28 Jul 5 Easy Tips for Traveling with Kids
This summer, I put my money where my mouth is in regards to travel adventure with kids. My two kids and I just returned from 10 days in Spain, and we are still on the road for another two weeks on the US east coast. So far, it’s been rewarding, tiring, hilarious, aggravating, mind-opening, headache-inducing, and just plain fun. I would do it all again in a heartbeat. And I have to say, the kids have done phenomenal with traveling around, living out of the suitcases, and adapting to new places. So, I thought I would share a few road-tested and plane-tested tips for traveling with kids.
1. Keep it simple. One bag. One backpack. Not packed full. Before we left, I gave my kids, ages 13 and 9, one 20″ international carry-on roller board each. I told them they had to fit all of their clothes into the roller board, and not pack it full. After all, if they wanted any souvenirs, they would need to leave some room in their suitcase. They laid out what they wanted to bring, and I weeded it down (for my daughter) and up (for my son) to 1 jacket, 5 shorts/skirts, 5 tops, 1 dress outfit, 2 pairs of shoes (sandals and sneakers), 1 long sleeve shirt, 1 pair zip off pants, 2 pairs of socks, 5 pairs of underwear, and a small mess kit in a security-ready clear quart-size bag. They also brought one small backpack for some items to keep them entertained on the plane rides. It’s so much easier on everyone when you are not weighed down by luggage you do not need. It just makes you tired and cranky. Roller boards and backpacks were easy-peasy.
2. Stay healthy. There is nothing worse than being sick on the road. I have been. And it is NOT fun. I started giving my kids some Vitamin C (or Airborne) before the trip and brought it along with us. We also carry 16 ounce Nalgene bottles with us to ensure we can always have water available. They are great because you can empty them before security, fill them after security, and then use a carabiner to secure them to your bag. Staying hydrated is key to feeling good. To help with the jetlag, we purchased some JetZone from the local health food grocery store. Sleep is critical to having a good time, and JetZone, a homeopathic remedy, helps. We all slept through the nights upon our arrival in Europe and when we got back to Boston.
3. Pack an organized day bag. Just to be sure you have what you need on hand, bring a collapsable day bag that you can use for day trips. I use a Longchamp collapsable tote. My husband uses a lightweight Eddie Bauer backpack – both work great. We packed bandaids (which we used), 1-2 of our Nalgene bottles with bottled water poured in (my daughter is always thirsty), snacks (familiar ones and interesting country-related ones), jackets, sunglasses, sunblock, hand s
anitizer, kids chewable Advil, Zyrtec, and my iPad to use the maps feature to guide us (and I had the travel guides on my Kindle app as well).
4. Relate to their world. One of the best things we did was think about how to relate what we were doing/seeing to what’s going on in their world. Before we left, we had been watching Doctor Who marathon-style. I knew Spain would have some weeping angels. If you are not familiar with the show, weeping angels are aliens that are old angel statues when you look at them and nasty monsters when you blink or turn away. Our kids were on the look out for weeping angels throughout our bike tour of Barcelona. Scanning all the buildings for weeping angels was a super fun way for them to explore the Gothic and Gaudy architecture.
5. Set an expectation of flexibility. From the outset, we let the kids know that they would need to go with the flow. Some things would work as we planned. Some things would definitely NOT work as we planned. Some things we would not have a plan for. And some things would simply not be planned. We adopted two key phrases: 1) “Let it go, let it go . . . ” which I am sure everyone recognizes from Frozen; and 2) “It’s Europe,” meaning we are not in America anymore, so don’t expect it to be like America. Go with the flow. Let it go. Adopt the Spanish way of life for now. That’s what we were there to experience. If that meant eating dinner from 9-11:30 pm, then so be it. And so it was.
We also set our own expectations. We prepared ourselves to travel at a different pace. We wouldn’t be able see it all. But what we DID see was even better as we saw it through a whole new set of eyes – our children’s.
I’ve got 5 more tips to share next week . . .