||SAMANTHA KEMP-JACKSON, Chic Savvy Mama
So you’ve finally done it.
Against your better judgment, you’ve booked airline tickets to a much-desired destination, this time including your whole family. No more grandma/grandpa/aunt/uncle/trusted friend to watch the brood. Oh no, you have convinced yourself that you can do this. I mean, really — how hard can it be, traveling with your whole family: toddlers, sippy cups, wipes and all?
Havana, Cuba. Photo Credit: iStock
Well, if you’re like most of us, the thought of stepping onto an airline bound for any foreign destination with kids in tow might bring on waves of fear and nausea, not unlike what you might experience on a ship in unchartered waters.
This is because, for many of us moms and dads, the idea of traveling with the whole family is unchartered, and one that only the fearless can even consider.
The common perception is that traveling with children — especially small children (under the age of five) — is not for the faint of heart. That being said, it is possible, and can be successful, assuming that a well-planned-out course of action is followed.
I just returned from a trip with the family to Cuba and, believe it or not, I survived. My husband and I took our toddler twin boys as well as our seven-year-old daughter and yes, they enjoyed themselves. As a matter of fact, all of us enjoyed ourselves. This is not to say that the journey was without hiccups (it wasn’t), but overall, a good time was had by all.
The secret? Well, there are a few.
Here are a few tips to ensure that your travels go smoothly:
1. Plan, plan, plan ahead
Do as much research as you can well in advance of your trip. Google, ask friends and travel agents, go to the library, do your homework! Remember that the key to staying sane on your vacation will be based on the notion that “knowledge is power.”
The better prepared you are, the less likely you will be to encounter an unexpected or insurmountable problem. Things to research: What is the culture like? What is considered acceptable or unacceptable behaviour? What type of currency is used? What language is spoken? How do the local residents view vacationers? Learn as much as you can about your destination before you get there.
A beach in Varadero, Cuba. Photo by Samantha Kemp-Jackson
2. ABP: Always be prepared
Even if you weren’t a Girl Guide, it’s not a bad idea to follow their motto when planning your family vacation. Don’t assume that you can get everything that’s available to you at home at your vacation destination.
This is especially the case if you are traveling to a developing country. While many of us take for granted that we can run down to the corner grocery store for forgotten items, you may be in for a surprise when you get to your location and are stuck without needed items. Consider not having infant Advil or Tylenol in the event of your child suddenly incurring a high fever, or running out of diapers and wipes. Not a pleasant thought.
3. Be flexible
While it’s great to have an agenda of each day planned, life has a way of throwing you curve balls, despite your best intentions. What was that expression about the best laid plans? You are on vacation and the last thing you need is the stress of feeling that things aren’t going according to plan.
Sure, have a plan of action in mind when organizing your trip, but don’t be bummed about having to switch it up at the last minute when you finally arrive. There’s a lot to be said for spontaneity, and your kids will appreciate the sense of adventure that comes from the unexpected.
4. Easy does it
Remember, you are on vacation. And while your responsibilities as a parent don’t disappear, you should get some type of a break while you’re away, right? Try to make your travels as easy for yourself as possible. This means, whenever possible, take the heat off yourself.
My most recent trip to Cuba was at an all-inclusive resort that had on-site daycare and babysitting services, as well as child-friendly activities. As all of us parents know, even having a couple of hours free to sit by the pool and read a book is a treat in and of itself. Plan to travel to places that will allow you to make the most of your travels with your children and will give you some much-needed personal time as well.
5. Be tech-savvy
I can’t count the number of times that technology has saved me from the brink of a toddler tantrum or meltdown. Loading “Thomas the Tank Engine” onto my smartphone and laptop was enough of a distraction to make what could have been an unpleasant flight a lot more manageable. Ditto for portable DVD players and the like. Whenever possible, have a technological contingency plan to preempt your kids — and you — from losing it.
6. Helping hands
Don’t be afraid to ask for help or accept help when it is offered. We as parents often feel that we can handle it all and are often hesitant to ask for assistance. Traveling with children is sometimes difficult and most people are understanding of this fact. Kudos to you for taking the plunge and getting on that plane — if you need a bit of help somewhere along the way, speak up! Most people are more than happy to help in whatever way they can.
7. Hand sanitizer
Not all foreign locations have running water or soap readily available. You have children. Enough said.
Samantha Kemp-Jackson is a mother of four, with three under the age of eight, including identical twin toddlers. She blogs about her experiences of being a frazzled mom of many at Multiple Mayhem Mamma.
Date Added: January 1, 2012 | Comments (5)
Excellent article, Sam! You are certainly on the ball.. This is wonderful advice which will certainly make life so much easier for the uninitiated.
Thanks, on behalf of all the moms and dads out there.
Comment by Enid K-J — April 6, 2011 @ 1:32 pm
Why oh why, was this not written ten years ago, when i was traveling with little folk? What a help it would have been! Such good advice.
Comment by vicky sanderson — April 7, 2011 @ 1:01 pm
Thanks for the kind comments! We parents clearly need all the advice we can get!
Comment by Samantha — April 7, 2011 @ 1:17 pm
Great post! Hopefully it will inspire more parents to travel with their children!
Comment by Melanie — April 7, 2011 @ 2:16 pm
Planning ahead is great advice. Sometimes you need a vacation after the vacation when you are travelling with kids, but it is worth it for all the greatmemories they will have.
Comment by Rosemary — April 11, 2011 @ 5:43 am