Travel with Kids – Essential Planning Tips

Jocelyn Murray July 16, 2011 No Comments

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Traveling with children can be a challenge whether it is by airplane or car. A little planning can make the difference between a dream vacation and a travel disaster. Here are some tips to make it go more smoothly.

Plan Ahead with a List

Travel Checklist

Planning ahead with a travel checklist

Make a list and check it twice (or thrice). Jot down everything you will need by category from clothes, favorite toys, medicines, toiletries, gear (pack-n-play, stroller, backpack carrier, etc.) to food and snacks. Typing up a list and saving it on your computer makes it very easy to edit and reprint every time you travel, without pulling your hair out and starting all over again. Items can be listed under each person (their own personal items and clothes) and under general categories such as toiletries, medicines and more.

Be Organized and Methodical

Start early and proceed with your packing list in hand. As you gather items and place them in the suitcases, cross them off the list. This will ensure that nothing important is forgotten. It will give you tremendous peace of mind. You may think of other items that are not on the list as you go: write them down. Later you can edit your saved list on your computer to make it easier for your next adventure.

Suitcase or Carry-on?

Carry-on for Kids

Keep kids occupied with their own carry-on backpacks

Determine what can go in the suitcase and what you absolutely need with you. If your children are old enough (ages 3 and up) you may want to allow them their own little carry-on backpacks with items to keep them occupied: color pad and crayons, book, a favorite toy (doll or plush toy), snacks (crackers, baby carrots or cut fruit). Allowing your children to have their own carry-on does several things: it will instill a sense of responsibility in them and help them feel “grown up.” It will give them a sense of security by having something tangible to hold. It will keep them busy and productive (and quiet) which helps you to concentrate on the getting there.

Prep Pep-Talk

Prepare your children by telling them what to expect. This is a good time to explain your rules and expectations. Tell them what behavior is expected and what will not be tolerated. Be frank and sincere. A little foresight and preparation can go a long way. This pep talk will help them to feel part of the clan, giving them a sense of pride and personal responsibility. And always, always, always follow-through with consequences. Although it may feel hard to do, it will actually make everyone happier and your travels filled with less travails. Children with clearly delineated boundaries are happier, more secure and more obedient.

Engage and Enlist

Kids Involved in Packing

Get your kids involved in the packing process

Having your children participate in the packing process (if they are old enough) can be very exciting for them and may even make things easier for you. Sort through their clothes with them and then have them place them in the suitcase. You may even allow them to pack their carry-on bag (and then check it later). Have them cross out items on the list that have been packed. This will teach them important organizational skills that will be useful for life.

Bon Voyage!

Once you start your own list, you will find it much easier to edit it as needed depending on your destination and the activities involved. Traveling is stressful enough without children, but doing so with the kids can add a whole new dimension to stress. With a little planning and organization, you can turn every vacation into an idyllic getaway, where family bonds are strengthened and wonderful memories are made. Bon Voyage!

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Jocelyn Murray is a travel writer and historical fiction novelist. She holds two university master's degrees in both English and Education, along with a bachelor's degree in Economics and European Studies. She also has a teaching credential and taught at the elementary school level.

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