By Loraine Debnam
If you have travelled with youngsters, this will be a familiar phrase to you. If I’m truthful, there have been trips when, as an adult, I have had the same thought. For some parents (and grandparents), just the prospect of a journey with children in tow fills the grown-ups with trepidation. However, there are some strategies to help with the process and make it an enriching experience for everyone.
Whether it’s a jaunt to the local museum or an extended cruise to the Caribbean, planning is essential. Start early and have conversations about the people or places you are visiting as you travel. Kids notice many things that adults miss so, if your timetable is flexible, allow time for short stops and detours. Check the dates and time schedule for the venue. Find information about playgrounds, child-friendly festivals and nearby amusement parks and also any restrictions concerning age or height. It is so disappointing for a youngster to discover they are not tall enough or old enough to participate in the activity.
When the plans are in place and the departure day draws nearer, some serious consideration should be given to the packing. Of paramount importance are the child’s favourite stuffie, blanket and a book or two. These things are familiar and will make the journey less stressful for everyone. If the youngster is old enough, some things for the suitcase should be chosen by them personally. We all have favourite articles of clothing, which we are accustomed to wearing and they add to our comfort level when we are in new and different surroundings.
Blisters developed from a new pair of shoes do not add to the joy of travel. If there will be long waiting times before or during a flight, snacks and familiar foods are a good idea, as well as games, notepads and writing utensils. In addition, I always try to stash away something new for the trip home. It doesn’t have to be an expensive item, just something to give a new focus for a time. Make some rules about the quantity and quality of the souvenirs they may choose. It’s not necessary to have so many that another suitcase must be purchased to bring them home. Small and special memoirs become very precious when the child tells friends about all the adventures.
Children who are tired, hungry or thirsty are not open to new views of the world. Work within the little one’s timetable and be conscious of the times for meals and sleep. There will be opportunities for them to try different foreign foods and, if your child is not a picky eater, you may discover they enjoy some new flavours.
When we were in Mexico my grandson politely asked our waiter Manuel for a pizza. As you would expect, that item was not on the menu so an alternative was chosen. Imagine our surprise when the refried beans and handmade tortilla chips were a big hit. This was definitely not something he had been offered at home but he found it to be very satisfying.
Being open to new ideas and experiences is one of the greatest benefits for our kids (and ourselves) when we travel. Even doing ordinary things in extraordinary places extends perspectives beyond our own neighbourhoods.
Travel with youngsters can be a challenge but with the right attitude and preparation by the adults, it doesn’t have to be a burden. The change of venue can actually be a holiday for everyone.