A lot of planning goes into making a family vacation extra special and relatively stress free. But after you’ve done the planning and are ready to depart with kids in tow, what can you do in the moment to ensure your trip is fun for everyone?
We’ve gathered our best tips for parents on what to do during a family trip to keep the stress at bay, so you can keep the focus on making cherished travel memories with your loved ones. Read on to discover our best tips for traveling stress-free with kids and encouraging them to savor the special moments together during your family vacation:
How to Make Traveling With Kids a Stress-Free Experience
Whether it’s by plane, train, or automobile, traveling with kids of all ages can amp up the stress factor. Without a doubt, though, flying brings out the stress like nothing else in family travel. Long security lines, bumpy flights, and tight quarters add up to one uncomfortable ride. There are a few things you can do, though, to make a plane trip more comfortable — and way less stressful — for you, your kids, and other passengers. On your next family flight, try:
- Boarding your flight last. When boarding can take upwards of half an hour — or more! — it doesn’t really make sense to force your kids to sit on a cramped flight while everyone boards. By boarding last, you give them a little extra time to stretch their muscles and use up more energy before the flight.
- Book your seats with an open seat in between. Yes, you want to sit next to your kids on the flight. But by using this strategy, you may end up having a whole row to yourselves. By booking a window and aisle seat for your children, you leave the middle seat open for other passengers to book — but the dreaded middle seat is usually the last one to book up, if it gets booked at all. If you’re lucky no one will book the seat. And if someone does, you can simply trade your comfier window or aisle seat with a grateful stranger and still end up seated next to your child.
- For more tips on stress-free flying with kids, check out our blog post: 7 Unique Tips for Plane Travel With Kids
Another way to make traveling with kids as stress free as possible is by bringing plenty of distractions. The right kind of distractions can cut down on whininess and temper tantrums, and can even turn an uneventful plane or car ride into a learning opportunity.
Consider packing these in your carry-on for your next trip:
- A hand-held world map so you can help your children chart your flight’s course through the air as you zip across oceans, mountain ranges, and more. Bring a smaller regional map for car and train trips.
- Load up on apps on your phone or tablet. Many kid-focused apps are educational in nature, and you can also find some that are travel themed. A few of our favorites: creative, play-inspired Toca Boca apps and the interactive globe from Barefoot World Atlas, and we’ve also heard good things about Skybrary’s audio library, from the folks behind Reading Rainbow. You can also download kid-friendly podcasts. We love Wow in the World, NPR’s podcast for curious kids, kid-approved science podcast Tumble, and storytelling podcast StoryNory, full of original and classic children’s stories.
- Don’t forget the family travel essentials that make any trip comfier: light-weight blankets, pillows, and an extra outfit for everyone (you never know what’s going to be spilled …)
How to Help Your Kids “Savor” the Moment During Vacation
Okay, you’ve made it to your destination in one piece — phew!
Now it’s time for the fun part of vacation: relaxing with each other and growing strong bonds as a family. And of course, it’s never too early to start instilling the tenants of traveling with a purpose, which includes reflecting on your travel experience.
Here are a few ideas you can use to help your kids “savor” the moment while they travel, so they become more mindful world travelers:
- Gift each of your children a special travel journal at the beginning of their trip, where they can record their thoughts and insights — it’ll be a fun treasure to look back on as they grow older as well!
- Provide your children with cameras so they can capture travel moments on their own terms. Disposable cameras (you can still find some on Amazon) work great because your kids will look forward to developing the photos, though old smart phones work just as well. You can help your kids turn their photos into keepsake videos with the help of simple apps like Magisto. It’s a cherished souvenir for our digital age.
- Create a vacation dinnertime ritual where each member of the family reflects on the best part of their day. You’ll love — and may even be surprised by — hearing what your children appreciated the most on your family vacation.
Get More Tips on the Finding the Best Vacation for Your Family
While being prepared for what happens during your vacation can cut down on a lot of family travel stress, certain decisions you make before you travel can also help ensure your trip is smooth sailing. For example, picking a destination and activities that are appropriate for your children’s ages adds up to an incredible, bond-building family vacay — instead of a stress fest. Grab our free guide for creative travel ideas, broken down by age!
Be sure to check out the other parts to this series…