Just because you have kids doesn’t mean you have to stop traveling. In fact, a U.S. Department of Education study shows that kids who travel (regardless of the destination) do better in reading, math and general education than their peers who don’t travel. It doesn’t need to be an expensive or exotic getaway. What’s important is stepping out of your lived-in routine to create lasting family memories.
Here are some tips from my globetrotting friend, Jenna Haynie, and I to help your family travel go as smoothly as possible:
1. Don’t let travel-anxiety stop you.
Getting nervous and thinking of the worst-case scenario before a trip (especially a big or spontaneous one) is completely normal. Remind yourself that once you’re on your way, you’ll be glad you went. The memories you and your family will make are worth the stress of getting away to make them.
2. Don’t be afraid to ditch your routine.
It’s good for parents and children to take breaks from their everyday routines and responsibilities. You’ll come back able to tackle your days with more energy and perspective. Plus, it’s good for kids to be exposed to new routines and cultures — it makes them more adaptable and understanding. It also instills in them a hunger for exploration, discovery and learning.
3. Keep it simple.
Instead of packing endless activities, toys and treats to stimulate your child every hour of your road or airplane trip, stick to a few essentials (think books, an engaging toy or game, a comfort object, a favorite snack and a notebook). At first, your kids might be bored, but they will adjust to the standard you set and learn to get creative. Cost-free games like I-Spy, The Alphabet Game and Name that Tune and can be fun for the whole family. Keeping it simple allows you to do what you set out to do on your trip: Connect with each other and enjoy the scenery around you.
4. Don’t forget the books.
My kids love the novelty of a new library book. Before a trip, we head to the library with a list of books to check out for each child, some of them related to our destination. Also, we borrow or download audiobooks (from Overdrive or Audible) that the whole family can enjoy, and ones the kids can listen to individually with headphones. Epic and Overdrive are great resources for electronic books that make for easy traveling.
5. Dress practically.
Stick to darker colors, so spills and airport grime don’t easily show. Dress yourself and your children in layers to stay comfortable in the changing climates of the airplane, the airport and your destination.
6. Be hands-free.
Convertible diaper bags with a backpack option, like Coco and Kiwi’s, for example, make traveling with little kids a lot easier. Also, a good quality baby carrier like an Ergo Baby or Solly Baby is a must when traveling with a baby.
7. Stress less.
Teach your children to pack their own travel bag. We like to give our kids their own little backpacks and let them help choose what goes in it. Putting our kids in charge of their own things takes a lot of the stress off of us.
8. Bring a back-up charger.
This $12 charger, for example, doesn’t take up any space, and can be a lifesaver when phone and tablet batteries die, especially on long trips.
9. Make a travel playlist.
Fun beats can boost otherwise-cranky travelers. Spotify, for example, has playlists specifically designed for family road trips. Our family likes to pick a theme song for each trip. We make a video using that song, and the kids always associate it with happy trip memories whenever they hear it.
10. Have realistic expectations.
Whenever we travel, we remind ourselves to roll with whatever happens. One of our babies might have a blowout, our flight could be delayed, and someone will probably have a meltdown. But it’ll be OK. We’re going to have hard moments and days whether we’re on the go or at home. If you prepare for the worst, you’ll usually be pleasantly surprised at how well things go.