The upcoming season is a time of holiday travels for many as they travel close and far to visit their loved ones. Many of those travelers consist of families with young children who present their own logistical challenges. Parents have to worry about getting to their destination without getting hit by a car, lost in an airport, or finding a hotel room that’s kid-friendly.
There’s also the need to keep the kids content during the journey in order to reduce fuss and stress as well as being considerate to other travelers. It’s a lot of work for a parent, but there are ways to make it a little easier. Here are some tips to help you have safe and peaceful holiday travels.
Apps for Kids
There are a lot of apps out there that are aimed at entertaining kids of all ages, and they’re found on both iOS and Android. Many apps focus on delivering an experience that’s akin to reading a picture book, use famous characters from classic books as the app theme, or provide challenges to help a child learn something new. You as a parent have to decide what apps are good for your kids, but there are so many options that finding appropriate apps is an easy task.
Parents are right to be concerned with their children spending too much time looking at a screen and not engaging with their environment. However, some situations mean using any means necessary to keep kids occupied so parents can get everyone to their destination in one piece. Using apps on phones and tablets to keep everyone occupied is for the short-term trip, and kids can be taught that they only get unlimited use of devices during travel time.
Many vehicles come equipped with in-car entertainment systems, and there is seemingly no end to the number of videos aimed at kids on the internet. However, videos are noisy and can be distracting. Instead of dealing with endless repeats of songs and movies, get a pair of kid-friendly headphones. Headphones designed for young ears come with features such as volume limits and fit over the ear instead of fitting into tender ear canals. And they come with wireless options so you don’t have to worry about someone getting tangled up in a cord.
Find Time to Let Kids Blow Off Energy When Traveling by Car
Let’s face it: kids and inactivity don’t go well together. Keeping kids in a car for hours at a time is a sure-fire way to wind up with a cranky child who won’t cooperate. When you’re planning your trip, look for kid-friendly destinations such as a public playground or restaurant with a kid’s activity area. Set aside a reasonable amount of time for a stop so the kids can get rid of their excess energy. They’ll feel better afterward and you and your spouse can relax and focus on the road.
Define Responsibilities Before Leaving Home
Kids will want to bring their own gear with them to keep them occupied or to keep them feeling secure. You may also want them to tote something in their own bag to spread the load. What winds up happening is there’s a lot of stuff to track and keep tabs on. You might not have the spare brainpower to know who has what at all times.
That means making sure each kid knows what they’re carrying of theirs, their siblings, and of yours before you leave home. It prevents prized possessions from getting lost in transit, and allows you to pay attention to important things like routes or boarding passes instead of digging through your own bag to find something for a child.
Bring the Snacks Along
Snacks help grumbly tummies make it from Point A to Point B. Kids are more likely to stay content if they can munch on things while in transit and keep their stomachs from hurting. And if you have a child who’s going through a picky phase, giving them snacks to chew on is an alternative to making them wait to eat a full meal. You might not find a restaurant that serves fare your picky one will eat.
This is another area where you’ll have to drop the rules for a while. You might not like the idea of letting your kids fill up on junk food, but you also can’t make a child wait hours to eat, either. Trail mixes and low-carb snacks help kids feel full for longer and have less sugar content. And there’s enough of the fun yummy stuff to delight a young palate and keep them munching.
Don’t Drive When You Can Fly
Flying has its hassles that make the idea of driving more appealing. However, kids don’t do well with trips that are more than 5 hours long even with breaks. If the destination is within 2-3 hours of home and it makes sense to drive, then you should go by car. But when the distance would mean a journey of more than 5 hours, it’s better to go by air.
Taking a flight does absorb a few hours of the day to travel the same as a car, but there’s less time spent in transit overall. If you have younger children, bring along items to help with the ear-popping at altitude, snacks to keep their jaws working and alleviate air pressure, and a tablet with child-friendly apps. Older children may need the same gear, but you can have them pack their own items and use them as they need.
Holiday travels with kids is challenging, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. Take your time planning and preparing, make sure that you’ve covered all possible contingencies, and take a deep breath when you go out the door. You’ll do better than you think you will.