Travel can be stressful, but traveling with kids can be even worse. Jessica Hartshorn, Sr. Lifestyles Ed. of American Baby Magazine has some tips for making your summer vacation hassle free.
First, don't be in a hurry to get to your destination. Long car rides are rough on adults, and even worse on kids. Take frequent breaks along the way. "I would say stop every couple hours - every two hours," says Hartshorn. "Really let them run around a little bit." Your kids will burn off some energy and tolerate the car ride better.
Another stress reliever on a long car ride? Get a portable DVD player - two if you have more than one child. "They've come down in price," says Harshorn. "They're fairly affordable now." Chances are, if you play one of your child's favorite movies, they'll sit quietly instead of asking the dreaded question, "Are we there yet?" every five minutes. To save your ears, invest in some headphones for the kids as well.
Some children fall asleep instantly when they're in the car, but a little encouragement never hurts. Try to travel during your kids nap times or at night when you know they'll be tired. Just be sure that the driver has gotten their sleep too. Or, try switching drivers when the other person gets tired.
Driving with children isn't the only summer travel hassle a parent might face; flying can be another stressful form of transportation. Hartshorn suggests serving your kids plenty of snacks on the plane to keep them occupied. "I let them run around like crazy maniacs in the airport and then I buy a lot of [snacks]... and feed them one [thing] at a time."
Don't forget to play with your kids either. Small toys or books can keep a child occupied during a long flight and keep them from kicking the seat in front of them. Also, request a seat near the restroom. You won't have to walk far or risk your child running down the aisle if they have to use the bathroom while in flight.
But while your child may fall fast asleep in a car, don't count on naps during a plane ride. Everything from jet engine noises to the captain speaking over the loudspeaker can keep kids awake during a flight. Try to entertain them instead. If they fall asleep, consider it an added bonus.
If you'll be staying at a hotel during your trip, spend the extra money and get a hotel with a pool. "There's something about the chlorine and the activity that will help them sleep better," says Hartshorn. It also beats watching TV all afternoon. Not every hotel carries children's channels, so the pool is a great way to enjoy some fun in the sun.
Also, check beforehand what amenities the hotel has. "A lot of hotels these days have cribs... Some even have Fisher Price toys and swings and bouncer seats," says Hartshorn. Your hotel may even offer a babysitting service or have a play area just for the little ones.
Families can also have a more positive experience at a hotel if they're courteous to the staff. Befriend the bellman and he may help you load the kids into the car before your next vacation excursion.
For more information on traveling with children as well as other parenting advice, click here.
By Erin Petrun