Traveling with children is beautifully enriching and there is no greater pleasure than to see your child’s eyes light up from amazement of discoveries they make during travels. Seeing the world through their eyes is equally refreshing and they are most adept at pointing out beauty even in the most jaded surroundings. However, it is not easy to go on a trip with those little individuals and you definitely need to be well prepared before traveling with them. Thus presenting a list of travel must haves, if going on a vacation with a child. Helpful, handy and mostly gathered first hand (thanks to my mini me), these tips will hopefully ease your travel woes.
1. Be Prepared – This is the golden rule when traveling with children. It is important to understand that while we might be super excited about the Tibetan monks morning chants in a remote destination, for them swinging with their friends in the park is more tempting. Children need time to get adjusted to new culture, people etc and feel lost in an alien surrounding. That’s why they cling fiercely to their parents, often driving them nuts and have been known to do all sorts of funny things to get attention from them.
With time, they start missing their friends, pets, grandparents and even school and pull those awfully long faces which make you feel guilty about the trip. So preparing your child for an upcoming trip is important unless they are really too small and the best way to do that is to get them excited about it. Give out exciting clues, hints, plan games about the upcoming trip, ask them to look the destination up in the map, find out about its fun quirky stuff and by departure date, they will be more excited about the holiday than you. This involvement also makes them feel important and children love it when grown ups include them in activities.
2. Pack Smart – One of the biggest travel disasters is to either under/over pack. Not only this gives rise to a feeling of being vulnerable at a new place, it also involves added travel expenses if you have to buy things you need. With children, it gets more expensive, as their clothes, accessories etc tend to be pricier than adults and more than often I have known picky children who make their parents lives miserable for not packing his favourite jeans, “Hakuna Matata/ Barbie Princess” t-shirt etc. It makes more sense to do a bit of homework about the climate and pack accordingly, keeping in mind to involve him in the process. For very small children and babies, loading up on diapers, disposable underwear, comfortable nightsuits, socks, ski suits (if applicable), swimsuits, rubber duckies etc help avoid buy things which might unexpectedly make them break out in rashes or allergies.
3. Keep bugs at bay – There’s nothing more heartbreaking than to see a child in pain and as parents, we will do anything to keep our precious bundles healthy. While children are known to get acclimatized to a place faster than adults, vaccinating him/her with the required shots and packing in water proof Band Aids, mild paracetamols, anti histamines, thermometer, ear buds, antiseptic wipes, anti bacterial sanitizers and other necessary medicines will help keep those pesky bugs at bay. Sunscreen lotions, after sun soothing creams, baby creams/lotions/shampoos/washes etc will help avoid sickness, frayed temperaments, allergies etc. Children suffer more from jet lags than adults and eating unfamiliar food (often gorging on them) gives them those horrible tummy cramps and stomach upsets. Curb your child’s sweet cravings, get them to eat more fruits and be careful on the water.
4. Get Documented – It is extremely important to keep travel documents updated whenever on a trip, but with children packing in the vaccination chart, pediatrician’s emergency prescription/list, travel insurance etc are highly necessary. Keeping soft and hard copies of all the necessary documents along with visas, hotel vouchers, airline tickets, medical documents etc are a must, because frazzled parents mean sulking kids.
5. Check out the mini rucksack – Children have some things which are like their Charlie Brown’s blankets and they will like it if you let them do their own packing. While letting your child pack his/her own things is a great way of helping them be more aware, involved and be self dependent, make sure to check the rucksacks once before leaving home. I personally had a stressful time when during a security check for one of our flights, Noni’s rucksack had sent alarm bells ringing. It had turned out that she had packed in the entire entourage of her “sick children” along with doctor’s playset complete with vials filled with colourful liquids which she had concocted herself. She had also brought in her favourite painted pebbles, shells etc and had thrown a major tantrum when the liquids got emptied by the airport security personnel.
