The stereotypical nightmare of travelling with kids is when they ask, ‘Are we there yet?’ every five minutes, and ask to go to the bathroom every ten. It can be frustrating because even though they’re not doing it on purpose, they’re still making your life difficult. It can be hard at that moment to remind yourself that they’re not being annoying – they’re just being kids.
Travelling as a family is a good chance to bond and get to know each other better, but it can sometimes end up being a nightmare. The family vacation may seem like paradise, but the process of getting to your destination can be all sorts of hell. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to make the process easier for everyone involved.
Use a park and fly car service
Part of the hassle is getting the kids out of the car and safely onto the plane. You have to unbuckle car seats, gather all their luggage, and keep them from wandering off. Park and fly services often have specialist staff to help customers travelling with kids, the elderly, or the differently abled. They’ll give you extra helping hands as you get from the car to the plane.
Unfortunately, they can’t get you past immigration and help you board, but they can make it faster, easier, and less troublesome to move from the car to the shuttle, saving you a lot of stress and hassle, and making sure you don’t forget any crucial piece of baggage in the melee. Plus, your car will be safely waiting when you get back from your trip.
Keep them fed
Whether you’re in a car, on a boat, or on a plane, snacks are a good way to keep your kids pre-occupied, at least for a few moments at a time. The trick is to use the right kind of snacks. It’s tempting to pack junk food that’s easy to find and easier to carry, but there’s a danger of sugar highs that will leave you in a bigger mess than if they just stayed hungry.
Instead, look for healthier options. It can be hard getting your children to swap carrots for cookies, but you can get fruit packs or yoghurts. To feed their need for fried foods, go with onion rings instead of French fries, or battered vegetables which contain less starch and carbs than sugary snacks, so they generally do less damage.
Use their screens
We often worry about our kids spending too much time on their phones and tablets, but during long trips, those devices can be a blessing. If you’re worried about them veering into spaces where you don’t want them, you can pre-programme their access list. Instead of giving them live shows or a real-time internet connection, give them downloads.
You could prepare a playlist of videos, audio clips, or podcasts that will keep them occupied for the duration of the journey. You can also programme interactive games that they can play with each other across their devices, rather than playing with strangers on the web. Consider multi-player games that they can play, where they need to take turns on the same device.
Give them tasks
Many modern kids resent ‘being treated like children’ even if they are. They often think they’re older than their age, and you can use that to your advantage by assigning them tasks. Be sure they’re actual responsibilities so that your precocious little ones don’t feel patronised. At the same time, don’t give them tasks beyond their abilities.
A tween kid could be in charge of gadgets, making sure everyone has their phone and that they’re all fully charged. A teen cold be on baggage duty, keeping an eye on hand luggage and confirming that no-one lost their carry-on. Under-five’s can be responsible for little things that get overlooked, like hats, mittens, or blankies.
Make a list, check it twice
For the child that enjoys colourful charts and graphs, put them in charge of the checklist. Design it in a way that appeals to the child, whether it’s a colour-coded clipboard or a jazzed up notes app on their phone. It could include key activities like switching on the security light, closing the water mains, or taking the pets to kennels. Or it could be a list of things to pack for the journey.
It might even be an emergency compilation of things you shouldn’t forget like passports, vaccination cards, or phone chargers, the kind of thing that’s often forgotten in the last-minute rush. This will help your children feel important, keep them too distracted to cause headaches, and can even make the journey more efficient.