Parent Tested Tips for Traveling with Kids
Traveling with children brings a whole range of new, fascinating experiences for you, your kids and your family. We travel overseas with our kids every year. Here are some of the things we’ve learned to minimize the hassles and maximize the amount of fun you get to have on your vacation.
Here are some parent-tested suggestions for traveling with kids!
THE JOY OF TRAVELING WITH KIDS!
- Pick a family-friendly destination - Choose a relaxing destination that's used to young visitors, so you don't have to sweat the details. We recommend a lazy beach retreat, family camp, nature resort, or similar kid-friendly place. Look for family-friendly hotels and resorts that let kids stay for free in their parents' rooms and provide free meals to children or buffet-style breakfasts included in the price of the room. Australia, New Zealand and Fiji are all fabulous places for children.
- Keep your itinerary simple — limit it to one or two activities a day — and you'll find it much easier to make last-minute adjustments if your child gets tired or just wants to spend the afternoon playing in the hotel's pool.
- Age matters. 2 years olds want to do different things from 15 year olds so if you family includes a broad range of ages be sure to plan something for everyone.
- Travel is an incredible education your kids can’t get in the classroom. It will shape and grow them in ways they cannot get by staying at home. The trip with change them and bring you all closer together.
- Children need their own passports and must also complete the visa waiver procedures. If the child has a different family name or is not traveling with both parents it is best to carry a consent letter in case you are asked.
- We recommend night flights for your long haul travel with kids. That way the kids should be nice a tired and you should all get some sleep on the flight. There is enough interesting stimulus during the check in part of the trip to keep them intrigued.
- Pre-order child meals from the airline for your kids so they can eat more child friendly foods. The meals come out first giving you a chance to get your child eating before your own meal arrives. You may even get to eat it while it is hot!
- If you are traveling with a baby or infant, ask for the bassinet seat. Holding them for long periods will not be any fun. Generally children may sleep in the bassinets until they weigh 25 pounds, but it depends on each airline’s policy.
- Infant fares are available for children under the age of 2. They are normally at 10% of the adult fare and do not include a seat. Child fares are normally for children aged 2 – 11. Infant fares do not come with any luggage allowance (crazy as that seems given that they have more luggage than everyone else combined) but that is part of the reason for the discount. If the flights will be full and you do have a lot of luggage, you may want to consider buying a seat for your infant.
- Choose an airline that offers in seat television screen as kids will sit and watch cartoons for a few hours or if they are older there are plenty of games to play.
- Most long haul airlines are fabulous with kids. Many offer extra assistance at check in and pre-boarding.
- Pack lightly. You don’t have to carry so much, you lose less and you have space for shopping! Book an apartment so you have laundry facilities for washing.
- Make sure you pack a bunch of snacks and extra drinks. There is a lot of time at the airport before and after the flight when you will not have access to supplies. Children can get dehydrated during a flight, and toddlers can't always wait for food service. Best bets include treats such as bananas, animal crackers, granola bars, small juice cartons, fruit-filled cookies, and small boxes of whole grain cereal. Bring along moist towels for cleaning up. Give your children something to look forward to by dispensing snacks at pre-announced intervals. Pack familiar foods that you know your toddler will know and like.
- If you child uses a pacifier, make sure you pack a bunch of pacifiers in a multitude of different bags so that you can always find one when you need one.
- Pack chewing gum or lollipops in your carry on to help with pressure changes on take off and landing for older kids. Pack a bottle –or pacifier for infants and babies.
- Electronic games are great for keeping older children entertained. Invest in some new games – but make sure to mute the sound while on the aircraft or take earphones.
- If traveling with toddlers, we suggest taking an umbrolla stroller – something light and easily to fold and unfold.
- To entertain young kids on long flights, visit your local department store’s $0.99 toy section or visit a dollar store and buy a bunch of small toys. Wrap each one individually and every time the kids are running out of interest in their current toy – just pull out another one.
