions for the kids.
- Keep your children's habits in mind when planning exactly when to fly/drive — early mornings or after bedtime can be good for long car trips if your kids enjoy sleeping in the car.
Don't expect a vacation with kids to include an adult-level sightseeing schedule. One big outing per day may be all kids can handle. Plan an activity for the morning (trip to zoo or museum, beach outing, etc.) and keep afternoons free for napping, relaxing at the hotel pool, and other low-stress activities.
Bedtime and mealtime
Try to maintain normal bedtimes and mealtimes. Don't put kids in a situation where they need to be perfectly behaved at all times (three restaurant meals a day, formal visits with lots of relatives and strangers, etc.). Keep breakfasts and lunches informal and kid-friendly. Kids thrive on routine, even on vacation.
Divide and conquer
If siblings start squabbling, let your spouse go bike riding with one child while you go shopping with the other. Kids thrive on individual attention, and vacations are a good time to achieve this.
Here are some general tips based on age group:
General (all ages)
Advice: The more organized you are, the calmer you (and your kids) will be, especially at a busy airport. Make sure you have your travel documents and a first aid kit. Always pack snacks for on-the-go.
Baby (ages birth to 1)
Advice: Have more than enough baby supplies on hand in case of emergency.
Toddler/preschool (Ages 2 -4)
Advice: Wrap inexpensive toys to add entertainment value for your child and dole them out at hourly intervals.
School age (ages 5-8)
Advice: Get your kids involved in the trip decision making process. Present them with options; show them maps, and photos of where you're going and what you'll be doing each day.
Tween (ages 9-12)
Advice: Depending on their age, give them disposable cameras, travel journals, and a budget to spend on souvenirs of their choice.
Teen (ages 13 and up)
Advice: For older children, bring a book on tape for everyone's listening enjoyment. Handheld video games, Ipods or portable DVD players can be entertaining as well.