Traveling with Kids
Whether you are taking a day trip by car or lengthy vacation by plane, traveling with kids can feel like an exhausting battle. Though it may seem easier to stay at home, it’s beneficial for children to learn about travel and be exposed to different people and places. Travel is also a wonderful way to create unique and lasting memories with family. With a bit of preparation and patience, traveling with your kids holds the potential for being a great experience.
Allow Them Some Travel Agency
Preparing for travel with children can be almost as stressful as getting to the destination. Unfortunately, this can set a tone of anxiety and frustration before the trip has begun. In addition, kids often feel left out of the planning process, which can lead to confusion and uncertainty about leaving home and what to expect.
Allowing your children some agency over travel preparations gives them a sense of participation as a valued member of the family and lets them have some fun before the trip. Here are some ideas for your little travel agents:
- Let them fill a backpack or small travel bag with portable, fun items such as books, games, art supplies, puzzles, etc.
- Have them choose a stuffed animal or doll as a special travel buddy
- Describe what the weather will be like where you are going and allow them to choose some appropriate clothing to pack
- Explain to them the steps of getting to and from your destination as well as expected activities while there, and have them draw pictures of what they imagine the trip will be like
Any involvement in travel planning will allow your children to feel like active participants and reduce their uncertainty of the unknown.
Keep to Basic Routines
Being away from home and normal daily schedules is what appeals to many travelers. However, kids still need a sense of routine while traveling for their physical and emotional wellbeing. This includes having regular healthy meals, staying hydrated, physical activity, and decent sleep intervals—as much as possible. This will provide a sense of comfort in the middle of interrupted schedules and unfamiliar environments.
Here are some ways to keep to basic routines when traveling with your kids:
- Maintain bedtime rituals: Since travel can be stimulating for children, maintaining bedtime rituals will help them relax and get quality sleep at the end of the day. If your evening routine includes bath time, story time, or just saying goodnight in a special way, make sure to continue with that.
- Good mornings: Just as familiar routines can help with bedtime while traveling, they can start off mornings on a good foot as well. Though it may be tempting to sleep in while on vacation and forego breakfast, etc., this can disrupt your child’s natural rhythms. Try to keep to your basic morning schedule if possible.
- Quiet time: If your kids are young and still taking naps, make sure to at least allow them some quiet time throughout the day. This will prevent negative behaviors as a result of being overtired and/or over-stimulated.
Though it may seem counterintuitive to keep up basic routines when away from home, a familiar flow to their day will help your children enjoy themselves much more while traveling—and you’ll have a more peaceful trip as well.
Avoid Screen Overload
It can be tempting, understandably, for parents to heavily rely on digital screens and electronic devices as a means of keeping their children occupied, distracted, and/or engaged when traveling. However, this can work against families in unexpected ways. Excessive screen time can result in physical and behavioral problems in children, such as headaches, impaired eyesight, reduced focus, anxiety, and frustration. These factors, combined with interrupted routines, can cause even more travel difficulties in the long run.
Another aspect to consider in terms of screen use is that it creates a missed opportunity for socialization and learning about other people and places. Children are naturally curious and observant, and part of the joy of traveling is exposure to different scenery and environments. If kids are focused on a digital screen, they miss the chance to notice the interesting diversity around them. Rather than automatically turning to digital entertainment, give your children a chance to notice their surroundings, watch other people, and ask questions. Screen time should be a last resort.
Be Yourself (Same for the Kids)
Parents often feel the need to portray a perfect image of themselves and their family when in public or away from home. This sets up unrealistic expectations for everyone, which can certainly undermine the purpose and fun of traveling. Rather than putting everyone on edge with appearances, model for your children that it’s okay for you to be yourself, and for them to be themselves.
Nobody looks perfect after travel, so messy hair, stained clothing, and tired faces are normal. In addition, very few family trips go smoothly without delays or mishaps. Expecting everything to go well or everyone to behave perfectly creates too much strain and pressure. Allow yourself to react to the unexpected in a reasonable way so tension doesn’t mount within you or your kids. Realistic expectations and a sense of humor will help everyone in your traveling party to relax and have some fun.
One of the best ways to ensure that you and your kids have meaningful travels is to choose engaging activities to bring along that facilitate togetherness, fun, and learning. At Cognisprings, we support parents looking for educational toys that encourage exploration of a child’s surroundings as well as independent play. That’s why we provide games, books, and puzzles that are thoughtfully designed and unique to enhance children’s critical thinking, creativity, and curiosity. Our products are portable and ideal for any type of travel. They allow families to connect and learn with each other, in addition to creating lasting memories by prioritizing excellent options for screen-free fun, healthy cognitive development, creativity, and appreciating diversity.