It’s that time of year again, March Break is upon us folks. Whether you’re travelling with your family this week or planning a trip this spring or summer, there are a number of things to consider when travelling with little ones. I recall the first family vacation with Miss O at 5 months old. I was nervous because we were flying and I wasn’t sure how she’d react to the changing pressure in the cabin. She ultimately did very well, proving that I was needlessly worried. I did a lot of research prior to the trip (I know, first time mom here) but much of my learning came from my experience from that and subsequent trips. Here’s a list of some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way. Hopefully you can use these during your next trip.
Preparation, Preparation, Preparation
As a parent, you already know the importance of planning ahead. This is important when preparing for a trip with kids. Preparation will ensure less stress as the day approaches because you’ll be assured that you have everything you need. Start by writing a list of all of the things you need to purchase and pack. If you can, start at least a week or 2 in advance. Keep an open suitcase in your bedroom and your child’s and drop things in over time. In the past I’ve packed all of the items not needed on a day to day basis (ex. extra pajamas, beach attire, etc) and made a list of the items we’re still using but need to pack (ex. toiletries). There are tools (whether online or on paper) that can help you get organized and may offer suggestions that you may not have considered. I’ve used the “Pack This Pad” sold a Chapters/Indigo and found it very helpful.
Bring Along Entertainment
Whether you’re driving or flying to your destination, it’s a good idea to pack colouring books, books to read or a tablet loaded with activities to keep your little ones occupied. Depending on the length of time you’ll be driving or flying for, these can be considered necessities. Alternatively, you can pack small toys for your kids and make a game of handing them over. For example, you can give them a little car for every hour that passes. It gives them something to look forward to and keeps them preoccupied for a while. Pick a toy that works for you and your child.
Pack An Assortment Of Snacks
This is a very important part of any trip. As you know, a fed child is a happy child. If you’re driving, pack a cooler full of snacks for the family. Many highways offer rest stops that allow you to either set up a mini picnic (to save some money) or purchase snacks along the way. Either way, these stops are great for you and the family to stretch your legs and get some fresh air before heading back on the road. If you’re flying, check to see if your flight offers an in-flight meal service. Alternatively, you can purchase snacks in the airport prior to your departure.
Pack Soothers Or Consider Breastfeeding
This is great advice I received when Miss O was a baby and we flew to Nassau, Bahamas. She didn’t like soothers so I breastfed her during take-off and landing to help her ears manage the changing cabin pressure. Fortunately, this worked for us because there were no complaints from her during the flight! If your child is older, consider giving them a drink during take off and landing to help with the pressure build-up.
Get An Early Start
This is another great tip if you’re flying. Get to the airport nice and early (more than just 2-3 hours before your flight). Depending on the time of day this will give you lots of time to get your boarding pass, get through security check points and then find your gate. Your little ones can then have some time to explore with you in tow and watch the planes landing and taking off. You can also have a meal together and get settled. Not leaving enough time for all of this can lead to stress for everyone. We know how kids like to take in sites especially when something is new, so giving them time to do so will make for an enjoyable experience (for everyone). If driving, leaving early in the morning ensure there’s less traffic to deal with and shorter lines at customs if crossing the boarder. Plus, your little ones can sleep and you can get in as much driving as possible.
Organize Your Diaper Bag
When Miss O was younger I found it easy to find items in my diaper bag when I separated similar items. For instance, I put extra diapers and wipes together in a large Ziploc bag. Extra clothes were in another Ziploc bag, snacks and drinks in another. This made it so much easier to find what I needed quickly without having to root through the bag and pull everything out.
Pack Extra Clothes And Necessities
As mentioned above, I pack extra clothes for Miss O but it was also important to pack a little extra for myself in my carry on luggage. Just in case baby spits up or your toddler/young child spills their juice or food on you, you don’t have to deal with soiled clothes until you get to your destination. Packing an extra T-shirt or shorts (or whatever is appropriate depending on the time of year) will keep you comfortable during your journey.
Make Frequent Stops
If you’re driving, plan to stop frequently to give your little ones an opportunity to burn off some energy before continuing on. Depending on the length of your trip they’ll need a little time to stretch. If flying, if the stewards are OK with it, consider allowing your little ones to walk down the aisle but only for a short time. Safety first!
Buy Travel Insurance
In my opinion this is a must if you’re crossing the boarder. It doesn’t cost much to protect yourself against lost luggage, sickness or worse. It’s one less thing to worry about knowing that anything that could go wrong is covered. I usually buy travel insurance at my bank for about $70 for the family vs. a travel agency which may charge more but covers the same thing.
Bon voyage! Hopefully some of these tips come in handy during your next family vacation. What are some tips that you’ve learned along the way?