Nobody wants to be the humiliated parent of the kid behaving badly on the plane, bus or train. But children can be dramatic and overly-emotional, quickly escalating minor issues into major meltdowns.
Even car trips contained to family-only can be a nightmare for all if one child is feeling surly, irritable or bored, turning what should be a fun car trip into a long and tedious “Are we there yet?” journey.
To help avoid this unpleasant situation, we’ve compiled 5 useful tips below to keep your kids engaged and happy during travel.
1. Entertainment is King—
When it comes to activities to keep children engaged and mentally stimulated, there is no such thing as over-packing. Bring books, games, cards, puzzles, art supplies, handheld video game devices with multiple sets of extra batteries, laptops, portable DVD players and anything else that might help.
If you can buy new items purchased specifically for the trip that kids haven’t yet seen, this is obviously a great way to add some extra amusement.
Not only will keeping kids entertained prevent them from growing bored and cranky, if they have moved into tantrum-mode for any reason, one of the things you’ve brought to entertain might be a great way to redirect them out of a fit.
2. Hungry Kids are Grumpy Kids—
Sometimes in the fast-paced schedule of travel, we don’t have time or forget to eat, but kids can’t wait for the final destination for food like adults sometimes have to: they need steady blood sugar levels.
To keep them from getting grouchy, pack plenty of snacks, including protein like nuts for long-term energy. Novel snacks they don’t normally have at home can help entertain as well as feed them.
If you’re road-tripping, keeping a cooler with healthy fruits, sandwiches and drinks in the trunk will also save you money on restaurant food.
3. Carry-Ons Count—
If traveling via plane, pack as light as you can to give yourself a break (you’re already dealing with children… you don’t need excessive luggage), and be sure to put a change of clothes for each child in your carry-on luggage, including toothbrushes and toothpaste for all.
Most importantly, include loveys, pacifiers, blankets, stuffed toys or irreplaceable items kids won’t be able to sleep without, just in case your checked baggage is lost.
In short: If you can’t buy it in a store upon reaching your destination, keep it in the carry-on. If a child won’t sleep without their teddy bear, nobody will be getting any sleep.
4. Hotel Wisely—
When making reservations, do your research and try to find kid-friendly hotels with free breakfasts, or those with restaurants nearby offering discounted or free meals for children.
Also, triple-check sleeping situations before you leave to ensure the hotel rooms you’ve booked have adequate arrangements waiting for your family, such as enough beds, or cots available if needed.
You’re going to be tired when you get where you’re going—and nobody wants to have to sleep on the floor because the hotel doesn’t have a suitable room available.
5. Be the Duck—
Unfortunately, other traveling passengers sometimes seem to have forgotten that they, too, were once emotionally immature kids, and unrealistically expect children to behave like tiny adults in public. This only places more pressure on parents, stressing them out until children feed off of this anxiety, making everything worse.
Like water off a duck’s back, let the judgmental stares roll off your psyche, and don’t let snide comments, heavy sighs or rolling-eyes from other people make you feel bad. The opinions of strangers lacking empathy shouldn’t matter to you.
Remember that most of the people around you who’ve parented a young child during a rough moment feel nothing but sympathy for you, and only wish they had a snack or a toy to offer.
We can’t take emotionally immature children and magically expect them to grow up during inconvenient moments, because we all had to learn to be the (usually) well-behaved adults we are while traveling. But we can find ways to distract, redirect and entertain our kids so they can be at their personal best… at least until we get to the privacy of our homes or hotel rooms.
Use the helpful tips above to make your time spent traveling with kids as drama-free and pleasant as possible.