Most adults enjoy traveling and looking forward to vacations. But for a real adventure, try taking a child with you. Children have a unique way of noticing things you may not see, asking questions you may not think to ask, and suggesting side trips you might not have considered. A trip can be educational and exciting for everyone involved when a child comes along. But traveling with kids is different in many ways, so it's best to be prepared and plan ahead to ensure the trip is a success.
Plan Ahead for the Confines of an Airplane
When adults have to fly for a couple of hours on a plane, they can keep themselves happy and distracted by reading a magazine, listening to the radio, or just taking a nap. But unless there's a kid-friendly in-flight movie playing, kids will need something to distract them from having to sit in their seats for the entire flight, especially if it's a long one. Pack a carry-on bag for in-flight distractions such as books, favorite toys, and healthy snacks (check with your airline to be sure any drinks you take are allowed). Pack at least one change of clothes in case of spills or accidents, and anything that might help them get to sleep, such as a favorite stuffed animal or a blanket.
Consider Sleeping Arrangements
Depending on which family members are going on the trip, you may need to plan ahead of time who's going to sleep where. Because of economic concerns and tight vacation budgets, you need to save as much as you can on the sleeping arrangements, so you can spend that money on vacation activities. For instance, parents traveling with two children can easily share one motel room that has two double beds. Sure, four people sleeping in the same room won't be as private as separate rooms at home, but the cost savings can be significant. Make it an adventure by taking along a game you can all play before going to bed, or if the hotel has pay-per-view movies, buy one and make it a movie night.
Be Prepared for Accidents
Taking first aid supplies along on a vacation is always a good idea for people of any age, but children in particular seem to be prone to cuts and bruises. There's no need to take an entire medical kit along, but it is a good idea to pack a small bag with bandages, antibiotic ointment, gauze pads, tweezers (for splinters), and any medicines you think might be needed, such as Pepto-Bismol, acetaminophen, or cough drops. And it never hurts to have some kid-friendly insect repellent as well. A citronella-based insect repellant is the best choice for younger, sensitive skin.
Plan your Packing Based on your Destination
If your trip is going to be outside the continental United States, be sure to research what kind of vaccines may be needed for your kids. Lonely Planet travel guides are chock-full of useful information about what you'll need for each region or country. Doctors or local medical centers can also give you information. Some families choose to buy a homeopathic travel kit to take with them, so they can use natural organic alternatives to vaccines. But be sure to learn as much as you can before you leave, to find out whether there are specific diseases you should protect yourself and your children against.
Travel Games Make for Fun Between Destinations
If you're traveling by car, a road trip can get boring for kids unless they have something to do that occupies their minds, especially if all the driving is on Interstate highways. Think about taking a local road or a country highway now and then, just to keep things interesting. The extra half hour it will add to your trip will be worth it. But when you're on one of those long stretches of highway, travel games will save the day for your kids.
Most folks know how to play 'ABCs'―picking out letters on billboards from A to Z, and whoever gets to Z first wins. Try putting a spin on that old favorite by pointing out items that start with each letter, from A to Z. Another good travel game is called '2 Truths & 1 Lie'. Each player says three statements aloud, one of which is a lie and the others are true. Other players guess which statement is a lie. If they guess right, they get a point; if they guess wrong, they lose a point. Play to a predetermined score to see who wins. And then there's the old standby '20 Questions'―one player thinks of an object and the other players ask 20 yes or no questions to figure out what the player is thinking of. Whoever gets the object right wins that round.
Whenever you need a getaway holiday that's fun, educational, exciting, and memorable, be sure to plan carefully and pack sufficiently, and don't forget the most important ingredient for a successful trip―your kids!