Needless to say, not only had it soured her mood, but for the rest of the vacation, I had to lug around a heavy rucksack filled with pebbles, shells, beetles etc. So check your little one’s rucksack once before leaving your house/hotel and explain why he/she has to put some things in the check in luggage. From my experience, I have learned that children have an outstanding sense of clarity and do listen if spoken with logic (especially one benefiting them).
5. Delay Ready – Nothing makes a child more cranky than lack of activities and confined space and delays entail all of those. Pack in colouring/activity books, puzzles, stickers, story books, pacifiers, rattles, squeaky toys etc to keep the tiny ones busy and for the older tech savvy ones, download a few of their favourite movies, apps, games, word puzzles etc before hand in your phone/tablet/laptop. When moods start darkening surprise them with those unexpected happiness and keep irritating nagging at bay. Making up fun games like colour/shape spotting, different airlines planes spotting, little stories etc also help make them become more observant while keeping them involved. Of course, making them aware of the situation in a way they can understand also helps as they are suffering as much as us and they deserve to know.
6. Tag them all the way – A lost child is an ultimate nightmare and its necessary to attach name tags on all their belongings while traveling. The risk of a child getting lost is higher if traveling through busy airports, to carnivals, festivals or crowded trains stations and it makes sense to mention your name, contact details, embassy number etc in the tags attached to your child’s baggage or on person. A neat arm band or a small sticker on their rucksack/belt loop/jacket makes it easier to avoid this horrendous situation and keep them safe.
7. Let the child be – So you have reached your destination hassle free and having a great time, when your child becomes extremely demanding or crabby. To help him ease into a new surrounding, allow him explore it in his way. Give him a small inexpensive camera, encourage him to run around (tires out those Energizer bunnies too), explore the new culture, interact with locals etc and you will be amazed as to how fast they fall into the holiday groove. Children are super inquisitive and this is the best way to keep them involved, while helping them be more aware, open and welcoming to new things. Just make sure to keep an eye on them and enjoy as they explore a whole new exciting world.
8. Make the world their oyster – Children as mentioned before are super inquisitive and like sponges soak up everything that surround them. Travels are best teachers and it is important to make those journeys a part of their learning too. Open their eyes to an unfamiliar surrounding, culture, food, people and point out the differences. Explain simply or story out the reasons why the world is so amazingly different and you will have an inquisitive, excited child learning important life lessons from around the planet. Usually archaeological sites and temples/grand churches bore children out as they prefer outdoor activities, but if taking them to such places, it helps to explain their importance to them in a fairy tale like way. Teach them the prevalent religious/cultural etiquette with simple child friendly logic and see how fast they fall in love with the destination.
9. Travel Smart the local way – In spite of all the tips, parents do eventually run out of options in trying to keep the child busy. They are powerhouses of energy and its amazing how fast they get distracted/bored. Those are the travel low zones because a bored child finds indigenous ways to demand parents’ attention. From constantly butting into adult’s conversation, throwing tantrums for something, pretending to be sick or finding the most inappropriate moment/place to poop/pee (when they don’t have the urge), they surely know how to get attention. In such situations, involve them in the local life. Using public transportation (and keeping them busy with face spotting games, learning names of stations), playing/interacting with locals in the park/beach, befriending a puppy (make sure its safe) etc not only keeps them occupied but helps them overcome the unfamiliarity hurdle as well. While traveling with kids, it is only fair enough to take them out to zoos, amusement parks, children’s theaters, safaris etc in the area for which a pre travel research is necessary.
10. Pen those thoughts – Traveling with children is very pleasurable and enriching for those young minds. Turn the trip into a learning experience and get more out of it. Encourage your child to make a photo collage, travel highlights essay, travel story etc once he/she comes back home and see beautiful happy memories bubble out from that precious impressionable mind.
Our road trip to Udaipur had piled up too many miles on my trusty little car, and due to lack of time/preparation a rental vehicle had been impossible. In such situations companies like Turo save big money over the rental agencies at the airport, and you can choose from tons of options for cars in almost every city in the US. “Just check out http://www.relayrides.com/airports for airport car rentals at your next destination. The great cars you will find may surprise you.
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE