Britlan Malek, PsyD, a psychologist at Children’s National, share tips for traveling with your children this summer.
Traveling with children at any age can be challenging. This summer, make your travels easier with these traveling tips.
Remember medications: Make sure to take any medications your child needs, if not, you could face a health problem in an unfamiliar city. Pack all medications, including children’s acetaminophen or a similar medicine, in you carry on so that you have it available at all times.
Pack diapers and an extra change of clothes: When it comes to diapers, it is always better to have too many than not enough. You may not be near a store where you can get some at the last minute. The clean clothes will save you in the case of a spilled drink or potty accident.
Prepare for different climates: The weather can change drastically and very quickly, so make sure you pack a variety of clothes for your child in case one day is warmer or cooler than others.
Have family games ready: Games come in handy for long car rides or flights. Make up games the family can play together; it will help everyone to interact with each other and will also give them a break from technology:
- Sticker books are great for young kids, as they use a lot of focus and effort to unpeel the stickers and place them where they want.
- Activity books with coloring pages, mazes, word searches, etc. are great for older kids.
- Good old-fashioned games like thumb wrestling, Solitaire, I Spy, Tic-Tac-Toe, and Mad Libs can be great fun for kids of all ages.
- Car trips wouldn’t be complete without a license plate challenge (take along a printed map the kids can color in each state as you spot their license plates).
Make rules about screen time for your trip. You can avoid a mid-flight meltdown by explaining very clearly how many minutes of screen time they will have while you are flying or driving:
- Children can make a choice about whether he or she would rather play electronic games or watch a movie to “spend their minutes.”
- When the minutes are used up, have those family games ready! Also, audio books can be more relaxing and less mind-numbing that staring at the screen.
- Bring an earphone splitter so that several people can enjoy the book together. Maybe a discussion will arise!
Encourage a travel journal: If your kids are older, encourage them to keep a journal of everything they saw. They can even include what they liked or didn’t like. If possible, allow them to take pictures or draw illustrations to add to a journal after the trip.
Check your passports: Make sure all of the information is accurate and up-to-date in advance of your trip, if you are leaving the country. Customs will be more difficult if they are not and may not let you travel. Keep them on hand to reduce hassle every time you need to give them to someone.
Bring baby wipes: Baby wipes are handy for cleaning up messes no matter the age of your child.
Prepare an emergency kit: You never know what can happen. Make sure this bag has first-aid materials along with water, snacks, money, and a cell phone.
Narrate what is happening to small children: Small children often get anxious when a new situation arises. Tell your child about the trip a few days before to prepare him or her. Many children will feel more comfortable when they understand what going on around them. In the case of kids 18 months to 4 years, it can help to make a picture book about the trip, including the “lovie” they can pack to bring along, photos of the airport process and then some photos of your destination. Keep it short and concrete and read it every night for about 1 week before you depart. Reading it again on the plane can be fun, too!
Let kids pack but review their choices: Kids, especially those who are older, like having the freedom to pick their own clothes. Let them pack the suitcase first, and then check to make sure they have what they will actually need.
If there will be a lot of walking, pack a stroller for small children: Little legs get tired easily, and then a child will often become cranky. Take a stroller to reduce this risk. Your child doesn’t have to be in it all the time, but it could reduce the hassle when trying to do a lot in one day. Cheaper, lightweight umbrella strollers are the best bet and can be checked for free right at the end of the jetway.
Eat some familiar foods and bring comforting toys: Children are comforted by things that are familiar like foods they know and enjoy. That being said, travelling to a new place can be a great time to expose kids to ethnic dishes and new flavors. If you treat mealtime as an exciting food adventure, it will be an enjoyable experience for the whole family! Just remember not to force them to eat the foods – even if they just smell them or taste a dab on their lips, their taste palate is expanding.