Nothing creates great memories like holidays with the kids. But as we all know, sometimes it can border on a nightmare too! Here are some tips for making family holidays tear and tantrum free.
Think about how long the trip will take – is it 16 hours on a plane, is it four hours in a car, is it days on a boat? What entertainment is provided for them, and what will you have to provide yourselves? Will there be movies, music? What mealtimes will you have to cover? What food will be provided on your chosen mode of travel?
We all know kids can get cranky when they’re tired, bored, hungry, cooped up or irritated by siblings. So let’s try and avoid all of these from the beginning.
Tiredness – We can’t always choose our travel times; leaving at the crack of dawn or flying out at midnight. Prepare your kids by getting in as much extra sleep for them as you can – early nights and naps beforehand. Whatever form of travel, try to make sure they can get comfy for a sleep. It might be a small fluffy comforting blanket they can wrap over themselves or scrunch up into a pillow, or secure in a window to keep the sun out. If room is tight, consider a blow up pillow…ones with removable covers make them easy to wash later. If you have several children, make sure they each have one so there is no need to squabble.
Think about the temperature – too hot or too cold makes it difficult for any of us to sleep. Make sure their travelling outfits are loose, comfy and in layers to take off or put on.
Don’t experiment with medications; travel time isn’t the time to see how they react to medicine, in case it has the opposite of the desired effect.
Hunger – No matter how much they eat, kids always seem to want more food at the most inconvenient times. Packing extra snacks is easy. Lollies will be a temptation but sugar isn’t always a friend. Simple sandwiches, vegetable sticks and muesli bars are easy to pack and make little mess. If you’re planning plane travel, remember to book a child’s meal – just because you book a child’s ticket doesn’t automatically guarantee that’s what they will be served.
Pack plenty of water – and allow for rest breaks if you’re driving! Getting through the airport with water isn’t always easy, but airline staff can supply for you on the plane easily enough – free or purchase if you have to.
Boredom – There’s a plethora of options these days. Tablets, DVD players, phones, downloads, playlists, podcasts…you name it. Or if you don’t like the idea of too many electronics, go old school. Colouring in, sing a long songs, get them involved in their surrounds with a good old fashioned game of I-spy (admittedly more limited on a plane!). For younger kids play the alphabet game where you pick a subject (cars, animals, food) and take turns running through the alphabet naming items. And of course don’t forget a good old fashioned book or magazine. However keep in mind some children can feel unwell with travel sickness if they sit with their head bent too long. A regular break is a good idea.
If they can carry items in their own light backpack it makes it easy for you and adds to the excitement for them. A favourite toy (and often a back up if that one gets misplaced – heaven forbid!) is a must for the little ones.
For older kids, if you can get them off their electronics, involve them in the trip itself. Planning, helping with navigation in a new place, deciding on what to eat and where. Instead of dragging them around to see all the adult or family commitments you may have, let them plan an entire day where they get to choose exactly what they want to do…visit a special store, watch a sport match, visit a theme park. Doing something they want to do may prove more fun that you think, and makes sure they are listened to and stay involved. Give them a budget to work too if this helps.
Irritated by siblings – Well this is just a fact of life, but you can mitigate. See if you can designate their personal space, don’t force them to share equipment if they don’t work well together, lay out the rules before you set out, offer them a reward if they can get through without fighting (a reward can be more productive than a punishment!) Some parents get away with playing the ‘Silent Game’- who can stay quiet the longest. Good luck with that if you can get away with it.
Practicals – sounds very simple, but always pack wet wipes, a pack of cards, a pen and paper, kid’s paracetamol (if you’re into that), an emergency sick bag, a simple snack (for impromptu ‘rewards’), tissues, hand sanitiser, bandaids, a compact travel towel, a tube of sunscreen with an added insect repellent and a spare pair of headphones (where do they always disappear to?). All these items should fit easily into a decent sized handbag / man bag that you can take along with you wherever you go.
Above all, try to relax and stay calm. Its true kids pick up on vibes, so the more fun you can be, the more fun you’re bound to get back.