Planning a trip is no easy feat, especially when you throw kids in the mix. What starts as a relaxing family getaway can quickly become a stress-filled nightmare if you don’t plan accordingly. We asked family travel expert Suzanne Rowan Kelleher, managing editor at the family travel website MiniTime, for her best tips for a stress-free family trip.
Bring paperwork. Of course you should bring your itinerary, boarding passes, and either a passport or photo ID. Your child’s birth certificate can also be handy if her last name is not the same as yours, or if the airline requires proof of her age for her ”lap child” status.
Adjust your baby’s nap schedule. To get your little one to sleep in the car or on the plane, try to become in tune with your child’s patterns. Some kids will sleep if they’ve skipped their naps; others will remain awake (but cranky or wired) from over-tiredness. Resist the urge to give your child an antihistamine to promote sleepiness; it’s never a good idea to medicate a healthy child.
Dress your child in layers. The temperature in airports and planes can be notoriously inconsistent—hot one minute, freezing the next. Dress in layers and you’re covered for any situation.
Gate-check your stroller. Wheel your child up to the departure gate and then hand it over. That way, the crew will stow it and have it waiting for you when you get off the plane.
Take the seat, hold the baby. If your airline allows families to preboard—some do, others don’t—be aware that preboarding adds an extra 30 to 45 minutes of being cooped up in a restricted space. A better idea: Have your partner claim your seats, stow the bags, and install the car seat, but wait until the last moment to board with your baby or toddler. (And, if your baby is walking, now is a good time to do some small laps around the lounge and tire him out.)
Be on the lookout for ear pain. If your child has recently had an ear infection or a cold, get your doctor’s approval before flying. The change in cabin air pressure may cause pain during takeoff and landing, but sucking on a bottle or sippy cup typically solves the problem. For older babies (12 months and up), child-size EarPlanes can work wonders. These silicone ear plugs regulate air pressure inside the ear’s Eustachian tube, relieving the pressure that cause pain.
Research family-friendly lodging. Just because a hotel’s website features a photo of a family doesn’t mean that it caters to your kid’s needs or interests. You can tell a lot from reading reviews from other parents on a site like MiniTime.com, which delivers recommendations based on the ages of your children and the crowd-sourced wisdom of a community of parents.
Get the kids involved. As she gets older, your child will get more excited about a trip when you plan together. Read books or rent movies that are set in your destination. Talk about the places to see and things to do, and try to weave a few of your child’s top picks into your daily itineraries.
Pack wholesome snacks. Road tripping? Pack a cooler or an on-the-go tote bag and fill it with your child’s favorite foods and beverages. Items for the tote include:
– Wet wipes and individual trash bags for easy clean-up
– Portable and healthy snacks, such as bananas, string cheese, and small crackers, are a fun way to curb kids’ cravings and make little mouths happy
– Zip-top sandwich bags are terrific for carrying fruit, and can be resealed to carry any half-eaten leftovers
– Water bottles or no-spill sippy cups for little tykes filled with water or no-sugar added juice.
Planning ahead is the best way to have a stress-free, fun trip for the whole family.
You can find more articles on family travel and recommendations at www.MiniTime.com.