Let’s be honest, most of us would not describe traveling with young children as a walk in the park. It certainly has its challenges, especially when you are traveling with infants or stroller in tow. However, with a little bit of planning and a few know-hows, one can turn potential meltdowns into fun adventures.
We have been traveling with our sweet girl since she was 4-months old and have learned quite a few lessons in the past 10 years. Here are 10 tips that can help you survive your next trip. Enjoy, and let’s freeze the vacation meltdowns before they happen!
I know, it’s a lie. There is no such thing as stress-free air travel, but we can minimize stress by letting our children know what to expect, keeping them busy, and helping them rest as much as possible. Here are a few quick tips:
- Expect air pressure change and turbulence. Teach them how to cope with these changes.
- Bring your secret weapons. Surprise toys or comfort items such as pacifiers and blankets work wonders.
- Be brave! Stay calm and composed during meltdowns. You can’t expect them to be calm if you’re having a meltdown too.
Ah… The inevitable “Are-We-There-Yet”. Every parent who has taken their children on a road trip has experienced this. We know that brushing them off with a generic response doesn’t work. We know that they are asking because they are either super eager to get there (if you are going to Disneyland), or extremely bored.
Let’s address their eagerness or boredom. Games like “I Spy” or “I am Thinking of an Animal” are some of our favorites during road trips. Better yet, give them an honest answer by showing them the destination map on the plane or GPS.
The Morgans are no strangers to hangry meltdowns. In fact, our little one handles it with much more decorum than her parents most of the time. Here are a few tips to keep the Gremlins at bay.
- Start your day with a delicious, hearty breakfast.
- Stock up on their favorite snacks and pack them with you. Think about after school snacks: preferably ones high in protein, water content, and fiber for fullness.
- Take as many café and gelateria breaks as needed to keep the family sane. Other than caffeine and gelato, they often sell other snacks and refreshments.
We love museum hopping in Paris and Florence, but even seasoned travelers experience museum fatigue, let alone the little ones. Here are a few tips to avoid museum overload and to keep children engaged in learning.
- Research opening hours. Get city passes to skip lines and save money. It is so worth it!
- Don’t be a completionist! Why get stuck wandering in each hall for hours, looking at exhibits by artists you have never heard of and have no interest in?
- Join the mission: many museums have audio guides for children with engaging story-telling and interactive elements. Some museums incorporate scavenger hunts and games for children and reward them with prizes at the end of visits.
Stop rushing and savor the present. The point of vacation is to relax and enjoy family time. Rushing from one location to another creates unnecessary stress and frustration.
- Avoid over-ambitious, jam-packed itinerary when traveling with children. It is a recipe for disaster.
- Plan your day to space out similar types of activities or sights. Limit museum visits to one museum per day.
- Learn the signs of travel fatigue in your children. You know they are tired when they would rather stay in the hotel than go sight-seeing. Be a good listener, discuss plans with them and make appropriate adjustments.
Don’t panic when things do not go as planned. Take a step back, calm down, and problem solve. We have experienced horrific weather, missed flights, lost luggage, had money stolen, all while traveling. We laugh about these mishaps when we look back and think of them as part of our adventure.
Even the most regular ham for the camera has their limit. When they start running away from the camera, covering their face, or give you the “no more picture” look, respect that. It is natural to get this reaction from children when they feel camera-overloaded (we may recall doing it to our parents ourselves).
I understand that it might be a place you are unlikely to visit again and you desperately need a photo. But think of it this way, no great photo will come out of forcefulness and coercion. Let’s just enjoy your vacation time, interact with your children, and be sensitive of their feelings. They may or may not come around, but the last thing you want is to make camera moments stressful.
Souvenirs. The little symbols of tourist experience in the form of accessories, figurines and stuffed animals that no children can resist. As we have mentioned in our previous blog post, we travel with our children because we value these enriching experiences way more than any possessions. However, we do believe in positive reinforcement that motivates good behavior.
What kind of reward system do we use while traveling? Buying souvenirs is a privilege that our daughter can earn with good behavior to inspire a giving spirit, thoughtfulness and principles such as delayed gratification while we are traveling.
Want to teach responsibility and organization skills? Children are much more responsive to requests when they are asked to be “helpers” rather than being directed or ordered to perform a task. “Go do this” is simply not as motivating as “you are such a wonderful little helper.”
Involve your children in packing, planning, capturing priceless moments, ordering food, and reading maps. You will be surprised by how much it increases their confidence, organization skills, spatial recognition, and geographic awareness!
Many young children are emotionally attached to a toy, a stuffed animal, or a blanket that they can relate to as their “comfort baby”. They can be so emotionally invested in their “baby” that they are inseparable with them and find them irreplaceable. For my daughter, it’s our bunny stuffed animals: Baby Clover (that resembles our first pet) and Miffy.
My little girl is now 10 years-old, and she is still very much attached to “her babies”. We don’t insist that she give up bringing her favorite toys when we travel, and we never tease her about her attachment to her beloved toys. We do, however, ask her to refrain from taking them out to areas that she can easily lose it, such as on short car rides and ferry rides (unless it’s hooked onto her backpack).
Your children love their “babies.” They want what is best for their “babies.” They often will listen to good reasons rather than direct “No-nos”. When we are traveling to places where we cannot keep an eye on her babies (such as snorkeling and zip-lining), we ask that she keep them in the hotel or the Airbnb we stay at, where it won’t get lost or dirty. If possible, we highly recommend buying a duplicate so that there is a backup plan in place.
So there you have it. The 10 tips to freeze vacation meltdowns that you can use on your next vacation. It might seem like a lot of information and a little overwhelming, but do not fret. Having a desire to grow and learn with your children is the first step on handling meltdowns. We are excited to continue to grow and learn with you as we share our stories.
Do you have any stories of travel meltdowns? What do you find helpful in these situations? We would love to hear your stories on the comments below!