NOTE: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only.
The original concept for this post was to share my very best tips for vacationing with kids. After all, I’ve got kids… and I’ve travelled with them…. so that makes me supremely qualified to dole out advice, right? Right?
The thing is, I wasn’t always down with family travel. I actually avoided it for years, rationalizing that any vacation where you’re forced to bring your kids along is NOT A VACATION at all. If my suitcase was headed down south, the last thing I wanted to pack next to my swimsuit was swim diapers.
However, that’s in the past. Because somewhere along the way, I realized that vacationing with kids is not scary at all! In fact, with a little preparation and a lot of patience, it’s actually one of the most rewarding things in life. And after I sucked it up and took that first family vacay, we’re somewhat stealth travellers. Case in point: since 2012, my kids have been on an airplane 18 times. Crazy!
So maybe I haven’t quite reached “expert” status, but I’m certainly confident enough to share my favourite tips for vacationing with kids. It’s just what worked for us – and for those families embarking on their first trip together, I’m hoping my suggestions will work for you too.
1. Be Prepared. Like a Boss.
You’ve probably heard this one before, but being prepared is simply the best way to have a successful family vacation. In fact, your only mandate is to anticipate every meltdown, every moment of boredom, every minor accident, and certainly every fight between siblings. If you can do that, everything else is easy-peasy! Sounds overwhelming? It’s not. Just prepare yourself by making a list – directly matching up scenarios and solutions. For example:
Hunger – pre-portioned snacks like crackers, dried fruit or dry cereal
Boredom – dollar store books, colouring books, puzzles or games
Rewards for Siblings Not Killing Each Other – lollipops or gummy treats
Funny Tummy – probiotics and ginger candies
Homesick – blankie and favourite toy(s)
Grumpy – printed itinerary with pictures*
* This is actually my favourite distraction technique. Showing the boys pictures of the places we’ll be going, explaining what we’ll be doing, etc. goes a long way to get them excited about a trip. We’ve spent many plane rides simply coming up with lists of how and where we’d like to spend our time – for example, “On Tuesday, we’ll have breakfast and then spend the morning at the beach. What should we bring to the beach?”
2. Consider Flying at an Inconvenient Time.
Okay, so nobody wants to fly early in the morning or late at night. With travel time, airport check-in and customs/ security lines, your wake-up call could conceivably be at 4:30am. But do you know what kids often do when you have them up bright and early in the wee hours of morning? They sleep on the plane. Preferably, for most of the flight. This allows you to bypass at least 23 distraction techniques altogether! Now I know this goes against conventional wisdom to keep sleep patterns the same, but let me tell you – with my boys snoozing away on both departing and return flights, I’m not too worried about their sleep patterns. In fact, it’s a chance to finally get some “me time” while watching the in-flight movie. Of course, if your child is the type to be wide awake after he/she rises in the morning, this technique won’t work for you. (Sorry.)
3. Book a Pre-Vacay Checkup during Cold/Flu Season.
The thing about kids – especially toddlers – is that they don’t always tell you when they’re not feeling well. Especially in cold/flu season, consider having them checked by your family doctor a day or two before you depart, especially if they’ve recently been ill or are currently under the weather. From previous experience, my then 2-year old had a cough and cold before our Royal Caribbean cruise. I took him to the doctor for his cough – only to find out he had a raging ear infection in both ears. Had we flown with his ears in such bad shape… yeah, disaster. Starting the antibiotics even a day before you leave is enough to take the edge off an infection and allow for safe air travel. So if your kids are ill, or if you’re leaving on an extended vacay during cold/flu season, don’t play doctor – take them to one.
4. It’s Not About What They’ll Remember.
Here’s an excerpt from my post “The Most Magical Place on Earth…”
“Before I left for Disney World, I often questioned if the boys were too young to fully appreciate the experience. ‘Reid’s too young to remember any of it’, I complained. However, once we arrived at Magic Kingdom, I realized that all of my pre-conceived notions were dead wrong. Because it’s not about what they’ll remember; it’s about what they are experiencing in the moment. Seeing the joy on Reid’s face as he travelled along The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh made my eyes glisten with happiness. Hearing Ryder scream “I want to do that again!” after racing through the Tomorrowland Speedway confirmed that Disney World is for all ages, from 2 to 102.”
No matter how old your children are – or how old you are – it’s always the perfect time for a family vacation. If you’re looking at your toddlers thinking, “I’ll wait until they get older so they can remember the trip”, here’s some sage advice: sometimes, tomorrow never comes. Live in the moment and love each minute you have with your children. If you’ve been wanting to get away, do it today. Maybe the kids won’t remember it – but hey, I don’t remember much about a trip I took to Cancun when I was 24. I’m pretty sure I still had an awesome time.
5. Find the Shortcut. Take the Shortcut. Breathe.
Let’s face it: travelling with kids involves work, planning, patience, mistakes, more planning, more mistakes, repeat. So when there’s help, TAKE IT. Like allowing family to babysit while you pack. Or ordering your foreign currency online so you can save a trip to the bank. (Yes, this is a thing, and yes, it’s awesome! CIBC Foreign Cash Online allows you to order the currency you need online – and the money is delivered straight to your door.) Print your boarding passes at home, download tourist, weather and travel apps, make a list so you don’t forget the small stuff and never, ever over pack. Like I said, find the shortcuts and take them.
Do you have a favourite tip for travelling with kids? Share your tip (or let me know which of mine you liked the most) to be entered to win a $100 gift card courtesy of CIBC! Open to residents of Canada only; giveaway closes August 7, 2015.