- For children 2 and over, get them to pack their own hand luggage (you can always check it later and remove and add items as needed) as it makes them feel part of the process. Make sure you include books, noiseless toys, something to cuddle, favorite “blankie”, toothbrush, a change of clothes. For toddlers, you might consider puzzles, dolls, action figures, puppets, brightly colored paper, non-toxic crayons, reusable stickers for windows, story tapes, and Magna doodles are great. For infants, possibilities include shiny new objects, baby-proof mirrors, rattles, soft animals, pop-up toys, plastic keys, or teething rings. Start building your toy cache a few weeks before the trip. Remember to pack resealable bags (for messy clothes!), wipes for clean-up and any medications your child is taking.
- If you pack their hand luggage in the bag with a handle and wheels they can carry their own case and feel like big kids. Make sure you only pack on small bag for your self and share one bag for 2 parents as chances are you will end up with their bag as well at some point.
- Give older children a daily allowance so they have a budget and can buy their own souvenirs. Also give older kids a camera so they can record their own version of the trip to show their friends. Teens can blog or send pics to friends while they are on the go.
- Pack a change of clothes for your kids AND yourself. Children do not limit their spills to their own clothes! I once arrived in Tahiti with my kids looking impeccable in the fresh outfits I had packed, while I looked a mess covered in spilled juice, milk and food!
- If you will need a car seat at the other end, you might find it helpful to bring it on board with you and use it in your seat. However we found this to be more cumbersome than helpful. Young children can curl up and sleep flat on one seat or with their head in your lap plus they prefer to lie flat rather than sleeping in a chair.
- If you are bringing your laptop with a DVD player, bring the kids favorite DVD’s to play. This is an easy way of entertaining in a hotel room. DVD’s come in different formats in the South Pacific. For instance Australia & New Zealand DVD’s are a different format to the USA so your DVD’s may not play in the local systems. But they will play on your computer. Bring an adapter as the outlets are different. The wattage is also different but computers have inbuilt adapters.
- If you're packing for a baby or toddler, don't leave home without a basic childproofing kit to use at your destination. If you're taking a road trip, make sure your baby's car seat is properly secured; up to 70 percent of all car seats aren't installed correctly. Use removable window shades to keep the sun off your baby.
- You may want to dress your toddler in a brightly colored outfit so he's easy to spot in a crowd, and put a small card with identification information on it in one of his pockets in case you get separated. You can write your phone number on your child’s arm or tummy!
BEFORE YOUR FLIGHT
- If you are traveling with teens get them involved in the trip right from the planning stage. Get them to help with decisions on sightseeing so they are vested in making the trip work. Use the trip as a class project – our children took letters to give to kids in a Fijian school and started a pen-pal program.
- Take practice trips - Make sure your child is ready for a long traveling experience. Lead up to the big trip with short day trips or weekend getaways to see how your child adjusts, then work your way up to a longer trip. Show your toddler pictures of your destination and talk about whom you'll see and what you'll be doing there. Your child will take his cue from you: If you convey excitement and positive feelings about your upcoming adventure, chances are your little one will approach the trip the same way.
- When boarding, go to the front of the queue and take advantage of the pre boarding call for “people traveling with young children” as getting on board with assistance and without having to rush is worth the extra time on the airplane.
ON THE FLIGHT
- Nonstop flights are preferable in most cases, since there's only one ear-popping descent to worry about. (Some kids have a hard time coping with the uncomfortable pressure changes that accompany landing.) Also, with nonstop flights you avoid the hassle of lugging everything — and everyone — to a connecting flight. But depending on the length of your flight and the temperament of your child, you may want to schedule a layover. Some parents find that splitting international or long domestic flights into two legs is helpful; their kids can enjoy a brief change of scenery and stretch their legs. For instance a stop in Fiji on the way to Australia makes good sense.
- Our experience led us to the conclusion that walking the aisles of the aircraft with our toddler children was not a good idea. Sure it relieved a little boredom, but after doing a couple of laps of the aircraft they just wanted to keep going and going – and did they did not want to take their seat again. It can also interrupt service, may annoy the flight attendants (who you need on your side!) and may disrupt other passengers. It is a different story for older kids, but for young kids and toddlers wandering the aircraft may create more problems than it solves.
