Photo credit: Mathilde sleeps at 36,000 feet (over the North Atlantic) via photopin (license)
For many new parents, traveling with kids might seem like an insurmountable challenge. The thought of trying to juggle car seats, luggage, strollers, diaper bags, AND babies turns many families off to even the idea of travel. However, travelling with kids need not be difficult or overly challenging. With the following tips, you can be ready to jet set to any destination with your kids, all while maintaining your sanity.
Wear comfortable shoes
As parents, it’s easy to forget to take care of yourself. With all the walking that you’ll be doing on your trip, it’s important to wear comfortable shoes that will support your feet and not leave you with blisters at the end of the day. Pick shoes that are functional, but also versatile enough to go with any outfit. This will help free up some space in your luggage for more souvenirs. If you’ll to be on your feet all day, retailers like Orthotic Shop are a great place to find orthopedic shoes.
From supportive sneakers to a pair of comfortable sandals, it’s important that you take care of your feet so that you can chase after your little ones when they decide that walking calmly besides you is boring and they want to check out what’s around a corner or three. If you’re not wearing the right footwear, chasing them down will be far more taxing than you want it to be, which means you might have to head back to your apartment early.
Bring a light-weight stroller or a baby carrier
Traveling to a new city usually involves a lot of walking. It’s the best way to see all that the streets have to offer, allowing you to find those hidden gems that most tourist busses miss. For families with young kids, having a stroller or a baby carrier can be a tremendous help, especially if you’re intending to cover a lot of ground on your trip.
The key to this is to choose something that is lightweight and easy to pack, since you’re going to have to carry it with you throughout your trip. Umbrella strollers are an excellent choice, since they’ll do double duty protecting your young one from the elements.
As parents, we always want to be prepared for the worst case scenario. Unfortunately, when packing for travel, this often means bringing every single item you can possibly think of, “just in cast.”
Resist the temptation to do this, and only pack the bare minimum. Most cities you travel to, even international ones, will have whatever it is you need, be it diapers, wet wipes, bottles, or sippy cups. They may not be the same brand or style that your kid is used to, but this will save you the stress of having to lug these items around with your on your trip.
Use layovers as play-time
Long overseas flights can be difficult for young kids, especially when they have to be cooped up in a plane for more than a few hours. If your flight plans involve a layover at an airport, take advantage of that time to let your kids play and let off some energy before boarding the plane. Tiring them out before the flight will help you avoid a mid-flight meltdown later on.
Buy an extra seat for your baby
For some parents, the idea of buying an extra seat for a kid under two years old may seem too expensive, but consider the benefits. Having an extra seat allows lap and leg room for you, and gives your kid his or her own personal space. If you bring their carseat along on the plane, that will also provide him or her a familiar space to make the strangeness of being on a plane less scary. Even if your child spends the whole time in your arms, the added room the seat provides means that the bag of toys, snacks and extra diapers is in easy reach.
Now if you really want to travel comfortably with your family, there is another option. A private jet may seem out of reach, but such transport can now be chartered on a per-trip basis and you may be surprised at just how reasonable rates can be for a large family…
Pack crayons and a journal
If your kid is a little older, having crayons and a journal on hand is a fantastic low-tech option for passing the time. Pick journals with paper covers or ones that are pocket-sized, as they are easier to pack than their hard-backed counterparts.
Instead of bringing the whole box of crayons along in the carry on, select a few favorite colors and keep them in a small ziploc bag instead. If you don’t want to buy a coloring book specifically for the trip, a few sheets of loose paper or a notepad can be the perfect canvas for your budding Picasso.
Take it slow
When visiting a city, it’s easy to want to fill up your time with as many activities and sites as possible. But as many families know, it’s hard enough sometimes to get the kids out the door at a decent time, and unless you want a meltdown in the middle of a busy city street, the better option is to plan for fewer activities throughout the day.
Try incorporating more breaks throughout the day by visiting a café, a library, or a market. These stops can also serve the dual purpose of providing some time for bathroom breaks or diaper changes without having to resort to using public toilets.
By having “unscheduled time” you also allow for those unexpected side trips, be it a small gallery you discovered by walking, or an afternoon spent in the park. It’s tempting to plan every second of your trip to try and maximize what you do, but these unplanned adventures can often create the best memories. Make sure you make time for them.
Visit a local park
The best way to get a taste of the local culture is to hang out where the locals hang out. Every major city, even those in other countries, has public parks. And more often than not, they are also free to use. Visiting a local park is a wonderful way for your kids to meet and play with other kids. It’s also a great chance for you to rest and enjoy being in the city.
It’s easy for parents to get bogged down by all the nitty-gritty details of traveling with their kids. However, in doing so, they run the risk of losing the enjoyment of what it means to travel as a family. You’ll help them create memories that can last a lifetime and encourage them to embrace your own love for travel. With a little planning, and room for the unexpected, you’ll find that taking an exotic trip with your kids is almost always worth it.