- Have gum, lollipops, (bottles or pacifiers for infants) ready before takeoff and landing.
- Long haul flights can be tough on kids – heck, they’re sometimes tough on adults. Don’t be too stressed if your child decides to make a scene. Most people understand the challenges – certainly every flight crew does – so don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you kid does decide to ‘pitch a fit’ at 40,000 feet – stay calm. Yours isn’t the first – and won’t be the last kid who decided to make everyone pay for the injustice of being forced to take a family overseas vacation. And the crying actually helps their ears unblock!
PLANNING YOUR ITINERARY
- We recommend staying longer in fewer places, rather than a different destination each day. Use a base and go exploring from there. Kids feel more comfortable in places they know. Moving every day causes stress for everyone. Think about renting homes and beach houses.
- We like to book private transfers for your arrival. Having someone on hand to help with luggage and get you where you need to go leaves you better equipped to handle tired children.
- We recommend using apartment style accommodation with kitchen and laundry facilities. This will save money on meals and mean you can pack less. We also recommend hotels with interconnecting rooms. Look for child extras like a pool, kids club, bath tubs, kids menus and babysitting services.
- For rental cars, choose a larger car with more space and luggage room. Car seats and booster seats can be ordered. Consider and RV motorhome. Trains can be fun and mean you can spend time interacting with the kids rather than worrying about directions and driving on the other side of the road.
- Be flexible - Traveling with children can be a wonderful experience — if you go with the flow. Too many new sights and sounds at once can over stimulate younger kids. And being on a tour bus for long periods can get boring if kids have to sit still or sightsee for long periods of time instead of being able to run around and explore at their own energetic pace.
- We can arrange child car seat rentals from car rental companies at a fairly small charge, so don’t feel like you need to bring yours. If you do bring you own car seat & check it on the aircraft, buy a cover from a baby stores that will protect your seat and save your straps from getting caught on things.
- Pack lightly. You don’t have to carry so much, you lose less and you have space for shopping!
WHEN ON VACATION
- A few days before you leave home, try to shift your child's bedtime 20 minutes each night to get ready for the new time.
- Travel can disrupt your sleeping, waking, and eating cycles. Any trip you take with more than a two-hour time change forces your body to adjust to a new schedule. The more time zones you cross, the longer it takes your body to adapt. Most people find that traveling east to west is easier on the body than west to east. Depending on the time of year, Australia is 5 – 7 hours behind (+1 day ahead) and New Zealand and Fiji are 3 – 5 hours behind (+ 1 day ahead).
- Put your child to sleep at the new location's bedtime.
- Immediately change your meal schedule to adapt to the new time zone. If you're traveling with an infant, though, feed them on demand.
- Plan outdoor activities for your first few days. Exposure to sunlight and daylight will help you and your baby adjust to the new environment.
- If you're driving, break up your trip so your kids can stretch and run around to blow off some pent-up energy. Pack a rubber or foam ball for a game of catch and some simple board books for quiet time. Pick out picnic areas, parks, or playgrounds on your route. End your driving day early so all of you have time to unwind after a long day on the road.
- When traveling you will be dining out a lot. Choose a kid-friendly restaurants that are casual and with a varied enough menu to appeal to children and adults. Let your kids choose the restaurant once in a while. If possible, make a reservations ahead so there's no wait for a table.
ON YOUR RETURN
- Call or email us and let us know what your favorite things were! What worked and what would you recommend to friends. We would encourage you to post images and comments on our website, our Facebook page or on our blog! Let other families know about your trip highlights!
Relax and have a great time. Traveling with kids brings a whole new dimension to your travel experiences. By taking your child on a vacation to a new country they will learn a lot about themselves, about you and about new cultures and people. You’ll learn a lot about your kid. And best of all, it is a wonderful opportunity for your family to grow – together.